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Bellwether Improv Festival leaves laughter lingering at Ohio State after show ends

Hailey Kim / Lantern photographer

When the evening of comedy concluded and the improv groups and audience members mingled outside the theater, they were already retelling the jokes and memorable skits from minutes before.  

Improv groups from across the country gathered and joked at the fourth annual Bellwether Improv Festival, hosted for free by 8th Floor Improv and the Ohio Union Activities Board, Friday and Saturday nights in the Ohio Union’s U.S. Bank Conference Theater.

Female, male and coed groups ranged in size from three to eight members. More than 20 improv teams traveled from different schools, such as Yale University, Indiana University and University of Florida, and cities including Chicago and New York City.

Each group had the audience provide a word or phrase of inspiration and then would begin its performance from that single word. Some words of inspiration included “peanut butter crackers,” “hippos” and “purgatory.”

Scenes which seemed to be crowd favorites tended to be more R-rated material in comparison to other jokes that focused on the development of the peanut butter cracker and the obsessive use of the social media site Instagram.

The final group to take the stage at the festival Saturday was the New York City-based Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company. The group brought up a member of the audience, including him as a member in its act.

Anthony Windsor, a fourth-year in strategic communication, joined UCB onstage and discussed his hometown of Huber Heights, Ohio, and living in Morrill Tower on Ohio State’s campus.
“Huber Heights is full of bricks and football,” he said. “Morrill Tower is a really cool place to live because you can see the entire campus from your window and the view is so much higher than anywhere else.”

UCB used Windsor’s comments as inspiration for the first part of its performance and created skits by standing on chairs, acting as though Windsor was on top of Morrill looking down from how high he was, that made the audience laugh and applaud.

John Castle, a fourth-year in history and member of OSU’s Fishbowl Improv, watched the groups perform both nights of the festival. Castle said many of the groups played similar games that varied in length and the festival was successful in making people laugh.

“It’s not easy to get up in front of strangers and perform but everyone enjoys to laugh and this has turned out to be a great festival,” Castle said.

For some attendees, Bellwether was an introduction to the art of improv.

Chyna Mitchell, a third-year in human development and family sciences, brought her 16-year-old sister with her to the show on Saturday and said they both enjoyed the jokes and crazy situations brought on by the words of inspiration.

“Some of the things they came up with just caught me off guard,” Mitchell said. “I wish I came yesterday too and saw all the acts and crazy scenes they must have had then.”

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