Before I arrived at Amherst last fall, I had never thought much about improvised comedy. I knew the basics of what it was, and I vaguely knew that many well-known comedians had an improv background. I’d never seen it performed, nor had I really sought it out. However, after I auditioned for Mr. Gad’s House of Improv on a whim and was somehow accepted, improvised comedy has become a huge part of my life. At this point, I am obsessed with improv — and that description could even be putting it lightly.
This is not the column I had planned on writing this week. I had a couple hundred words written about awards shows and their place in American culture, inspired by the wacky Oscars broadcast this past Sunday. Then, early yesterday morning, we all received an email alerting us to the fact that transphobic vandalism had been written on the mirror of a gender-inclusive bathroom in Frost Library. Receiving this email dismayed and horrified me, as I’m sure it did for many fellow students. So, when I sat down to finish my silly awards show article, I realized that I could not.
Phish, a four-piece improvisational rock band hailing from Vermont, is my favorite band of all time. In my dorm room right now, there are no fewer than four Phish-related posters. I have nearly 5,000 Phish recordings in my iTunes library, and I’ve listened to nearly all of them. I’ve also seen the band in concert 37 times. One could say I am obsessed with the band. However, I am not alone in my obsession. Phish is one of the most popular touring acts in the United States. They routinely sell out Madison Square Garden every winter for their New Year’s Eve shows.
The Oct. 22 episode of “Saturday Night Live,” hosted by Tom Hanks, was full of successful comedy. The cold open was a spoof of the final Presidential debate, anchored by strong impressions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton done by Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon respectively. There was a smart take on the state of television comedies in a pre-taped sketch spoofing how serious today’s Emmy-winning sitcoms are.