Fresh off a Comedy Combo Show, members of two of Wesleyan’s improv troupes sat down with The Argus to eat some chicken wings and talk funny business. Although this cross-section, comprised of Mark Popinchalk ’13, Ariel Lesnick ’14, and Noah Masur ’15 of Desperate Measures (DM) and Theodora Messalas ’15 of Gag Reflex, is by no means representative of the diversity of comedy offered on campus, these folks do know where to find the best cookies. And they always get their daily fiber intake.
The Argus: You’re accountable for everything you say from this point so, you know, watch it.
Noah Masur: I’m actually just gonna start listing people I hate.
Mark Popinchalk: I did notice that you put on, like, an interviewer voice…kind of more posh, a little bit. You’re kind of playing to the microphone.
NM: I think that means that you have, sort of, issues with your mother and possibly with your own self-consciousness that you need to work out.
Ariel Lesnick: Projection!
A: So tell me a little about your respective groups and the kind of improv you do. Feel free to improvise. [silence]
A: Damn, you guys got quiet.
MP: First rule about fight club…
NM: Don’t spoil the movie.
MP: So, um…DM is the oldest long-form improv comedy group—
AL: It’s short form! Don’t misrepresent us!
MP: I’m trying to steal Theodora’s thunder.
TM: Also, DM is the bastard child of Gag Reflex—
MP: That’s unconfirmed!
TM: Started by a disgruntled auditionee.
A: Is that actually true?
MP: I’m not actually sure.
AL: I heard [fellow comedy group] New Teen Force [NTF] came out of us, though.
TM: Yeah, but we still could have birthed you.
NM: What was the question again? What do we do?
TM: Comedy. Done.
AL: We play games.
MP: So yeah, ours is a little more structured. We play a series of two to five-minute games over the course of a show. They vary in content and style and number of players.
NM: It’s almost like a concert, like we have a set list.
AL: We do have a set list.
TM: And you have groupies. Um so, Gag Reflex, we’re long-form, we’re the oldest, we have seven people right now, we do improv in Armando—
MP: What’s that?
AL: Yeah, who’s Armando? Diaz?
TM: I don’t know, I’m always surprised that the Armando is, like, a real thing. It seems really niche-y.
AL: So would you say that there are other people doing the Armando right now?
TM: Yeah. There’s a really high chance of that. Like, UCB [Upright Citizen’s Brigade] does the Armando with AssCat 3000.
A: None of that meant anything to me.
TM: I would recommend that on the Netflixes.
NM: Doesn’t Dog Day do Armando also?
MP: Very possible. Dog Day is the Dartmouth group that comes and plays with a variety of Wesleyan groups.
AL: We’re going to the comedy conference at Brown.
A: What is that?
AL: The Brown comedy conference…this is the first time they’re doing this.
MP: Here’s your story.
AL: No, they just had different groups of all sorts, like stand-up or satirical writing, or sketch, or whatever. So yeah, we’re all coming together, and there are gonna be workshops and then a headliner, and that’s gonna be in April. We’re really pumped to hit the road and, you know, learn some more about comedy.
A: I encountered some difficulties trying to park in Providence last weekend, so good luck.
AL: Yeah? Nah, I’ve been there. [whispers] My friend’s organizing it.
A: Noah, I see that you polished off that Tuscan salad. Would you say that that relates to your comedic style in any way?
NM: I think you’re just making fun of me!
AL: He’s a good eater. He’s a grown boy.
A: You’re a great eater! Clean plates club.
NM: It depends on how you define “great.”
A: How would you define greatness?
AL: Noah was not born great.
A: Was it thrust upon you?
MP: I think what we’re trying to say is that, since I’ve been here at Wesleyan, the groups have been more collaborative, certainly. When I was first here, there was a Comedy Combo Show that was actually run by the school, and they gave us the first night during Orientation week to play to the freshmen. It’s since been dropped, and we have to organize it ourselves the first weekend we come back. But even other things, like Gag has been bringing UCB to Wesleyan. Dog Day from Dartmouth’s been coming. We’re gonna go do this other thing, the Comedy Conference at Brown, and now we’ve been doing the Comedy Combo Show every semester.
