I came to Yale thinking that the world was my oyster. I wanted to immerse myself in everything: clubs, intramurals, theater and the opposite sex. I am sure you can guess which one of those things never turned around for me. Just look at my headshot.
So imagine how surprised I was when one day I was looking outside through my binoculars and saw hordes of boys and girls hovering around each other. My first thought was, “Oh Lord, I’ve missed my first mixer.” Then the people even started to point and throw things in my direction. I thought they were trying to get my attention to come down and join them. It turns out they were attacking me. People don’t like voyeurs.
Easily half of Yale was standing there below me that day and now I know why I wasn’t invited. I can’t sing.
You might be asking yourself why that is a big deal. Well, in the world of Yale, a cappella rules as king. If you can’t sing, you better remove that bounce from your step and submit. Luckily, I cannot bounce. One voyeur victim made sure of that. However, if you love to perform, love to entertain and have no regard for your own self-image, I suggest you keep your bounce and read on.
How’s that for a transition?
Welcome to the world of improvisational comedy at Yale University. Sure, more kids do a cappella than do FOOT, but those who do improv are of a higher standard. It’s the laws of supply and demand. Supply: easily over 100 a cappella groups. Demand: low. Supply: four improv comedy groups. Demand: high. You get the picture. While I might not have been able to join in that crowd of Perfect Pitch Pansies, I was able to join something better: a group of people who valued my disregard for self-image.
The four improv groups at Yale have a huge following and travel the world to perform. While there is heavy debate as to which improv group is the oldest, I can tell you that improv has been an important presence on Yale’s campus for the past 20 years. The groups call themselves the Exit Players, Just Add Water, the Purple Crayon and the Viola Question.
For those who can’t sing and are still reading, you might be wondering two things. One, how do I get involved? Two, how does this have anything to do with this guy finding a girlfriend? Quiet. I am getting to those.
During the first week of school, each improv group will have a free show. This is where they try to impress you. At the show, they will be funny and cool and hope you will sign up to audition for them. Auditions for all the groups will be the following week and final callbacks will be the week after. The most important thing to remember if you want to get involved is to go see those shows and find a group you like. If you make it, you will be spending four years traveling, performing and practicing about four hours a week with them.
Most of the improv groups practice biweekly and perform multiple times on campus every year. Even better, all of them take either a winter tour or a spring tour or both. This is where they travel all over to perform at schools, at Yale Clubs, at country clubs, on cruise ships, or even on a street corner in Louisiana. Best of all, your group will pay for it. It’s a free vacation to do something you will love.
So how did this help me find a girlfriend? Well, it didn’t, but improv taught me that sometimes jokes flop and so do pickup lines. It gave me the confidence to pick myself up and move on. It even put a limpy bounce in my step, something that no a cappella person can ever take away.
How’s that for sentimental?