Irvine does not really have the reputation of a party school. Instead, people think of it as a place with nice beaches and a studious student population. However, the student comedy group, Improv Revolution, is working hard to change this notion with the first ever “UC Irvine Coup de Comedy Festival,” a four-day series of performances and workshops that occurred on campus this past weekend.
The event kicked off on Thursday with a major highlight, which included the reunion of Improv Revolution and Live Nude People (*with Clothes On). Live Nude People form the other half of the growing student comedy scene on campus. Together, they both brought their A-game to the sold-out stage on Thursday night.
“My favorite part of the night was the first game,” Erika Pages, a UCI student, said. “The one where everyone was dancing and then had to freeze and be picked out for a scene. I just loved how much energy everyone had and how it really captured the spontaneity of improv comedy.”
The energy of the students is becoming a growing accolade for the comedy community.
“There was a smaller scale version of this back in 2011,” Improv Revolution member Vincent Tangherlini said. “We thought it would be really fun to take that idea and run with it. We knew [it would happen] since mid-fall; [since] then it’s been a full-time job.”
The Live Nude/Improv Rev performance was followed by the sketch show “Sparks to Fire,” hosted by Brian J. Hunt, a veteran of The Improv Hollywood, the West Side Comedy Club and the Groundlings Writing Lab. One by one, Hunt and his comedic colleagues took the ridiculously random audience suggestions and turned them into ridiculous stand-up comedy. Then they all came up onstage to turn their stand-up into improv, displaying the quick wit and immunity to embarrassment that comedians seem to naturally possess.
The range of subjects that their comedy touched upon was wide, and the cursing was plentiful, but all in all, the comedians really knew how to appeal to the students in front of them. The long-form comedy sketch included the “selfie” and the “special” dog “Scabbies,” a character that Hunt made up on the spot and brought to life with a weird crawl, which caused the audience to erupt in cheers.
“Sparks of Fire” member and Second City alumnus Andy Cobb said, “there was great enthusiasm and it was great for a new festival to have that kind of crowd.” The performers fed off the enthusiasm in the crowd and on stage, a unique result of the night’s format.
The Coup de Comedy Festival was designed to create a fun space where students can learn from the pros and develop their own comedy skills.
“One of the best ways to learn is to watch. It is so cool that they are making this a success and it’s awesome to be a part of it,” Tangherlini said.
Day two of the Festival featured The Improvised Stand-up show hosted by Jeremiah Watkins from the Comedy Store. This line-up included Grant Conner, who got some laughs when he talked about “the fucking panic attack [he got] because [he] found out that his Purel is only 98 percent effective.”
The second event of day two was put on by the groups Spectacles Improv Engine and Concord, each of which received huge cheers from the crowd. Long-form improvisation was used again, which was hard to follow but easy to laugh at. The subject matter of Conrad’s set traveled from a dance competition to divas to college admissions to picking up kids from school, with one member’s flamboyant presence prompting huge laughs throughout the night.
Educational workshops included professional panels, “The Art of Clowning” by Eli Simon and “Sketch Writing: The Brute Squad” were also included, allowing students to get a glimpse into potential future careers. As if proving the point, the Coup de Comedy Festival ended with a live stand-up show with Chelsea Lately’s Ben Gleib, whom Esquire magazine called one of “the six comedians who could be comedy’s next big things.”
“Our idea was to bring more comedy to UCI, to put on an awesome show and bring a festival to friends,” Tangherlini said.