Instead of the watery eyes normally associated with sleepless nights and the monotonous school week, the students of Cal Poly will have a chance to shed tears of laughter as the comedy group Smile and Nod offers an escape Wednesday night.

Smile and Nod was formed in 1998 by a group of Cal Poly students interested in improv comedy. Originally, there was only one show per quarter, but with combined student interest and the sheer entertainment factor, the group expanded and now performs two shows every Saturday night.

“Around this area you don’t get to see a lot of live comedy, and there is something about live comedy that is completely different from comedy you see on television,” Smile and Nod co-manager Ben Piper said. “(With live comedy,) you get much more of a sense of that intimate atmosphere.”

Piper is a fifth-year aerospace engineering student who has been on the team since he was a freshman year at Cal Poly.

Students and performers alike enjoy the warm and friendly feeling of interacting at shows.

“If you go to a movie, you’re just sitting there being very static, whereas here (with Smile and Nod), you get to be a dynamic part of the show by yelling suggestions,” Piper said. “I think people enjoy the change of pace.”

The change of pace is what helps the team bring together their comedic talents and wit. It also helps that their care and personal enjoyment for improvisational comedy exists.

“We are entirely student-run, so it’s a good opportunity to assert your own responsibilities in the group,” said Scott Neiman, a third-year double major in landscape architecture and horticulture. “We have perfect attendance just because we enjoy being here, and everybody works hard to collaborate to make it happen.”

But why improv? Well, for Smile and Nod cast members, it’s a no-brainer.

“There is just something about improv, things being made up on the spot, that you can see the reality and characters and situations (related to life), and see them come out (in performance),” Neiman said. “There’s something exciting in that.”

For co-manager Tanner Argon, her interest with improv is more personal.

“It (improv) is the best outlet of expression and creativity. It’s a good emotional workout,” theater junior Argon said. “Smile and Nod is a student outlook. It’s not scripted, it’s live, it’s of-the-moment and it’s pop culture, of our area and our opinions. We represent the student body, and we’re here to tell them about it, and give them something to laugh about.”

The Smile and Nod improv team will be one of three acts performing at ImprovFest, a free comedy show at Cal Poly on Wednesday.

Along with the Cal Poly team, Mission IMPROVable and The Wild Bunch are scheduled for the laugh-fest.

The performance begins at 8 p.m. in Chumash Auditorium located in the University Union.

They perform every Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m. in building 45, room 212.

For more about the group, visit Smile and Nod’s Web site

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