Photo by Luke Fontana

A wise man once said, “No one hands you a script when you wake up in the morning and says, ‘Here are your lines for the day.’” Truer words were never spoken.

No one ever hands the Mason Improv Association a script. However, every time they hit the stage, they still manage to show people a good time.

Founded in the fall semester of 2010, the seven-member group has gained significant momentum and presence in the George Mason University and D.C. performing arts arenas, having performed in several local college competitions.

“I love it,” said founder and senior English major Paul Laudiero. “I think everyone should do it.”

Laudiero has actively participated in the D.C. improvisational comedy scene for the past two years since he transferred to Mason. He identified a deficiency of comedy on campus and immediately did something about it. Since then the M.I.A. has packed shows in the Theaterspace and Black Box venues of the Performing Arts Building, and most recently in the Johnson Center Bistro.

The M.I.A. performs in the long-form improv style, as opposed to short-form style that was demonstrated most of the time in “Whose Line is it Anyway?”. The long-form format is more story-based and involves more time with a specific character and more room for jokes. The group is unique because it uses an interview at the beginning of the show as the inspiration for scenes instead of employing the classic approach that uses shout-outs from the audience — a technique used by professional troupes in New York and Chicago, but rare among the college scene.

On Thursday, the M.I.A. took to the Johnson Center Bistro stage with the premiere D.C. troupe, Jive Turkey, and Mason student/comedian, Eric Weber.

Weber, a junior history major, warmed up the audience with a hilarious five-minute set about the trials and tribulations of life in college. He has also performed in D.C. Improv’s “The District’s Funniest College Competition.”

Thw M.I.A. took the stage next, and after interviewing a student about her summer vacation, engaged in an excellent improvised set of vacation scenes that dealt with a wide range of topics from family ties and romance to child birth. The group was well received by the nearly full JC Bistro, in what is likely the largest crowd to ever grace the space.

The group takes pride in the kind of humor that it tries to bring to campus.

“I don’t want to use the term ‘high-brow’ because that seems pretentious,” Laudiero said. “But we don’t do cheap jokes. We don’t talk about sex for the sake of talking about sex. We play to the top of our intelligence. [College students] don’t think they want it — but they do. We’re consistently getting laughs.”

It certainly is a higher caliber form of comedy that the group brings, which is consistently enjoyed by all.
After the M.I.A. performed, Jive Turkey, which has graced campus once before, had an equally enjoyable set inspired by a rather raunchy tale of drunken escapades.

For those who have ever done improv before or have ever been interested, the M.I.A. holds open workshops every other week for those who want to come have a good time and see where their imagination takes them.
“You don’t have to memorize lines. You don’t have to be funny. In fact you shouldn’t be funny. You should just be yourself — funny will come,” Laudiero said.

He emphasized that the workshops are a great place for people who have never done improv to have a safe and comfortable environment to stretch out, and experience something new. There are no prerequisites to attendance, only the willingness to have a little fun.

“It’s a great way to unwind after a bad day,” said senior communications major and M.I.A. member Conler Mandt. “It’s the beauty of improv: Everyone can do it.”

“It’s like crack,” Laudiero said. “Everyone who comes gets involved pretty quickly and just keeps coming back for more.”

The M.I.A. fills a niche that has long been empty on the Mason campus: comedy. One look around may make people feel like everyone is taking everything too seriously and it may be a positive change to have a group on campus that provides an outlet for members of the community to just be silly and have a good time. Information about shows and open workshops can be found on the group’s Facebook page; simply search for the Mason Improv Association.