Improv Nation a Brand New Sensation

Well let me honest, maybe not completely a brand new sensation, but in proportion to the history of improv, the group Improv Nation is comparatively a baby among giants.

When I first came to San Francisco State two years ago I hadn’t done much improv in my life. As far as experience I had only dabbled slightly within some high school drama classes and started a quickly unsuccessful lunchtime group that sort of was into Improv.

I’ve done theater for a long time, probably ever since I was a little kid (In fact I think my first ever dramatic work was when I was merely a baby playing baby Squanto… I had no lines.) I did drama through middle school and then all the way through high school, doing every play that Monterey High had to offer me.

But when I came to SF State I knew that I was going to have a hard time doing theater, at least as I knew it, because of the extended amounts of time I would spend on journalism.

Luckily one day in my first week of college, as I was walking into a Malcolm X Plaza crowded with groups like the Young Democrats and PEACH when I saw a short man in a Captain America costume yelling at the crowd about something.

Being the curious fellow that I am and a person with a penchant for the dramatic, I made my way to the table and found out that they represented “Improv Nation.”

That was the start of a beautiful friendship. I will get more into Improv Nation, my experiences, and other goodies in future posts, but I want to introduce you all to the club that changed my life and idea of drama.

Travis Northup, past ASI representative and SF State student, started Improv Nation three years ago when he was a freshman. He found out there was no improv club on campus and so he took it upon himself to get with LEAD and founded what is known today as Improv Nation.

The club has grown in size tremendously, now sporting almost 100 regular members who meet every Monday night from 6-9 in the Humanities building (feel free to contact me or any member of Improv Nation for room number.)  Improv Nation has it’s own format of competitive short form improv and hosts 8 shows a year which are 2$.

Improv Nation also has a veteran team of improvisers who have been in the club for at least a year, been in a show, and have been approved by the present veteran team before them. The vet team does an extra show after every short form show from 8-10, in which they do more complicated and advanced forms of improv like long form (improv that does longer scenes, sometimes more than an hour.)

Anyone can join Improv Nation and be involved; nobody is rejected because of his or her skill level or attendance. Everyone’s involvement is up to his or her own will (although you’re more likely to get in a show eventually if you attend practices.)

Most everyone knows of Improv Nation on campus, although probably as ‘those strange kids that dress in costumes and bother me while I’m in the quad.’ Improv Nation is one of the most fun clubs available on the SF State campus. Are there any other clubs that will freeze in place or dance in the rain for the amusement of students?

SF State Journalism has had its taste of Improv Nation, doing a story on it almost every semester, because the things it does are so outrageous.  Improv Nation does really big events on campus such as an annual zombie apocalypse, along with a 24-hour improv marathon, the first 24-hour event on campus, which will be repeated later this semester.

It’s not for everyone, and that’s the truth. Some people don’t have fun being silly and putting themselves out there, but there is definitely success stories of the club. I’ve met some of my best friends through my involvement with Improv Nation and there’s something to be said about letting go of your inhibitions and being a little wacky.

Sylvan Productions: San Francisco Comedy Made With Flair

When I came to this city nearly two years ago I was an actor who wrote occasionally and had hardly any experience with improv. Sure I had done improv before; my drama class had done a short section on improv but nothing serious. In high school I even started a lunchtime improv club but membership dwindled and the club fizzled into nothingness.  So sure I had done improvisation before, but mostly acting.

I’ve always had a penchant for the dramatic; it seems to find itself attracted to me (and no not the wag my finger in your face type of drama, or spreading rumors at the water cooler drama).  So when I found out that there was a group that did a free improv open mic in their backyard I was on board right away. Well maybe not right away, pitching an improv open mic that takes place in a backyard tends to garner some doubt. However, when I met all the guys who ran the open mic I was hooked.

This event was hosted by Sylvan Productions, a group of friends from high school that had moved to SF and now were dedicated to making some sort of solid comedy scene within the city, that had over some time dwindled slightly.  I’ve known the organizers of Sylvan Productions for some time and they are a group of upstanding guys with legitimate business minds. The growth from a silly backyard open mic, to the types of events they put together now, is mind-boggling at the least.  What drew me to this group the most and makes them intriguing is that the improv open mic they host (which is now based in the mission) is free and open to anyone with any level of experience.  This opportunity to do improv is the same one that got me so involved in the art of improv.

Here is an audio interview I did with Andrew Moore and Justin Gomes, two of the starters and main runners of Sylvan Productions about the start of the group and where they’re headed next.

Tweets of the Beat

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