Founded in November 1992, Quipfire!, Princeton'soldest improv comedy group, has developed its particular style of improv over the past two decades.
“They started off predominately doing short-form improv,” artistic director Jake Robertson ’15 said. Television shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway?use short-form improv, which consists of smaller premise-based games, but Quipfire! has since expanded their repertory.
Quipfire!, according to Robertson, now performs more long-form improv, which is currently more prominent in the professional improv world. One example of Quipfire!’s application of long-form is its improvised “Musicals!” shows, the latest of which took place this past weekend. The audience gave suggestions for a title of a musical, and the group improvised a musical production with many interlocking scenes to create a vibrant, unique and hilarious story each night of the performance.
Despite the deviation from its short-form roots, the group still maintains close ties to its alumni predecessors.
“We switch between generally three places now,” Robertson said. “We’ll do New York one year, and Chicago and then Los Angeles. Those tend to be places where there is a lot of improv going on.”
Quipfire! does a set of shows during Frosh Week to get students interested in auditioning for and watching the group, according to managing director Lauren Frost ’16. About 100 people auditioned this past fall alone.
“I think we get a lot of people to audition because it’s something that doesn’t really need experience,” Frost said. “Improv is something that a lot of people haven’t done before, and a lot of the members that we get haven’t done it before.”
“We also try to emphasize that we keep our auditions really fun,” Robertson added. “Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, I’m just glad I auditioned because I had a great time.’”
Quipfire! performs a variety of shows throughout the year to showcase new forms of improv with which it is experimenting.
In October, Quipfire! did its Gravid Water Show, which involves having actors memorize one person’s lines from a scene, and then pairing those actors with an improviser who does not know the scene and must come up with its responses on the spot.
“People really loved it,” Robertson said, “We’ve grown throughout my experience into a group who experiments a little more. For example, Gravid Water was a one-off show, so we just did one evening. And I think that we’re making that into a thing we do more often.”
Quipfire! is performing another Gravid Water in April, as well as a set of shows in May.
“These shows will probably be Armandos,” Frost said, “where we have a guest, probably a professor, give a monologue based on a suggestion, and then we improvise based on that.”
According to Frost, Quipfire!’s future includes not only trying new forms of improv, but also getting more involved in the larger college improv community.
“For a long time, we were pretty isolated, just doing our own thing here,” Frost said, “but now we do the College Improv Tournament, we had our show with the Fordham improv group, Stranded in Pittsburgh, and we’re going to a comedy festival at Brown next weekend.” (The weekend of April 3-4.)
Quipfire! is trying to both see and perform more college improv shows in order to gather good ideas and inform the outside world about the group.
“As weird as it seems, you could get someone to come to a school because of improv,” Frost said, “We actually had an alum interviewer email us and say he interviewed a kid who hadn’t applied to any other Ivy League schools, but applied to Princeton after seeing us perform somewhere. That’s the dream, that people would see us and think we are one of best college improv groups they’ve seen, and decide they want to come here and do improv.”