Improv and comedy groups on campus look for first years to say ‘Yes! And…’ join this fall
“Improvaganza” and a sketch comedy collaboration with two student groups on Sunday kicked off the beginning of the comedy audition season.
Lukas Nel, staff reporter
Hundreds of Yale comedy group enthusiasts gathered on Sunday to watch the annual Improvaganza, a tradition in Yale’s comedy scene, and a sketch comedy collaboration between two student groups.
Sketch comedy groups Red Hot Poker and The 5th Humour performed their sketches in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, while later in the night, five of Yale’s top improv comedy groups — Just Add Water, Purple Crayon, Lux Improvitas, Exit Players and the Viola Question — showcased their wit and humor in a series of 15-minute improvisations. Both performances left the packed audiences in fits of laughter.
“It was the best attended Improvaganza I have ever seen,” said Director of Just Add Water David DeRuiter ’24. “We unfortunately had to turn some people away at the door because there weren’t enough seats. The energy was excellent. There are a lot of first years that seem really excited about auditions this year, which is the goal. That’s why we do this.”
This year marked a notable spike in attendance for both types of comedy groups, signaling the resurgence of arts and performances post-pandemic.
According to Abigail Sylvor Greenberg ’25, Purple Crayon co-director, even the balconies of the auditorium were full. Sylvor Greenberg is also Director of Internal Affairs at the News.
“It’s awesome to feel how excited and energetic all the first years are about doing comedy,” Sylvor Greenberg said. “We remember when we were in our first year, and we just thought that there was a possibility that we might like to do this, and we tried it out and we loved it. So, it just feels really good to see that in the next generation.”
From short to long to experimental to musical, the improv groups displayed the rich diversity of styles Yale’s comedy scene has to offer.
The Purple Crayon, a longform improv comedy group, specializes in a type of comedy called the “Harold,” which takes three separate storylines and ties them together towards the end of the performance.
In contrast, The Viola Question’s signature style is short-form improv sprinkled with “a joke-a-second comedy,” said Director Tess Levy ’25.
On the musical end, Just Add Water, Yale’s musical improv comedy group made a unique impression with their live pianist and iconic jumpsuit outfits. JAW Director DeRuiter noted that his group is the “first, best and only” musical improv group at Yale.
“What sets us apart, apart from having excellent colorful costumes, is the fact that we have a live pianist who improvises music and as he does so, we improvise lyrics and voice over,” he said.
Lux Improvitas showcased their specialty in story-based longform improv. Group member Truman Pipestem ’24 described their skit as a “monoscene” where the performers never changed locations, sticking to the setting of a sauna which they took from a live audience suggestion.
The Exit Players Co-director Will Gonzalez ’24 said he hoped to show first years what being in an improv group is like. His group focuses on longform experimental improv.
Gonzalez said his favorite part of participating in improv at Yale is “having fun in general, especially at a place like [Yale.] [It’s] just fun to meet once or twice a week and have fun with your friends and goof off a bit.”
Audience member Adam Buchsbaum ’27 enjoyed the event, particularly the scenes of The Viola Question. “It was really funny, really quick and really showed the wit [of the group],” Buchsbaum told the News.
Fellow attendee, Kevin Zhong ’25, said he was captivated by an opera-inspired skit by JAW, noting that it was “awesome” how the performers took on the difficult song-style for their skit.
On the other end of Yale’s comedy world, Red Hot Poker and The 5th Humour features sketch comedy – skits that are written and rehearsed prior to the show. Their “Sketch Comedy Recuitment Show: A Back to Skool Special” also proved to be very popular.
“I think that there’s definitely a lot of first year interest as freshmen come to shows to figure out what they’re looking to get involved in at Yale,” Red Hot Poker social chair Noah Bradley ’25 said. “I also think that buzz certainly helps us get people who we don’t directly advertise to just through word of mouth.”
As the curtains closed on the sketch comedy collaboration and Improvaganza 2023, audition slots have now opened for new members to try and laugh their way into whichever group’s comedy style they enjoy the most.
The Exit Players was founded in 1984, making it Yale’s oldest improv group.