“Give us a phrase.”
“Give us a type of relationship.”
So begins a typical performance by campus improvisational comedy group, Dad Jeans Improv.
Aug. 31 at 8:30 p.m., Dad Jeans Improv held its first performance of the school year in the Ewell Recital Hall.
Dad Jeans is an improv comedy group that specifically performs narrative-based, long-form improv, meaning that they improvise entire scenes and sketches in their shows.
The relatively young comedy group began performing in April 2017. Kendall Branham ’20 and Calvin Kolbe ’20, co-presidents of the troupe, were founding members as freshmen at the College.
“We all tried out for other comedy groups, and that’s how we found each other,” Branham said. “Someone who graduated last year first approached me and asked if I wanted to create a comedy group.”
The group was originally an entirely informal gathering of friends, who would practice privately on their own.
“We would just wander around campus and see if any classrooms were empty so that we could practice in them,” Hunter Hall ’20 said.
Eventually, the group became a registered organization on campus. The troupe’s distinctive name has its own origin story.
“We went back and forth for a really long time, and we had all these ridiculous, really dumb names, and we couldn’t think of anything,” Branham said. “This happened for months and months, and we finally got to the point where we had to sign up to be an organization, and someone was like, ‘what name are we going to use?’ so someone just wrote down ‘Dad Jeans.’”
At first, the group name was unpopular, but over time, it’s grown on members of the troupe.
“We all hated it, it’s so bad, but we never changed it and now I like it a lot,” Branham said. “And it’s attention grabbing. Like at the activities fair, everybody’s like ‘what is that?’”
For troupe member Steve Vacnin ’21, Dad Jeans was an opportunity to express a passion for theater in a casual and creative setting.
“I came from a high school that was super theater-heavy, and William and Mary, although it has a big theater program, it is a huge commitment,” Vacnin said. “I found that I still wanted a creative outlet in my life, so improv gets to serve as that creative outlet, where it not only gives me skills for the stage and performing, but also allows me to delve into more professional skills.”
According to Vacnin, the closeness of the troupe’s group members makes their practices and performances much more entertaining and exciting.
“Dad Jeans is such a creative bunch, and we all have a lot of fun together,” Vacnin said. “We’re like a second family. I think having that second family element to improv is so important, because you have to be comfortable with each other, we spend a lot of time with each other because of long practices every week. It doesn’t feel like work; it feels like something we enjoy, and that’s why you do improv.”
For Branham, Dad Jeans also serves as a way to de-stress by spending time with troupe members doing something that they are all passionate about.
“It’s just a really nice way when you’re stressed out… and like when you’re all stressed out with school you just have practice a few times a week, and it’s like hanging out with your friends and laughing. It’s fun,” Branham said.
Lyons Lascara ’20 attended Dad Jeans’ show to support his friends in the troupe.
“It was a quick show, but it had really good dialogue, and showed a culmination of a lot of people that have been working together for a really long time,” Lascara said. “They’ve got a unique brand of comedy, and I know a lot of people in the group and enjoy watching them.”
Emmanuel Murphy ’22 saw the group perform for the first time at the show after hearing about the troupe from a friend.
“They had really good synergy and harmony as a team, like the ability to pause someone else’s storyline and then start your own, and have seamless transitions between it,” Murphy said. “You can just tell they’re really close and they work really well together.”
Most current members of Dad Jeans are juniors and seniors; the troupe is looking for new additions from other classes.
“We have auditions next week, so anybody can try out, no matter what kind of experience they have,” Branham said. “It may seem really difficult, but it’s actually pretty easy to do and is a lot of fun.”
Dad Jeans will have more performances throughout the school year. You can find more information about the group and their next shows on their Facebook and Instagram pages.