Members of 8th Floor Improv perform at Bellwether Improv Festival in Feb. 2019 at the Ohio Union. Credit: Courtesy of 8th Floor Improv

This weekend will mark student comedy organization 8th Floor Improv’s 11th consecutive year hosting the free annual Bellwether Improv Festival at the US Bank Conference Theater in the Ohio Union.

Bellwether Improv Festival is a two-day, 10-hour festival that features eight college teams and seven professional teams from across the United States and is the largest free collegiate improv festival in the country, Lucia Colicchio, business director of 8th Floor Improv and a fourth-year in political science, said.

Nicole Repishti, president of 8th Floor Improv and a fourth-year in history, said the college teams will each perform for 20 minutes, and the professional teams will perform for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on their time slots.

Colicchio said that while festivals in the Midwest typically feature teams from Chicago and the Northeast typically features teams from New York, Bellwether is unusual in whom the club invites. Colicchio said the festival includes teams from both Chicago and New York, two cities with very distinct styles of improv.

Every year, the senior members of 8th Floor Improv get to perform a comedy set with alumni, and Colicchio said she especially enjoys performing with those who have pursued professional careers in comedy or improv.

Jim Nally, president of the improv group Black Sheep at Ohio University and a third-year in Spanish and psychology, said Bellwether is something his team looks forward to every year.

“Bellwether is our Met Gala — seriously. It’s something that we look forward to every single year, and it’s something that our entire team grows from consistently every single time,” Nally said.

Nally also said Bellwether gives aspiring comedians a chance to meet different comedians from all over, both professional and collegiate.

“Obviously it’s a ton of fun, and it’s really, really great to meet people who are out there professionally doing what we love to do. Essentially, people who are making it in the comedy world, but also different college students who share that common interest,” Nally said.

The festival also gives college teams and performers the chance to learn more about improv. Repishti said 8th Floor Improv organizes workshops to allow collegiate teams to learn from professionals throughout the weekend. Nally said his team learned its new format at Bellwether last year.

Logan Wallace, vice president of 8th Floor Improv and a third-year in health sciences, said the festival provides a platform for diverse comedic styles and comedy groups.

“At Ohio State, the improv in general is largely dominated by white men only.” Wallace said. “I’m the only black woman in improv in all of Ohio State, so it’s nice seeing teams that are all people of color, or all other black people and seeing how they do improv, because they can pull from perspectives that I relate to more that I don’t necessarily ever get to see except for Bellwether.”

Bellwether will feature a team of LGBTQ+ members called “Here & Queer,” a team of all-black members called “My Momma’s Biscuits,” and others that add comedic diversity to the festival, Colicchio said.

The festival also provides all performers with an opportunity to showcase skills.

“We want to get as many people out as possible to see those pros and see those other college teams to make their efforts worth it,” Colicchio said.

The shows will run from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday at the US Bank Conference Theater in the Ohio Union.