Loyola’s premier improv team, 45 Kings, was named national champion after coming in first place at the 11th annual National College Improv Tournament over spring break.
The tournament was held at Chicago’s Vittum Theatre (1012 N. Noble St.) March 3 and hosted 11 North American teams from universities in Florida, Georgia, Kansas and other states. 45 Kings, which qualified for the national competition after having won a regional competition in January and placing third in last year’s regionals, competed against teams from Iowa and British Columbia in a semifinal round before moving on to the four-team final.
Each team had 20 minutes to perform a series of comedy “bits” within an improvised scene, game or musical piece, which was then assessed by a panel of judges, according to the College Improv Tournament (CIT) Facebook page. As the winning team, 45 Kings received the coveted silver CIT trophy.
Senior Stuart Hicar, co-captain of 45 Kings, has been a member of the team since his first year at Loyola. He said the CIT competitions are always kept in mind during the team’s weekly rehearsals.
“It seems like something that you’re building to [while we’re] practicing and always thinking, ‘I can’t wait to put this on the big stage for CIT,’” Hicar said. “I’ve done it a few years now, so the sheen of the bright lights onstage has worn off for me a little bit, but it’s still a lot of fun to let our new guys be nervous about performing in front of friends and family.”
Junior Michelle Castro has also been a member of 45 Kings since her first year at Loyola and said, despite looking forward to CIT every year, the team is always focused on one thing above all else: the art of comedy.
“It’s really fun to get to just make people laugh,” Castro said. “What we do is comedy, so we’re constantly just trying to make each other laugh, which is a really cool thing that we get to do.”
Besides competing in CIT tournaments every year, 45 Kings also performs at theaters around Chicago and the Midwest throughout the school year. Sophomore Kevin Strader said he enjoys this aspect of being on the team because it allows members to meet other individuals who share a love for improv.
“When you’re [performing] at different theaters, you get to meet very cool and interesting people from all around and all different lifestyles,” Strader said. “We were recently in Saratoga Springs, New York, for a national college comedy festival, and that’s just a great place to do some improv and hang out with cool people.”
Castro said this year’s national tournament was a memorable, fun experience for the whole team.
“When you’re nervous like I was, it’s really hard to kind of get out of that,” Castro said. “But, we really focused on just playing as many bits as possible and being silly. Usually we get annoyed with bits, but during nationals, we were just letting the bits roll.”
When the long day full of laughs and camaraderie finally ended and the tournament’s winning team was announced, Strader said it was surreal when the trophy was handed to 45 Kings.
“There’s this one photo that someone took right after [we won], and it’s super blurry, but all of us have our mouths wide open,” Strader said. “I think pure shock was everyone’s reaction.”
Castro said having her family in the audience was both exciting and nerve-wracking at times.
“It was so cool because almost all of us had our families come into town for the event, so it was like, ‘What if they came out here for nothing?’” Castro added. “There were a lot of things riding on this event, but we pulled through … It was such a shock. The best feeling ever.”
45 Kings hasn’t been to the national CIT tournament since 2015, according to Castro. Hicar was on the team that year when it fell short of the final round. Since this was Hicar’s last time competing at CIT with 45 Kings, he said it was a “bittersweet” experience and seeing his team win was amazing.
“Getting hugs and handshakes [from friends and family] felt fantastic,” Hicar said. “It was a rush. I was pretty surprised — I didn’t think we were going to win. But the judges must’ve liked what we were doing.”
While he was thrilled and humbled by the win, Hicar said he has a different perspective of what it means to win a comedy award.
“In the end … I don’t know how you can judge comedy or judge what’s funny and what isn’t,” Hicar said. “It’s all an ethereal, up-in-the-air kind of thing. Winning or not, it’s all about the experience and I think we all had a good time.”
45 Kings performs in Flanner Hall every other week, and in theaters around the city almost every weekend. Their next show is at The Playground Theater (3209 N. Halsted St.) March 16. Tickets are $5 with a student ID and can be purchased at theplaygroundtheater.com. For more information about upcoming performances, visit the team’s Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.