A Marathon of Laughter

A Marathon of Laughter

Fat kids, scuba diving and church. Skittles, abusive fathers and drunk airline pilots. With the exception of the fat kids and the skittles, these topics are seemingly unrelated. However, last Friday’s Improv Marathon at the Palace somehow managed to unite all these subjects.

The event featured student improvisational groups from other colleges and universities, as well as professionals. Though the audience was small, the laughs were large, as each troupe elicited glee from those in attendance, while also engaging the audience through asking them to offer topics for each sketch. This interaction was partially responsible for the strange hodgepodge of themes that ran throughout the marathon.

Senior Allison Saleweski, a member of Colgate’s Charred Goosebeak, contributed to the event’s organization and described the interaction between the audience and the performance groups as an integral part of improvisational theater.

“Doing improv for ourselves is fun,” she said, “but it’s more fun in front of other people; it creates this sort of language between the audience and the performances; the idea that we just created something here together.”

The combination of professional and student groups provided a contrast for the audience: the professional groups numbered two or three people each, while the student troupes were larger. Of the professional groups in attendance were Barinholtz and Belushi, a two-man team, and Swartzlander, a three-man entourage. In addition to Colgate’s Charred Goosebeak, the student groups hailed from Bucknell, Northeastern and Williams.

Salewski especially liked that Swartzlander’s performance, which featured itself around the audience suggestion of “church.”

“I liked the long form,” Salewski said. “It was just three of them, but they had multiple characters and developed it really well from what the audience gave them.”

She noted that a member of the group, Kyle Levenick ’07, was formerly a member of Charred Goosebeak.

Each imrov group watched as others performed, which provided them with the opportunity to incorporate the themes picked up in earlier sketches. As a performer herself, Salewski commented on this aspect.

“What happens in the other sketches definitely does influence what you do,” she said. “There’s reincorporation or repetition because you’ve created this thing with the audience…so to recall topics is funny for the audience. Sometimes it’s very intentional, other stuff is kind of spontaneous.”

Short breaks interspersed with the performances, which allowed the audience to mingle with the performers. This informal commingling reinforced the idea that there was a dialogue and connection between what happened on stage and those who watched avidly.

Overall, the event was both entertaining and engaging and the casual, relaxed atmosphere, as well as the dynamic between the audience and the performers served to heighten these qualities. While it’s always a delight to watch Charred Goosebeak perform, bringing in other improv groups infused the marathon with some creative freshness and gave students an opportunity to experience the talents of other performance groups. The groups assembled as well and the ambience of the event created the perfect environment for the collection of humorous absurdities facilitated by improvisational theater.