Happy Gas Improv Troupe celebrates 20 years of laughs

Freshman Sarah Sandoval participates in a warm-up exercise before a Happy Gas Improv Troupe rehearsal in Gordon Wilson hall. The troupe is rehearsing for their 20th reunion show to be shown on March 30 at Gordon Wilson Hall at 7 p.m.

Katelyn Latture

Singing, stomping, dancing and talking. These are just a few things that can be heard upon walking onto the third floor of Gordon Wilson Hall on certain weeknights, where the Happy Gas Improv Troupe practices most Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Started in 1999, Happy Gas is the longest-running improvisational comedy troupe in Kentucky and the second-best, according to its website and Facebook page. The members are celebrating the troupe’s 20th anniversary this month with a reunion show that includes approximately 15 alumni, Louisville senior Travis Ryan, Happy Gas president, said.

“It’s something easy to be passionate about,” Gallatin, Tennessee, sophomore Cassi Seifert, who serves as part of the troupe’s public relations team, said regarding why the troupe has lasted so long. “A lot of good people have kept it going.”

After a couple warm-up games, freshman Sarah Sandoval wrote game suggestions in all capital letters on a chalkboard for an upcoming Happy Gas dorm show in Southwest Hall on Tuesday, March 26. Ideas ranged from games like space case, funeral parlor, slideshow, interrogation, genres, paperchase, bad wingman and movie.

“Let’s go be interesting for the cameras again,” Seifert said as she and a few other members walked up to run through a couple games.

Junior Matthew Kerman narrated as he went through a “slideshow” of his latest trip to Mount Everest (the suggested category), as Jacob Chamberlain, Claire Wilson, Seifert and Kymaira Majors posed his slideshow’s pictures.

First photo on slideshow: Chamberlain stands ready for attack from the “frost trolls,” his feet in a stable position and arms outstretched for defense.

Second photo: A “baby frost troll” tries to befriend the narrator’s sister. Seifert, with hands close to her face, stares up at Wilson with a curious look.

Third photo: “That’s just a tree,” Kerman said. Majors stood with her feet together and her arms above her head.


Next photo: Chamberlain stands straight. One hand is cupping his chin with his index finger and thumb framing it as he looks off in the distance deep in thought. “Here I am questioning my life decisions,” Kerman said as he narrated the scene Chamberlain had created for him. They went through another slide, and the game was finished.

CLICK. They returned to their seats.

The previous day, Seifert and Ryan reflected on the troupe as they sat in a corner booth at Topper Grill and Pub, the one with the TV that has the scientology channel on loop, a channel they joke about because it only and always plays on that TV.

For Happy Gas, rehearsals are never the same. The troupe doesn’t work from a script, and each run-through of a game is different and has a different category or topic to start.

“It’s really a sort of challenging skill,” Ryan said of improv.

Seifert said she isn’t really afraid to talk to others anymore thanks to the skills she’s gained from working with Happy Gas.

The improvisers don’t just rehearse and perform together. They’re also friends. A few of them watched a movie together on Sunday to celebrate Wilson’s birthday.

This is “the first group that I haven’t felt stuck in,” Seifert said of Happy Gas as compared to other acting groups she’s been part of.

Their twice-weekly rehearsals and frequent performances, occurring at least every two weeks, help to improve the 11-person troupe’s skills, relationships, fluidity and shows.

“It’s not something you do once and you’re good at it,” Ryan said.

The troupe will celebrate 20 years of comedy and improv on Saturday, March 30, during its show, titled “Happy Gas Greatest Hits: 20th Reunion,” in the Gordon Wilson Lab Theatre at 7 p.m. Ryan and Seifert said to keep up with Happy Gas on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for future performance dates.

“They have a chance to win …,” Ryan said of those who choose to follow the group’s social media. “… Our love and affection,” Seifert said, finishing Ryan’s sentence and laughing.

There may not be an actual prize other than the pleasure of watching a show, but the troupe will be selling stickers at their next dorm performance.

Features reporter Katelyn Latture can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].