Audition-free group provides improv opportunities

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Teal Gordon/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg senior Tim White (left) and Medill senior Matthew Hays introduce improv group No Fun Mud Piranhas’ goals for the coming year year.

Jeanne Kuang, Reporter

The  comedy group that David Schwimmer (Comm ’88) and Stephen Colbert (Comm ’86) participated in during their time at Northwestern is returning to campus with a new vision.

With the blessing of original group member Jessica Hughes (Comm ’88), Medill senior Matthew Hays and Weinberg senior Tim White are reviving No Fun Mud Piranhas as an audition-free, cost-free program for students interested in learning improv.

Both Hays and White have been involved in improv and comedy throughout their time at NU. Both are members of NU’s The Titanic Players, and Hays is also a member of Mee-Ow. They came up with the idea for No Fun Mud Piranhas when they were watching students practice auditioning for existing improv groups.

“We were bummed because we knew that if these people didn’t make Titanic or Mee-Ow, they would have no free on-campus outlet (to participate in improv),” Hays said.

Hays and White said members will practice two hours a week in small teams with student coaches. They hope that by the end of six quarters of curriculum-based training, members will be able to become coaches in the program themselves, while still having the chance to perform and participate.

“Ideally … we’ll have this self-sustaining model that every year new coaches are pulled from the students,” Hays said.

Most student coaches have on-campus improv experience similar to that of Hays and White, and other coaches have taken classes in Chicago. White said having coaches from different comedy backgrounds is one of the key differences between No Fun Mud Piranhas and Titanic.

“Those who haven’t done on-campus (training) have done Annoyance training (or) Second City training, some of them One Group Mind training,” he said. “We hope eventually to bring in professional improvisers.”

Hays and White hosted an informational meeting Sunday afternoon. They said about 90 students signed up, meaning the group could have nine or 10 teams this quarter.

Medill freshman Lucy Wang, who attended the meeting, said she decided to try No Fun Mud Piranhas because she did not think she had enough improv understanding to audition for an established troupe on campus.

“This seems to be more of a learning opportunity rather than a performance one,” she said. “It just seems better (for me) since I don’t think I’m qualified or committed enough (for other groups).”

Hays and White said they aim to distinguish No Fun Mud Piranhas from Titanic and Mee-Ow. They emphasized that the group has a different kind of training curriculum. The group intends to encourage more participation on campus, especially for students who have never had comedy experience or are uncomfortable with auditioning, Hays said.

“All in all, improv will be better on this campus because more people will have opportunities to improvise,” he said.