Improv groups “Amuse” audiences
The Whethermen, Amuse Bouche, and La Petite Teet humor throughout history
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be funny to be in an improv group. The University’s two improv groups, The Whethermen and Amuse Bouche, hold auditions with other criteria in mind.
“There’s no prescribed person that you’re looking for because there are no hard and fast rules of comedy — the funny just kind of happens,” said Ida Knox, a fourth-year College student and Amuse Bouche member.
What the groups do value in performers are confidence, stage presence, cooperativeness and receptiveness to suggestions.
“The best you look is when you make someone else look funny; the humor in improv comes from relationship and conflict,” said Sam Miller, a fourth-year College student and Whethermen member.
The Whethermen, the University’s oldest improv comedy troupe, started in 1997 as an offshoot of Shakespeare on the Lawn. They held their first public show at Espresso Corner, where Boylan Heights now stands, and became a contracted independent organization by 1998.
The name originated with the group’s uncertainty “whether” anyone would show up for rehearsals or performances, Miller said.
A tradition of the group is the “Brand Name” T-shirts, which are “technically a surprise, but everyone knows it’s coming,” Miller said.
“It’s based on your improv style and personality,” he said. “It’s kind of like a jersey and it hangs proudly in my closet next to my RG3 jersey.”
The group practices four hours a week and holds two sizeable shows and one set of auditions each semester. They also hold smaller performances at fraternity and sorority rush events, a cappella performance intermissions, family weekend and run icebreakers for groups such as Student Council or Peer Health Educators.
Amuse Bouche, the second improv group to start on Grounds, began 10 years ago with a group of students interested in performing long-form improv comedy.
The history behind its name is a semi-metaphorical reference to the uncertainty of improv. “Amuse bouche” is a French phrase for an appetizer the chef sends out that you didn’t request.
“It’s not necessarily something you picked, but kind of just whatever happens,” Knox said.
The group also rehearses four hours a week, but holds three shows each semester, in addition to events such as opening for hypnotist Tom DeLuca last year and performing at Pancakes for Parkinson’s and other charity events.
The rules of improv are simple: accept whatever someone says as a fact, never say no and supplement what someone says with another idea — the “yes, and…” response — said Whethermen President Art Kulatti, a third-year College student.
“It’s like reading a really good book — if it’s done right,” Kulatti said. “It has so many facets and characters; you create this world in 30 minutes and focus on a few aspects, but bring about themes that are relevant to every situation and every person.”
Along with The Whethermen and Amuse Bouche, sketch comedy group La Petite Teet provides similar humor to the University community.
“The founders of La Petite Teet saw an opportunity to create sketch comedy in a school where there wasn’t as much interest,” third-year College student Denise Taylor said.
In contrast to improv, sketch comedy is written beforehand, then practiced and performed. “We are kind of like Saturday Night Live, while improv is completely made up on the spot,” Taylor said.
The group looks for performers with great stage presence, as well as clever and consistent writers to create sketches. La Petite Teet contains members from both of the University improv groups and serves as a separate comedy outlet.
“There was an air of tension between the two [improv] groups in the past, which is why La Petite Teet is such a great thing for both groups to participate in,” Knox said.
Both improv groups travel to the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival during the spring semester, and recently participated in a workshop through Student Council with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, an improv group from New York City.