By Kyle Elphick
The Mixed Signals, the College’s improv comedy troupe, embraced the lewd and profane at their show on Sunday, April 29 in the Library Auditorium. Starting at 8 p.m., the group framed its UNPLUGGED event as an “after-dark” performance, allowing members to marry their typical humor with content and language not safe for work.
“What makes the themed show special is that it allows the improvisers to operate in a more liberal mindset,” said Paul Chukrallah, a junior interdisciplinary business major and treasurer of Mixed Signals. “Where in some situations a performer would develop their character in a more conservative manner, this show was a challenge for all of us to push the envelope as well as push our own limits without being gratuitously lewd.”
The Mixed Signals often dress up to a theme for every show, and this show was no exception. The troupe surprised its outgoing president, Nolan DeVoe, a senior communication studies major, by donning outfits emblematic of his style and personality. Two members even wore striped ambassador shirts, referencing DeVoe’s on-campus job.
“(DeVoe) loved it and was enjoying all of our different takes on his wardrobe choice,” said Zach Michonski, a freshman civil engineering major and first-year member of the troupe.
Following DeVoe’s introductory remarks, the troupe launched into the improv comedy that the show’s enthusiastic audience had come to see. The group practiced short-form improv, which involves performances of brief scenes from improv games. Each game sports a particular gimmick and set of rules, giving most scenes a predetermined general premise that the troupe fleshes out with hilarious results.
Audience participation is also key to any Mixed Signals show. Most scenes begin with a single word shouted to the troupe from the audience by someone in the crowd.
“Audience suggestions are what make a show,” Chukrallah said. “The fact that they can give us any word and we have to just roll with it cements the fact that what the audience is about to see has never been done before and is totally made up on the spot with no prior rehearsals or preparation.”
Among various games, the crowd was treated to a Mixed Signals classic in World’s Worst. Involving every member, the troupe acted out the world’s worst practitioners of various professions.
Preparation for this game started before the show began. As audience members arrived, they were encouraged to write down a profession on a list in the Library Auditorium lobby. From these, DeVoe would announce a profession, and each member of the troupe would take a crack at portraying someone particularly bad at it in a few short seconds.
For instance, when DeVoe said “detective,” Haley Witko, a senior interactive multimedia major and troupe veteran, mimed gazing into a crystal ball and said, “I see fifty bucks in my pocket.”
The creative quip earned a raucous pop of laughter from the audience.
“I like how fast-paced it is,” said Stephanie Sonbati, a freshman English major and a first-year Mixed Signals member. “It’s super cool when you get the audience to laugh at something you just thought of right off the top of your head.”
The Mixed Signals ended the night with a crowd-favorite, Crazyprov. The game flexes the group’s creative muscles through crafting a scene that utilizes the gimmicks of every game played throughout the evening. The troupe also made references to the audience’s favorite bits of the show.
“I like Crazyprov because it is the most unpredictable game of all,” Michonski said. “It allows for everything that is fun in other scenes to be mashed into one crazy super scene.”