Improv: The method and the madness

Student comedy troupe No Laugh Track Required performed in Sturges Auditorium on Thursday Feb. 19 for a full house of friends and fans. The show was a fast-paced, fully improvised showcase of the players’ talents as comedians, as well as their collaborative expertise as a group.

The performers started out by building characters that would be recycled and reinvented throughout the show in a variety of situational games. By the end, these characters had created a unique and dynamic connection with the crowd. Ranging from the clever to the perverse—and from quick-witted situational humor to subtle innuendoes—the performance was met with thunderous laughter.

Despite the outrageous nature of the troupe’s antics, many of the members agreed that there are certain unwritten rules dictating what is “fair play” on stage. “There are definitely things that are off-limits for performances, as opposed to rehearsals,” troupe leader senior Louis Dipaolo said. “In rehearsal, we’re by ourselves and it’s more about testing our limits together.”

“We generally stay away from really racist or sensitive subject matter,” NLTR member freshman Clayton Smith said. “I tend to swear sometimes. I feel like swearing is OK, but anything extremely non-PC I try to stay away from. If you’re just going for shock factor, it can detract from the actual comedy of the situation.”

Politically correct or not, the group’s energy is irresistible. Dipaolo explained that he believes this dynamic is derived largely from the chemistry between the personalities of the players. “I think everybody’s distinct personality shines through their characters,” he said. “For instance, Oliver never does super-outlandish characters, but the characters he does are very close to who Oliver is, and are very realistic in that sense.”

“Everyone has a certain set of stock characters that they keep, maybe subconsciously, and given whatever situation arises, they’ll tailor the character to the situation,” Smith added.

Characters are switched out and new scenarios are introduced constantly during NLTR performances, instigating the feeling of watching a bizarrely paced sketch comedy show. According to new troupe member senior Victor Wang, the reason for this continual swapping of characters and situations is to help create a story arc within the show.

“It’s all about heightening the scene,” Wang said. “As a performer, you always want to build the story because eventually, if just two people are on the stage for five minutes, they’ll end up spinning in circles.”

To the members of NLTR, improvisational comedy is much more than a performance—it’s a bond. Every member must be able to trust every other member in order to create attention-grabbing scenes for their characters. According to Dipaolo, “When we audition new members, it really goes beyond, ‘Did this person make us laugh?’ It’s also a matter of, ‘Will this person mesh well with the group?’”

As a result, the members of NLTR get along as hilariously off stage as they do on-stage, and their energy never fails to entertain.