Boston College improv comedy group The Committee for Creative Enactments (CCE) recently won first place at the 2014 College Comedy Festival’s Beanpot Championship.
Produced by ImprovBoston-a nonprofit comedy and improv theatre organization-the festival began in 2005 and has since hosted comedy teams from the New England area at its annual tournament. The CCE has competed at the festival since its creation, but its first place finish on Feb. 22 was the first time it achieved such a feat.
The CCE was created in 1988, and it has since performed a number of improv shows and scripted murder-mysteries across campus. Currently, the group performs two student-written murder mystery shows each year and holds three open practices every week.
The group, which typically has between 30 and 40 members, is a hybrid organization. Part of it is a murder mystery group in which select members perform one show every semester in the O’Connell House. Students write a script in the spring and then vote on the best one. Practices usually take a whole semester, and then the group performs the mystery the following semester. This was the group’s original performance format, but over time the group developed an improv component, and it now has a separate branch devoted only to improv shows. There is, however, considerable overlap between the two branches of the organization.
“We try to keep trust as an overarching theme through our group as a whole,” said Kelsey Maher, a four-year member of the group, current improv coach, and A&S ’14. That theme proved important to her team’s victory at the College Comedy Festival.
The festival is strictly improv, so the CCE selected eight of its improv members to compete. The competition featured 14 New England-area teams-including My Mother’s Fleabag, another BC improv group-and challenged teams to multiple rounds of improv performances.
In the first round, teams performed a short form improv. Teams individually performed a short skit in front of judges from the ImprovBoston staff and were scored in three areas-story, skill, and entertainment. The second round was a long form round in which teams improvised a performance for 15 minutes.
“We’ve invented a new kind of long-form-which we actually were awarded for last year-which the judges seem to like a whole lot,” Maher said.
In their invented form, CCE actors ask audience members to make up a word. Then, the team creates new definitions for the word and improvises a scene based on them.
The tournament also features short bonus rounds, during which teams tell quick punch lines. Judges don’t add up the teams’ points until the completion of both main rounds. The top three teams advance to the final round. The CCE placed third and just made the final round, in which My Mother’s Fleabag and UMass’s Mission Improbable joined them.
“It’s actually really hard to gauge [how well we’re doing] because we don’t have the chance to watch the other teams,” Maher said. “But we were pretty confident that we were doing well as a team-we were working well together.”
As in most sports, successful improv teams require exemplary teamwork. Actors go into a show not knowing what will happen or how it will end, so they must work well together in order to move the performance along in a way that keeps the audience engaged.
Going into the final round, Maher credits her teammates’ ability to trust each other and communicate well as an important factor in their victory.
“[Throughout the year] we try to make sure that everyone has that kind of trust with each other, that kind of skill, so that when we are choosing a team for Beanpot, that we can be sure that everyone has an equal chance going in,” she said.