No lecture hall at UBC has ever been this packed. Students are squishing against the stairs, crammed in the corners and splayed out on the floor. The crew squeezing students into the room, god bless their hearts, are doing their best to keep this moderately fire safe. The sheer numbers of sweaty 20-somethings in here makes the room about 10 degrees hotter than it should be.
But no one seems to mind. After all, this is just part of UBC Improv.
Over a bristling two hours on October 12, three improv teams bring the crowd to the brink of tears during their first event of the year – the Back to School special. When I say the brink of tears, I mean the girl behind me was laughing so hard she was crying.
There are lot of new faces on the teams this year, but you wouldn’t know it from the flow of the show. Even when a bit falls short, another actor jumps in to bring it to the next scene. You feel stupid for laughing at some of these jokes until you realize that everyone else is laughing with you.
Movies taught me that college improv shows weren’t like this. I imagined six awkward, untrained theatre students desperately trying to appease a disenchanted crowd of even more awkward freshmen. But if the comedy is good, the vibe at these shows is unbelievable.
When the club presidents step on stage, there’s a thunderous round of applause. When they acknowledge the event is taking place on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam people, there’s a thunderous round of applause. When they say the name of the first team, there’s a thunderous round of applause. They haven’t even done anything improv-related and the audience is eating out of the palm of their hand. What gives?
It’s the same reason why students are willing to squeeze themselves against a stairwell for two hours to watch this show, why people will happily squish against strangers at the front row of a concert and why Ubyssey editors are prone to writing in the office together until 9 p.m. on a Wednesday. It’s about the community — the feeling that everyone in the room is as excited to be there as you are. No one ever goes to just one UBC Improv show.
One of the highlights of the show came when an audience member chucked a head of romaine lettuce on the stage and the actors immediately began bird-feeding to each other as part of a scene.
As hilarious as it was, the best part of the whole thing was when the presidents candidly reminded the crowd to not throw food onstage and received their fourth thunderous round of applause for the night.