Improvaganza! produces virtual improv comedy show without live audience


Tori Appel and Shosh Green

Comedy is a common outlet for humor and leisure within the community at South, especially during stressful times. Despite safety restrictions, the students and staff in Improvaganza! have worked tirelessly to produce their first virtual show, which premiered Dec. 4 on YouTube, according to Joe Karlovsky, director of Improvaganza!.

Formerly known as ComedySportz, South’s improv comedy group, Improvaganza! focuses on a specific type of theatre that combines comedy with spontaneous acting. Karlovsky explained that the Covid-19 restrictions affect the group’s performances in many ways, including the inability for performers to get immediate feedback from the audience, a big hurdle the cast faces this year.

“As a performer, a big part of the joy of the performance is the audience’s response,” Karlovsky said. “When you hear laughter, or even when you don’t hear laughter, you’re gauging their response and then that helps tell you how you’re doing.”

In addition to the lack of a live audience, performing in an online comedy improv show was a struggle for the Improvaganza! cast, explained senior Improvaganza! performer Katie Durow.

“It was definitely very difficult to convey our humor when we were confined to the four walls of a screen and couldn’t necessarily get physical with our acting,” Durow said.

Durow still managed to see some upsides to an online show, such as the unique perspective their performance took on through the screen.

“I thought that the shows went well for being in a virtual format,” Durow said. “I don’t think [an in-person show is] any better or worse. It’s just a little bit different and I think that it [was] fun that it’s different.”

While the Improvaganza! cast faces many challenges, there are some upsides to an online performance, Karlovsky explained. Because the show was released on YouTube, anyone can watch it at any time.

“Our show could be put out to more people, especially [those] at home [who] can’t go anywhere [but still] enjoy [the] show and hopefully have a good time,” Karlovsky said.

Preparing for Improvaganza! only takes about two months, yet the community is still very close-knit since many cast members know each other from outside of the show, according to Durow. The group is very comfortable and trusting of one another, which creates an easygoing and fun dynamic, Durow explained.

“[We only have] a short time together, but it’s really good, it’s really lighthearted and very fun,” Durow said.

When she first started doing improv, Durow said that she put a lot of pressure on herself to say the perfect lines and perform the best she could. Because the cast provided a non-judgemental and open environment, Durow was able to stop overthinking and instead relax and have fun.

“There [are] no judgements at all,” Durow said. “If you mess up, that’s fine. If you try to be funny but you’re not, that’s fine too. It’s a safe space for everyone and we’re all just trying to get better at it and trying to make a fun show.”

Junior cast member Sloan Greenfield said she also felt very nervous the first time she did improv, but she soon found the same comfort and support that Durow did.

“Last year, I came in having zero experience in improv, but it’s just so much fun,” Greenfield said. “Everyone’s super supportive and it’s not as hard as you’d think it’d be.”

Their community also extends off the stage, Karlovsky explained. The importance of trust and engagement in improv teaches valuable life lessons as well.

“Improv itself does foster a lot of community because the performers [have] to trust each other as they’re making up this [scene] off the top of their heads,” Karlovsky said. “There’s [a] whole lot of trust and listening [involved] and there’s a whole lot of lessons and community building that can be [used] outside of improv.”