Student improv group brings comedy to WKU

Freshman Lily Harvey and senior Matthew Zuccari act out a show scene during Happy Gas’ improv practice on Sept. 6 in Gordon Wilson Hall. 

Julia Adams

Improvisational theater, otherwise known as improv, is a type of theater in which the actors make up everything they perform on the spot, with little to no preparation. It may sound difficult to pull off, but the WKU Happy Gas Improv Troupe aims to make it easy and enjoyable for everyone.

Happy Gas formed 17 years ago with a goal to make improv something all people could get involved in, according to Lexington senior Isaac Barnes.

As a member of the troupe, Barnes said he aims to “bring a little bit of real comedy” into his audience’s day.

“[Happy Gas] has a lot of energy, and it’s good to be around,” Barnes said. “It enables us to do what we think is funny.”

Barnes said joining the troupe is a considerable time commitment due to how often they practice to prepare for performances. There isn’t time to think twice about what you’re going to do during performances, Barnes said.

“Not many people have had experience before auditions,” Barnes said. “But it’s important to have a good sense of humor.”

Barnes advises newcomers to “let the character take over” and “let your actions speak for themselves.”

Once auditions are over, “initiates” are picked by the troupe. Once the initiate has shown their growth as an actor and their commitment to Happy Gas, they can become a member.

Elizabethtown senior Miranda Swan said she wants audience members to experience “a stress release; a reminder that everything is going to be okay.”

“It’s fun and light-hearted, but we’re still here to do something,” Swan said.

Thinking quickly on your feet makes the performance more genuine and enjoyable, she said.

“It’s like we’re coworkers, but the job we do together is not formal,” Swan said.

Swan said she has seen many auditions since she joined during her freshman year at WKU. Although not everyone who auditions makes the cut, Swan said those who weren’t offered a spot still had a good time auditioning.

Swan and Barnes both commented about the troupe always being open to new members. They want people to get involved, even if they aren’t theater majors.

Bamberg, South Carolina, junior Jarius Smith said he looks forward to Happy Gas auditions, although theater hasn’t always been his calling; he has wanted to be a voice-actor since he was a child, an aspiration he said came from watching cartoons and playing video games. From his research in the field of voice-acting, he learned the best thing to do is improv.

“Little planning goes into it,” Smith said, recognizing that improv requires quick-thinking, and that thinking too deeply can make the performer nervous. While Smith has previously auditioned for voice-acting roles, he has never auditioned for an improv group.

Happy Gas will have auditions Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 4:30 p.m. The team practices for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the year. Occasionally, they have an “open practice,” which allows nonmembers to come participate in improv games.

The next Happy Gas performance will be on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Gordon Wilson Lab Theater. The admission cost is $2 for one person, $3 for two people. Happy Gas also offers free admission to freshmen.

Reporter Julia Adams can be reached at (270) 996-2106 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaSkyeAdams.