On a typical Friday evening at the Drexel Gateway Theater, the loudest, most genuine laughs in the building are not coming from the new blockbuster showing down the hall.
Instead, they are radiating out of a small dark room right off the lobby where the 8th Floor Improv Comedy Group performs once a week in front of an audience of its student peers, parents and community members. The jokes are original and the experience is one that only 8th Floor Improv offers on Ohio State’s campus.
“It is something you can’t get out of a movie,” said Lindsey Smith, president of 8th Floor Improv. “This type of comedy is more interactive. The audience suggestions determine how the show goes.”
The 8th Floor Improv Comedy Group was founded in 2004 by six students who hung out on the eighth floor of Stradley Hall and noticed the lack of comedy groups on campus.
Although the group started out headlining shows in resident halls across campus, 8th Floor Improv now performs in front of larger audiences such as 200 incoming students during the Orientation Welcome Leaders’ move-in night and every Friday at the Drexel Gateway Theaters.
With games such as “Two Minute Half-time,” “Before and After” and “World’s Worst,” the group is tested at every performance to incorporate audience suggestions into each scene.
Although they are unable to predict how their audience will react, 8th Floor Improv still practices throughout the school year, during the summer and two hours before every show to improve their improv skills and build chemistry.
“We practice how to give a scene a beginning, middle and an end, how to create conflict and how to create a scene,” said Smith, a sophomore in journalism. “Those are just some basic skills that come with doing improv.”
These skills are tested when the group travels to other Ohio colleges to perform and compete with other schools, such as during the first ImprovFest held at OSU April 21. Competing against four other Ohio schools, 8th Floor Improv tied with Case Western’s IMPROVment for the event’s top honors.
Matt Starr, a freshman in English, signed up at the Involvement Fair after watching the OWL move-in performance and auditioned for the group in the fall. As his first experience doing improv, the positive
reaction he receives from the group has sparked his interest in pursuing a career in comedy after graduation.
“I never imagined that in my first year in college I would actually have people paying to see me,” Starr said. “It just blew my mind that people would actually want to see me perform. It is very fun to show other people.”
Kyle Brewer, a junior in nursing, attended last Friday’s show for the first time with friends and was impressed by the group’s professionalism and originality.
“It seems like it is easy, but these people have so much experience doing this,” Brewer said. “It was a great alternative option on a Friday night.”
The 8th Floor Improv shows are at 8 p.m. Friday. at the Drexel Gateway and cost $5. During the school year, the group performs two shows at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Friday.
Kate Christobek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.