Comedy Wars swells its ranks

Comedy Wars is finishing its 11th season with three new members.
Comedy Wars actresses Lauren Zima and Leeann McLaughlin perform an improv scene during Comedy Wars in August at Bengal Lair. Although the Comedy Wars troupe has acquired new members, it is still a cohesive unit when performing. Maneater File Photo

More than 20 different comedians have amused MU in Comedy Wars' 11-season span, which began when Todd Geritz hosted the first official show Dec. 5, 1999.

This season, the Comedy Wars crew of Kyle Ayers, Brian Hamilton, Austin Huff, Leann McLaughlin and Lauren Zima was joined by Melissa Darch, Alex McElvain and Peter Smith.

So far, the new members have enjoyed filling out the dynamics of the group and developing their comedic improvisation skills both on the stage during Wednesday night performances and in practice Sunday nights.

Darch not only added a female note to the predominantly male crew, but also added a blunt, concise humor to the games.

"I would say (my favorite game is) Party Quirks, just because it's fun to try and become a completely different person and try to get someone to guess what you are trying to do onstage," Darch said.

Smith brings a more fearless, outrageous side to the show, often screaming onto the stage as a loudly colorful character, such as Richard Simmons.

"I just like when I get to play lots of different things but in the context of one character," Smith said. "That's also why I love Comedy Wars because I have a unique opportunity to play different people or different impersonations."

McElvain, a member of The Maneater staff, adds a random, satirical humor as he slips into a wide variety of characters with apparent ease.

Similar in style to McElvain but with a slightly more slap-stick bent is Ayers, whose preparation for shows is slightly different than the methods of the other members who mostly like to relax and focus.

"I like to drink apple juice before a show," Ayers said. "I like boxed apple juice a lot. I try to do a Sudoku, but I'm just terrible at it. I'll usually get there 45 minutes before anyone else, and if I have one number filled in when everyone else gets there, I feel successful."

Huff definitely complements Ayer's slapstick bent with his own sometimes-corny humor, creating a variety of characters from a grumpy old man to a surfer named Chad.

Huff's favorite game is Space Jump, a game where a suggestion with several contexts is taken from the audience, such as rock, and different scenes are built as a new person enters the stage.

"It kind of ascends and then descends quickly," Huff said. "I think it's a lot of fun because you are doing a whole lot of scenes really quickly but not only that, you have to go back to those same scenes."

Zima's commanding, dramatic style of comedy fits well with both Huff and Ayers, and similar to Ayers, she has a unique method for preparing for shows.

"I have like a playlist of music that I listen to before every performance when I'm getting ready, putting on make up and getting dressed and stuff," Zima said. "I listen to everything from Lady Gaga to The Beatles, anything that makes me want to dance around and have fun."

McLaughlin brings a quieter side to the group with a quirkier, simpler style. She said she loves to play Exits, a game in which crewmembers create a scene from a suggestion. When one person exits the stage, everyone else on stage must follow them.

"It usually gets pretty fantastical, which is always something I'm up for, things that don't make sense," McLaughlin said. "I love that game because it's kind of whimsical."

Finally, Hamilton brings a style similar to McLaughlin and is appreciated for his sometimes-nerdy word play. Most members of Comedy Wars said they appreciate both their loyal and new fans.

Ayers said sometimes fans could take Facebook stalking quite seriously, with some even recognizing his family when they attended a show.

"With social networking, there are a lot of different levels of friendship that are totally acceptable, and I love it when people are like, 'Hey, I think you guys are really funny. It was really nice to come and watch you,' so I tend not to shy away from the random people," Ayers said. "It's pretty flattering."

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