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Comedy, laughs to overtake Ohio State at Bellwether Improv Festival

Courtesy of Eddie Greenblat

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The next Amy Poehler or Will Ferrell might take the stage in the Ohio Union this weekend.

An Ohio State improvisational comedy group, 8th Floor Improv, in collaboration with the Ohio Union Activities Board, is slated to host the fourth annual Bellwether Improv Festival.
Scheduled for Friday and Saturday in the Ohio Union’s U.S. Bank Conference Theater, the festival is set to feature more than 20 improv groups.

Improv groups attending this year’s festival include teams from colleges such as Northwestern University and Georgetown University, as well as professional New York City improv group Upright Citizens Brigade, which Amy Poehler was a member of, and Chicago’s Revolver, whose former group members include Will Ferrell and “Saturday Night Live’s” Vanessa Bayer.  

“We have been trying to make Bellwether a coveted festival, and I think we are really getting there,” said 8th Floor vice president Cory Frame, a fourth-year in British literature and strategic communication.

8th Floor executive director Eddie Greenblat said this year’s Bellwether is expected to be the largest collegiate improv festival in the Midwest and the third largest in the nation.

“It is a great opportunity to host something this large,” Greenblat said.

The term Bellwether, meaning an entity that influences a common trend, was coined by former 8th Floor member Brady O’Callahan and is often used to describe Ohio as a common swing state in elections, Greenblat said.

More than 1,000 students attended last year’s two-day festival, also held at Ohio State. Greenblat said he expects even more attendees this time around.

“We have added five schools since last year, which is a great example of how much we are growing,” Greenblat said.

Frame said the diversity of the show is due in part to good relationships between 8th Floor and the Midwest improv community.

“We know so many of these teams. It is so exciting to see some of our really good friends again,” Frame said.

The Immediate Gratification Players from Harvard University are among the groups performing this weekend. The group’s leader, Katherine Damm, said the team cannot wait to make the 13-hour drive to perform at Bellwether and see their friends from 8th Floor.

“We’re totally enamored with them on and off stage,” Damm said in an email. “They’re great improvisers and stellar people too.”

The prestige and quality of Bellwether contributes to the group’s anticipation and excitement for the event as well, Damm said.

“They have professionals from Chicago, which is an improv mecca,” Damm said.

8th Floor attends IGP’s Laugh Riot Festival at Harvard each year, but Damm said theirs is much smaller than Bellwether.

“(Bellwether) is a really well-run festival,” she said. “They attract a great crowd which helps create high quality improv.”

Frame said he is looking forward to seeing the outcome of 8th Floor and OUAB’s hard work toward organizing this year’s Bellwether.

“This is the hardest we have ever worked and the most teams we have ever had,” Frame said. “We are so excited to bring the improv community together.”

Doors for the event will open at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with about a dozen groups performing each night. The festival is designed to allow students to come and go as they please throughout the evening, and all shows are free.

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