Street | Q&A
Let’s be real: You’ve always wanted someone to give you a shiny trophy for being funny. On March 1, Princeton’s very own Quipfire! Improv Comedy achieved that dream by placing second in the national College Improv Tournament, hosted by Chicago Improv Productions. Street spoke to group members Amy Solomon ’14, Adam Mastroianni ’14, Nick Luzarraga ’15 and Lauren Frost ’16 about their experiences at the tournament.
According to Mastroianni, this year’s tournament featured 16 teams, which had advanced to the national stage by performing well in improv forms of their choice against the 136 teams who entered one of the 12 regional competitions around the country. In their second year participating in the Big Apple Regional qualifier, Quipfire! placed first again. The group finished second among the 16 teams that qualified for the Chicago-based nationals. Mastroianni is also a cartoonist for The Daily Princetonian.
The Daily Princetonian: How did Quipfire! learn about the College Improv Tournament?
Amy Solomon: Lauren and I grew up in Chicago and had gone to watch the CIT finals when we were in high school, and we’d always hoped to compete in it in college. So once we joined Quipfire!, we set out to make that happen!
DP: How did the team prepare for the tournament?
Lauren Frost: We had one or two extra rehearsals, but we already rehearse regularly, so we felt pretty prepared. We were doing a form called Close Quarters (a series of scenes that take place in the same location) … so we just practiced that. People often wonder how you can practice something that’s improvised, and the answer is that we essentially do shows for ourselves. We did Close Quarters over and over and then talked about which strategies worked, how the scenes meshed together, et cetera.
DP: Looking back, what stood out to you most from your performance at nationals?
Adam Mastroianni: I was really proud of how our freshmen performed — it’s a big deal to be competing on a national level when you’ve only been a member of the group for six months. The team that won was a trio of graduate students getting their MFAs, 20-somethings who have years of professional performance experience, and our 18- and 19-year-old freshmen held their own against them.
Vivien, one of our freshmen, chose to mirror her scene partner’s emotions in one critical moment, which became one of the funniest relationships of the show. She played a prison inmate who was excited to be paired with her new cellmate, and we got to come back to this really rich relationship between the two of them — we saw them try to join a prison gang together, write a screenplay, et cetera.
Nick Luzarraga: My favorite scene was when we finished a longform (a style where scenes are linked by a story, character or theme) by calling back to our very first scene of the show, which is something that always impresses the audience. We learned that the dumb criminal in the original interrogation scene had actually been lying to the cop the whole time.
AM: Nick also had a very funny initiation. He went out on the stage alone, paused for a second and said, “Come in.” We call it “pimping,” or forcing someone into doing something on stage — in this case, someone had to figure out who he was and what kind of character would come into his office. The fact that someone was able to step up and play that character reflected well on us as a group: We trust each other enough to put each other in tough positions and know that we’ll get out of them.
DP: What was the most nerve-racking moment for you?
NL: Waiting to find out if we had advanced to the finals. It would have been disappointing to travel all the way to Chicago and only get a chance to perform once.
AM: When we do a Close Quarters … there is a very important moment right after we get the suggestion where someone has to define what location we’ll be in. It’s very difficult to do a good set in a bad location, so you have to pause for a second before you run in and decide this huge thing for the group. That was probably the single most harrowing moment.
DP: How was this year’s tournament compared to last year’s?
AS: This year was just a little easier for us because we knew from last year how it all goes down. It’s silly that it’s a competition when improv is all about supporting one another, but the CIT does bring people together and really isn’t very competitive or cut-throat at all. We had a grand ol’ time, and we ate ice cream out of our trophy, and that was really important to us.
A recording of Quipfire!’s performance at the national finals is available at http://www.livestream.com/citnationals. If a video simply does not satisfy your thirst for award-certified giggles, be sure to join the troupe for their March live shows this Thursday through Saturday.