No Fun Mud Piranhas, Northwestern’s only audition-free improv group, returns


Photo courtesy of Ethan Gomberg

No Fun Mud Piranhas members, freshman Liam Hubbard (left) and sophomore Tej Bahri, take center stage in an improv game. Currently, No Fun Mud Piranhas is Northwestern’s only no-audition improv group.

Clare Zhang, Reporter

Last summer, Communication sophomore Ethan Gomberg attended a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. During the audience Q&A, he asked Colbert about his experience as a theatre major at Northwestern. One name Colbert mentioned stuck out to him: No Fun Mud Piranhas.

Gomberg researched the history of the club, which had not been active since the start of the pandemic. It was an improv group, but not just any improv group — it was the only one on campus with no auditions. He decided he wanted to bring them back to the stage.

This quarter, Gomberg registered No Fun Mud Piranhas as an official NU organization and now holds weekly in-person meetings open to all. Gomberg is excited about the group’s progress and continued growth, he said.

In the fall, Gomberg attended auditions for improv groups on campus and saw that many talented students didn’t get cast. This confirmed his belief in the need for an audition-free improv group on campus, he said.

“I wanted to fill that need for students interested in improv, interested in performing, to build their skills and practice and have fun in this lower stakes environment,” he said.

From there, his mission to expand the group began. Gomberg reached out to some of his friends to ask if they were interested in joining. He didn’t know how to contact many of the people he had met during the audition process, but he invited any of them that he happened to see around campus.

No Fun Mud Piranhas held their first meeting in November. It was run by Communication sophomore and NFMP secretary of education Eli Civetta, who has over seven years of improv experience.

For each meeting, Civetta chooses and runs the improv activities and said he makes sure to give positive feedback after each round. Civetta also tries to vary the games in each meeting, he said. If the first game focuses on scene structure, the next will focus on building characters.

After the meeting, he puts the name of each game in the club GroupMe and asks people to like the message if they liked the game. Gomberg keeps track of the best quotes throughout the meeting and puts them in the chat for everyone to vote on their favorite.

“Everyone that’s in the room knows what it’s like when something doesn’t land, or a joke bombs, so nobody’s negative about it,” he said. “But when something goes great, everyone laughs and everyone’s clapping.”

Students who come to a meeting are given titles, ranging from applause coordinator to secretary of bathroom breaks. It breaks the ice and speaks to the non-hierarchical nature of the club, Weinberg freshman and co-president of suggestions Nina Kronengold said.

“They just wanted to give everyone a little say, a little power in the club,” she said. “Everyone’s equal, everybody is just there to have a good time and appreciate the comedy that each person uniquely adds.”

Gomberg is optimistic about the club’s future growth, he said. He registered No Fun Mud Piranhas as an official NU student organization at the beginning of Winter Quarter and met several interested students at the virtual winter club fair.

As more people hear about the club, Kronengold hopes to see more women at the meetings, and to provide a community for those who want to practice improv without a major time commitment, she said.

“(We’re) making it something where you don’t want to miss a club meeting,” she said. “Where you feel like, oh, if I’m not there, it’ll feel different.”

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Twitter: @clarezhang_

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