Improv Comedy Groups Play for Laughs

On Thin Ice, Immediate Gratification Players Look for Funny Actors

For an improvisational comedy group, missing a line during a performance can be the key to success.

"Some of our best performances are a result of someone being able to improvise when they've gotten themselves into a bad position," says Charlie B. Grandy '97, co-president of the improv comedy troupe On Thin Ice (OTI).

According to students who have seen the shows, it works.

"The audience is very responsive. OTI is really funny, so there's never any reason not to laugh," says Sarah W. Houghteling '99, who has attended several OTI performances. "It's great."

Along with Harvard's other improv group, the Immediate Gratification Players, OTI's brand of comedy seeks to make its audience laugh through acting games and funny skits.

Members say that On Thin Ice appeals to the "hard-core" actor in people while the Immediate Gratification Players appeal to the Monty-Python admirers in the student body.

OTI tries "to create theatre out of improvisation, instead of going for cheap laughs. Not that anything we do is for cheap laughs," says co-president Don J. Goor '97.

For both groups, ideas for shows are usually derived from books or are inspired from examples of other improvisational comedy troupes, although some of the games are conceived by the members themselves.

IGP also does a theme show once a year, such as a fairytale, which is always original.

Though neither group uses formal scripts during performances, rehearsals are still held to allow cast members to "bond" and to familiarize themselves with the nature of the performance.

The Groups' Histories

According to Grandy, On Thin Ice was established in 1984, although University publications list the group as being nine years old.

Members of the troupe have gone on to such illustrious careers as posing for Playboy "with...clothes on" (which is considered by group members not scandalous enough), writing a script for director Spike Lee, performing in the play "Angels in America" on Broadway and working for Hal Prince, who directs most of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals, according to Goor.

Immediate Gratification Players, on the other hand, was founded 10 years ago, and one former member is currently in Hungary teaching English, while another has become a successful consultant.

Both groups agree that female students are underrepresented in improvisational comedy, a problem highlighted by Grandy '97, who exclaims, "Women, please audition!"