More than 70 students crammed themselves into the pint-sized Ohio Staters Inc. Founders Room in the Ohio Union Sunday night, murmuring excitedly among display cases full of university relics. The room was alive with the distinctly anxious chatter that always precedes a performance. Crowded seating and scores of standing spectators faced the front of the room, where a piano rested, unattended.
Suddenly, cheers erupted as the evening’s performers rushed into the room, clapping in unison. The students, packed shoulder-to-shoulder, had no idea what they were in for. Neither did the performers.
Sunday night marked the second performance of Fishbowl Improv, its final chance to entice potential members before auditions begin Wednesday.
Between interweaving sketches about monster-trucking babies, astronauts in love and unconventional group dates — some delivered in song — the organization plugged its upcoming open practice Tuesday and auditions Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. The current members stressed that students from all walks of life are welcome to try out.
“A lot of people have never done improv before. I hadn’t when I got here, so that’s something we really like to push,” Carlie Shearer, Fishbowl’s secretary and second-year in linguistics and theater, said.
Shearer said the group is enriched by the diverse backgrounds of its members.
This mindset of inclusion is integral to the group, and it shows in its performances. Every Fishbowl show is free.
Shearer said the interactive nature of improv is another reason the group can draw crowds, even when performances take place in cramped quarters.
“You’re creating a specific moment that’s not written down and will never be experienced again,” she said.
Shearer said the audience interaction and input not only makes each show unique, but engages attendees in a way that keeps them off their phones and involved in the entertainment. She said the biweekly Sunday performances offer a refreshingly unpredictable way for students to reset.
“It’s just something you can count on to be a change,” Shearer said. “You do the same thing every week, and then you can go to Fishbowl, and you’re gonna have a fun new moment that is yours.”
Mckenzie Fleischer, a fourth-year in theater and member of the group, agreed. She said that the raw, aggressive energy they bring makes up for a performance that may be less polished than those of scripted sketch comedy groups.
Both members said this is exactly what they want prospective members to bring to auditions this week. Another essential “it” factor for hopeful comedians is teamwork.
“A big misconception about improv is that you should try to be funny. I think that my biggest takeaway from improv is that you should always be supporting your partner on stage,” Shearer said. “I feel like that is so much more important because you’ll find that your scenes will be funny if you support your scene partner.”
Interested students will have a chance to hone their cooperative comedy chops at the open practice Tuesday, when all attendees can engage in a “mock audition” of improvisational exercises, Shearer said.
Fleischer encourages everyone to come and try out. She said she met her best friends in the organization.
“Comedy is for everyone,” she said. “Come laugh. Come hang out with us.”
Fishbowl’s open practice is Tuesday at 7 p.m. Its auditions are Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. All will be held in Enarson Classroom Building in Room 212.