In the midst of defining the word “improv,” the founder of the Something Funny Improv team, Alex Tita, stumbled but just for a moment. “Improv is learning how to turn a sinking ship into an, uh, uh—”
“A laughing ship?” fellow team member, Tyler Weil, asked him.
Tita smiled and went on: “Learning how to take something that might be going down and turning it into something great.”
That’s the art of improv in a nutshell. It’s unscripted, improvised theater, centered around games and tailored to audience suggestions. Team members are reliant on one another to move scenes along, and must be responsive to the shifting directions a scene might take. It’s all about thinking on one’s feet; it’s scary, it’s vulnerable and, when it works, really, really funny.
Tita founded the Something Funny Improv team about three years ago when he discovered there weren’t any other performing arts groups on campus. In an effort to bring something new to the MSU table, Tita created Something Funny. After a few years of enthusiastic recruitment and loyal membership, the club has evolved from a handful of members doing improv in their spare time to a solid team of about a dozen people who put on shows in the Procrastinator Theater every other Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
“Everyone is here because they want to be here,” Tita said. “They found us.”
“Improv clubs take someone like Alex [Tita] to get up and start one,” team member Jim Kappas added. “They don’t just coalesce out of anything.”
Many of the Something Funny team members have previous theater experience, but none had any improv experience until they joined Tita. Some joined Something Funny because they wanted a theater outlet; others joined on a whim. The group has definitely evolved, and Something Funny has some new experiences to show for it.
A few months ago, Something Funny was invited to an international improv festival hosted by the University of Alberta. They were one of only three U.S. teams invited (the other two U.S. teams were from Washington). In January, Something Funny traveled to Edmonton and spent four days entrenched in workshops and improv shows, and they enjoyed the experience.
“Being in a room filled with people who love doing improv as much as we do – that was the best part,” Weil said. “The suggestions were usually good, and the audience was really responsive to everything.”
The members of Something Funny come to improv from a variety of places and for a variety of reasons. The team emphasizes that their members are studying everything from “hard sciences to liberal arts,” and each person gets something different out of improv.
“Improv has helped my public speaking skills,” team member Connor O’Leary said. “It’s helped me think more on the spot. It’s helped me with classroom presentations, interacting with other people, increased my ability to small talk. Improv is a lot of fun performing, and when I’m with this group, it’s really helpful with bringing certain skills into the real world.”
Ivan Albert, agreed. “If you’re willing to get up in front of a theater full of people and completely embarrass yourself without a script or anything, you can give a speech.”
Something Funny has a show in the Procrastinator on the first and third Sunday of every month. Their next show will be Sunday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Procrastinator Theater. And the best part: the show is totally free!