Last January, I found myself standing outside a high school gym in Kona, Hawaii, about to perform in front of 1,400 teens. We had nothing prepared. We had no microphones. I thought that maybe I was going to throw up. I asked myself, “How did I get here?”
When I auditioned for improv at Yale, I had no idea what I was getting into. We have five improv groups on campus–three that do long-form improvised comedy (long-form=like making up a very funny play) and two that do short-form (short-form=playing games). Auditions are held in the fall, and you’re encouraged to audition for all five groups. The audition process is very fun and low-key. I’m still friends with some of the people I met in auditions last year.
After auditions and callbacks, I accepted a tap from Just Add Water, one of the short-form groups. We’re also a musical improv group, which means that some of our games include music and that we improvise a three-act musical at the end of every show. Being in JAW has been absolutely the most rewarding and wild and fun thing I’ve done at Yale.We take being silly very seriously. We rehearse twice a week for two hours at a time, do three to four shows a semester, and tour twice a year.
Some (not all) of last year’s JAW at The Bean in Chicago. We sure love that big ol’ bean.
Improv groups are like families. Not just because you share a bed (or a bath mat) with them on tours, but because trying to be funny is scary! It makes you vulnerable. The people who have seen you be vulnerable and who have seen you fail and who have seen you get heckled by a woman in a retirement home in Hawaii who thinks you are a “stupid, stupid girl”–the people who have seen you go through all that, and have gone through it beside you, and who are supporting you all the way–those are the people you want to stick with.
Last winter, we spent ten days in Hawaii. We performed at the aforementioned ill-fated retirement home, schools, a nightclub that was hosting a women in business seminar (?), and wrapped up the tour with a public show at a big theater in Kona. In the spring we toured in Chicago with a mix of private and public shows, but we also performed at a Naval Base a few hours outside of the city at an event sponsored by RedBull (????). The people in charge of this event wanted us to push around a gigantic cyllindrical cooler of RedBull and offer it to the Navy folks on their breaks. Tragically, the cooler hit a snag in the carpet and RedBull went everywhere. It was up to JAW and the Navy to collaborate to clean it up. Despite this, we did secure one fan named Navy Mike who later drove down from his base to see our public show in the city. We miss Navy Mike.
If you come to Yale, I can’t recommend auditioning for improv enough. I will be there on Cross Campus waving around a giant cardboard water bottle. You will think, “That poor girl has truly lost her mind.” But I have not. I am just waiting for you.