Showtime shenanigans: Improv troupe uses energy to perform in front of audiences

Jordan McEntee, Design Editor

“Hey, I’m Jake Miller, and I have four arms.”

“I’m Ben Gaede, and the red Power Ranger is my cousin.”

“I’m Hannah Stone, and I eat green gummy bears for dinner.”

“I’m Tim Smith, and I’m Bambi’s Father.”

“I’m Grayson Yockey, and I hate candy necklaces. Please, please take them off! Why?”

“I’m Mollie Chesis, and I’ve eaten polar bear.”

“I’m Joseph Davies, and I’ve learned when in doubt, don’t eat it. And we are the Fifth Wall Comedy Troupe.”

Fifth Wall cast members start off every performance introducing themselves in a funny way. Fifth Wall, a short-form improv group of BV students, performs around school and at local events.

Students in the group said they enjoy the low-key, energetic environment of the comedy group.

“We all do it for fun,” senior Ben Gaede said. “Before shows, we’ll just call each other up and be like ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’ It’s really relaxed because it’s student-run.”

Senior Joseph Davies said the group was created by Alex Nichols in the 2005-2006 school year.

“It’s grown, but at first it actually shrunk,” Davies said. “It gets handed down from senior to senior every year, but I got it as a junior from Tyler Duke. When he was in charge there wasn’t a lot of action, so then I really wanted to get out and do more. This year we’ve done a lot more shows outside of school.”

Fifth Wall member junior Sam Nicol said the group has really improved over the last few years.

“We’ve really become a respectable act,” Nicol said. “I remember my freshman year when the group performed like one time a year and would just stand up there and make weird noises and stuff. But then my sophomore year, Joseph really read up on the different types of improv we could do, and then [Jeff] Yarnell taught us more of the technical side of it.”

Junior Jake Miller said he is impressed with how much Fifth Wall has developed.

“When it started, there were like five people in the group from rep theatre,” he said. “Now anyone in the acting community can join. I’m really happy with the growth we’ve seen and what we’re growing in to.”

The group is extra-curricular, so it requires time outside the regular school day to prepare the improv games for performances.

“We used to have practices every Thursday morning on late start, but we stopped having those because of the musical,” Gaede said. “We’ll probably start them back up soon, since it just ended.”

Fifth Wall performed  at Relay for Life, school assemblies, Take Five Coffee Bar, the Jewish Community Center, Amoré Chocolate Pizza Company and Congregation Beth Torah.

“Most of the shows we do are for free,” Davies said. “I just don’t like to take people’s money for improv — it’s just not our style. But sometimes we do have charge to cover basic needs.”

Gaede said the troupe mainly performs at school; however, they have several gigs lined up with a few places.

When it comes to getting ready for a show, the group said along with vocal and pump-up exercises, they all have different ways of getting in the zone.

Gaede said he and the other performers enjoy the upbeat vibe from the audience.

“Being up there in front of everybody feels really good,” Gaede said. “We just feed off all the energy from the crowd. We get funnier and funnier as the night goes on.”

Being an improv group, Fifth Wall members don’t know exactly what they will be acting out during the show.

But Gaede said he and his fellow members don’t really get nervous.

“You come in a little unsure about it,” Gaede said. “You haven’t practiced; you just know the games. So it’s kind of nerve-racking.”

Gaede said all the emotions going into a show are reassured when the crowd enjoys the performance.

“The best part is when you tell a joke that is really funny and everyone starts laughing,” he said. “It’s also great to be the straight man for someone else and they get the joke. You feed off that laughter.”

Miller said he enjoys the aspect of never knowing what’s next.

“All the improv is really, really, really fun,” Miller said. “When you’re up there, there’s so much adrenaline and sometimes even confusion.”

Nicol said being in front of people takes a combination of serious and comical attitudes.

“It’s really energetic up there,” he said. “But there’s also this air of seriousness. We try to be serious, but the situations just turn funny.”

Miller said there is a strong bond among the members, especially the four regulars, Joseph Davies, junior Alex Petersen, Nicol and himself.

“We’ve been in it for a couple years, and there are others who just jump in,” Miller said. “But there’s definitely chemistry between all of us. We all really know each other’s limitations.”

Gaede said he finds motivation in his fellow Fifth Wall members.

“Joseph Davies, Jake Miller and Sam Nicol are super funny guys,” he said. “They really are my inspiration.”

Fifth Wall auditions are after school today for students wishing to be part of the cast.

“This year we’ve really made the group more open to people outside of the theatre group,” Davies said. “You don’t have to be an actor; it’s just for people who want to be funny.”