Improv team polishes its act

By Mike Savoie

Picture this: one member of the St. Michael’s improv comedy group Rough Edges delivering a monologue about a funny event they were involved in accompanied by two or three other club members silently acting it out and trying not to burst into laughter. This is not an unusual sight in the McCarthy Music Center’s trap door theater, Rough Edges’ designated rehearsal space.
The group was founded in 2014 by St. Michael’s graduate Brendan Oates and has become increasingly popular ever since. The improv group is open to all majors with no prior experience required. Improv comedy involves acting out various skits on the spot with no prior preparation. In this style of comedy, no two shows are alike, said senior Pat Cornacchio.
Rough Edges holds auditions at the beginning of each year. The group assesses sense of humor but mainly wants to see how well you work with the current team members. There is a separate improv comedy club aside from the improv comedy group Rough Edges.
“The best way to be successful at improv comedy is to be a team player,” said Cornacchio. “If a skit falls apart it usually means people are thinking individually. The whole point is to accept others’ ideas and build on them.”
About 20 to 25 people show up each week for rehearsals, made up of club and non-club members. It isn’t necessary to perform at the club, which encourages people to bring friends along even if they just want to watch. Improv comedy needs a relaxed environment. Therefore, there is never pressure to perform, although it is much encouraged, because it was created for people to laugh and have fun.
“It is honestly a perfect stress release from school work and a creative way to make others laugh,” said senior biology major Zach Johnston.
“One of my favorite aspects about the group is that everyone comes from different experience levels and age groups, which makes for a diverse group and allows meeting people who you wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Johnston said.
At the beginning of a recent Rough Edges’ rehearsal, thinking and idea exercises were done with the group to start to get the brain thinking creatively. One of the exercises was called Mr. Know-It-All. In this warm-up, five volunteers stood on stage linking arms creating “Mr. Know-It-All.” An audience member then asked a random question. The five volunteers took turns saying one word at a time to create the answer to the audience member’s question. In this exercise, the answers usually didn’t make sense and wouldn’t answer the question which made it very humorous.
There are two forms of improv comedy, short form and long form. Short form is a style that is similar to skits seen on the comedy TV show “Whose Line is it Anyways.” Some of these skits include: Scenes from a Hat, Questions Only, and Quick Change. Quick change is a skit where two contestants act out a scene but when a third shouts “change” they must alter the line they have just said.
Long form comedy usually involves more time and has a story behind it. This style is used more by nationally known comedy group Second City. Long form improv comedy usually takes more preparation and is harder to pull off. Rough Edges performed a long form skit at the rehearsal. Senior history major and Rough Edges leader Cameron Hager told a humorous story that happened to him at a zoo. The group then used Hager’s story to start off their skit. “It’s the thrill of seeing how others can stretch their creative minds that drives me the most,” said Hager.
At the Rough Edges rehearsal, the group would follow through with a skit making sure not to interrupt. The group would then critique each other when the skit was done to provide positive reinforcement. “Sometimes we critique each other because we all want to get better, but most of the time we just have fun,” junior Julia Colasanti said.
Although the performance this semester was cancelled, Hager said St. Michael’s should plan to see a performance next semester.