4B - Thursday, February 6, 2014
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
4B - Thursday, February 6, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
From Page lB
LSA sophomore Guy Madjar
and LSA freshman Sam McMul-
len are both in their first year as
ComCo members. Sitting along-
side seasoned veterans Dennehy
and McLaughlin, they talked
about their efforts to get into the
group. They explained that stu-
dents are invited for an initial
round of auditions, which are
followed by a callback round.
"The callbacks are really
scary, because going in you know
that everyone who got a callback
is really funny," McMullen said.
"I remember staying up all night
after the callbacks, waiting for
the e-mail from ComCo ... when I
got it, I danced around my room
and woke up my roommate," he
The auditions are designed
to let students showcase their
comedic talents in front of
ComCo members. Incum-
bent members are always on
the lookout for a student who
brings a unique quality that the
group might be lacking. Mad-
jar explained that despite being
nerve-wracking, the auditions
are a lot of fun. The real key to
having a successful audition,
though, is to just have a good
time and enjoy what everyone
has to offer.
The comfort and friendship
that exists within the group
was evident when senior mem-
bers Dennehy and McLaughlin
praised Madjar and McMullen
for their performances while
"The thing that really
impressed me about Guy was
that he was so into what other
people were doing in their audi-
tions," Dennehy said. "He was
laughing the hardest and was
really having a great time, which
is important because it showed
that he was really involved in the
"Well, Sam got in because he's
just so adorable," McLaughlin
joked. "And obviously, he was
However, is being funny the
same as being a good improv per-
former? An understanding of the
subtle but important difference
between having a good sense of
humor and being a good comic
is crucial in understanding the
talent that it takes to improvise
during a performance.
"I feel like having a good sense
of humor is different from being
good at improv," Dennehy said.
"I have a lot of friends who are
funny in a group, but I'm not sure
if that means that they'd be good
He went on to say that improv
comedy requires a distinct skill
set because performers have to
constantly think on their feet
and react to the actions of other
"It's very different from mak-
ing fun of someone or cracking a
joke with friends," he said.
The group agreed that improv
comedy is not necessarily for
everyone, since it's not as easy
as it looks and requires the
rare ability to perform without
"I think everyone is funny; it's
just that some people have to do
less to show that they're funny,"
LSA sophomore Michael Duc-
zynski spoke about how improv
requires performers to be funny
even when they don't feel like
"There are days when you
know, you're just not feeling
funny," he said. "However,
you've still got to think about
the scene and just act."
Improv comics have to be
constantly mindful of the pres-
ent situation without thinking
too far ahead. Pondering over a
future scene is futile since the
performers themselves don't
know what's in store for the rest
of the performance, given the
improvised nature of the set-
"I'm always thinking about
what's happening in the scene
right now; I can't really afford to
think about what's going to hap-
pen or what might be funny,"
Confidence usually plays a
very important role in all per-
forming arts. As evidenced by
the discussion that took place
in the group, improv comedy
and confidence are very closely
"I would say that confidence is
extremely important in improv,"
Dennehy said. "It's not so much
as thinking, 'Oh, I'm funny,' but
knowing that you have a unique
skill set and you have the ability
to exercise it."
"I had major confidence
issues earlier on and that real-
ly affected my performance,"
McLaughlin said. "Sometimes
after shows, audience members
would come up to me and say,
'Put yourself out there more ...
Despite being nerve-wracking, ComCo auditions are an enjoyable time for all involved.
es the e
r members agreed, say- have the same starting routine,
audience knows when along with the same concluding
sers are nervous, and routine, so that the show can be
owledge causes the audi- constructed on the support of a
also get nervous. This strong and familiar anchor.
in a downward spiral "Our energy levels are really
oesn't help the perfor- high before the show, and that
go anywhere. helps us to perform with a kind
of reckless abandon," Duczynski
Audience interaction is an
riends who integral part of an improv per-
joy laughing formance, especially since per-
Oy formers are expected to feed off
together. audience suggestions that pro-
vide the fuel for their sketches.
