Monday, November 26, 2012

The 24 Hour Show: An Annual Tradition

Every year around the middle of November, I embark on a truly foolish task. As a member of Fresh Concepts, Macalester’s only improv group, I (attempt to) perform improvised comedy for 24 straight hours. For no discernible reason, I gather with a group of my closest friends and try, often in vain, to perform for a full day.

As a freshman, the upperclassmen of Fresh Concepts laughed me aside when I inquired about the purpose of the 24-hour show. It seemed ludicrous to me, at least at the time, that we would willingly deprive ourselves of sleep in order to perform in the lounge of a dorm at 5 a.m.  There was no greater cause and no ulterior motive, but apparently it had been a tradition from the very beginning of the group.

Blissfully unaware of what I was getting myself into, I showed up to my first 24-hour show carrying only a single notebook and a water bottle. The first two hours were electric: We packed the lounge and got quite a few laughs in the process. The next 22 hours, however, were a bit different.  Suffice it to say that I have vague recollections of performing dramatic (read: in no way comedic) improvised Shakespeare scenes for hours on end, the hands on the clock seemingly moving backwards as I struggled to start every other sentence with the word alas.

Fast-forward two years and armed with a hot water heater, two blankets, a backpack full of apples, and the phone number of Toppers Pizza on speed dial, I arrived at my third 24-show ready to go. For days in advance, friends, roommates, and even professors had been asking me if I’d been getting plenty of sleep in preparation. My fellow Fresh Concepts members had been sending a flurry of emails, running around campus and hanging up flyers and chalking all of the sidewalks in the greater Mac-Groveland Area.

Accordingly, this year, I spent two hours as “Super Chef Bobby Flay,” making sporadic appearances on the early morning show “Coffee Talk,” hosted by the unrelentingly hilarious trio of Erica Solomon ’13, Nina Slesinger ’14, and Hannah Rehak ’15. I ate far too many Toppers Pizza Sticks, played an improv game that mandated me keeping my head in a bucket of water a third of the time, and enjoyed a fresh pot of coffee brought by a friend at 7 am. I witnessed five different audience members sleep through the night while still in the room, sleeping bags and all, and I even managed to find an hour to go to class.

I’ve met some of my closest friends in Fresh Concepts and I can safely say that despite being in that room for 24 hours, we wouldn't trade a second of it to be anywhere else. There’s no ulterior motive there for any of us: We all come together for a full day in November to do improv for the sake of improv. Sure, there are some moments when you wish you weren’t performing a Shakespeare scene for an audience that’s largely asleep, but there’s a certain magic in knowing that when they wake up, you’ll still be performing.

-Ross Bronfenbrenner ‘14