Ruckus goes wild


Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Two Ruckus members, sophomores Clare Donaher and Patrick Meyer, perform their routine that revolves around rotating troupe members in and out in the middle of skits.

By Rachel Saula, For The Pitt News

In G24 of the Cathedral of Learning, a room typically used for classes, 25 students gathered in Hawaiian shirts and safari hats for an evening of games like “Sex with Me is Like …” and “The Cube of Comedy.” The crowd gaped, laughed and gasped at the unpredictable stylings of Ruckus, an on-campus improv comedy troupe.

Ruckus welcomes an audience every Saturday night in G24 and delivers on-the-fly comedy. This Saturday’s jungle-themed show, “Ruckus Gone Wild,” was no exception, from short skits to longer bits of improv.

Starting out strong with “The Cube of Comedy,” a skit where four of the troupe’s members rotate between different characters assigned by the audience, Ruckus members flaunted an impressively quick turnover rate with jokes. Two members were assigned the roles of PTA moms and quickly utilized recent public health issues.

“I can’t believe the health teacher is telling our kids that vaccinations might be good for them,” one member said.

Many people would freeze if given such little time to react to these ridiculous scenarios, but sophomore mechanical engineering major and Ruckus member Clare Donaher welcomes the challenge.

“There’s more energy when you have to think on your feet. You get the hang of the audience and you know what’s going to get a laugh. It has to be fast,” Donaher said.

While they’re witty as individuals, the real draw of Ruckus is watching the actors work together to form a cohesive show on the spot. They are often at the mercy of the audience when it comes to who they’re playing or where they are, left with mere seconds to craft a plotline together from a rowdy audience’s disjointed shouts. Despite the time constraint, throughout a 40-minute show, viewers rarely saw any of that pressure hinder their comedic abilities.

The actors of Ruckus worked together seamlessly, jumping in to save scenes in danger of drying up with little to no hesitation. Trust, it seems, is a huge factor in pulling off an improv comedy show. Undeclared first-year John McFarland stressed that feeling comfortable with castmates is pivotal to a strong show.

“In order to improvise, you have to know your partners really well. One of the joys of good comedy is when everybody on stage knows exactly where they’re going,” McFarland said. “We’re in sync and we know what’s going to happen and that makes the jokes better.”

McFarland’s theory proved true when the actors moved to a new game, one where they asked audience members for one word to build an entire scene around. Dozens of unintelligible shouts filled the space before an actor was able to settle on “marshmallows.” Two actors immediately moved into a campground scene, and from there it devolved into a myriad of different scenarios.

Marshmallows inspired a campground fight between a father and daughter, but the fast-paced nature of this game didn’t let it live for long. It quickly transitioned into the woes of a struggling author who made the artistic choice to write his entire novel on his body. He very quickly had to “sweat off chapter 17” after learning the dangers of working out while writing. Blinking felt dangerous with how quickly the scenes moved along, as each uninvolved actor jumped in to save the show each time they saw it drying up.

In order to take a break from such involved form of improv performance, Ruckus members moved on to an advice segment from more experienced characters, such as 15-year-old SoundCloud rapper Young Adult Fiction, played by sophomore Patrick Meyer. When an audience member asked what to do about a roommate who kept making fun of them, Meyer chimed in with how he would handle the situation.

“When you’re in the SoundCloud rap game, haters will be coming up on you all the time,” he said. “We get six pool noodles of assorted colors. My boys and I run up on him in my backyard and we just wail on him. It’s a pool party, but it’s violent. I’m 15.”

Fictional Apple store worker Steve Blowjobs, played by junior sociology major Andrew Dow, offered his take on the situation as well.

“We at Apple would never use any technology of ours to know what you text each other, so I don’t know what they’ve said to you. But on another note, my good friend Bim Book, no relation to Tim Cook, thinks you should stop being such a little bitch.”

This comment in particular roused a great roar of laughter from the audience, something the members of Ruckus were proud of and work hard to achieve. Senior Jessica Israel stressed that their ease on the stage is born out of their hard work off of it.

“We have practices every weekend and on the same day of our shows for four hours,” Israel said, adding that they add some additional practices as need be.

Saturday’s show was audience member Shelby Smith’s second consecutive time seeing Ruckus, drawn back by the fast-paced humor and audience participation.

“I went to Ruckus for the first time last weekend. I like how they interact with the audience,” she said.

The troupe finished off their performance with their signature skit, a game of “Sex With Me is Like …” delivering the witty one-liners regular audience members are so accustomed to. An audience member made their voice heard above the rest when they shouted “Oklahoma,” resulting in one of the quickest jokes of the night, “Sex with me is like Oklahoma. Hot, but dry.”

This skit is a favorite for the performers and the audience alike. McFarland adores not just this part of the performance, but every minute of his Saturdays with the group.

“I love it. I live for it every weekend, it’s so much fun,” McFarland said.

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