Fracas! brings diverse comedy talent to improv stage

Second Nature Improv hosted Fracas! Improv Festival, the 14th annual improv festival in which various troupes from different college campuses gathered to perform, workshop and learn about comedic improvisation this past week. The event was held at Ground Zero Performance Café.

Thursday, the first night, featured performances from The Charles Darwin Experience from the University of Arizona, NAUghty Bits Improv from Northern Arizona University and The Collective  from the University of Washington.

From scenes about kids coming home from posing nudes for paintings or drinking with leprechauns, to speaking gibberish as lifeguards, the three improv teams entertained the audience for an exciting first night. At the end, a classic improv jam brought USC students and different improv teams on stage for skits about skydiving and ancient Colosseum entertainment.

On Friday, the festival started off with a Q&A featuring actor Ben Schwartz, writer Gil Ozeri and stand-up comedian Kate Berlant, who all shared their experiences in the comedy world and their paths toward performing comedy for a living.

Schwartz, best known for his role as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein on Parks and Recreation, talked about his experiences at the Upright Citizens Brigade with Ozeri on their sketch and improv team Hot Sauce.

He shared his experience in voiceover work as a consultant for BB-8 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Dewey in the upcoming Ducktales reboot.

“[J. J. Abrams and I] would write dialogue for BB-8, and then I would say it into [a microphone], and then they would turn it into beeps and boops,” Schwartz said regarding the creation of BB-8.

Ozeri also discussed his experiences performing on the UCB stage as well as writing for a variety of shows. Ozeri is known not only for his credits on shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but also for his unique brand of comedy on Snapchat and Instagram. Over the years, he has found a voice for himself, focusing on evolving and improving his identity as a comic.

“You’re learning as an artist every day about your voice, and that changes all the time,” Ozeri said.

Berlant, known mostly for her stand-up work, agreed with Ozeri and Schwartz about finding one’s voice.

“You have to do it,” Berlant said. “Don’t overthink it, just try, and it’s a start.”

Overall, the three comedians offered insight on working in the comedy world while engaging the audience with their quick-witted one-liners and hilarious stories.

Friday continued with open improv workshops, followed by hours of improv performances at Ground Zero Performance Café. The night ended with a performance by USC’s own Commedus Interruptus and Merry Men, with skits on fictional films like Uptown Hunk. They also put on a musical performance depicting a group of friends fighting and reconciling with each other by singing the rules of their sorority.

Arman Ashtiani-Eisemann, a junior majoring in cinema and media studies, enjoyed watching students from different universities and USC’s own improv troupes perform in the evenings.

“At Fracas!, I learned how good USC is at improv,” Ashtiani-Eisemann said. “Not only do we have four teams, but they’re all incredibly talented. My favorite part of Fracas! was seeing a bunch of friends I did improv with in high school from a number of different universities.”

The last day of the festival featured more workshops and performances as well as another Q&A and live performance from UCB improv shows. Starting the day off was the UCB sketch and improv team Big Grande, featuring three of the four members — Dan Lippert, Drew Tarver and Ryan Rosenberg — answering audience questions about writing sketches and the nature of improv.

Afterward, members of the UCB improv show Wild Horses gave a live podcast performance at Ground Zero. Four female comedians discussed the merits of live music in coffee shops and the feeling of being an adult on a college campus before performing an improv show based on different subjects of the podcast. Playing four teenage girls ditching high school, the comedians discussed auditioning for the school play, what they think about each other and what they believe sex is really like.

The festival ended with more performances from various improv teams, finally ending with USC’s Spoiler Alert and Second Nature, as well as the final improv jam of the festival.

Fracas! Improv Festival gave students the ability to explore all of the facets of improv while learning from each other. From the improv performers to the featured comedians, the festival offered students the ability to learn all the possibilities improv and comedy can offer.

Shannon O’Hara, a freshman majoring in molecular environmental biology at UC Berkeley, found the experience very rewarding and useful for her collegiate comedy career. Performing with Jericho! on Saturday night, O’Hara was able to show her team’s comedic style while also being entertained by the troupes before and after her.

“Fracas! accomplishes two really amazing things at once: expands your improv community and tightens your team bond,” O’Hara said. “I loved getting to borrow and learn from other improvisers, but I also gained a profound appreciation for my own team’s dynamic and sense of community.”

Update: A previous version of this article stated USC improv troupes hosted the festival. The article has been updated to clarify that the festival was hosted by Second City Improv at USC.