Tag Archives: Awkward Silence

AwkSci Goes to Chicago

awkward

If Awkward Silence, or “AwkSci,” the USF student improv team, sold tickets to their shows they would make a pretty penny. Most nights their shows are at capacity with eager and enthusiastic students waiting to get their laugh on, but lucky for us college students most shows are free.

Surprisingly enough, Awkward Silence is not a University affiliated organization. In fact, this group of student comedians receives no funding what so ever, though they have requested funding from USF. This fact makes their upcoming trip to The National College Improv Tournament in Chicago a testament to the group’s success.

 

After winning The Golden Gate Regional for the second year in a row, Awkward Silence will be one of only two returning groups to the national competition, and the only one to be going on their own dime. Though the trip is costly, it didn’t stop this dedicated group of individuals who created their own account on gofundme.com, and through the support of friends, family and fellow students they raised up to $2,000 and are on their way to the Windy City!

The National Tournament will take place this Saturday the 23rd as an all-day event. It will begin with four preliminary rounds consisting of four colleges competing against each other in each round.

Last year Awkward Silence did not make it into the final round, though the team is confident going in this second time. According to one of the team’s co-captains, Lucas Waldron, “we have developed a good relationship with Chicago’s own Second City Improv, so even competing is a great way to network, and as one of only two returning groups, we feel very confident about this year.”

Awkward Silence was formerly a part of the Performing Arts and Social Justice program at USF, but has been operating as an “underground” student improv team since around 2008, and every year their audience and success has grown.

The team’s other Co-Captain and graduating senior, Dana Robie, says, “the opportunities that Awkward Silence has given me, and the people I have met along the way have been some of the best aspects of being a part of this team, and I hope that the future brings more opportunities, competitions and off-campus performances.”

Awkward Silence holds auditions once a year and if invited to be a member, you are involved all years you are a student at USF. Both Co-captains would like to extend an open invitation to all who are interested to come out and audition this coming August the first week of school, so be on the look out!

Awkward Silence Kills It at the “My Akward, Bloody Valentine” Show

After two wildly successful performances at the Golden Gate Regional College Improv Tournament a few weeks ago, USF’s improv team, Awkward Silence, is riding high on their success. To celebrate, and to raise funds to head to nationals in Chicago next month, Awkward Silence put on a Valentines themed show in Cowell Hall. The admission was $5, but no one could argue that it wasn’t for an extremely good cause.
Joined by UC Davis’ improv team Birdcage Theater, it was a night of local Northern California comedy.
Birdcage Theater took the stage first. For the students at USF who frequent our school’s improv shows, it was rather refreshing to see some new faces spice up the evening. Considering the fact that USF does not have the built in camaraderie with others schools quite like the UC system does, Davis added a friendly dose of intercollegiate fun.
When Awkward Silence took the stage for the remainder of the night, it was easy to see why our team will be representing the Bay Area in the Improv Nationals. Team Captains Eddie Harrison and Matt Cline facilitated the nights festivities per usual. In addition to the two captains, all of the Awkward Silence personalities we’ve come to know and love were present.
The two hour evening consisted in performances of all the improv games that make our team as talented as they are. What’s more exciting than the show itself was the fact that their next big performance is going to be in the birthplace of improv comedy, Chicago.
When considering the greatest comedians of the last century, it is hard to find one that didn’t pay his or her dues in Chicago.
Captain Eddie Harrison, a native of Chicago, has served his time as an intern at the legendary Second City Improv Troupe. John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Jane Lynch are just a few notable alumni of the theatre.
In fact, 30 Rock viewers will often find themselves watching Liz Lemon’s flashbacks to her days in the Chicago comedy scene.
With all the talent of the team and the obvious support from their friends here in San Francisco, it seems that the team is poised to do the City proud when they make their way to the Midwest in a few weeks.
“I’ve been on the team for four years, and they get better with each. I’m very glad they got the recognition they deserve.,” said Harrison.
For those who made the rainy evening trip to Cowell Hall last Friday, feel good knowing that your support will help Awkward Silence give one hell of a performance in Nationals.

Awkward Silence Dabbles in Bizarre Humor

Improvisation group Awkward Silence kept their audience anything but silent last Friday, Oct. 1st, during their first show of the school year. Although they had to perform in an unusual place, a classroom in Cowell, the arrangement worked to their benefit, since the raked seating allowed everyone, even those in the back to see the hilarity. After every quick pun or sidesplitting political reference, the audience burst into laughter. They knew what they were in for as soon as they read the white board, which said, “This is your brain…on us” positioned next to a picture of a swirling spiral.

