CoMotion brings collegiate and professional improvisers together

Six collegiate and two professional improvisational teams performed in front of about 150 people Saturday night.

Collegiate improv teams from around the country gathered at the 2014 CoMotion, a festival that celebrates improvisational comedy.

The six collegiate teams — Paperback Rhino from the University of Iowa, Phoenix Improv Company from the University of Illinois, Fish Bowl and Eight Floor from Ohio State University, Meg Has Low Self-Esteem from Kansas State University, and MU’s own Fatt Motis — participated in professional improv workshops and performed in front of a live audience.

Jake Wallach, an MU junior and MU Improv member who helped organize the festival with the Department of Student Activities, said CoMotion was a great way for improvisers to network and learn from one another.

“The festival is a good way for people to communicate and connect with different college teams,” he said. “We can talk to them and see how differently they do improv. It’s kind of like trading and if we want to try out something they’re doing, we can actually see it.”

Workshops took place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and were lead by two professional improv teams, Susan from Chicago and Upright Citizens Brigade from New York City.

Susan member Brian Biancardi has been performing improv comedy with the Chemically Imbalanced Comedy theatre for three years. Biancardi said he hopes many of the collegiate improvisers will make it to the professional level someday.

“All the teams were very funny and enthusiastic during workshop,” he said. “(Improv) is one of the most pure forms of comedy and it’s a straight shot into someone’s brain… It would be fun to see which ones end up in Chicago.”

At 4 p.m., the collegiate teams began performing live, each team with roughly 30 minutes to perform various scenes. The show was free to anyone and free pizza from Shakespeare’s Pizza was provided.

Many groups performed skits based on a suggestion from the audience. Some, like the Phoenix Improv Company, even incorporated musical components to their performance by playing a guitar and rapping in different scenes.

MU freshman Joseph Ryan said that while he enjoyed many of the performances, the Phoenix Improv Company really stood out for him.

“They threw in music and rapping. That’s not something that is done very often, especially done so well,” Ryan said.

MU sophomore Drew Derstine, a Comedy Wars hopeful, said he liked improvisational comedy because of the spontaneity and was not disappointed by the performances at CoMotion.

“What separates (improv) from other forms of comedy is that you can’t ever expect what you’re going to see on the stage,” he said. “The team from Kansas and (Fatt Motis) did really well. I haven’t seen that level of improv in a long time.”

At 7 p.m., the two professional teams took the stage. Upright Citizens Brigade member Karin Hammerberg, who has been performing improvisational comedy for over a decade, described her performance as a team sport.

“Improv, especially long-form improv, is like a team sport, whereas standup is more individual,” she said. “In improv, you get to take other people’s ideas and make them fun and exciting … it’s a really collaborative energy.”

Wallach said he was satisfied with the turnout of the festival and hopes to see CoMotion become an annual MU tradition.

“The college teams had a lot of fun, the professional teams were excellent, and it was relaxing to sit back and watch them all (perform),” Wallach said. “We hope to do it every year from now on and if I’m still around next year, I would want to do it again.”

Phoenix Improv Company member Terrance Rogers, University of Illinois sophomore, said if given the opportunity, he would return to CoMotion.

“We were invited by one of the MU Improv teams, The Best Friends, after we met them at a festival called Bellwether,” Rogers said. “I am so glad I came out here. The workshops we had and seeing other teams perform were fantastic. Anytime we are invited again, we will drive all the way here.”

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