ImprovBoston will be flooded with college students this week as improv groups from schools throughout New England come together for the 11th annual College Comedy Festival. The festival, which will run Feb. 18-20, hosts 18 troupes for a weekend of competition, collaboration and comedy. In addition to competing, students can partake in various workshops and panels. Mac Gostow, the festival’s executive producer, explained that the workshops deviate from just teaching basic improv skills to include areas such as physicality and even clowning.
“We have one guy, Jake McDowell, who’s been trained professionally in a clowning school,” Gostow says. “He gets to bring the emotive and physical aspects of clowning to the craft of improv, so that’s super exciting.”
Gostow knows firsthand how important the festival’s panels can be, as he started his relationship with ImprovBoston as part of an attending improv group.
“I actually was a participant in the festival when I was a senior in college, and it was at this panel that I met my now-boss, Mike Descoteaux, who’s the artistic director, and that was kind of my in,’” Gostow says.
Maisy Halloran, a junior at University of Massachusetts Amherst and a member of Mission: IMPROVable, has attended the festival since her freshman year.
“It’s great because you meet lots of other college kids who are interested in the same things you are, and it’s just an awesome bonding and networking event, and also it’s just wicked fun,” she says.
Thirteen shows are open to the public throughout the weekend, culminating in the finals on Saturday. While the competitions take several different forms, Gostow says that he especially enjoys the line game competition.
“It’s one of my favorite competition rounds, because we have like 100 students in the same room and they’re just making up these jokes, and it’s infectious, the energy in the building,” he says.
Gostow adds that ImprovBoston uses a broadcasting service that will allow the team’s non-local friends and family to watch a live stream of the shows at home.
While Gostow says that Boston is still not one of the premiere cities for comedy, he has noticed an increase in its prevalence.
“I think there’s more opportunity now than there ever has been,” he says. “There’s so many theaters around town, so many independent little organizations popping up and giving people stage time in the city.”
In addition to being a weekend of learning and laughter, Gostow hopes that the festival will show students how they can make a career out of their passion.
“We’re trying to show them that improv is not something you need to stop once you graduate your college improv troupe – it’s something that can continue on much much longer after that,” he says.
All shows will take place at ImprovBoston in Cambridge. Tickets for the shows are $12 or $10 for students. Tickets for the finals are $18 or $14 for students.