‘Bring a Change of Pants’

    It’s Thursday night with 15 minutes until show time, and the
    members of San Diego’s premier
    college improvisational team are huddled together in a small alcove above the
    National Comedy Theater’s stage. They shout in comedic tongues as they play
    “Zoom Schwartz Pafigliano” and “Zip Zap Zop,” preshow rituals intended to
    harness their collective energy. As the modest, yet loyal, audience begins to
    fill the auditorium, the NCT College
    Team plans to uphold the theater’s motto — “bring a change of pants.”

    While the NCT has served as a local source of improv for
    over two decades, the NCT College Team, N(CT)2, is a year-old offshoot to the
    theater’s weekly lineup, featuring some of UCSD’s most promising improv
    comedians along with a sample of comedic talent from other local colleges. Each
    of the current 18 members, five of whom hail from UCSD, underwent a rigorous
    audition process consisting of a six-week workshop period before they made the
    team. The result was a “silly, witty, sarcastic and dirty” group unlike any
    other, according to N(CT)2 member and Sixth
    sophomore Katie Willert.

    “This team creates a whole new dynamic,” said N(CT)2 coach
    and UCSD alumna Marina Mastros. “They have an unparalleled amount of energy,
    but it’s a totally different kind of energy.”

    An N(CT)2 member gestures dramatically and sticks out her tongue in a skit at the National Comedy Theater during the group’s Valentine’s performance. (Andrew Ruiz/Guardian)

    Because N(CT)2 shows are similar in style to the popular
    television series “Whose Line is it Anyway?,” improvisers like Revelle College
    senior Geoffrey Lapid must think on their feet for the most effective way to
    communicate their chosen characters — such as the Feb. 14 show’s Catwoman and
    K.I.S.S. roles — to their teammates.

    “[Improv] is great because it gives us the opportunity to be
    silly in a controlled environment,” Lapid said. “I really got into it when I
    realized that improv is a lot of fun with a lot of layers involved in the
    performance. There are a few basic structures that a scene needs, like
    C.R.O.W., which stands for character, relationships, objects and where.”

    To an outsider, preparation for improvisation may seem
    futile, but members agree that it is necessary to learn these basic structures
    to perform a successful scene. To facilitate this, the team has free access to
    workshops, priced over $100 for nonmembers. To make sure their creative energy
    isn’t misguided on stage, N(CT)2 meets every Sunday to perform exercises like
    “Big Booty,” “Electric Company” and “Go.”

    “Besides being taught by professionals, you get to perform
    regularly for an audience,” said Mastros, whom the team affectionately refers
    to as Marina Mastros-and-Defender because she regulates the quality of comedy
    as the team’s referee.

    N(CT)2 and other on-campus improv teams, like UCSD’s
    Muir-based FOOSH and SDSU’s I H Pi, collaborate often through performances like
    N(CT)2’s “Represent Your School Night.” Every last Thursday of the month,
    N(CT)2 challenges a local college team to an improv match at its theater.
    February’s night was against FOOSH. The three members of N(CT)2 who also belong to FOOSH — Lapid, Revelle
    College sophomore Sam Hunter and Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Nam Nguyen —
    played with N(CT)2 as standard home-game practice.

    “You get to know your teammates’ humor and it’s just
    exciting when you throw new people into the mix,” Willert said. “When you work
    with someone from a different team, you’re exposed to their whole different
    philosophy of comedy. Even things like pacing can be different.”

    Members’ experiences with N(CT)2 prove valuable in other
    aspects of life. According to Mastros, improv is a great way to boost self
    confidence and public speaking skills. Willert believes improv will help her
    acting endeavors. Improv comedy for Lapid, aside from being a relaxing
    alternative to academic pressures, is enticing for other reasons.

    “I’m in it for the fabulous prizes and the beautiful women,”
    Lapid said. “Actually, I’ve seen Comedy Sportz shows before and I was like,
    ‘Yay! I can be a part of this.’”

    As much as they get out of performing, N(CT)2 members also
    like to give back to the San Diego
    community. Following the example set by the NCT’s main team, who have
    entertained troops in Iraq
    several times, the N(CT)2 collaborated with FOOSH and I H Pi to aid San Diegans
    displaced by the 2007 California Wildfires.

    “It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done not only as
    an improviser, but just as a person. It was nice just to be able to make them
    laugh and the kids were really into it,” Willert said.

    Their crowd at Qualcomm Stadium began small, but grew in size
    to about 100 people according to Lapid.

    “It felt really good to see that [the audience] made some
    sort of connection with us and that they enjoyed having us around,” Lapid said.

    Whether they are using improv to aid a needy community or to
    make college kids laugh on Thursday nights, N(CT)2 members continue to hone
    their art with a unique outlook on life.

    “The world is a really funny place and with improv we have a
    venue to point out how ridiculous life can be,” Lapid said. “We don’t always
    have to be all frowny-pantsed. Finding the silliness and fun there is in life
    is a good message to spread. It’s a good philosophy of life.”

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