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Fishbowl Improv welcomes comedians across country to March festival

On March 2 and 3, the Fishbowl Improv comedy club will host their annual Tides of March comedy festival. Credit: Courtesy of Anahita Ameri .

Comedians both novice and seasoned, hailing from as far as New York and Missouri, will soon bring their talents to the Ohio Union.  

Ohio State’s Fishbowl Improv club will host its annual Tides of March festival March 2. The improv festival will showcase professional comedy teams from New York City, Chicago and Columbus, in addition to nine college teams from several U.S. states. In total, about one hundred comedians are expected to perform.

Collin Roberts, president of Fishbowl and a fourth-year in engineering physics, said the main goal of the festival is to provide a heavy dose of comedy to the Ohio State community without charging a price.

“This is an opportunity to get a ton of improv in one shot,” he said.

One member from the New York group, The Puritans, attending the festival is Ohio State alum Ethan Scheck, former president of Fishbowl Improv and a 2015 journalism graduate. Scheck said he has returned to Ohio State for other recent Fishbowl events and enjoys coming back to campus.

“It’s always fun because we get to see the changes that are taking place in my old team and … [to see] the freshmen and the young people in the group that are just getting in and seeing them as a spark is just happening as they’re just learning maybe for the first time about the magic of it,” he said.

Scheck and Cameron Bradford, who graduated from Ohio State in 2015 with a degree in English, are two of five members of The Puritans attending Tides of March. Scheck said he met the other “puritans” at an Upright Citizens Brigade improv class in New York, where he also worked as an intern at SNL and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

In the art of improvisation, there are two general forms the comedy can take: short- or long-form. Though there have been short-form improv sets in past Tides festivals, Roberts said this year’s event will likely be entirely long-form.

Scheck said that long-form improv entails each comedy team “essentially creating on the spot a made-up play,” by asking for a suggestion from the audience. Suggestions can include such things as an emotion, activity, or object. The comedians use the suggestion as inspiration for creating a series of scenes. Then, the team might connect the themes and ideas that have come up during the set, he said.

For Roberts, the magic lies in the creativity and collaboration required for such moments to occur.

“Since nothing exists until the performers make it happen, it takes a lot of work and a lot of trust in your partners to create a reality that draws the audience in and makes them laugh,” he said. “It’s a great escape for all involved, too, since you can make any sort of reality you want.”

Formed in 2009, the Fishbowl Improv club began its Tides of March in 2014. Scheck said the name came from the Ides of March, a term which refers to the day — March 15 — that Julius Caesar was assassinated.

“Tides of March was simply a pun on ‘ides’ since we were a team called Fishbowl throwing the fest,” he said.

Roberts said some teams attending the event are from Ball State University, Bowling Green State University, Indiana University,  Michigan State University, University of Missouri, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Michigan.

“Improv can span those boundaries of rivalry,” he said.

Both Ohio State improv teams — Fishbowl and the 8th Floor Improv Comedy Group — will perform.

Because of the nature of improv, Scheck recommends those interested in seeing the show attend both nights.

“Anything that’s ever done in improv is only done once,” he said. “So, the only way you can be sure to not miss anything is to come see everything.”

Fishbowl Improv’s fifth Tides of March festival will take place March 2 and 3 from 7 p.m. to midnight on both nights at the U.S. Bank Theater in the Ohio Union. Admission is free.

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