Arts

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U of O improv group proves they are a laughing matter for third year running

Photo: Rémi Yuan

Most people would rather not be laughed at in front of a crowd. For MI-6, that’s the whole point.

The University of Ottawa’s improv team, MI-6 found themselves in a three-way tie with Queen’s and Carleton at the University of Toronto Improv Summit on Jan. 16.

In each round, a team would get a suggestion from the audience and have 10 seconds to plan the scene. The next team could take the same suggestion and make a better scene, or pass.

“We did the story of a miner and his love travelling to the core of the earth, where if they got there they would find the key to immortal love,” explained Zac Duval, a second-year theatre student.

The audience also got to choose the winner by way of applause but were indecisive enough to warrant three winners at this year’s competition.

With its second win in the last three years, the MI-6 team attributes their success to a sense of camaraderie. As first-year Telfer student Sachin Sinha explains, the group has such chemistry that MI-6 doesn’t have a leader simply because they don’t need one.

Jonny Lebeau, a third-year biomedical science student, says that as an improv actor, you get a lot of enjoyment from helping out a teammate if you see the scene is dragging.

It’s also a very different game than the seemingly similar act of stand-up comedy. There are no hecklers in improv, says first-year theatre student Jonny Devaney.

While those who take in a stand-up comedy show tend to expect an unwritten quota of laughs-per-minute, those who watch an improv performance are there just to be entertained, however that may happen.

Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is that each comic has a team to lean on.

“If we fail, we fail together,” says Lebeau. “But if you fail as a stand-up, you’re alone.”

The team is back to compete against Carleton for this year’s Cracking Up the Comedy festival.

“This one is more about entertaining the audience than winning a trophy,” says Duval. “It should be lots of fun for anyone watching.”

MI-6 and Carleton Improv will go head-to-head on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. at Confederation Park.