By performing short-style improv games such as “Blind Date” and “Beastie Boy Rap,” the show ran at a fast pace as the jokes kept flying. The eleven members of the team are Eddie Harrison, Matt Cline, Amber Dennis, Laura Waldron, Ben Cohn, Dana Robbie, Lauren Bellenie, Katherine Bliss, Dylan Wittrock, Lisa Nelson and Lizzie Guerra, the newest members being Lauren, Dylan, Katherine and Lizzie. As a team they delivered fresh laughs and entertainment worthy of a college student’s Friday night.

They began with the game “Try That On For Size” where one person does the motions to an everyday activity and then the other person keeps doing the motion, but changes the action. For example, one of the highlights of the game was when the motion was blowing a balloon and Cohn put an imaginary balloon against his lips and said, “I’m giving mouth to mouth to a gerbil.” Of course the audience exploded into laughter. One thing that is great about Awkward Silence is the way they can make simple everyday actions hysterical. This is not to say that they cannot make the bizarre or the dirty just as amusing.

In fact, the next game they played was called “Debate,” and the topic was cheese. Bizarre enough? Each person would debate his or her point and if another player thought it was void, the player would call a challenge. Laura Waldron made her point and said, “Normally you would milk a cow first,” but was swiftly challenged by Cline who argued, “Goat cheese.” This simple game stirred the audience to the point where all laughter was high-pitched and uncontrollable.

My favorite game would have to be the “Ding Ding” game. Featured on improv shows such as “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, one person starts a scene and another person, acting as God, calls out “Ding Ding” to switch their action. This means that the player has to be constantly on her toes because shenever knows when the action will be changed. It was not so much the actual game that made this part of the show funny, but the scene that they created together right out of thin air.

Robbie’s character especially gathered laughs out of the audience when attacking Justin Bieber after he denied her a lock of his hair. She said, “This is a bazooka, Mr. Bieber and I’m not afraid to use it.”

Another highlight would be the “Beastie Rap” game when two different teams were trying to rhyme things with “Clap,” and Waldron said, “I’m going to get a smear, it’s called a…” and only Cline answered proudly, “pap!” The whole room burst into laughter at the undeniable awkwardness of a male shouting about a medical procedure for strictly females, and at lightning speed, too.

Of course, it would not be an Awkward Silence show without its traditional ending. The game “Sex is like” adds the perfect ending to a night of entertainment formed around what the average college student finds funny, this game being the cherry on top. The first comparison began with “Sex is like Mrs. Doubtfire…” and Harrison, who never fails at this game, said, “Last night’s sex is not like Mrs. Doubtfire, because I don’t doubt that fire.” Well, nobody doubted Eddie’s clever choice of words either.

The first Awkward Silence show of the year made for an epic night of laughter. Kelsey Ransick, a USF student who is a frequent attendee to Awkward Silence shows put it best when she said, “Once again, Awkward Silence delivered a great show. They never fail to make the whole room laugh.”
After this premier, there’s no doubt that the rest of the year’s shows will be amazing.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain

Scene Editor: Tamar Kuyumjian

Awkward Silence Shares Stage with Upright Citizens Brigade

It was certainly a “snicker pit” in McLaren last Thursday evening. The performers of Awkward Silence toyed with the idea of it being a “chuckle hut” or even a “chuckle factory,” and the rows of students did not seem to mind either. Whether a hut or a factory, McLaren was full of laughs at the expense of the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). Famous for their improvisation comedy skits, the group, as well as the University’s Awkward Silence, performed for their fans.

Awkward Silence played many games, which have proven to become their most popular, including Freeze the Line, Dating Game and Sex is Like. The audience was off to a slow start but started rumbling with laughter when Laura Waldron was panicking inside Chuck E. Cheese because she was “Trapped in a ball pen! So many germs!” Drawing from elements of pop culture was Eddie Harrison, who played Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from “Jersey Shore” in a dating game.

When asked who his role model was as a child, he replied, “I looked up to me. I wanted to be best friends with me, and I was.” But it wasn’t until the Sex is Like game that the hoots of laughter and victorious fists were thrust into the air. The most notable analogy came from Lisa Nelson with, “Sex is like spam. I don’t really know what it is, but I know I want it with (a) Hawaiian.”

DSC_0058 Although the essential elements of improvisation comedy lie in the energy of the moment, there are two distinct types of performance. Awkward Silence favors skits that rely on audience involvement. However, the UCB comedians are trained in long-form improvisation, which involves the audience to start them off with ideas for scenes that last for roughly half an hour.

