Group thrives on ‘game’ of laughs
Comedy Sportz started at Canyon Crest Academy four years ago, just “six (students) trying to be funny” in front of an audience that was mostly their parents, said founding member Nick Scutti, now a senior.
Four years later, their group is five times as big, filling up the Black Box Theater for their matches, and last weekend filling the school’s Proscenium Theater for the annual teacher versus students match.
In their first year, CCA Comedy Sportz members had three matches overseen by Comedy Sportz Los Angeles referees. This year, they will have 15, playing against schools such as La Costa Canyon and San Dieguito Academy.
There are 30 players on this year’s team, so many that they have toyed with the idea of holding auditions.
Last week’s starting lineup included senior managers Austin Meredith and Nick, Scutti, senior Kerri Blake, juniors Jake Picker and Sarah Spiegelman, and sophomore Brandon Kirschner.
“The beauty about improv is you really never know what’s going to happen next,” said Nick. “With my team, I can trust them to come up with funny situations and characters. They’re not going to reject any of my offers.”
By that, Nick means if he starts a scene by saying “Come here son,” the player won’t derail the progress by shouting “I’m not your son, I’m your mother!”
Teams must be approved by Comedy Sportz Los Angeles to get official jerseys and to play in official matches. Matches include four people with two substitutes, played for two halves just like a regular sports game.
And like a regular sports team, “Kids should not expect to play much as a freshman, they have to put time in and move up,” said parent adviser Jaime Picker.
Someone who has played his way up is Nick, a player his fellow manager Austin called “the star” and whom Picker calls “an expert.”
Nick said improv is something he has really grown interested in and while in college, he hopes to join a professional improv group in Los Angeles or Chicago, where the genre got its start with groups like Second City.
Nick, a member of the theater conservatory at CCA who is in the upcoming “Batboy” production, came at Comedy Sportz from the drama side of things, but not all the members are “drama kids.”
“When I started, I wasn’t a drama guy,” said Austin, whose interests were more in photography. “The great thing about improv is you don’t have to be a really dramatic person, just a really funny person. The great thing about CCA is we have funny people everywhere who will get on stage and do this.”
A very dedicated, committed group, Comedy Sportz members meet on Sunday afternoons for two hours at each other’s houses to work on techniques and team dynamics. They get teaching help from an improv alum Matt Klineman, but managers Austin and Nick also lead instruction in a good cop, bad cop kind of way.
“The freshmen say I’m a little mean,” Austin said.
Picker said it takes a lot of practice to develop improv skills: The toughest part is how to make scenes take a trajectory, to go from a starting point and have a solid middle and an end. While there are many “schools” of teaching in improv, CCA’s group focuses on storytelling and relationships, said Austin.
A representative from Los Angeles comes to conduct about three workshops a year. New players must attend to get approved by Comedy Sportz to play.
As adviser, Picker works to keep everything in line, and the job is part business manager, part providing adult supervision and part “herding cats.”
The last bit was maybe tongue-in-cheek.
“This is a fantastic group of kids, they know what needs to be done,” Picker said. “They pitch in, they volunteer and they’re lively and cohesive. They really lower my anxiety.”
Picker said she loves to see her daughter, Jake, on stage. Jake has always been involved in acting and Comedy Sportz, but this is a different format and skill set.
“I love to see her skills improve and see her get bold and wild,” Picker said. “Naturally the boys are more wild, at least in their physicality. It’s nice to see the girls come out of their shells a little more.”
Next year two of those girls, Jake and Sarah, will take the reins as Comedy Sportz’s senior queens.