The coveralls you saw a handful of Yalies sporting during Bulldog Days aren’t a wacky, must-have fashion trend.
Unless you’re a Just Add Water-wannabe.
The distinctive suits are trademarks of JAW, one of Yale’s six esteemed comedy troupes. Just Add Water, The Purple Crayon, Ex!t Players and The Viola Question combine to form the collection of quick-witted improvisational comedy groups currently entertaining campus. Not even a year old, Suite 13 joined forces with The Fifth Humor to create Yale’s sketch comedy duo.
Each group is celebrated for a different personality: VQ tends to be outrageous and risky while Ex!t often has the most complicated performances.
Each group has several on-campus shows each year, and improv groups often perform off-campus as well. They prepare for these performances by practicing once or twice each week and more often when performance dates draw near. Practices make many members reminiscent of their elementary school recess days: most groups prepare by playing games.
“There is also an arcane rehearsal tradition called a ‘biscuit check’ about which I am forbidden to speak,” Crayon member Nick Brown ’03 said.
This may be related to a comedic biscuit-eating contest VQ started this year, which is only one of many wacky traditions, another being VQ’s 12-hour outdoor improv marathon.
Improv groups often take week-long spring break tours, performing all over the country and even internationally.
Freshmen are encouraged to join the fun, regardless of whether they have experience.
Brown said that almost no one currently in Crayon did improv before Yale and most didn’t even do theater in high school.
VQ comic Brian Mullin ’01 said freshmen, especially girls, should consider trying out, even if they think they aren’t funny. Improv groups have traditionally attracted far more male than female performers.
Mullin said VQ taught him that everyone can be funny because humor is about “completely freeing yourself, not worrying what you’re going to say next or what people are going to think.”
Crayon member Dan Grollman ’03 said improv taught him how to act like he knows what’s going on, even when he doesn’t, which he said can be very useful for anyone in class.
Freshmen with an interest in improv or sketch comedy will be able to determine which group best matches their comedic personality at a showcase held in the beginning of the year. Fliers revealing audition information will be plastered around campus.
Unlike the super-intense audition process prospective a cappella singers endure, comedy group auditions are laid back.
“They let me play some cool games,” Grollman said, while Fifth Humor member Jenny Kowitt ’04 had to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in “a creative way.”
“Yes, we have no scripts,” Brown said. “But when was the last time you had a scripted conversation? If you can speak, you can improvise.”