Improv is a form of acting where the actors create a story without a script. While in productions for theater, movies, and shows, improv might show up occasionally; there are complete improv shows. Improv shows are an entire theatrical production where the show is not pre-written. Improv shows usually consist of an improv troupe that puts these shows together for a live audience, and the driving force is comedy due to improv’s random nature.
The Next Best Thing Improv is one of two improv troupes that are an official SOU club. Founded ten years ago, The Next Best Thing typically consists of about 16 members each term and does auditions at the start of the term where students and even alums can audition to be a member. After selecting the members, The Next Best Thing will have improv rehearsals at least once a week to prepare for their shows. Their shows debut on campus, typically during Pub Night at Elmo’s or the Stevenson Union’s arena. They last from an hour to 90 minutes and constant of the troupe playing various improv games that they would play for the audience, giving the audience prompts to kick off the storyline.
On the night of October 21st, The Next Best Thing held one of its shows. Typically, The Next Best Thing has a particular theme for their shows, and with Halloween just ten days after the show, A costume/horror theme was the one for the show. So, the show was called The Next Best Scream due to this theme. The show went from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM, during which the troupe played six games and went with the theme; they were all in costume. In addition, there was a costume contest for members of the troupe and the audience. The winner got a prize that consisted of a stuffed bag full of candy and a stuffed toy axe.
The first game was Spooky River, which consisted of 5 players. During the game, the players would initially have their back turn, but one of them would turn around to add to the story they were telling. The story begins with a prompt given by the audience, the sewage of the spooky river. Then, each member would expand and add to the story as it progressed in a comedic tone.
The second game would be called integration, which consists of three players. In this game, one player would play the role of a criminal who committed a crime, yet they are unaware of the crime. This player would then leave the room, and the audience gave the prompt that the crime was giving toothpaste and toothbrushes to trick-or-treaters. The player playing the role of the criminal would be let back and face interrogation by the two other players as a good cop and bad cop. The criminal would have to guess what they did, while the cop players would give hints. After several guesses, the game ended when the criminal humorously got wrong that they were providing weed to trick-or-treaters.
The next game was newscasters, which had four players playing. These players were two news anchors, a weather reporter and a sportscaster. The catch is that these players had all the quirks given to them by the audience. These quirks ranged from sneezing all the time to being afraid of rain to having a rabbit under their hat, and as the game progressed, the more these quirks would have the newscast fall into chaos. There was even a moment when the person whose quirk was afraid of rain could borrow an umbrella from a member of the audience for a humorous moment on stage.
After this game, a 10-minute intermission took place during which audiences’ member could get snacks and vote for their favorite costume. The voting was so popular that they ran out of ballots. Once the intermission was over, the show’s second half began with three more games played on stage.
Superheroes was the first game played after the break, and it had five players on stage who played as made-up superheroes. All of them would have a useless power to fix the situation and would continuously call the next hero until the final hero ultimately showed up to save the day at the end of the game.
Four Corners was the penultimate game and had four players on stage to play. Four scenes took place during this game, and each scene would change with the sound of the bell. All four scenes started with prompts from the audience for items, locations, jobs, and relationships to create these scenes. Some of these prompts were conjoined twins split apart, zombie corners, and located at a trampoline park.
The final game played was inner demons, with four players on stage. Again, a prompt from the audience to start the game. During this game, the players would interact with each other starting from that prompt, except there would be a bell in play, and each time it rings, a player would step forward, and that player would have to speak their thoughts on the current situation of the game.
After the final game, the announcement of the winner of the costume happened. While some of the members of the show would get a good number of votes, such as the guy in the green screen suit, the winner would be a member of the audience dressed as the character Jester from Critical Role. After the show concluded, we sat with the co-captain of The Next Best Thing, Aiden, to talk about future shows and auditions. Aiden said that their next show is planned after December and will be their big 10th-anniversary show, like the costume contest, and they want more theme gimmicks for future shows. They also feel that students should audition for the troupe as it is a lot of fun, and they can learn valuable theater and life skills from being a part of an improv troupe. Check out The Next Best Thing Improv’s Instagram page to hear more about future events and auditions.