Zach Kauffer, TMU contributor and junior at USC
If you walk onto any college campus, chances are you'll run into a group of people doing bizarre theater in the quad, in a classroom, or on any open patch of grass. For some reason, improv is a trademark of the college experience. USC is smack in the center of the entertainment industry, so it stands to reason that the alumni pool is full of comedy giants. However large the improv community may be, one of my favorite troupes (and the newest) would be the Anglophilic Merry Men, who parade around The Forum in tights and puffy shirts at 11:00 p.m. every other Thursday night. Because USC's original Merry Men were mostly theater majors, their shows have become a staple of any theater student's social calendar. The usual Thursday will begin with texts flying around about who's going with who to the show. You can usually find a who's who of the School of Theatre waiting to flood the room with laughter and hugs. The Merry Men have always referred to their fans as a family, and that's exactly what I experienced at the 2011 Merry Men Newbie Show. Every semester, all the improv groups hold auditions for new members; the newbies for each group have their first performance a few weeks later. This particular Thursday, The Forum was buzzing with a new sort of energy. The Merry Men had taken on four new "knights," and they were about to be introduced to the USC community in all their multi-colored glory. The Merry Men have a special process by which they knight their new members: at the beginning of the show, the audience will give suggestions for things like a somersault or a Christopher Walken impression that the new men need to do during the show. The existing Merry Men will then try to make the new recruits complete these tasks, and, when it's accomplished, they are officially members of The Merry Men. The audience erupts in cheers, and the Merry community is strengthened that much more. I always look forward to heading up to that space for a show. If I'm in class all day and then rehearsal all night, I sometimes dread the long walk over to the Forum and the wait outside, but once the show starts and the men start their first game of Reconsider or Mind the Gap, I'm transported to a world of laughter, smiles, and camaraderie. It's the moment in the week when I get to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and join together in the spirit of merriment amidst the insecurities we all experience in these stressful college days.
Zach's Tips: • If you are not a student at USC, come to a Merry Men show anyway. You'll be welcomed with open arms. A schedule of Merry Men shows can be found on their Twitter feed @USCMerryMen! • Check out some of the improv on your own campus if you haven't already. It can be a welcome break from the stresses of college life. • Parking is free at USC if you park along Jefferson after 8:00 p.m.
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