On Saturday, Sept. 8, over 70 people packed into the Eldred Black Box for a slumber party. Unlike a high school get together, this party featured a live performance by IMPROVment, Case Western Reserve University’s short-form improv comedy troupe, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The audience consisted of students and members of the wider community, dressed in a jumble of sweatpants, work clothes and animal-themed onesies. The erratic dress code proved to be a good sign of things to come. IMPROVment’s show, like any good slumber party, had a fun assortment of silly games and laughs. The only thing missing was a stern parent to occasionally come down the stairs and scold the audience for being too loud.
For those who have never been to an IMPROVment show before, it goes something like this: the troupe performs several improv “games,” which usually involve the cast members roleplaying different scenarios. The games often involve audience participation, and sometimes a cast member will direct the scene, giving stage directions or recommendations based on the audience’s input. The result is a unique and hilarious brand of free form comedy.
The show is one of many put on each semester by IMPROVment. The shows are free but crowded. Be sure to get in line a half hour early, or more, if you want to sit.
“I went to one of [IMPROVment’s] shows during an overnight visit and had a great time. I’ve been coming back since then,” said second-year student Tyler Kapusta.
“Sleepy time for Bernie,” marked the first game of the night. The game was inspired by the 1989 comedy “Weekend at Bernies,” with “someone is going to be asleep not dead.” After getting the recommendation “flamingo” from the audience, troupe members acted out the scene. Two members of the troupe were ornithologists intently studying two flamingos dancing, until one of the ornithologists decided to join the flamingos, eventually losing control of himself and having to be put down by the remaining scientist.
The scene ran three more times, each time the audience voted on an additional cast member to be put to sleep. By the end of the game only one flamingo remained, waving the other actors’ bodies around in a pantomime of the original scene.
Following “Bernie’s,” members of the company performed a “We Are The World” style charity ensemble to bring awareness to the audience-suggested issue of “cold milk.” The song came complete with the chorus “I know it might sound silly, my milk is way too chilly” and a surprising rap breakdown.
Other games included “Sit, Stand, Lie Down,” where three actors portrayed a scene visiting “pasta”—another fan suggestion—and “Stage Directions,” where two cast members acted out a scene in a furniture store while two more gave stage directions from plays selected by random audience members. Directions such as “…deliberately deciding on an old cockney accent,” and “the mischief begins to take over,” quickly turned furniture shopping into a tense and hilarious standoff as elements of espionage and action leaked into the scene.
Next came “Telephone Charades,” where cast members took turns telling the same story to each other. Every other player is unable to speak, so after being told a ridiculous story, a cast member has to act out everything that happened for someone else. The witness then does their best to explain the narrative they witnessed in an looping game of telephone.
“I thought the telephone game was really funny,” said second-year student Rachel Norman.
By the end of “Telephone Charades,” the constantly changing medium rendered the original story almost unrecognizable. The final retelling of the story drew raucous laughter where it had completely divulged from the original and approving cheers where it remained intact.
During “Lullaby,” a first-year student named Joe was pulled from benches and answered a few questions about his major, his hobbies and his favorite food: statistics, table tennis and pineapple pizza, respectively. Then two cast members and a pianist improvised a lullaby, making puns and referencing the information they received.
“Past Curfew,” and “Narrated Fairy Tale,” began to wind down the night. In the former, the audience suggests why a given cast member is coming home late and two others have to communicate it to the latecomer from behind the back of a disapproving parent. For the latter, an actor tells a made up story from the audience—in this case “Larry and the Giant Acorn”— and the rest of the cast acts it out.
The last game of the night, “Show Me,” featured the whole cast responding to a rapid-fire series of audience-suggested skits. Laughter and cheers were the soundtrack for a fittingly funny and chaotic end to the night.