The Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational and sketch comedy group from New York City, performed at the Turret on Friday evening under the sponsorship of WLUSU’s student event’s funding. The show was hosted by Laurier Musical Theatre and showcased the hilarious talents of actors Dru Johnston, John Frusciante, Molly Lloyd and John Murray on their first tour of Canada.
“They do a lot of college tours in the states and I think they wanted to come and break into the college scene up here,” LMT president Liz McNeil told The Cord. McNeil was contacted by The Upright Citizens Brigade this past summer and seized the opportunity with LMT’s own developing improv team in the forefront of her mind.
“[Although small in numbers,] improv people want to start their own club and maybe be a sister club to Laurier Musical Theatre because we’re the ones who started them off,” commented McNeil. LMT members were given a brief workshop with The Upright Citizens Brigade prior to their performance, demonstrating the improv techniques that they would put into action later that evening.
The performance consisted of an interview between the group and a random audience member who answered questions later transformed into comedy sketches. Watching them, it was easy to forget that the show was completely unscripted.
“It’s like being on a baseball team,” said Frusciante, “You can practice baseball but you never know what’s going to happen when the game starts. But if a ground ball gets hit to you, you know how to field it and throw it to first base. There are similar kinds of things with improv. It’s a lot about agreement and saying ‘yes.’”
Improv is very much a team sport; you have to have faith in the people you work with. “We’ll be able to figure it out,” Lloyd said, “If I can’t these guys will. It’s such a team mentality.”
This lack of preparation and abundance of trust may seem intimidating, but Johnston offered a different perspective. “I never really get nervous for improv anymore, but doing improv has made me more nervous for scripted work. Because you know you can just change it if it’s not going well.”
Any form of acting can be hard work. And it’s a tough industry to get into, but The Upright Citizens Brigade had a few words of advice for those struggling with the competitive arts. “Find like-minded people and just do it,” advised Murray.
“Just make stuff. Make comedy. If you want to be a comic or an artist or anything, make it,” Frusciante added. “One of the great things about living in these times is you have open access to the Internet; you can put anything that you want up at any point. So just start making, you have to make a bunch of shit before you get to the good stuff.”