On Friday, January 8, in Ledden Auditorium, UCSD’s short form improv team FOOSH performed for an audience of over two hundred students. FOOSH, founded in 2002, is a campus organization based in Muir College whose aim is to educate their members about the art of improv, their specialty being short form improvisation.
So what is short form improvisation?
“Well, for starters, improv means that everything is made up on the spot,” says FOOSH Coach Robin Richardson. She continued to explain that in addition to short form improv “…there is also long form, which is more free form. It relies more on building upon itself. UCSD’s Slippery When Wet performs this form exclusively.”
On the other hand, “Short Form improvisation” — according to the Upright Citizen Brigade Comedy Improvisational Manual, a book by comedy experts Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh — “revolves around the performance of short ‘games’ with predetermined rules or gimmicks. Performers go into each performance knowing the set rules of each of these ‘games.’ ”
One such “game” that FOOSH performs is “Objection!” — where two teams of two improvisers face off in a debate setting. The gimmick is instead of discussing a serious issue, as most debates typically do, the topic of FOOSH’s debate seems insignificant. For example, the topic could be “Which is better? Star Wars or Star Trek?” or “Team Pancakes Versus Team Waffles.”
FOOSH is an improvisation team that practices “games” like these in order to enhance their improv skills and prepare themselves for performances. Performances that, like last Friday’s show, attract hundreds of FOOSH fans. Before their show had started, the entirety of Ledden Auditorium buzzed as the audience filed in, occupying every seat available. Applause and whistling sounded when Richardson entered blowing a referee whistle, signaling the commencement of the event.
Soon to follow were the improvisers, who were split into two teams: Jasmine Heredia, Adam Whitman, Amin Fozi, Liam Huber, and Maddy Rae; versus Nick Checchia, Allegra Baker, Niels Griedel, and Rithvik Shankar. The show consisted of a series of short games initiated by suggestions from the audience, which provide inspiration for the improvisers. Additionally, the show is set up as a friendly competition. Each team performs one game per round. After each round, the audience votes via applause volume for which scene they enjoyed most, awarding the favorite one point. The team with the most points at the end of the night wins.
FOOSH shows not only demand from spectators suggestions but also their undivided attention. The end result is an experience of improvised comedy that is engaging not only for the audience, but also for FOOSH’s members.
“Improvising — it’s just always fun because I just like performing in front of people,” says second year chemistry major and FOOSH member Nick Checchia. “FOOSH specifically is nice because of the format and the inclusiveness. I get to improv with a lot of people and I guess see a lot of perspectives on improv, which is nice and refreshing.”
FOOSH members meet for practice twice a week in Muir. As Coach, Richardson works to integrate different types of exercises and games in order to construct an educational and engaging improv experience. “We always start with warm ups, which everyone does together. This is to get everyone’s energy up,” Richardson explains. “Then we do a myriad of exercises and games. After each activity, I give my notes and open the floor up to discussion about what was just performed.”
“It’s so much fun. The whole practice is just a laugh fest and it’s great if you really enjoy the craft of improv,” says fourth year chemical engineering major Darren Anthony.
In addition to performing in practices and shows, members of FOOSH also attend Fracas, a college improv festival held annually at USC in Spring Quarter. There, they meet other college-aged improvisers, attend workshops, watch panels featuring professional comedians, and learn different improvisation techniques.
I think it’s just nice to make people laugh or smile for just a moment.
While FOOSH visits Fracas and provides other educational opportunities for its members, its atmosphere is open and accepting. In the words of third year cognitive science major Jasmine Heredia, “It feels very homey, where I feel like it’s a very safe space to, I guess, make mistakes and to get better at improv.”
On top of learning about improv, performers find through FOOSH a source of creativity and an outlet for stress. “For me, I think what I like a lot about it is just the fact that it is comedy and entertainment. I think it’s just nice to make people laugh or smile for just a moment.
For them to have, say, a break from school or stress of finals and everything. And just to be able to enjoy themselves,” says Checchia. “And it’s also the same when you’re up onstage to be able to do that. It’s kind of nice because when I am doing improv, it takes so much concentration you can’t be thinking of anything else or really stress of other stuff.”
No prior improv experience is required to join.
FOOSH requires nothing of its members but an enthusiasm for improvisation and learning. No prior improv experience is required to join. The only requirement is to attend a workshop that teaches new members improv’s basic concepts.
You can catch FOOSH’s next show, “Improvapocalypse,” which will include acts from other college improvisation teams (with past performances featuring SDSU, UCLA, USC, UCR, UCI, Harvey Mudd, UCSB, Boston University, and many more) on Friday, January 22, and Saturday, January 23.