An Interview with Suffolk’s Improv Group: Seriously Bent
People filed down the stairs and crowded in the basement at the 150 Tremont residence hall. I had never seen the comedy group, Seriously Bent, perform before but when I saw the entire basement packed with Suffolk students, I knew I was in for a treat. I found a chair in the back and I looked around. Students crammed themselves two to a seat, sitting on tables, even standing in the back.
With almost no warning, the group stormed onto the stage and immediately grabbed everybody’s attention. The group performed an hour-long show, filled with sexual innuendos, student involvement, and more. I came with the impression that a student improv group would struggle to keep the audience’s attention, but nobody could look away. I laughed from start to finish. There was no surprise as to why the group has won at the New England Regional Championships over six times, finished second at Nationals and actually won the National Championship once.After the show, the members of the group were kind enough to sit with me and talk about the past, present, and future of the group:Suffolk Voice: Why don’t we start with your names?
SB: Tobias Foglia, Andy king, Stephie Kay, John MacGregor, Amanda Sousa, Joey Talluto, Ethan Bukowiec, Zack Barker, Tatjana Von Rosen!
Suffolk Voice: Great! So first of, congrats on a great show! It was really funny. It was my first time seeing you guys and I laughed the whole time. Why don’t you tell me about the origins of the group? How did you guys get started?
SB: I believe around 2000 or 2001, this guy called Ryan Bernier, he’s now a second city ETC director, and he just won a JEFF award, which is a huge deal in Chicago. He and this other guys decided to form an improve group at Suffolk-they were students- and it has been going on over since. We’ve been affiliated with Improv Asylum, which is in the North End, which has been a huge help. It has given us huge connections throughout Boston and the country.
Suffolk Voice: I was going to ask you, after doing so good in previous competitions and having some more coming up, what are those like?
SB: We just won the New England Regional Championships. We’ll be going to Chicago March ninth. There might be a couple things in New York that we might be doing too. But in the past, we’ve been New England Regional Champions for at least six years. We finished second in Chicago before, which is like nationals. We’ve also on occasion performed at Improv Boston at Central Square, Cambridge. In 2010 we competed at the Regional Boston Comedy Festival-they may have changed the name-but we competed in that and we won.
Suffolk Voice: Wow (laughs) Congratulations!
SB: We win!
Suffolk Voice: I’m not surprised! You guys were really good.
SB: Thank you!
Suffolk Voice: But obviously, the room was packed; people were sitting on tables, standing out the doorway. What do you guys think that brings out that connection between you and this Suffolk audience?
SB: Handsome men! (Laughs) We started doing the dorm shows like full time every week, two years ago. We didn’t have this kind of audience when we started, and then last year it picked up because we had both semesters. I think what helped last year, was that we were much involved in Suffolk. We would host for other improv groups and organizations. We would just be a lot more involved on campus, and people saw us more. I think that has a lot to do with the following that we have now. It’s a big change for the group.
We take a lot–it-sounds kind of cliché- but we take a lot of passion into what we do. Being here every week, laying it all on the table, walking away, and just having a good time. We’re friends in the process, it’s just great.
Suffolk Voice: Yeah, I didn’t know what to expect, this was my first time [watching you guys], I’m a freshman at Suffolk, so I came-
SB: Welcome! Bonjour!
Suffolk Voice: (laughs) thank you! It impressed me how packed it was, and then how funny the show was. What’s your favorite thing about performing on stage?
SB: Being someone totally different than what you actually are.
You sort of let loose, and it’s kind of just a big party.
You kind of have a license to be as heinous as much as you want to be, making eye contact with the other person on stage, and even sometimes when you’re onstage and you don’t know what’s going on, it’s great because you all just go down together.
You can’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. We have an opportunity that a lot of college kids don’t have. We just get to play pretend in front of a group of people. We celebrate our obscurities.
It’s just fun to make people laugh! When other people are out here enjoying us, which to me is the biggest thing! Speaking personally, being part of the group, you spend a lot of time with these people, and the way the group is now, you are all friends and that makes a big difference. The group dynamic is a big difference. We trust each to get out of ‘Seriously Bent’ and that helps us have each other’s back which is a great relationship.
On stage, we’re not afraid to make huge decisions, because we’re so close together so you know that if you make a crazy decision you’ll be supported. Your partner will make you look good and in return you’ll make them look good too. That’s easily my favorite part. You’re performing for each other and it’s not really stand up. It’s a team sport. The goal is to make the other person look good.
We don’t criticize each other, even if you’re not the center of focus.
Do you have any questions for the newer members of the group? I just want to point out that Erin isn’t here. Erin Farrington!
Suffolk Voice: Well you mention the group dynamic, what do you do to practice improvisation?
SB: We rehearse twice a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays during the activities period. We have a coach from the Improv Asylum. We also have a new coach, Tony Passaflume. It’s been different this year with him. He likes to make us practice and think of different ideas that we can think of for scenes. I’ve been in the group for four years and the experience is different this year. It’s more hands on.
He was on the team when he went to Suffolk. He gives us a lot of perspective because he went to the school, and he knows the audience. It really helps that he was on the team
He doesn’t focus on teaching us how to be funnier; he helps us have purpose in our scenes.
As a new member, these guys make it look effortless but they put a lot of time into it. They perform a couple times a week. We practice a lot which surprised me but I love it.
Suffolk Voice: Great! Well thank you for answering my questions!
SB: We like to finish all of our interviews by all of us kissing (laughs)! It’s on the record now!
Just kidding (laughs)! Thank you! Come back next week!
Suffolk Voice: I will and I’ll bring friends with me!