TBA hosting improv fest at Chums

Troupes from Wellesley and BU will participate

To Be Announced, or TBA, Brandeis' improvisation and sketch comedy troupe, is hosting "Boston Improv Embargo" at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 2, in Chums. Other troupes attending are Wellesley College's Dead Serious and Boston University's Liquid Fun.

Each group will perform for 30 minutes, in long or short form. Afterwards the groups join together for either a game of "freeze" or long form skits.

Jay Dev '13, TBA's co-president, says that the performances in Chums are "fun because it's true improv," and likens TBA's technique to a Second City style of humor and improvisation.

Regarding the structure of the improv games, Dev says, "we are dependent on the suggestions from the crowd"-students shout out words to inspire the skits.  "You are never alone in the scene, there is always a give and take, and that's the most important part of an improv group."

TBA is one of Brandeis' four improv groups, and the only chartered club. Every year TBA hires an improv coach with an open session for the student body. Throughout the year, TBA performs at approximately five coffeehouses at Chums, such as for the Quidditch team, Relay for Life, and most recently, during Experiential Learning Week.

There have been a number of well-known comedians graduate from Brandeis. Mike Kaplan '00, was a member of Boris' Kitchen and top five finalist on "Last Comic Standing" in 2010; Zach Sherwin '02 aka MC Mr. Napkins released, "MC Mr. Napkins: The Album," his full-length debut effort in November 2010 and was named Boston's Best Comedian of 2009 by the Boston Phoenix; Josh Gondelman '07, a recent member of TBA, won first prize last year in Atlanta's Laughing Skull Comedy Festival.

Dev says, "the comedy scene at Brandeis is really solid, and has turned out some professional comedians recently." Gondelman performed with TBA last year.

Want to know where TBA got its name? TBA member, Sam Roos '09, co-founder of the Onion-esque Blowfish newspaper at Brandeis, who is currently taking classes at Second City, explains here:

The year was 1882. Billy the Kid was terrorizing the west, and a young President Eisenhower was just graduating from Solomon Schechter High School in Brooklyn, New York. It was during this year when several students at a Boston-area veterinary school decided to break into the animal morgue on campus and feast on delicious cat entrails. The students were two men named Jonathan Abercrombie and Alan Fitch, who later went on to start the world famous clothing line "The Gap". While they were crouched in the corner of the morgue a large man in a yellow and red plaid sports coat busted in with a large lantern. It was Dr. McGillicutty, the schools janitor. McGillicutty flew into a blind rage, cursing the names Abercrombie and Fitch. Fitch, always the brain of the operation, blurted out quickly "... and scene!" and attempted to convince McGillicutty that they were a two-man improv comedy group practicing for a show. McGillicutty, suspicious and fat, asked the boys for the name of their group. "TBA!" blurted out Abercrombie, who of course was referring to the popular slur against poorly dressed British men, "Tacky British A------." When McGillicutty demanded to know what TBA stood for, Fitch quickly thought of "To Be Announced." The two men then spent the rest of their lives living out a grand charade in which the two veterinarians pretended to be comedians.

TBA member Jay Judah '08 has a different version. "When TBA held its first auditions, they were asked what the name was, and they hadn't yet decided and so filled out the paperwork with the group name as 'TBA,' implying, of course, that they would change it later. During auditions, a sign was posted that said 'TBA Auditions' and the rest is halfway legitimate history."

Yoni Bronstein ‘13 writes for the Brandeis Admissions Blog about improv at Brandeis from a student perspective.

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