Saturday, March 28, 2020
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When Comedy and Confidence Collide

by Jessica Resendez stage-comedy-Recovered

They were bold! They were brave. They were nude? Not quite.

On a cold El Nino-ish kind of night, I joined dozens of UCI’s bravest souls on a mission to bare it all for a few laughs. Inside the Claire Trevor’s Contemporary Arts Center, a pool of vivacious students could be seen anticipating whether or not to audition for something that some people might consider extremely gutsy: a spot on UCI’s Live Nude People (With Clothes On) improv troupe.

Sporadically bouncing around the room was 2nd year drama major, Hugo Conde, who seemed keen on convincing me to audition from the moment I entered the room. Trying to be polite, I told him I would consider it, but honestly, there was no way I could. My self-conscious reservations wouldn’t allow it…  or so I thought.

Hugo motioned for me to come join him and his friends Victoria Zepeda (2nd year drama major) and Jessica Lavelle (4th year drama major) in the back corner of the room. As I approached their small group it seemed like Victoria was going through a bit of a dilemma as to whether or not she should audition. Somehow the idea came up that if I could get the courage to do it, then she would do it too.  

Still not completely convinced, I modestly sauntered over to the questionnaire forms for auditions on a nearby table. I picked one up and started to read it through. I was completely out of my element.  

Becca Roland (2nd year drama major) introduced herself as one of the group’s captains and assured me not to stress out.

“Just have fun,” she said. “If you mess up, it’s okay.”

That seemed to resonate with me and I finally said, “Eff it!” and turned in my form to audition (yikes!). After a short round of warm-up exercises, everyone was corralled into Studio Five for the official audition. Now I was pumped. I had Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” playing in my head. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy. No vomit on my sweater, but I knew I only had one shot. 

The next part was a blur. Somewhere I got so nervous that I missed out on the rules of the game and went on stage saying, “I love Donald Trump!” What was I doing? Suddenly I had a Spanish accent and saying I was the mother of an illegitimate child with the Trumpster? How was this funny? This was a complete failure! I was so embarrassed. I must’ve taken on at least 50 shades of red. I wanted off the stage as soon as I entered it. Five minutes later it was over and I couldn’t have been more relieved. It’s safe to say I didn’t make the cut.   

The most interesting part of the night was not my attempt to be a wannabe Donald Trump supporter (so embarrassing), but rather it was watching people like Hugo, Victoria, and Jessica give such animated performances on and off the stage that had me wondering, “How do they do that?”

Improv is supposed to be something unscripted and unplanned. Whatever the other person says, you’re just supposed to agree and ride along. For a literary journalism major like me, I crave structure and planning before I commit. Talking to some of these folks, however, made it seem like their drama backgrounds might’ve had some kind of influence, right?

Well, not necessarily. Some of them told me that this was their first time ever auditioning for comedic improv.

It turns out that drama is a different world than improv. There are scripts and weeks of rehearsing before the final product is complete. Improv is less about the individual learning their lines and more about people working as a “team,” as Becca says, to create something spontaneously entertaining. 

I watched Victoria (with all seriousness) clutch her hands to her chest and pretend to embody a character that reminded me of Gollum protecting a precious ring after another character said, “I told you to stop taking my bedazzled dentures!”

There was Hugo, who threw a dramatic fit by flinging his hands to his face, running frantically across stage, and in an almost crying voice say, “Noooooo! How could you erase my Honey Boo Boo off the DVR?”

Jessica began hyperventilating in an imaginary car as her friend told her, “You never just let loose and do something fun for once!” To which she replied, “I lived in the dorms for a week in college…  but then I came back…because I couldn’t leave mom and dad.”

There’s something to be appreciated by all that raw emotion, those silly antics, the ability to let go of all inhibitions. Too often the thought of being judged by others can feel super incriminating. Why should we care? Life is too short for that kind of nonsense.

The group of amazing people I met that night sparked a side of me I didn’t know I had. Yeah it was scary and yeah it was embarrassing, but at no time did I ever feel judged by anyone there (even though it was an audition). In fact, a few people came up to me and told me that I was actually quite funny. Who would’ve known I had so much potential? But please, don’t count on me being the next Tina Fey anytime soon.