Queen’s Varsity Improv is no joke

Wet Hot Canadian Improv show starts run at Clark Hall

Queen’s Varsity Improv team on stage at the Clark Hall.

A clown, a horse girl, and Facebook meme poster David Vassos walk into a party.

It’s the unlikely beginning of Queen’s Varsity Improv’s latest show, which held its first of four performances of the year at Clark Hall on Tuesday night. 

Wet Hot Canadian Improv—a nod to cult-classic Wet Hot American Summer featured a 13 members cast ranging from first-years to PhD students.

Nothing is too niche or taboo for the Qvitters, who explored everything from the birth of Jewish rock music to God’s sweet sixteen birthday party. 

In one skit, three women tried to hide their true identity while in a male prison. In another, the entire cast disclosed exactly what sex with them entails, and how it’s comparable to cream cheese left out for a day. 

An audience favourite was this year’s new cast members’ initiation into the team, where they were blindfolded on a stage set with active mousetraps. 

“To all the haters out there, now you know: improv’s the real deal,” castmember Liam Casey told the audience after cutting himself on a mousetrap while performing burpees.

The troupe similarly encouraged the crowd to shout cues during the scenes, including relationships, objects, and locations. One new game, Tinder, allowed the audience to shout out and indicate whether to swipe left or right on different dating personalities the actors portrayed. 

The troupe even invited some audience members on stage, showcasing the cast’s skill as they integrated the crowd into scenes. One audience member walked back to his seat joking, “That was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”

While the performance is entirely unscripted, preparation is essential to the show. The cast meets twice a week to play improv games, give feedback, and hone their skills, on top of attending competitions in Montreal. The show structure and game designs are well-defined beforehand, yet the event still felt casual and spontaneous.

Dedicated fans may have noticed the team’s unusual mascot—a framed photo of actor Steve Buscemi. Alumni and former captain Blair MacMillan left behind the prized possession as a gift to the team when she graduated last year. 

Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find a group of more versatile performers, seeing as they change character with every new scene. 

The actors frequently defaulted to their own names, even when transitioning into characters completely unlike themselves. 

For one, performer Paul Smith was unrecognizable when he played a memorable personality—a man so old that neither music nor male genitalia existed in his childhood. 

There’s no disputing the technical skill and comedic timing of the actors. However, the show’s obvious strength was the energy and companionship between cast members, and the audience of friends, family, and lovers of improv there to support them. 

Made up on the spot or not, that aspect of the performance stays with its audience. 

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