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Bracket belly-busters: improvers square off in comedy tournament

Mar 30, 2017 11:58AM ● Published by Travis Barton

Team Mom Jeans ends their final game, spit take, where improvers spit water in response to what the others say during the semifinal of the March Madwits event. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

Gallery: Bracket belly-busters: improvers square off in comedy tournament [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com 

And you thought the NCAA had all the madness in March.

Quick Wits comedy, one of Utah’s longest running improv troupes, hosted its third annual March Madwits. Three-member improv groups battle each other in a single elimination tournament where the audience decides who wins. The final is appropriately on April Fool’s Day.

The tournament brings in improvers from all around, along with Quick Wits members, to perform for the friendly competition.

“That’s what’s cool about it,” said Lauren Bradley, Quick Wits player. “To be with someone on stage whose habits you don’t know and it’s kinda scary and really cool and it’s fun to watch people you maybe haven’t seen before.”

Bradley’s teammate, Kelley Wood, normally performs with a troupe called Faux Paus. Wood has done a few shows with Quick Wits, but this is her first experience with the Madwits competition.

“When it comes to these shows particularly we really try to put our best foot forward,” Wood said shortly after her team, Mom Jeans, won their semifinal round. “Our team’s really good at the physical, crazy characters. That’s one of things that comes out a bit more in March Madwits is you just play to your strengths a lot more.”

The show sees two teams play multiple games over a two-hour span with the winner chosen by audience applause at the end. The games included monster maker where performers create their own version of Frankenstein, the newlywed game with volunteers from the audience or spit take where improvers spurt water onto each other in response to what they say.

Bradley said she doesn’t get to perform with her teammates, Wood and Aleks Ignjatovic, very often and has loved the opportunity.

“I was really excited about our team this year and it was just two people…that I think are super talented and we all have really good chemistry together and kind of play off each other well,” she said.

Bob Bedore, Quick Wits owner and emcee for the tournament, said the idea started wanting to bring people in who rarely play with Quick Wits. Teams are randomized and possibly adjusted according to performer strengths.

“When you play with someone new, it really changes things up, we found some really good talent and invited them to come play more often,” he said.

Newcomer to the Madwits stage, Provo resident Tennyson Moss of the Bipolar Bears, had never heard of the show and had never played the newlywed game before. Bedore said they quickly explained it to him and then played the game.

“That’s the magic of it,” said Jason Wild, Quick Wits player. “People learning on stage brings way more fun stuff than people doing some contrived thing they’ve seen a dozen times.”

Every performer said they enjoy the tournament more for the new stage dynamic than the competitive drive.

“It’s really cool,” Ignjatovic said of the tournament. “I never know who I’m going to play with but it’s fun every single time.”

The energy between improvers and the audience may differ each night, but that energy is Wood’s favorite part.

“You’re up there making people laugh. The other team’s also making you laugh, it’s always such a good time. You can have a terrible day and you go do an improv show and everything’s great,” Wood said.

Ignjatovic said he loves the head-to-head games where everyone is on stage “kind of playing each other up and also trying to tear each other down at the same time. It was good to have that comradery going between everyone.”

For Bradley, sometimes the best part is just watching.

“I love watching the other team more than I like playing almost. I kind of feel weird laughing harder at them,” she said.

Bradley, who works as an emergency room nurse, said it’s “awesome” just to “come laugh and be silly.”

“I have a stressful day job so coming here on a Saturday night and just getting to hang out with these people I love who are just so funny is the highlight of my week,” Bradley said.

The March Madwits final will take place at 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 1 at the Midvale Performing Arts Center (695 W. 7720 S.). 

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