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Fishbowl improv group to show comedy survival skills

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Members of Fishbowl Improv group pose with comedian Kenan Thompson. Credit: Courtesy of Joanne Jones.

Improv is a game of survival. Those who perform it have to be ready for any idea that comes their way in order to provide an entertaining show for viewers.

It’s only natural that Fishbowl Improv will be putting on on a “Survivor” themed show on Sunday.

The show will mark the first of weekly themed shows for the comedy group this semester.  

Fishbowl has been a part of the Ohio State comedy scene since its inception in the fall of 2009. The group began doing shows in various dorms throughout campus, and about two years later established a weekly Sunday show in the Ohio Union, usually in the Maudine Cow Room. While the group did not start the tradition until later on, Fishbowl’s themed shows offer a different approach to on-the-spot comedy

“We have a theme for most of our shows,” said Collin Roberts, a third-year in engineering physics and Fishbowl’s vice president.

He added that the themes help excite the crowd and provide a more interactive experience during their performances.

“We like to do our own approach to comedy,” said Jackson Donaldson, a second-year in electrical engineering and a regular performer for Fishbowl.

While the group does differentiate themselves from other groups in some ways, there are still basics that both Roberts and Donaldson agree are important components to comedy on the fly.

“With improv, you almost don’t want to try to be funny,” Donaldson said.

He said working as a team is crucial for success in improv. No one wants to see two people on stage constantly saying ‘no ‘to each other. The ideal response to an improv partner is “Yes, and…,” Donaldson said.

Comedy like this also takes loads of practice. Fishbowl meets twice weekly for two hours each meeting, and Roberts and Donaldson say they treat their Sunday shows as a “high-stakes” version of a practice. For Roberts, practice is precisely what got him into the group in the first place.

“The last time I did any sort of stage work was in sixth grade,” Roberts said. When he first came to OSU, Roberts said he saw Fishbowl perform at a Welcome Week event in the Union, and quickly became enthralled with the group and improv in general. His first attempt at joining the group was unsuccessful, but thanks to the group’s many workshops, Roberts secured a spot in the group spring semester of his freshman year.

On Sunday, the “Survivor” show will be full of competition-based short form improv games. Due to the spontaneous nature of an improv show, there aren’t many details Roberts or Donaldson gave about the content, but they said the show will end with a mock “tribunal” akin to the ones shown on the “Survivor” television show. The tribunal will vote out certain members of the cast, until one “Fishbowl Survivor” will remain.

“That title will probably mean absolutely nothing in the long run,” Roberts said. “But whoever wins will probably hold it over everyone else for weeks after.”

The show is on Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Cartoon Room of the Ohio Union, and admission is free.

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