8th Floor Improv Comedy Group Celebrates 10 Years
What started as just an idea between some friends during their sophomore year of college has grown into something more considerable. In the spring of 2004, while hanging out playing Halo in their dorm, the idea for what would become the 8th Floor Improv Comedy Group was developing between Nate Sherman, Drew Tarvin, Johnny “Utah” Cook, Damon Trammell, Chris Lochinski and Moran Lowe, who met while hanging out on the 8th Floor of Park-Stradley Hall at OSU, where many of them lived and where they all hung out. This Saturday, a decade later, the 8th Floor Improv Comedy Group will perform a show that unites past alumni with current members to celebrate the group’s Ten Year Anniversary.
Tarvin, one of the six founding members, reflected on the group’s foundation. “When we were coming up with names it was a natural process to think the reason why we know this specific group of six is because we all hung out on the 8th floor together, so we’ll call it 8th floor Improv Comedy.”
By the fall of 2004, they were beginning to think about taking their idea beyond the dorm. Though, their success was not immediate.
“Our first show that fall was terrible”, Tarvin remembered. “I thought, we have to clearly get better. But we didn’t have any huge aspirations for it. We didn’t think we were going to build something massive and it was going to be great. But we had fun doing it”
“We’d practice and then we’d also record the shows, and then we’d go back and watch the tape of it”, Tarvin recalled. “We’d ask, why did people laugh there, and what seemed to work, and what didn’t work”.
That work was beginning to pay off, and the group started to gain more exposure. They were evolving in a pre-Facebook college scene, so they would put flyers up around campus, and talk with people in residence halls to try to build a following. They learned from their early challenges, and eventually grew to the point of needing a bigger venue to perform. They went from performing in empty spaces of residence halls to performing at the Baker-West Performance Space for their shows and practices. By the fall of 2005, they had moved into a black box space in what was at the time the Drexel Theatre in the newly built South Campus Gateway. By that time, when they held auditions, they went from the three attendees that came to their first audition to close to twenty people trying out.
Despite the growth of the group, by their senior year, the founding members were wondering if the group would even continue beyond their graduation.
As Tarvin put it, “we wanted it to continue, but we didn’t know if it would or not. We thought, obviously we’re passionate about it, but we didn’t know if others would be”.
The spring before graduating, the founding members elected a President and Vice President to help formally continue the organization. They also began trying to connect the group to Improv teams at other Universities and began to perform at different Improv festivals to increase the organization’s exposure. Today, when they hold auditions, they attract around one hundred people coming to try-out.
Current president Alex Barnes, talked about what motivates its current cast. “A lot of people come into it thinking they’re just going to be doing something fun on the side, but all of us end up falling in love with it, and hearing about all of the alumni and what they’re doing is a really good positive reinforcement for continuing to do comedy and Improv.”
Though it started as just a college group, Barnes said that the 8th Floor Improv Comedy Group is “accessible to a lot of people”, adding, “we’ve actually branched out beyond campus this year”.
In addition to their monthly shows at the Ohio Union, the group did a show at the Garden Theater in March, and will again perform at the Garden Theater on Wednesday, April 30th in collaboration with other Improv teams. They also performed off campus last fall at the Columbus Performance Unscripted Improv Festival.
As the Ten Year Anniversary of the group approaches, Tarvin contemplated its origins. “When we were students here, the motto for Ohio State was ‘Do Something Great’. And what we realized is that it always starts with just ‘Do Something’. We just did something that we thought would be fun. We had no idea what it would turn into. And a lot of people have done incredible work since we left and have taken it in directions that we never thought were possible”.
The 10th Anniversary Alumni Show of the 8th Floor Improv Comedy Group will take place on Saturday, April 12th at 8:00pm at the US Bank Conference Theatre in the Ohio Union.
Tickets are $5 at the door.
More information about the group can be found at: the8thfloorimprov.squarespace.com.