OFF THE CUFF: Student improv team goes for the laughs

0
1429

Greenfield-Central’s Trey Smith watches fellow students Jordan Kuker, far left, and Jaxon Powers work on a comedy bit. GCHS hosts an improv club in which students compete with other schools to score the biggest laughs in improv competitions. Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

REENFIELD — Seventeen-year-old Coy Walden has been acting since he was a little kid, dutifully memorizing his lines for a number of productions over the years.

Yet some of his favorite performances are those with no script at all.

Walden is the co-captain of the ComedySportz improv team at Greenfield-Central High School.

He and fellow senior Brynn Elliott lead a group of nine other students in winging and riffing their way through comical interactions on stage, even taking their improvisational talents on the road to compete with improv teams from other schools.

Greenfield-Central’s team is part of the ComedySportz High School League, which boasts teams throughout the country, but it’s the only high school team in Hancock County.

On Thursday, March 3, the team will engage in a battle of wits with the team from Warren Central High School, one of seven competitions on Greenfield-Central’s schedule this year.

Walden loves the fact that improv forces him to rely on his own wits, rather than a script, to come up with lines to make the audience laugh.

“When you think about it, a lot of the things we do in life is improv,” he said. “Life isn’t scripted. We go through every day just reacting to whatever comes up and saying whatever comes to mind, and improv is a lot like that.”

Each ComedySportz competition is officiated by a member of the Indianapolis ComedySportz pro team, who add to the fun by engaging with the audience, relying on them to shout out people, places, things and themes to provide the subject matter for each round.

When asked for a dialect, for example, three different audience members may shout out western, southern and Canadian, prompting team members to go through an impromptu scene, while switching from one dialect to another on command.

Throughout the competition, the pro has the option of blowing his or her whistle to call a foul on players whose lines draw good-natured groans, rather than laughs, from the audience.

After several rounds of silliness, the ComedySportz pro declares a winner based on which team scored the most laughs overall.

“It’s very friendly and fun. The kids have a blast and make new friends,” said Carolyn Voigt, the drama teacher and improv sponsor at Greenfield-Central High School.

Voigt was on the high school’s improv team when she was a student herself, and said it’s a great way for young actors and budding comedians to hone their improv abilities and comedic timing.

Walden — who has been doing high school improv since he was a freshman — said it becomes easier over time to come up with funny lines on the spot, and to anticipate what your teammates are going to say or do.

“All of us on the team are friends, which helps. You learn to tell what someone is going to say or what direction they’re going (in improv) through eye contact and by watching their body language,” said Walden.

“Every single person has a different take on what they want a scene to be, so sometimes you have to go, ‘Okay, do your thing,’ and just go with it,” he said.

Fellow team member Trey Smith agrees.

“It’s fun to just roll with it and play off of other people,” said Smith, 17, a junior at the high school.

While being forced to come up with lines on the spot can be nerve-wracking, Smith said it’s always rewarding when the lines the team comes up with draw big laughs from the audience.

“Hearing them laugh always brings a sense of relief,” he said with a smile.

The ComedySportz pros who officiate each match are there to keep things exciting, giving teams a rotating list of challenges to complete. Some might involve coming up with a scene based on audience suggestions, then speeding up or slowing down the pace on command, or replaying the scene in reverse.

Other challenges prompt the players to come up with rhymes on the spot, as the team snaps along to the catchy 1960s tune, “Da Doo Ron Ron.”

While she’s fairly new to the team, Greenfield-Central junior Kammi Anderson said taking part in improv has forced her to stretch outside of her comfort zone.

“I’m the type of person who typically thinks about what I say before I say it, so this has taught me to go with the flow,” she said.

To learn more about ComedySportz, or the ComedySportz High School League, visit cszindianapolis.com.