A positive interaction will aid
the performers in their efforts,
nehy and Duczynski but what happens if the audi-
bout how the group fort- ence isn't enjoying the show?
nergy levels to hit a high "You can't really think about
the start so that the per- that in the moment," McMullen
ce is off on a good foot- said. "At some point you've got
ey said all shows usually to think, 'screw it,' and just get
on with it."
"The important thing is that
we need to enjoy what we're
doing on stage," Dennehy added.
"Even if they don't find what
we're doing funny, we still do."
He went on to say that he's
never really experienced a bad
audience, and everyone ends up
having a really good time.
Members of the group agreed
in saying this is part of the rea-
son that ComCo calls itself the
"oldest and best improv com-
edy troupe" at the University.
They argued that their longev-
ity is a testament to the fact
that they've been able to con-
sistently perform at a high level
while attracting large groups
of audience members. During
performances, members try to
challenge themselves with their
humor, refusing to take the easy
way out when audience mem-
bers prompt them to make obvi-
The group is aware that com-
NICHOLAS WILLIAMS/Daiy edy has a far more potent func-
with their humor. tion than facilitating laughter,
so whether the jokes are pre-
dictable or fall under the cat-
egory of highbrow comedy, they
have the power to influence an
audience. Members were con-
scious of the fact that by being
improv comics, they can cater
to an audience of about 400
people and say things that they
normally wouldn't be able to say
in their daily lives. One of the
pleasures of being a perform-
ing comedian is the liberating
release of mental censorship
that otherwise binds people in
Art & Design freshman Sarah
Sherman said, "When we're per-
forming, we can talk about things
that have social relevance with-
out really having to think about
it. We can discuss certain issues
that make people listen."
"It's kind of like being the joker
in a Shakespeare play," McMul-
len said. "Although sometimes
Shakespeare was censored, the
joker was allowed to say what he
wanted and people would listen
because he was funny.",
Finally, the group addressed
the apparent irony of performing
extensive rehearsal sessions for
something as inherently sponta-
neous as improv comedy.
"I've had people accuse me of
rehearsing for an improv show in
the past," Madjar joked.
However, members of the
group stressed that while they
might practice routines in
rehearsal, the content of the
routines and the actual come-
dic interaction that takes place
between the performers and the
audience is always authentic
and spontaneous. Rehearsals are
important not only because the
members get to practice their
comedic skills, but also because
they can test what might or might
not work in a live performance.
Rehearsals also function as the
space in which members provide
their input in order to improve a
performance; however, they are
careful not to be overly critical of
"We don't usually say, 'Hey
that's not funny' or 'I don't like
that,"' McLaughlin said.
"The rule is that if at least one
person laughs, it's funny," Madjar
McLaughlin also explained
that one of the most important
rules of improv is that performers
aren't allowed to explicitly dis-
agree with one another.
"Even during a performance,
we're supposed to say 'Yes ...' and
then suggest something contrary
if we feel the need to disagree ...
negating someone completely
gets us nowhere," she said.
Rehearsals also give members
a unique space in which to bond
and get to know each other on a
deeper level, which helps tremen-
dously with their performance.
The rehearsals reveal that the
members aren't just performers
who happen to share the same
passion for improvisational com-
edy -they are friends who simply
enjoy working with each other,
who are aware of the diversity
of humor that exists within the
group and are comfortable with it
letting them direct their actions
in a performance.
Talent, confidence and com-
fort are the ingredients for a good
improv show. A few minutes of
rehearsal are enough to convince
viewers that ComCo has all of
this and more, earning the right
to call itself the "oldest and
best" improvisational comedy
troupe at the University.
There's something wonderful
about watching truly uninhib-
ited performances consumed
in unbridled enthusiasm - it
reminds the audience how liber-
ating and how important it is to
let yourself go from time to time
and just ... enjoy.
During performances, ComCo members try to challenge themselves to be truly uninhibited
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