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From Paella to Tofu: IGP’s Player of the Year Show with Jason Mantzoukas

The Immediate Gratification Players with Jason Mantzoukas during the 2024 Player of the Year Show.
The Immediate Gratification Players with Jason Mantzoukas during the 2024 Player of the Year Show. By Courtesy of Annika Katrin Gagnon '25 / Immediate Gratification Players
By Claire C. Swadling, Contributing Writer

Harvard College’s Immediate Gratification Players improv troupe — also known as IGP — impressed college students and Cambridge community members alike with their annual Player of the Year — or POTY for short — performance on April 5. This year’s show recognized Jason Mantzoukas, a comedian known for his acting and voice work on “The Dictator,” “Big Mouth,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Brooklyn 99,” as the 2024 Player of the Year.

The show featured two rounds of improv sketches, each tied to a central theme. Each round began when a player asked the audience for a word — the first was “paella,” a Spanish dish consisting of rice and seafood or meat, while the second was “tofu,” the soy-based food common in East Asian cuisine.

After the word was selected, Mantzoukas told an amusing personal anecdote related to the word. Then, duos of IGP players rotated to create scenarios loosely related to both the word and Mantzoukas’s story. Occasionally, Mantzoukas himself re-entered the spotlight to get in on the fun.

“They worked with Jason so well, and as a group, they were in a flow tonight,” Halianna H. Leland ’27 — an audience member of the show said. “I thought they were hilarious. They kept bringing connections from earlier moments that happened.”

The paella round inspired a set of curious incidents that were frequently met by audience chortles. Using Mantzoukas’s story as fodder, the IGP players explored a baby exchange program, surgeons working in their underwear, and an unconventional State of the Union address.

To kick off the tofu theme, Mantzoukas reflected on his eating history and lifelong egg allergy. The IGP players adeptly wove his anecdotes into another set of wacky situations: a pop-up fertility clinic, a restaurant date gone wrong, and a breast milk faucet.

Throughout each round, IGP players showed off their teamwork abilities by raising the stakes. After a few minutes, a new duo would take the stage to continue the previous pair’s storyline with an added twist. These extra bits of information created inside jokes from one-liners the audience were laughing at just a few minutes earlier. The result? Belly laughs all around.

“One thing I really like about IGP is that the format of their comedy works really well with the individuals in the group,” Leland said. “And they as a team can also seem to hold these throughlines and bring back earlier themes.”

This cohesiveness was a key strength of IGP’s performance, as they were able to captivate the audience by connecting time travel to paella and breast milk to tofu.

Mantzoukas showcased his comedic timing by popping in when they needed him most — taking the place of a player who hopped in a time machine to simulate aging, for example. Other times, he contributed a one-liner to supplement the fantastical scenario that the players dreamed up.

Reception seemed to be generally positive. Viewers like Angelina G. Mustafa ’25 enjoyed the final sketch and were impressed with the quality of the performance.

“This was my first time at an improv show, and I thought it was really cool,” Mustafa said.

Even though the majority of what happened onstage was impromptu, organizing the POTY show was no easy feat. Talon C. Flodman ’25, an IGP member who serves at the organization’s “Czar,” spoke of his experience.

“It’s always scary putting on a show with this big of an audience, but improv is about having fun,” he said.

He went on to express his happiness with this year’s POTY performance.

“Jason Mantzoukas is amazing and so funny, and we’re just happy to make everybody laugh,” Flodman said.

While improv as an art form is inherently spontaneous and short-lived, the impact of this performance was not.

“I try to come to every IGP show. I think they’re so talented, and I thought tonight they were especially on it.” Leland said.

This year’s POTY with Jason Mantzoukas was not only full of laughter, but also a testament to IGP’s commitment to a good show. Whatever celebrity player is next to come, it is clear that IGP will continue to innovate through clever wit and creative storylines.

Correction: April 18, 2024

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the imrpov comedy troupe as the Instant Gratification Players. In fact, they are called the Immediate Gratification Players.

A previous version of the headline on this article incorrectly called Jason Mantzoukas the IGP’s Person of the Year. In fact, he was the Player of the Year.

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