When I was growing up one of my favorite television shows was “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, an improv comedy show starring such talents as Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, Greg Proops, hosted by Drew Carey (at the time), and featuring several rotating comedians and guest stars. I was intrigued by the idea of improvisational comedy, and mesmerized by the quick wittedness of the comedians.
I was excited to learn a few weeks into my first semester that there is an improv club here at the University of Baltimore, and quickly joined up – hoping to hone my ability to perform in front of others and improve my wits. While I can’t speak for myself on my own progress, seeing the other members of the group improve during my time with them has been a wonderful experience, and I attribute much of that to the excellent leadership of the club.
I was lucky enough to get UB Improv’s current president, Alyxandra McClelland, on the phone for an interview in order to help spread awareness of this club, and to gain some insight into her experiences as a member and president.
Tell me a little bit about how you got involved with improv
Well I started improv in high school. We had a drama club and we also had a drama class. I took that for three years and I did drama [club] for four years. When I came to the University of Baltimore, I found out they had an improv club my freshman year.
How did you end up being the president of UB Improv?
First, I was the treasurer of the improv club – three years ago, and when the president and vice president told me they were graduating they asked me if I would consider the idea of being a president in the club since I was already a treasurer. I said sure, and it kind of happened from there.
Was it kind of a weird transition moving from member to the president of the club?
It is harder because I didn’t know what you were supposed to do when you are president. I didn’t know what that entailed. I just wanted people to have fun.
What sorts of extra duties did you have to take on that you were unsure about?
One of the things was trying to delegate – trying to figure out what roles to give to everyone else: so what roles do you give to the vice president, what roles do you give to the treasurer aside from balancing the bank account, what roles does your marketing department play. That and ensuring everyone knows where your meetings are, what times they are, and making sure everyone enjoys themselves while they are there.
One of the things that improv club likes to highlight about themselves is that improv isn’t just for having fun, there are also some skills you can gain by doing it
Improv improves your public speaking skills, it improves your ability to have posture and presence on stage, which is important for if you are giving a speech or doing an interview. It also teaches you how to work with a dynamic group of people. There are people from the digital design majors, people who are accountant majors, people who are history majors and English majors, and they kind of all come together and you have to figure out, A: how to work with them, and then B: how to interact with them so you are not offending them with your jokes or making them feel bad because they are not doing something the way you are doing it.
I think it really ultimately gets people to look outside of the group of people that they are in, because when you are in a major you often stay around the same people because they are taking the same classes as you, where in improv you meet a bunch of people from different majors and you find out you have more in common than just this major.
This is your last semester as president, correct?
Currently, yes, I believe so. It depends on where I end up for law school.
What would be the biggest take away for you during your time at improv here?
I think watching it grow and develop from just a little club that people could come to, to a club where you see people actually develop these skills – because there were a lot of people at improv who started out not being able to talk to people, not being able to carry a scene, not really making up their own ideas to them creating these amazing characters and situations that seem like they just fall out of the sky.
When does the improv group meet and what events are coming up
The improv club meets every Tuesday and Friday from 5:30 to 7. We have two improv shows coming up: one on April 5th from 7-9, and we have another show on April 19th from 7-9. both shows are in the wright theater on the student center 5th floor. And there will be Pizza and drinks.
Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know about the improv club?
Improv is something that you can learn, it’s for everyone, it’s not as intimidating as people try to make it sound, and it’s all about enjoying yourself and having fun. It’s like a little piece of happiness from the daily struggles of having to complete 7 assignments in 2 days. We are always accepting new members, and if anyone ever has an idea for something they would like to collaborate with the improv club you can go to UB Improv at orgsync and shoot [us] a message. They can also go to orgsync and find me and send me an email. We are looking to get other clubs or people to collaborate with us for our show on the 19th.
Alyxandra McClelland is a senior, majoring in jurisprudence and holding a philosophy minor. She is going to be attending law school after her graduation in July, possibly continuing on here at UB.