Cal Poly’s improv-comedy group Smile and Nod’s 2013-14 season is underway with three shows under its belt so far. “Every show is different and every audience is different and every suggestion is different, so even people who come every week still experience variety,” theatre arts junior and Smile and Nod member Kelly Jackson said.
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“Am I boxing using condoms as boxing gloves, but instead of the condoms, I’m creating a religion based around ‘Mean Girls’ and instead of my opponent, I’m fighting the saying, ‘that’s the way the cookie crumbles?’”
Welcome to Smile and Nod, where if the improvisation comedians aren’t boxing using condoms, they’re back-to-school shopping with a mother with multiple personality disorder where each of the personalities has its own disorder, buying bowling balls for everybody on the East Coast or going through pledge week.
Typically, Cal Poly’s improv-comedy group Smile and Nod breaks up into two teams — Team Smile and Team Nod — for a head-to-head, Comedy Sportz battle royale.
But, on this past Saturday, its third show of the year, Smile and Nod’s short-form show was a death match between Team Ancient Greeks and Team Greek Life, where the losers had to chug a handle of hemlock (not really).
Smile and Nod performs every Saturday night. Its “short-form” show starts at 7 p.m. and is followed by a “long-form” show that begins at 8:30 p.m. (30 minutes earlier than past years). The “long-form” show doesn’t use games; instead, the plots for scenes are based entirely off audience members’ suggestions. Both shows are $5 to attend, and reservations can be made online.
Teams Ancient Greek and Greek Life duked it out for nine improv games this past Saturday night: Expert Challenge, Pan Left/Pan Right, Blind Line, Slam Broetry, Inner Monologue, A Thousand and One, Ten Ten Ten, Game Master and Skeeba.
The lack of women onstage, however, was noticeable. There were nine people on stage performing, and all were men. The only in-character female was on the sidelines as scorekeeper, and even she was dressed as a “bro.”
Out of its 21 members, five are female, said Travis Cox, aerospace engineering senior and the referee for Saturday’s show.
“It’s a similar breakdown to how many audition though,” Cox said. “It just so happens that there are fewer women that audition, for whatever reason that might be. We’ve actually done some stuff with the Gender Equity Center trying to figure out why that is, and we’re trying to figure it out just as much as everyone else is.”
Auditions are the first Friday of every quarter, and approximately 80 students auditioned this quarter. Of the 80, four students were chosen to join Smile and Nod. The new members’ first show is the last short-form of this quarter.
Cox encourages more females — and more students in general — to try out.
“All 21 of us are a close-knit family,” he said. “It’s really hard not to grow to love the people that you’re spending hours with each week doing comedy. Smile and Nod is the best thing I’ve done while at Cal Poly.”
A themed show such as Saturday’s is especially fun, Cox said.
“With the themed shows, we can get a little crazier, a little weirder,” he said.
Despite poking fun at greek life stereotypes, Smile and Nod hasn’t gotten any pushback, Cox said.
“We’ve only gotten positive comments about it,” he said. “They know both teams are caricatures. We don’t think every Greek drinks hemlock to kill themselves, and we don’t think everyone in a frat is a jerk who doesn’t care about other people. We have people on the team who are in frats, and they’re kind of the ones that pushed the idea for this theme.”
The theme was a hit, anthropology and geology sophomore Carly Hume said.
“You have to be satirical about it or else you take yourself too seriously,” Hume, who is in greek life, said. “I don’t know if any of them are in frats, but they were pretty convincing as bros.”
Greek Life beat the Ancient Greeks, 25-16, and, as to be expected, there was vigorous onstage paddling pantomime.