LaughRiot 2014; Indeed Riotous, Indeed a Laugh

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BY JOANNA R. SCHACTER

Inter-University comedy festival brings improv to the Loeb Drama Center’s ex-theatre.

Friday and Saturday night’s LaughRiot, an improv comedy festival hosted by Harvard’s Immediate Gratification Players, made laughter simple. Comedy is a undeniably a difficult medium of expression; jokes can very easily fall flat, audiences can be an unresponsive bunch, and the line between high and low-brow humor is often crossed for the sake of cheap laughs. However, there is something particularly challenging about improv. In addition to IGP, Suffolk University’s Seriously Bent, Columbia University’s Fruit Paunch and Ohio State University’s Eighth Floor participated in this year’s LaughRiot, and, despite the inherent difficulties of the art, each showed off their sharp wit and quick minds with a rapid-fire back-and-forth.

The most entertaining performance of the night was by OSU, who, when prompted with the word “gunshot” by an audience member, launched into a seamless and epic tale neighboring farms battling it out over farming methods. Romance, family drama, marital discord, and a failed lemonade stand were at the heart of the saga. Most importantly, it was outrageously funny and left the audience in stitches. Clever dialogue, and not a single misstep or awkward silent moment, made it difficult not to forget that the multiple short scenes had not in fact been scripted.

Between scenes by the guest improve groups, and one by the Immediate Gratification Players themselves, IGP MC’d the event through shot sketches. This was the third time I had seen IGP in action, and they still continue to amaze. My only past experiences with improv had been what little I had seen on television, where there is no guarantee that it is truly improvised, and in elementary school English class theatre workshops which were disastrous, embarrassing, and without even a hint of the synergy that IGP has amongst its members.

The title of this year’s LaughRiot was Monsters and Misfits, but other than a drawing of a dragon on the stage backdrop, it was never explained. This begs the question; are those who are funny outcasts? Do we tend to think that being funny is something strange or uncommon? There is something outstanding about the teamwork that is necessary for improvised comedy. Each member needs to have a certain intuition in regards to what those standing next to them on stage might or could say, and how they themselves should phrase their quip to best illicit a humorous response. A great deal of intellect and quick thinking is necessary to be funny, whether as part of an improv comedy troupe, or just in one’s own life, and it is probably true that the talent of “funniness” is undervalued and underdeveloped.

Without a doubt, humor is necessary, and IGP did something very important by showcasing it as a talent, a skill, and an art. Just as musical or artistic shows bring enjoyment and intellectual engagement to the viewer, so too does a good laugh.

Joanna R. Schacter ’15 ([email protected]) takes her tea with honey.