USC comedians storm Ground Zero

You didn’t need to be out partying last Thursday night to have some fun.

USC’s own student-run sketch comedy groups assembled at the Ground Zero Performance Café on Aug. 25, to discuss sex, drugs and saving a friend from quicksand with a tarantula.

Good times · Christian Daly and Lila Scott, members of Second Nature, sent Ground Zero’s audience into raging fits of laughter. - Matthew Wunderlich | Daily Trojan

The “3 Troupe Improv-a-ganza”  organizes each year as a signature event in USC’s first-week festivities. This year, the event saw an impressive turnout when Second Nature, the Merry Men and Commedus Interruptus performed.

Despite the recent summer vacation, each of the three troupes garnered enthusiasm with equally lively, rowdy and inappropriate shows.

Second Nature, USC’s premier long-form sketch comedy group, performed first and was wildly successful. The troupe completed various skits with topics ranging from an alcoholic principal to animals in mating season.

Unlike the other two troupes, Second Nature placed less emphasis on audience interaction and structured sketches and more on plain, old-fashioned improv.

Seasoned members senior Devin Field and junior Ian Carr exuded expert wit and chemistry in each of their scenes.

In one sketch, Carr and Field assumed the roles of elementary school children on a playground arguing over claimed territories.

“The slide is made of metal, and it’s 95 degrees out. Everyone hates the slide,” Carr said.

Both Carr and Field sent the audience hollering with their naturally goofy interactions and hilariously apt one-liners.

Sophomore Charlie O’Connor also showcased impressive versatility. O’Connor played a German soldier in one scene and a nine-year-old girl in another.

Perhaps the group’s funniest sketch was one in which Field became a target of “hetero-phobia.” The joke’s off-beat sense of humor explored the more serious theme of homophobia and simultaneously parodied society’s double standards in a hilariously wacky yet sympathetic way.

Though Second Nature is rather traditional in its commitment to long-form improv, the Merry Men and Commedus Interruptus are more structured and thus succeeded in gaining reactions through a style that focused on direct audience involvement.

Head of the Merry Men junior Andrew Glick led his colorful-tights-wearing Brits in an array of familiar sketches and in a new scenario, in which the troupe selected an audience member, accused her of being a “witch” and voted whether to burn or drown her.

Junior Ian Newman stood apart from his fellow group members with his clever phrases and comical personas.

In a sketch about bringing a king a specific gift, Newman said, “I brought you Wilson the volleyball from the film Castaway.”

Newman’s eccentric pop culture reference made the line hilarious and, throughout the night, became a trademark of his sense of humor.

The Merry Men’s most infamous game “Blaze” (a game notorious for its frequent incorporation of innapropriate one-liners) also ignited laughter with its innocent innuendos and downright dirty declarations. In one round, members compared their “ladies” to a bank, resulting in references to a “sperm bank” as well as explicit one-liners.

Similarly,Commedus Interruptus, the last group to enter the stage, performed several of its signature sketches.

The troupe opened its show with its “Da Doo Run Run” game (a singing/rhyming game in which the troupe  competes against each other) and had the audience roaring in delight almost instantly. Junior Damien Haas was the quickest on his feet and dominated the sketch after several rounds of on-the-spot rhyming and astute repartee. Not surprisingly, the game, much like the Merry Men’s “Blaze,” became funnier as the jokes took on a more sexual nature.

Commedus Interruptus ended the night on a strong note with several of its skits erupting in much-deserved applause.

By the end of the night, the improv-a-ganza was not only an outlet for stressed students but a comedic success.

Although the three troupes are each hilarious in their own rights, the event fostered a united feeling of off-the-wall, laid-back comedy, which was exactly what students needed after a long first week.

There are free, high-quality improv shows every Friday night at Ground Zero.