In the multicolored universe of performance art, improvisational comedy is widely considered one of its most difficult, intricate forms. Or at least the eight members of GW’s ReceSs theater company feel that way. The ReceSs improv troupe has brought its unique variety of live comedy to the GW community for the last 13 years and shows no signs of letting up, even for a breather between ad-libs. The Hatchet got and-up-close and personal look at just how its brand of organized chaos works.
“You can find humor in basically anything,” said Adam Riedel about the ways the group finds motivation for its material.
“We’re inspired by each other,” added John Tollefson, one of four new members who have joined ReceSs this year.
“We did our first show this semester on Sept. 12 with only three members,” Reidel said. “We thought it might be hard in front of an audience of 250 people, because if you bomb and you get nothing from the audience, you pretty much have to go right back out and face them again.”
“We bring something student-made, for students, to the University,” said David Angelo, a returning member.
The group performs two types of improv; short-form and long-form. The former includes games such as “world’s worst,” “bad ads” and “first line, last line” – similar to what one might see on the TV’s “Whose Line is it Anyway?” Members are given locations, phrases and things, and they spontaneously come up with lines and jokes. Long-form consists of improvising entire scenes. Nothing is scripted, allowing the members to play off each other and the audience’s reactions.
“The only rule of improv is that there are no rules, although there are a few guidelines that make it easier to keep a scene moving,” said Reidel.
These edicts upon which ReceSs was founded come in a list of 10 comedy commandments, to be followed as gospel, the seventh and most important being “Thou shalt not steal Howie Mandel jokes.”
ReceSs members practice eight hours a week to keep in shape, practicing the back-and-forth science of trading witticisms as if they were in a tennis scrimmage.
ReceSs’ shows have come a long way since the group began in 1990. During the first two years of its existence, the group called itself the “No Time Players” and staged only short-form sketch comedy. Today, ReceSs performances have made technological advances involving video.
With the continuing revisions over the years, all that remains to be devised is an official slogan. The original was “A lot like comedy, only funnier.” It’s an ongoing process, to be sure, but when asked to come up with one on the spot, the group tossed around several possibilities before deciding on “ReceSs – supporting a woman’s right to choose from 1995 through ’98.”
You had to be there.
The troupe of comedians – Angelo, Riedel, Tollefson, Seena Ghaznavi, Jeff Frost, Jesse Baltes, Karin Hammerberg and Emily Axford – will perform its next show for GW at midnight on Oct. 24 in the Dorothy Betts Theatre.
This article appeared in the October 23, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.