It was exactly midnight, when Friday night and Saturday morning blend together, when 40 or so Sonoma State University students had packed themselves into Ives 76, a room that looks straight out of the movie Fight Club, sporting black walls, a black ceiling, and a black floor.
However, the performance that was about to begin, though, was anything but dismal.
Suddenly, all lights went dark, save for a single spotlight shining down on the front of the room.
Silence settled over the crowd, and the Improvaholics took the stage: For the next hour, room 76 would be filled with nearly non-stop laughter, thanks to the zany antics of four eccentric improv-lovers.
These four individuals make up a small part of the larger Improvaholics group, a comedy-improv club made up entirely of Sonoma State students. The show opened with a game that performer Ian Webb, a junior majoring in theater, called “Musical Tension.” A random song would come on through the speaker system and provide a soundtrack to which the Improvaholics would spontaneously create a scene. This was the first of many games, but no matter what game was being played, adaptation and imaginative wit were the tools of choice for the entertainers.
One scene took the form of a game show, in which the audience was allowed to ask their own questions of the performers. When a crowd member asked about how to cope with the death of his beloved goldfish, Improvaholic Meelina Galope slyly asked back, “Are you twenty one yet?”
Galope, a junior majoring in English, would later assume the identity of a troubled wannabe superhero, struggling with low self-esteem and the rejection of actual superheroes, such as Captain America. This character in particular evoked an audible sympathy from the crowd like no other, showing that the content of the group could go beyond clever jokes and delve into deeper, more relatable themes as well.
From sophomore Tiffany McGaughey’s sinister plot to poison all dinosaur lovers through use of popcorn, to senior Shelby Hotz’s role as a crazed, personality-split ventriloquist, the entire show featured one-of-a-kind episodes and goofy characters throughout.
The final game they played with the audience was called “Sex is Like,” where audience members would shout out topics, which the Improvaholics would compare to sex using one-liners. According to Webb, “Sex is like the DMV, because you wait forever, and still leave unsatisfied.”
After the show, while the Improvaholics were drying the floor (which was drenched from a game involving dunking heads in a bucket of water,) the actors gave their perspectives on the art of improv. McGaughey, who had never performed with the Improvaholics in front of a crowd before, said that “Improv is something you do everyday. It’s a great skill to have.”
Hotz added that improv “Helps you see outside the norm” and that practicing one-liners pays off when you’re in a debate or argument. When asked about what draws them to improv, Webb stated that “Everything’s up in the air,” while Galope maintained that improv was akin to “controllable chaos” and that she was attracted to the freedom of it all.
The general consensus between the four Improvaholics was that practicing improv is fun because nothing ever happens the same way again, and that improv skills translate over into many other parts of life, such as public speaking and having trust in oneself.
Considering the sheer number of laugh-out-loud moments, the wacky personalities of the performers and the lack of an entrance fee, the Improvaholic’s showcase served as a much needed stress-reliever for SSU students after a long first week of class.