Loyola’s two improv comedy teams, 45 Kings and Latchkey Kid, competed in the 10th Annual College Improv Tournament Windy City Regional, held on Jan. 28. Inside the Laugh Out Loud Theatre Chicago, located at 3851 N. Lincoln Ave., both teams vied for applause, accolades and the top spot. Although Latchkey Kid didn’t make the final round, 45 Kings placed third.
Both of Loyola’s teams vigorously prepared for the competition. Sophomore creative advertising major and 45 Kings member Michelle Castro recalled being nervous when she first began participating in improv competitions.
“What I did to prepare was listen to Eminem. I went to the bathroom at Ann Sather’s and called my mom, but I didn’t talk to anyone else. And now that I think about it, I cringe,” Castro said.
“Michelle was white-faced, so scared,” said junior film and digital media major Stuart Hicar. “The first time you ever do it, you’re so nervous because you think of it as this grand, important competition.”
Under the umbrella organization of Chicago Improv Productions, the College Improv Tournament (CIT), is a nationwide competition for college improv comedy teams. If a team wins its regional tournament, it advances to the final competition, which is held in Chicago.
Hicar had to warm up to the idea of improv, but after awhile, it became a central part of his life.
“The more times you go, you realize it’s a fun thing to do. Obviously, it’s cool to win, but it’s just a lot of fun,” Hicar reassured his 45 Kings teammates.
That might be easy for him to say; 45 Kings won the Windy City Regional in 2015.
Beyond improv comedy’s seemingly endless parade of fun and games, comedy professionals widely consider the Windy City Regional as the most challenging bracket of this nationwide competition. After all, Chicago is historically known as a mecca for funny people and as the birthplace of improvisational comedy.
Senior English and education double major Rachel Campbell, the captain of the Loyola improv team Latchkey Kid, said she believes that Chicago is a great place to get involved with improv comedy.
“Everyone has at least one friend, coworker or weird, perpetually single uncle who does improv in Chicago,” she joked. “Chicago has the best improv scene in the country. There’s a fantastic network between professionals, amateurs and coaches out there.”
The comedy birthplace of stars Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and John Belushi, Chicago continues to churn out a steady stream of talented individuals from its many improv training programs, including The Second City, The iO Theatre and The Annoyance Theatre, to name a few.
That tough market is just why the CIT Windy City Regional presents an advantageous, if daunting, platform for Loyola’s improvisers to show off their skills and get recognized. If teams perform exceptionally well in competition, then the judges, who all work as professional improvisers or directors in Chicago, might take notice and discover new, young talent. The sky is the limit — and the Second City Mainstage is the launching pad.
The big challenge comes with big fun as Loyola improvisers also use this competition as a networking event.
“It’s a great opportunity to watch people that maybe you’ve only heard of and see what people are doing at other schools,” Hicar said. “I think it’s a great learning experience. Even if you don’t do too well or whatever, you get to see it all.”
Meanwhile, for Campbell and Latchkey Kid, many competitors are familiar faces. In fact, the Latchkey Kid members see their competitors every week as part of pH Comedy Theater’s pHarm House College program. On Thurdays at 10 p.m., Loyola’s Latchkey Kid performs alongside three other college teams, including Columbia College’s Droppin’ Science, DePaul University’s Rat King and Dominican University’s Noise from the Basement.
As these groups see each other perform weekly and compete against each other in CIT annually, one might think that some tension and animosity would develop among them. But Campbell insists the dynamic is quite the opposite.
“I enjoy competing because CIT brings together an awesome community of young people who like to provide laughter and laugh themselves,” Campbell said. “It’s a very welcoming and supportive network of people.”
While these students continue to strengthen this network of emerging comedic talent in Chicago, they also turn inward toward their own teams, honing their craft as a cohesive unit. Naturally, each cohort possesses its individual ethos and quirks.
“We treat our practices like church, and that’s an honest thing that we’ve tried to do,” said 45 King’s Hicar. “We really listen and treat it like an important space. You can mess around and have fun, but in the end, you are there to work your muscle and reflect on what you’re doing.”
“We don’t just reflect, we genu-flect,” Castro joked.
On the other hand, Latchkey Kid approaches improv in a manner that seems more athletic than spiritual.
“Like any other legitimate sport, we have warmups to run before diving into the main play for a laugh touchdown,” said Campbell, the team captain of Latchkey Kid. “We basically play silly games and do silly things until those silly things actually become good.”
Despite their different training techniques, both of Loyola’s improv teams share one essential key to success.
“We always hang out before to get in that group mindset. It’s something that we always pride ourselves on,” Castro said. “We just really love each other a lot. Whenever we do a scene, you can really feel the love radiating. And we usually hang out afterward, too.”
Not only do people involved with improv spend lots of time together at competition, but they also spend their free time together.
“We also do our best to fit in time to bond as a team because better friends make for better fun,” Campbell said.
It turns out that all that training and team bonding reaped impressive results for Loyola’s two teams. While Latchkey Kid ranked second in its division, 45 Kings advanced to the penultimate round of the tournament, narrowly losing the Windy City Regional title to Columbia College’s Cat Booty.
So, what happens after graduation? Apparently, once the improv bug bites, people never recover. These Loyola students predict they will continue practicing their craft for years to come.
Hicar envisions a future for himself as an improv comedy performer.
“I see myself doing this until the day I die … in my 40s.” Hicar said.
In hindsight, Campbell believes that improv played a big role in her college career.
“Improv has become a central part of who I am as a person. It’s basically replaced one of my kidneys,” Campbell said. “I could remove it and live, but it’d be way too much of an ordeal and I’d always feel like something was missing.”
You can watch 45 Kings perform every other Friday at 8 p.m. in Loyola’s Flanner Hall, but they also occasionally perform at The Playground Theater (3209 N. Halsted St.) for College Nights on Fridays at 10 p.m. Latchkey Kid performs nearly every Thursday night at pH Comedy Theater (1515 W. Berwyn Ave.) at 10 p.m.