Gigglepants improv 'strives to constantly fail'

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Senior Shea Jones, middle, and junior Thomas Kelleher, practice an improv comedy game called “Where Have My Fingers Been?” in Parlin Hall Thursday evening. The two are members of UT’s competitive improv troupe Gigglepants, which will be performing its last show for the semester today at 7 pm in the CMA Auditorium.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

In groups of four, members of UT’s Gigglepants improv comedy troupe began creating a scene based off of a word given to them by their peers. They only changed the direction of the scene when specific songs were played, cueing them to either give a monologue, die or find an excuse to touch.

“[Improv] lets you release any boundaries you have during the day,” said Reid O’Conor, vice captain and radio-television-film sophomore. “I don’t get to act the same way during class — it’s a good way to loosen up.”

Gigglepants is UT’s only short-form improv comedy troupe. The organization has been on campus for eight years, performing every other Friday night in hopes of providing “good, clean, fun.”

The show is set up in a competitive format, with two teams of four and a referee. The two teams compete throughout the night, but in the end, the points are irrelevant. The focus is on performing and entertaining the audience. The referee makes an effort to help with this by explaining who everyone is and playing goofy games, all before the show starts.

“Watching people make things up, if it’s done well, it looks rehearsed,” O’Conor said. “Even when it comes apart at the seams I think the show becomes even more fun.”

To prepare for each show, the troupe holds practices twice a week. At the beginning of each practice they warm up to help train them to think quickly, while also learning to avoid getting caught up in thought.

“When we warm up we bring up our energy,” said Jordan O’Neil, acting and RTF junior. “You just let go ofyour inhibitions.”

During warm ups and improv skits, they rely on their principle of “Yes, and.” This is the idea that once a group member has offered an idea or price of information within the scene, another player should accept it and add on to it. This is especially helpful for new members learning how to continue someone else’s ideas.

Additionally, the troupe uses choice and commitment in practice and performance to create a decisive plot, while also recognizing the need to ensure the scene progresses.

“With any choice you make in improv you can’t go wrong,” said Colin Bates, captain and biology senior. “As long as you make a choice and stay committed to it you will always be right.”

Their ability to remain committed to characters and the scenes they’re in comes from the teamwork Gigglepants instills. From the beginning, it has never been about the humor of one member, but instead about a compilation of all of their talents.

“You don’t have pressure to be good yourself because you’re there to help your fellow improvisers out and make them look good,” Bates said. “You just have to worry about everyone else.”

The troupe agreed that anything can be said or done to make a scene original while also having an unpredictable nature to it. By remaining true to their “Yes, and” principle and also staying committed, scenes often evolve into something entirely different than they ever expect.

“In improv we strive to constantly fail,” Bates said. “It sounds weird, but in our everyday life of tests and work we are always striving not to fail, so much that mistakes are seen as horrible errors we instantly cover up and correct. In improv, the great thing is there’s no such thing as failure.”

The key to improv is listening, since the troupe is discovering the scene at the same time as the audience, they don’t know what’s going to be said either. It’s important that they listen to each other and the ideas will come to them. Other than that, the troupe relies on good scene work techniques and knowing how to play the games.

“You have to stop worrying about what you’re going to say,” O’Conor said. “It’s just like life, you make it a lot harder if you’re constantly thinking.”

However for the troupe, being funny is actually a secondary goal to having a good time while also creating an entertaining environment. They always strive to stay in character and produce an unforgettable show.

“It’s addictive — it makes you want to be in it,” O’Conor said. “That show you saw, no one else will ever see it again.”