A member of the Improv Revolution troupe runs out from a long line of other improv actors onto the center of the stage, a smile breaking across their face.
“Sex with me is like boba …sold for $2 on the side of Ring Road!” they yell and the audience seated within Winifred Smith Hall responds with gasping laughter, roars, whistles and claps.
On the evening of May 6, 2015 two of UCI’s improv troupes, Improv Revolution and Live Nude People* with Clothes On, both faced off and partnered together to deliver a fun night of improvisation games.
This event kicked off the first night of the 2015 Coup de Comedy festival at UCI, presented by UCI’s Improv Revolution. The festival ran from May 3 to May 9, with a full schedule of improv shows, stand-up performances, workshops and panels.
Joel Veenstra, Associate Head of Stage Management at the Claire Trevor School of Arts and the head organizer of Coup de Comedy, holds the free festival dear to his heart due to his personal connection to Improv Revolution.
“I actually started it when I was a graduate student, then I (did improv professionally) and then I was brought back to UCI as a faculty member,” Veenstra said. “They wanted to do an improv festival, and I have a lot of connections in the comedy community, and I was happy to put what they wanted together with some people I knew, and it just continued to grow,”
This is the third year for the festival, and one feature has remained the same since the first one — all events were completely free and open to the public.
Throughout the festival, the public was welcome to attend a great variety of shows put on by improv troupes and stand-up sets. Immediately following the opening event was improv troupe The Resistance, hailing from Los Angeles.
The Resistance specializes in recreating cinematic tropes on stage, based completely on improvisation. Nothing short of hilariously entertaining, it was a joy to watch the four actors feed off one another while acting out a ‘kid journey’ movie in the vein of “The Goonies.”
Another highlight was Impro Theatre’s Chekhov Unscripted! performance. Impro Theatre performs plays in the style of a certain play type or playwright but every line and action is completely improvised, and therefore no play they perform is identical. As seen in the title, their performance on Saturday night was done in the theme of the Russian playwright Anton Chekov.
UCI alumna, Zoe Rose Moacanin returned to participate in three events, including a sketch show with her group OBGY-Not. A group focusing on feminist comedy, the trio of actresses spoofed on cat-calling male construction workers and did a dance number harping on the woes of menstruation, among other sketches.
“I live in LA now and am pursuing a career in comedy. The Coup de Comedy festival is the reason I made that move,” Moacanin said. “I was planning on going into education, but this festival and Improv Revolution did so much for me.”
The big highlight of the festival was the last event, the Revolutionary Comedy Award honoring prolific comedian, Keegan-Michael Key.
“We try to reach out to people that both inspire us because of their talent, but also inspire us because of how they approach their work and how they approach the world,” Veenstra said.
In a talk that totaled a little over an hour, Veenstra asked Key some questions and then opened it up to the audience.
“I’m a firm believer that work begets work,” Key said. “If you get momentum (creating your own work), your confidence will make things happen.”
Ultimately, Veenstra hopes the festival will open up the importance of comedy and improv to a wider audience.
“Improvisation sets up a lot of skills that help people in their lives, from listening, to being present in the moment to the social interactions and engagement with people. That’s valuable,” Veenstra said.
But to Veenstra, there’s also a rather simplistic explanation to why comedy and improv matters.
“There’s a wide variety of different angles (to improv), but it’s also good to laugh too. We all need some levity in our lives,” Veenstra said.