Introducing UCI’s Improv Organizations: UCI Improv Alliance

Two UC Irvine students are enjoying a friendly game of football at the beach when one misses a catch and the ball ends up hitting a girl in the nose. Her boyfriend then enters the scene, resulting in a brawl.
This event didn’t make the police log this week, but it’s alright, since all four men made their choices based on what the audience wanted to happen in the game of ‘Scantron.’
There’s a new group on campus that will whisk you away to worlds of romance, action and sci-fi Hanukkah parties. Meet Live Nude People’s newest challengers: The UCI Improv Alliance. A team of seven to nine members is led by improvisation veteran and founder of UC Improv Alliance, third-year English major Daniel Finlay.
‘I love improv,’ Finlay said. ‘There are about 25 schools in [Northern California] that have Comedy Sportz Teams while [Southern California] has about 90 of them.’
Finlay and a group of friends at Castro Valley High School took the initiative to start a Comedy Sportz Team. Now Finlay has been active in improv for eight years, has taught five schools the comedic art and has built a strong relationship with Comedy Sportz in San Jose.
About a month ago during winter quarter auditions for Live Nude People, Finlay decided to form another improv team because ‘you have nearly 200 people auditioning for 12 spots.’
By an announcement at the Live Nude People auditions, via word of mouth and through friends, Finlay formed the UCI Improv Alliance, which he is now training.
Well-known comedians such as Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon got their legs up in Hollywood through improv, a skill that demands a quick wit and a creative mind. It’s a skill that must also be developed. To prep his team, Finlay starts them off with a few warm-ups before heading into familiar games used by Comedy Sportz and Live Nude People.
The first exercise is ‘What Are You Doing?’ in which two members try to psyche each other out. The first player imitates one action and suggests a different action to the second player, who must imitate the new action. In this case the second player must pretend to be fixing a drain. He quickly pantomimes working a wrench against a pipe but hesitates. His hesitation is caught by Finlay, who stops the scene to give some observations.
Finlay tells the players in the scene that they must take ‘the world that you see and commit to it.’ In improvisation anything can go just as long as the players are willing to immerse themselves in the make-believe environments that they have created.
‘One of the best workshops I ever did was with ten-year-olds,’ Finlay said. ‘Their heads aren’t all zany.’ Consequently, they were able to commit more fully to their imagined environments.
The second player reenacts the pipe-fixing and the scene flows without any hesitation.
In ‘Da Doo Run Run,’ the players’ musical abilities are refined, and story-telling abilities are sharpened in ‘Replay,’ in which they have only one minute to set up a solid scene.
Since UCI Improv Alliance is fairly new, Finlay considers each practice as a ‘class session,’ where he works with the eight members to hone their improv skills.
The class will resume again in the spring, and expect the first UCI Improv Alliance performance sometime next quarter.
Practices are Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m. in HICF 100Q and are open to students of all levels.