Improv Comedy

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File Photo of Amer Zahr

File Photo of Amer Zahr, a comic from Michigan, performs his stand-up routine at the New York City Improv Comedy Club 15 November 2005, as part of the 3rd Annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival (NYAACF). Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Jennifer Cleary
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Jennifer Cleary
jennifer cleary Improv ComedyJennifer Cleary is a proud UGA alum and a television, film, and pop culture junkie to the point of becoming the go-to person for celebrity gossip. By her own admission she knows an obscene amount of useless trivia. If you've got a question about a show, film or celebrity, chances are she has an opinion. You can follow her on Twitter at @clearyje.

A couple of weeks ago my friend invited me to an improv comedy show at the Village Theatre in downtown Atlanta. Like most people, I’ve watched an episode or two of “Who’s Line Is It Anyways” so I’m well aware of how hit-or-miss improv can be. The tickets were free though, plus I had never seen an amateur improv group perform so I decided to give it a chance.

The show kicked off with the MC introducing himself and the improv group. Not surprisingly, the improv group was predominately male. Over the past few years female comedians like Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig have gained notoriety for their comedic styles, but there’s still a shortage of female comedians. It was glaringly obvious that the lone female improv personality was the odd man out on stage, and that’s the only real problem I had with the show.

However, it was entertaining overall. Some jokes fell on deaf ears, but other gags had me laughing for one reason or another. Like “Who’s Line”, the comedians must abide the MC’s rules, as well as the actions, feelings, events or etc. provided by the audience. The audience interaction is usually the most enjoyable element of an improv show, and for a small venue with amateur talent, it’s crucial to keeping people in their seats.

That’s why I volunteered to participate in one of their skits, because I wanted to experience their improv talents first-hand (also, there were only 4 other girls in the audience, all of which were too timid to volunteer). For one of their final skits, they needed a woman from the audience to get up on stage and have two of the male comedians hit on her. The catch was that the men had to hit on me using various emotions yelled out by the audience.

Both guys set down next to me, offered me a beer, stared lovingly into my eyes, and proceeded to dish out some of the most flattering compliments I’ve ever heard—not a bad way to spend an evening, right? Of course when emotions like ‘self-deprecating’, ‘paranoid’, and ‘horny’ came up, they made for some of the most memorable moments of the show.

Their self-deprecating personas were eerily similar to most of the guys I’ve dated.  During the first guy’s turn, I was unsure whether or not I could drink the beer, so I didn’t. When he noticed that I wasn’t sipping on my beverage he ‘bought’ me, he became increasingly insecure, asking me if everything was okay before getting down on his knees begging me to take a sip of my beer. I never thought my role in the skit would propel any of the comedy, but I was wrong!

I tried my hardest to remain stoic, but I couldn’t help reacting to their not-so-seductive moves or cheesy one-liners about how I was more beautiful than a unicorn and that I must have fallen from Heaven. I laughingly cringed when the second guy suggestively used his beer bottle as a come on. It became even more blush-worthy when the guy’s beer started to foam over the bottle. I have to give credit to the comedian; he didn’t flinch one bit. In fact, he ran with it, making the skit all the more awkwardly funny and me the more uncomfortable.

It was good fun though, and in the end I got two free beers, my self-esteem boost for the day, and satisfaction knowing that I did something I hadn’t before. My self-satisfaction made me realize something, though. Here I was patting myself on the back for volunteering as the straight man when these comedians deserve a lot more adoration than they likely receive. Unlike them, I don’t have the courage to voluntarily get up on stage and make a fool of myself. But then again, that’s why they’re comedians and I’m an audience member.

- Jennifer Cleary

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