RIT Improv is an umbrella organization... my first umbrella organization that is not part of an elaborate, multinational, corporate conspiracy. Kyle O'Neil, their president and an absolutely fantastic speller, responded to this email questionnaire.
Q: Tell us a little about how RIT Improv came to be.
RIT Improv was effectively created in 2006 to fill a much needed gap at RIT. There was no dedicated improv group at the time, and all comedy events cost money. The six founding members of BrainWreck Improv decided to bring free, quality improv comedy to the campus on a very frequent basis. As we grew, we began teaching free improv workshops, and formed the umbrella organization of RIT Improv. We now have two troupes - BrainWreck Improv and the Improvessionals - and have been going strong for almost five years now.
Q: Are there any stylistic differences between the groups?
BrainWreck and the Improvessionals are two separate troupes because 1) We felt the one troupe was getting too big for its britches, and 2) Because we wanted to have two completely independent, stand-alone groups to create two very different group dynamics. You see very different things happen when you split into two teams then if you had kept it all as one single massive unit. However! We frequently put on shows where we combine the two troupes for major performances, and so we will be combining the two troupes for Thumbs UPstate! It's bound to be exciting.
Q: Do you have any games that you are particularly proud of?
This is an interesting question. Over the years we've created a huge number of games, from "Invisible Shenanigans" to "Two Eskimos." But I think our most wildly successful game is aptly named "The MC is a D*ck." The MC gets a single suggestion from the audience, and tells the actors to begin a scene. At any point during the scene, the MC may interrupt to introduce a new rule, manipulate events, or swap out/add/remove players and/or scenes entirely. The game is played best when borrowing rules from other improv games, like "Lauren can only speak in rhyme" or "Austin is secretly a cowboy." The best thing about this game is that it can be played for as long as you need it to. It's amazing to perform and to watch.
Q: How often do BrainWreck and Improvessionals perform?
We have been doing almost 2 shows every month for the past four years. Besides performances, most members go to the twice weekly Improv Workshops to have fun, and we meet once a week for meetings and for practicing improv in our respective troupes. That's a lot of improv!
Q: Any war stories from shows gone horribly wrong? Or very well?
Gotta say, our very first improv show (2006) was nerve-wracking. It was for a talent show, and the group that performed before us was a full rock band. The audience was riled up, and we opened with "Not Funny or Die," which is a terrible game that we haven't played since. "Forcing" audiences to sit in silence, and then suffering a penalty whenever they don't, is an awful idea. Fortunately for us, our next several games made up for the opening. We killed them out there. We killed them so good, they gave us the first place prize (and enough money to form the official group)! While we have certainly improved over time, that was a definitely defining moment in RIT Improv history.
Q: The Rochester Institute of Technology is known for its "innovation." Is there anything about RIT Improv that's particularly innovative?
At a college that's known for its creative types, we've had a great number of wonderfully designed posters to attract crowds to our performances. In addition to bringing free comedy to RIT, we also like to inspire creativity and imagination on campus. One annual tradition (done for our major Improvamonium performance) is the creation of giant tape art installations in the heart of campus. So far we've done Giant Dinosaurs and Mythical Creatures. Without giving too much away, this year's theme is going to be particularly... Spacey.