A: Has anyone ever done anything really inappropriate in front of an audience?
AL: We’ve shown some skin.
NM: There’s been some kissing. And some groping.
AL: But it’s only because we’re very comfortable with our bodies and the bodies of our friends.
A: So which Usdan station strikes you as the funniest?
NM: I think the Kosher section is hilarious because they’re really slow for some reason.
AL: I think they serve you the way your grandmother would. Like “No, no, let me prepare this just the way you like it.” Best kept secret at Usdan are chocolate chip cookies from the Kosher section. They are out-of-control delicious. Oh, my God.
TM: You getting paid for that endorsement?
A: Product placement.
TM: Right? So refreshing!
MP: This WesWings meal was delicious.
A: Let me take a sip of my Pepsi. Okay, answer the following question in three words or less: Why is Noah funny? Or why not?
AL: He’s so tall.
NM: Well, I think…
MP: Dat ass…bitch.
TM: Tastes like chicken.
A: What’s your favorite place to make awkward eye contact on campus?
MP: I sit in front of Usdan, and I just drink from my water bottle and make eye contact with somebody, and they’re like, “Why is he making eye contact with me?” and when I put my cup down, I break eye contact, so they’re like, “Oh, no, he was just looking at the water.” And then I take another sip and look back at them. So, uh, heads up, readers! I’ll see you in Usdan!
NM: I wish I had the guts to do that.
AL: I often make super weird eye contact with my professors. It’s my way of being engaged, like nodding and sometimes [making] little comments that I don’t realize they can hear. So one of my professors was like, “Ariel, you have something to say?” And I was just super embarrassed.
TM: That’s the worst, when a teacher’s like, “Hey! What was that?”
A: “Share with the class!”
AL: Yeah, and I was like [mutters] “I’m sorry, it’s just important from a post-colonial perspective.”
TM: Sort of like Mark though, I like to sit in the chairs on the lower floor of Usdan, like, behind a pillar, such that only at one point going down the stairs can I see the people coming down, and we make eye contact, and then they’re gone.
A: All right, I have some associations for you. Tell me the first word that comes to mind when I say—
MP: Can we go around in a circle?
A: Sure. Pancake.
A: “30 Rock?”
A: Handicap bathroom?
NM: Use it.
TM: Carlos Williams. Writing certificate, bitches!
TM: Too much of it.
NM: Um…cereal twigs? You know, those twig-like things that my mom eats. You know the type of people who eat Kashi?
TM: Well, the stereotype you’re thinking of is, like, Chris Traeger from “Parks and Recreation.” But the real kind of person who eats Kashi is someone who eats so much other gross stuff they can’t shit.
MP: Someone in NTF is known as Dr. Fiber because he takes fiber supplements. Not because he has an issue, but because he doesn’t want to have one.
AL: My mom’s a gastroenterologist. We get that shit in the fucking caseload.
MP: I just swallow a pinecone every now and then.
A: Why should I come to your next show?
AL: It’s a nice escape. I’m usually looking to laugh.
NM: Fun thing about improv, too, is it’s an audience participation-escape, so you can suggest something and control sort of what happens, or you can even be in the show.
AL: I’m still not over the fact that, like, you will never see that show again. I don’t know how many times I’ve played these games, but it’s always new; it’s always fun. And a show is just a snapshot of what we do every week.
NM: And another thing: if you’re sort of sadistic, we could just fail miserably, and some people just love that.
MP: That’s the risk and the joy in live comedy. You don’t know if it’s gonna be fun or not, but if you’re sitting there with a bunch of people, you laugh harder.
A: What would you say are the risks and the joys of Noah Masur?
MP: Dat ass. Bitch. That’s a great end quote.