AU Club Feature: AU Improv takes advantage of social media to create community online

Improv comedy troupe uses TikTok and other social media networks to bring members together during virtual semesters

AU Club Feature: AU Improv takes advantage of social media to create community online
A group of AU Improv members in MGC at the last group practice of 2019. Left to right: Tayler Page, Cassidy Nelson, Jason Shrago, Hannah Callan, Jane Rothstein, Yasmeen Sallam, Logan Forbis, Rianna Cranberg, Jadyn Newman, Bobbie Armstrong, and Ben Lecchi.

Despite the pandemic, AU Improv, American University’s only improv comedy troupe, continues to bring laughter to the AU community through social media, according to sophomore Jason Shrago, one of the troupe’s executive producers.  

Senior Cassidy Nelson, the troupe's executive director, said that in an effort to maintain community in the virtual setting, AU Improv created a TikTok account during the fall 2020 semester.

Shrago said if he had to give the TikTok account a mission statement, it would be to “continue to work our funny muscles” and create and promote community through lighthearted, funny videos.  

In addition to TikTok, AU Improv uses Instagram takeovers so their followers can learn more about the troupe and its members. 

“When you go to the shows [in person], you get to know them as performers, but you don't really get to know the people in the troupe, like who they are or what they like and their personalities,” Nelson said. “So we thought we’d take that opportunity [for their followers] to get to know the troupe on a different level.”

In years before the pandemic, AU Improv held auditions in the fall, rehearsed two times a week, put on improv shows, throughout the semesters and even competed in improv tournaments against other universities in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area.  

AU Improv participates in both long form and short form improv. According to Shrago, long form improv is 15 minute scenes with a scene setup and character while short form is more theater games, short skits and quick exercises.

Nelson's favorite memory during AU Improv was when the troupe attended the College Improv Tournament in D.C. during her freshman year. 

“That troupe was so close with each other,” Nelson said. “It was probably the best performance we had done together. It was so rewarding knowing that was the best skit we had ever done.”

With some members in D.C. and others in their hometowns, AU Improv has struggled to maintain a similar community atmosphere. According to Shrago, the troupe still does Zoom calls once or twice a month to check up and see each other.

Shrago auditioned and joined as a freshman after visiting the troupe’s table at the involvement fair with almost no improv experience. He didn’t think he would join an improv troupe when he came to college.

“If you would have told me when my parents dropped me off freshman year, I would have told you that you're crazy,” Shrago said.

He said his interest in the group goes beyond modern-day “raunchy” comedy.

“Something that stuck out to me was the emphasis on being genuinely funny but not being disrespectful,” Shrago said. “That was an interesting and a nice way to look at comedy.”

AU Improv members hope that the University will return to campus in the fall. Shrago is looking forward to the troupe’s first live show back on campus.

“We are going to want to make it the best show ever,” Shrago said, adding that he is also excited to finally host auditions for incoming new members.

adoria@theeagleonline.com

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