One member of UCB, Joe Wengert, held a workshop for Awkward Silence prior to the show. Wengert applauded them for their strength as a team and commitment to improving themselves, but said there is still more to learn. He said, “When short improv is all you do, long form is a whole new language. From there, everything is an improvement. It is all about finding one funny idea and exploiting it. We try to teach them how to find it.”

Amber Dennis, co-captain of Awkward Silence, found the workshop helpful but does not want to introduce long-form improv to the Awkward Silence stage yet. “We want to practice and teach ourselves how to do it first because it’s really complicated,” she said.

Besides learning a new type of comedy, Awkward Silence is hoping to do battle. “We really want to get teams from other schools around the area here and compete,” Amber Dennis said. Comedic skirmishes are expected to commence in the spring semester.

Auditions were held this past Sunday for two new comics to join the team. The first Awkward Silence show is planned for late September. The group is not an official USF club so make sure to keep an eye out for the fliers they’ll be handing out for the next “chuckle hut” date.

Behind the Scenes With Awkward Silence

Members of the Awkward Silence improv team rehearse before their first performance of the year, which will be Friday Oct. 2.  Photo by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn

Members of the Awkward Silence improv team rehearse before their first performance of the year, which will be Friday Oct. 2. Photo by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn

Often comedians or improv artists “cross the line,” but this talented young group of hooligans acknowledges the line, then proceeds to race miles past it. Awkward Silence isn’t just a team of funny people; improv comedy is a way of life for the members and they certainly do justice to their name. I got to sit in on a rehearsal, and with every comment or quip, I was caught uncomfortably between a laugh and a cringe. The group’s loyal audience not only knows but expects the subject of a skit to stray into horrendously inappropriate topics. You know that these people are violating every decent and moral subject in the book but somehow they stop just before it becomes truly profane. And this year there are five new energetic members that are jumping at the chance to make all of San Francisco laugh.

Jim Taugher and James Godbolt, captains of Awkward Silence, recently wrapped up auditions hoping to find new artists, new personalities and new perspectives. Thirty prospective joke-makers came out to impress the captains but only five made it past the judges. When asked what qualities are essential to improv comedians, Taugher said, “They have to have natural ability, be comfortable onstage, and be able to work in a team. Anyone can do improv, but not everyone is good at it.” A key distinction of good potential members for Jim and James is whether the direction of a scene is actually awkward as opposed to funny awkward. This improv group strives for the latter. A good way to sum it up is to picture a child in his or her kindergarten play. As funny as it is to see the kid go completely blank, we don’t want to make a habit of a real life run-off-the-stage-crying kind of awkward silence. After all, we do not go to shows to sympathize with performers’ mistakes, we come to be entertained.

In order to make sure the entertainment continues after the five seniors currently on the team graduate, Taugher and Godbolt specifically kept eyes out for freshmen at auditions. The newest members, mainly underclassmen, are going through an unofficial hazing period. By no means are the veteran comedic members forcing them to prove their commitment to the team in dangerous ways; in fact, they mesh together like they have been friends for years. The real test will be if the audience feels the same camaraderie at Awkward Silence’s first show on October 2. Godbolt comments that because of the variety of the members, there are lots of fresh perspectives that allow “different strengths, weaknesses, and backgrounds to work their way into the show.”

A new concept that Jim and James have been considering is venturing into “sketch comedy.” Sketch comedy involves the beginnings of a script for a comedy routine, but breaks off to allow improvisational artists to take it in any direction they please. The best part is that these performances will be videotaped and released to USFtv to “promote our upcoming shows and what we do, but we have to think about it a bit more before we make a final decision,” said Taugher.

Among the changes we are looking forward to with new members and styles of comedy, another unprecedented event may be in our future at USF. Awkward Silence has big plans in the works for a special visit from Upright Citizens Brigade. This improvisational comedy group is based in New York and is famous for having Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Ed Helms involved in the shows. The goal is to bring this legendary troupe to USF and collaborate with our very own Awkward Silence for a comedy night to remember. “If we could get the Upright Citizens Brigade out here, it would put us on the map. People outside the USF community would pay to see them perform and it would establish our legitimacy as an improv team,” Taugher said. The only problem is money, as is so often the case. Bluntly, Taugher noted that it would take “a handful of grand.” For this reason, Awkward Silence is politely asking for $2 donations at their shows. If you don’t have the money to spare, don’t worry, you can still see the shows because they will still be free. But let’s face it, for the price one cup of coffee, we may get the chance to see the comedy group that churned out famous comedians and Saturday Night Live stars.

Awkward Silence team captains are excited to kick off the comedic calendar with their first show on Oct. 2 at 10 p.m. in UC 222. It promises to be an unpredictable event with scores of fresh talent ready to prove that sometimes an awkward silence can be a good thing.