COMEDY: Fresh Concepts

By Sophie Nikitas

The members of Fresh Concepts agree that the best way to describe their performance style is one with “a tone of guarded optimism”. They have a lot to be optimistic about. This year has been a successful one so far for the comedy collective. The addition of three new, invaluable members — Sam Faulkner ‘15, Hannah Rehak ‘15, and Thomas Liebert ‘14 — have only strenghtened a group that was already great. However, the talent of the new members hasn’t shielded them from the demands of the fast-paced world of improv. “I think all three of us have been kicked out of the group on separate occasions,” admits Thomas. “The group is pretty Draconian about practice. You might get beat up in the locker room if you don’t show up.” They joined Mitch Glasser ‘12, Elijah Chiland ‘12, Oleh Zaychenko ‘12, Erica Solomon ‘13, Nina Slesinger ‘14, and Ross Bronfenbrenner ‘14 at the beginning of the year, while this semester saw the return Ryan Schleeter ‘13 and Meg O’Halloran ‘13 from abroad, while Erica departed. Anyone who attends a Fresh Concepts show would be shocked to know that there is any seriousness in such a funny group. The group’s chemistry is palpable. They both trust each other to deliver, and help each other to do so; someone is always there to reenergize the scene. It’s a tightly run ship behind closed doors, making the casual and intimate feeling of their performance even more appealing to an audience. Scenes are replete with sound effects from those who are offstage: whether there is a mention of a doorbell, or clown-strippers in the inventory room of a party store, someone is sure to complete the image with their support from the sidelines. The group was originally founded in 1995. While Bad Comedy also performs sketches, Fresh Concepts is Macalester’s only group to also do improv comedy. The group name originally comes from an inexplicable neon sign in the Macalester cafeteria which read: “Fresh Concepts.” The group has such a good time on stage that the audience cannot help but have a blast too. They sometimes cannot stop themselves from laughing at the ridiculousness of whatever they just said. It is not self-satisfied, Dane Cook-like laughter, but rather that they spend most of the time making fun of themselves. Instead of trying to skip over any discontinuity, they will readily point it out. “Do you really think you can have two men hunched over each other neighing and pretend they are real horses?!” demanded Ryan Schleeter ‘13, gesturing at Oleh Zaychenko ‘12 and Elijah Chiland ‘12, who were, in fact, doing so. “I think it’s best when you don’t hold anything back,” says Nina Slesinger ‘14, who had a terrific exchange with Thomas last semester that involved a slew of characters whose names were puns on various Italian dishes. “I don’t care if I look ridiculous– in fact, that’s better.” Thomas then proceeded to recount a rehearsal where he couldn’t remember if he was supposed to be pooping or giving birth, so he ended up delivering a baby in a Macy’s bathroom. Unlike last semester, which hosted one improv show per month or so, this semester is mostly dedicated to the sketch show in April, which the group begins to write and rehearse at the beginning of March. The group is also hosting the first ever “Improvallooza” on Saturday, March 3rd at 8PM in the Chapel. Groups from Carleton, the U of M, and St Olaf. will be attending for the night of comedy.