The Idiot Box makes improv more accessible to the campus


Shreyas Banerjee/The Observer

“The Idiot Box” hopes to make improv comedy accessible to students regardless of skill level.

Shreyas Banerjee, Staff Reporter

Over the weekend, in the shadows of Nord Hall’s basement, a new club was born. The Idiot Box club, or “tHe iDiOt bOx” as they prefer to style it, which met for the first time on Sep. 21, is dedicated to building a new home for those who love improvisation, but want to participate in a more casual way.

As the brainchild of fourth-year student Rich Pannullo, The Idiot Box came from a longing to still participate in the improv scene, despite not initially being accepted into more professional troupes like IMPROVment in his sophomore year. After bringing his idea last semester to fourth-year student and current president of IMPROVment Andy Ogrinc, The Idiot Box came into being.

“I wanted to make a space where anyone who wanted to do improv could do it,” Pannullo said regarding his motivations. “Before, there was no real playground to mess around with improv. Really, this place is to play and be idiots, hence ‘The Idiot Box.’” In this relaxed and friendly setting, The Idiot Box aims to give people the freedom to do improv without any pressure.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, an improv jam is an event where people—regardless of skill level—can gather, work on their improvisational skills and generally just play around with the form.

“It’s kind of like a game of pick-up basketball with your friends to have fun, and inevitably by doing it a bunch, you will get better,” Andy said. “I’ve seen a lot of people not get into IMPROVment say ‘I still want to get into improv, but where?’”

The answer seems to be The Idiot Box and its wacky games and scenarios. The first meeting started off with a general explanation of the purpose of the club and its goals, before getting into some energetic warm ups, such as a version of the game telephone. In this version, you try to capture the previous person’s exact motion and exact sounds.

Afterwards, four members of the club launched into a long-form skit based off the starting concept of a flying spaghetti monster. The skit moved from scenes of astronauts discovering the monster, to a secret family history of fighting it, to the origin of the creature, which somehow got the name of “Oregano.”

Similarly, the skit would go off in tangents, but the members were sure to sometimes call back to earlier moments, to great effect. Some of the performers were members of IMPROVment, but some were not, so it was a good experience for some who might not be doing improv as often, as well as a fun, low-pressure way to still practice improv for members of IMPROVment.

Another skit involved time travellers creating the water bottle and sending it across planes of reality. Yet another prompted with the word “muffins,” but three concurrent scenes were playing at the same time, leading to many hijinks.

Six people total were at the club meeting, with five of the people performing and one just watching the show. When asked, the members of the club didn’t seem too concerned by the turnout, despite the fact that the club meeting was happening at the same time as the football game against Grove City College, the “Block Party on the Hill” hosted by several fraternities and sororities and a tailgate party near Leutner Commons.

“The nice thing is that improv jams are very modular depending on how many people you have,” Pannullo explained, “If we have 20 people, we can have four groups of five, if we have less it can be smaller. Honestly, if it’s just us, we can still have fun doing improv. If there’s not enough this time, there’ll be more next time.”

“We’ll do it with three people, we’ll do it with 300,” Ogrinc added.

The meeting ended with a lot of laughs and great hope for the future, with several members heading directly to perform in “IMPROVment Presents Zane & Nate’s Hot Me$$.” I suppose this meeting was some good practice for them.

For anyone interested in joining this young club, there will be biweekly meetings, with the next one on Oct. 5. For more details, be sure to check out their Instagram or their FaceBook page, “The Idiot Box Improv Jam.”