Guided by a list of 113 things to do before final exercises in May, fourth years strive to take advantage of everything U.Va. has to offer before the time comes for them to wear the honor of honors. The list is fairly comprehensive and includes several activities that can be tricky or even dangerous to pull off. Some of the items, on the other hand, require virtually no work at all — indulging in a scoop of Arch’s frozen yogurt, for instance.
But even for these easier tasks, our time at the University can easily get away from us, and four years come to feel like four minutes as graduation and the real world approach. As a fourth-year, I am ashamed to admit I had never been to a Whethermen show before this semester. Despite the prevalence of signup sheets and posters for the group on Grounds, I went into the show a couple of weeks ago having no idea what to expect. Fortunately — and unsurprisingly for anyone who has experienced one of the ensemble’s performances — I was extremely impressed by what I saw.
The Whethermen are an improv comedy group that performs sketches without preparation or scripts. The members begin each act by explaining the premise of one of their notorious games, which are comparable to the sort seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and other professional comedy programs. Then, to make the experience truly interactive, the group asks the audience for suggestions. From there, antics of all kinds ensue, maintaining an atmosphere of spontaneity without descending into gimmickery or the banal.
Still skeptical? I was. How could they feasibly perform an hour and a half show without preparing anything beforehand? Well, apparently, this group is the real deal. Christian Thorsen, third-year College student and Whethermen member, reassured me.
“Everything we do is right on the spot,” he said. “The only time the Whethermen ever did anything close to scripting a scene was this murder mystery dinner we did one time, and even the majority of that was improvised.”
Anyone up for a game of Clue?
I witnessed the group’s impressive feat myself, but as floored as I was, I can’t help but be entirely too jealous of the group members’ IQs. From clever puns to mystifying riddles, their wordplay left me reeling. It reminded me how proud I am to count these people as my peers. Imagine having to figure out why you were late to work, only to discover that Oprah flooded your alarm clock with sewage water, Mike Tyson punched your car in the face, and Tom Hardy’s Bane from The Dark Knight Rises somehow plotted against you. This skit was one of the more epic moments, to be sure, and most of the scene’s bewildering suggestions and premises came from the audience.
In addition to their usual comedic craziness, though, the Whethermen are introducing a new element into their shows: music. Second-year College student Art Kulatti played the piano and the gang picked up a tune. Thorsen said this was some of the best improv the group has done.
“Everything just came together so perfectly in it,” he said. “The songs were hilarious, and also really catchy, and the audience very audibly loved it, and laughter just fuels us to perform even better. Also, we are not a group of singers, so hearing the Whethermen sing is enough reason to make a person laugh.”
The show succeeded because it was funny, out-there and wonderfully laid-back, as if anybody could walk up and start cracking jokes with the crew at any point, without anyone skipping a beat.
So if you haven’t been to one already, take the advice of this newly converted groupie, and don’t wait until fourth year to enjoy some old-fashioned Godzilla jokes.