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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Freudian Slip: improvisational comedy and performing without a script

Photo by Connor May

Telecommunication Media-Studies Junior Stephen Ashburn and Industrial Engineering Senior Omar Diaz Miron perform a scene for the other members at the Freudian Slip Improv Troupe practice meeting on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.

Improv comedy is a special challenge, combining the most stressful aspects of public speaking and performance art. 

Freudian Slip is Texas A&M’s on-campus improvisational comedy troupe, and its members are the type that delight in the unique challenges of the form.

Forty prospective applicants showed up to the audition process, according to Mary Katheryn Nobles, a business administration freshman and probationary member. For each round, the applicants played a series of improv games designed to test their abilities until only ten probationary members, or “probs”, were left.

“I had the mindset that even if I didn’t make the team I would still have fun because I got to play improv games,” Nobles said. “So I think overall the audition process was nerve-wracking, but probably one of the most fun things I’ve done since being at A&M.”

The audition process is just the beginning, however. Once an applicant becomes a probationary member, they need to make it through their first semester on the team before becoming a permanent member. This includes going to tri-weekly practices where they take part in various improv games. These practices are essential for how the group builds its skills and develops its sense of humor, nursing junior and member Elizabeth O’Rear said.

“[A]ll of our comedy is because we’re around each other so much,” O’Rear said, “And we’re all good friends, [so] we all just kinda do whatever to make each other laugh, and then … we hope the audience laughs.”

However, improv games are just that — games — and the members have a lot of fun playing them, Nobles said. There’s a significant amount of variety, and they can range from more structured games like Dating Game or ImproVision, or they can be looser, like the long-form performances beloved by computer engineering senior Ben Dunning and junior William May, both permanent members.

“It’s the highest form, it’s what we’re trained for,” the two said in unison.

The games that require audience participation can be tense for audience members and performers alike, Dunning said, but the performers go out of their way to try and make the participant feel comfortable.

“We try to help them out as much as we can by not making it scary,” O’Rear said. “And [not] putting them on the spot as much as we can, like supporting them to make them comfortable on stage, ‘cause they’re already going out of their way to volunteer for something before we even explain what they’re supposed to be doing.”

In improv comedy, there’s always a little bit of fear, the troupe’s director Luci Melcher said. This is true especially in the minutes leading up to a performance. Each member has their own way of dealing with pre-show jitters, like Aiden Kalainoff, an environmental studies junior and another permanent member.

“I go into a corner and I will sing the entirety of ‘Super Bass’ by Nicki Minaj,” Kalainoff said, “The entire thing, every single time, I sit in the chair that’s right next to the desk and I go ‘This one’s for the boys—’ but I whisper it under my breath and it’s a little ritual.”

Whenever they start thinking too hard about what to say, it becomes difficult to say anything at all, Melcher said.

Another element of pressure is when a joke falls flat, but telecommunication media studies junior Stephen Ashburn doesn’t let it get him down.

“I always go ‘These guys don’t understand,’” Ashburn said.

At the same time, you can’t stop in the middle of the scene when a joke does work.

“It’s just like, I dunno, once you hear [laughter] you’re like ‘Okay, this is what I’m gonna do,’” Ashburn said.

Dunning had a similar view.

“When you’re getting laughs in a scene, that’s your guiding principle of like, ‘Okay, they’re liking this, let’s turn down that alley that we’re at right now,’” Dunning said.

What’s essential to the success of Freudian Slip is the understanding that everyone in the troupe has everyone else’s back, O’Rear said. Having people to share the experience with, both in the stoney silence and the applause, makes it easier to go onstage and put on a show.

“It’s something that we can do as a family,” Kalainoff said. “[W]e’re getting ‘embarrassed’ but we’re doing it as a family, so it’s cool.”

Freudian Slip can be seen performing next at 7:00 PM October 6th at the Rudder Forum. Tickets are seven dollars, and can be bought online or at the box office.

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