Weekend Filled with Laughs at Ex

Improvisational Comedy Festival showcases the best of college comedy

In the crowded bleachers of the Loeb Experimental Theater last Friday and Saturday evenings, the sounds of bursting laughter and even the occasional knee slap filled the hall. The Seventh Annual Improvisational Comedy Festival was officially underway.

The free event, hosted by Harvard comedic club Immediate Gratification Players (IGP) and themed “An Evening to Remember” in a tribute to the quintessential high school Homecoming Dance, inspired raucous guffaws and toothy grins in the approximately one hundred audience members in attendance on Friday night.

The hilarious skits, performed both playfully and skillfully by teams of college improvisational comedians who traveled from locations as far away as Connecticut, inspired uproarious laughter. The comedic troupes, with names like “The Whistling Shrimp,” “New Teen Force,” “Improvidence,” and “Vertigo-go,” united for the two hours of the show with their varied and equally hilarious comedic sketches in a whirlwind of improvisational humor.

The show was particularly remarkable given its improvisational nature. The setup of the festival showcased the players’ ability to make people laugh on demand, with little or no preparation for their sketches beforehand. Furthermore, unlike other theater shows, the audience was encouraged not to remain seated but to partake in the interactive play festivities. Indeed, the actors were very receptive to taking audience suggestions. Blending techniques from television shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “Saturday Night Live,” each night’s 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. shows filled the theater with wild and consistently funny routines.

Though many audience members may remember the humorous night for a long time to come, two people in particular will most likely never forget “An Evening to Remember”— the King and Queen of the Homecoming ball (named by IGP).

Between comedic acts in an evening full of mini-sketches poking fun at the Homecoming Dance theme, IGP plucked a middle aged man and a teenage girl from two separate sections of the audience and crowned them King and Queen of the event. In a bizarrely hilarious and awkward scene for those in attendance, IGP dragged the mismatched pair from the audience and forced them to dance with one another wearing flimsy gold paper crowns.

The IGP troupe also stood out from the rest of the troupes with an intuitively comedic pianist planted among their crew. At different points in the show, dialogue would suddenly turn melodramatic as a particularly bass note was struck, while at other times, a snazzy musical number would drive home the punch line of a joke, adding a special finesse to the humor of the energetic performance. The upbeat song, “You, Sterility, Hexagons, and Science,” saw the players striving for lyrical absurdity with aplomb. Many attendees were inspired to join in the festivities and offered the players help with their lighthearted chiming, “Hail Science!”

Although no one may know what this weekend’s performance meant for the teams of tremendously entertaining, refreshingly unabashed comedians, one can safely gauge from the lingering snickers as the attendees left the Loeb Ex that the show had its intended effect. If laughter is the best medicine, then the players at “An Evening to Remember” are like the smartest pre-meds in the class.

—Reviewer Mary Catherine Brouder can can be be reached at mbrouder@fas.harvard.edu.