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Laughs at Legends

Maria Smith | Friday, February 20, 2004

Putting yourself on stage in front of a crowd is never easy. Putting yourself up there with no lines, no props and no idea what situation you’re going to have to deal with is even harder. Yet this is what the Humor Artists love to do, and it is a challenge they take on every time they put on a show.”It’s a blast for the performers because we constantly get fresh material, and the comedy is live,” club co-president Bob Masters said. “We’re out there without a net.”In Thursday night’s all stand-up show at Legends, the group tried out its talents in a series of unscripted games that forced performers to think on their feet and to quickly come up with lines. Some of the group’s favorite games include World’s Worst, in which the performers impersonate the world’s worst gynecologist, Elvis impersonator or other categories, Sound Like a Song, in which the performers have to improvise songs based on their lines and Two Lines, in which characters have to act out a scene using only the two lines that have been chosen for them. The show resembled a local version of ABC’s “Whose Line is it Anyway?” with a Notre Dame twist.Thursday night’s performance was the first test of the type of show the Humor Artists hope to establish more regularly on campus. By setting up weekly or bi-weekly performances, the group hopes to pull in a more regular audience.The Humor Artists is a mixed bag of talents and personality, with about 20 members who participate more or less depending on time and inclination. Group members Peter Wicks and Mike Bradt have done semi-professional stand-up comedy, while others simply enjoy the challenge of being asked to play an obsessive-compulsive auto mechanic or a drunken Kermit the Frog on a moment’s notice. Besides the 12 members of the improvisational group and the five members of the Stand-Up Club, the group has a few other members who participate in the larger shows. Last semester’s Night at the HApera featured the whole group in improvisational as well as scripted skits. Some of the group’s alums go on in comedy, trying to establish themselves in groups like Second City in Chicago and the Groundlings in L.A. For others it’s just a hobby.The group is open to all students but tends to be self-selecting.”We don’t cut people, because it’s really sink or swim,” club co-president Ernie Grigg said. “After the first show, when you’re up there in front of an audience people usually leave on their own if it’s not their thing.” “Some kids have it and some kids don’t, but you can work on it.”That is exactly what the group does every Wednesday and Sunday when they get together to run practice skits, play improvisational games and build group rapport. “At first you tend to be reserved; you don’t want to jump up. The biggest thing is just to practice and be willing to throw yourself out there,” Masters said. “What makes improv comedy special is it is entirely dependent upon up audience. It works best when it’s live and we have a responsive, excited crowd.”