Stuck in the middle of a family vacation, junior Zoe McCrea found herself in the whirlwind of emotions that accompany this scenario, except that it was not real.
Acting out a prompt from the audience, McCrea along with four other members of the Comedy Sportz team were given the task of acting out a family on vacation. However, this not-so-simple task came with a not-so-simple twist.
The twist? Each actor had to be in a certain position during the game, such as sitting, standing, kneeling down, but no two actors could be in the same position. If that occurred, McCrea recalled, the theater would fill with the audience yells, calling the actors out.
“I really like Comedy Sportz! I love comedy and improv so it’s kind of a perfect match,” Isabel Harding, senior and team member said. “Our team’s strengths are definitely that we’re a small tight-knit group.”
Palo Alto High School’s Comedy Sportz team lost in its first competition against Archbishop Mitty High School on Feb. 22, based on a subjective scoring rubric created by the audience.
Harding said Comedy Sportz is a competition generally between two teams through improv games, which was founded in 1984 by a group of comedians from Wisconsin.
Senior and team captain Sky Croce explained that teamwork and subjectivity make up the essence of competitions. Team members work together to act and improvise scenes assigned by the audience.
Each team plays numerous games in a match, some played with the opposing team and others individually. The winner of each game is determined through audience support, often in the amount of clapping and cheering at the end of each match.
However, Harding said the general rule of thumb for competitions is that the home team always wins because more students attend home competitions, which could help explain Paly’s loss at its away game against Mitty.
“Our first competition of the season was a couple of weeks ago and it went really well,” Harding said. “We lost but as a general rule of thumb the home team always wins and it was an away game. It was a really fun experience to interact with other kids who do Comedy Sportz.”
Although Paly may have not won its first competition, McCrea and Croce believe this performance was a success.
“Our first competition went super well,” Croce said. “Mitty High School’s team was so kind and welcoming to us, and we had a blast getting to know everyone. The audience, composed of both Mitty and Paly students and parents, loved the show and we loved performing.”
McCrea highlights the key component of the competition that could drive home the win: collaborative efforts.
“Competitions are never actually competitive, it’s more of a collaborative effort between both teams where you play some games together and then do some competing scenes,” McCrea said.
Comedy Sportz made its way to the Bay Area when an adult league was started in San Jose, according to Harding, and this same adult league (CSZ San Jose) helps train Paly’s team.
Although long-standing in the Bay Area community, it is unsure how Comedy Sportz became a part of the Paly culture. Junior Zoe McCrea recalls Comedy Sportz being around as long as before her freshman year.
Croce says Comedy Sportz has long roots at Paly, and that students in Paly improv can audition for the team at the beginning of each academic year. As of this year, there are 9 people on the team.
“I’m actually unsure of the exact beginnings of Paly’s Comedy Sportz team, but I do know that it is a long-standing team,” Croce said. “The title of Team Captain has been passed down from student to student, and is given to those who have shown the most enthusiasm, growth, and support of the team.”
In terms of enjoyment so far throughout this school year, Harding, Croce, and McCrea agree that this has been one of their most enjoyable high school experiences.
“I love it so much it’s such a close group of people and I’m really excited for where it’s going to go because I will be leading it next year and I’m excited for all the new opportunities,” McCrea said.
Harding says Comedy Sportz is a perfect match for her, combining her love for comedy and her passion for improv.
“It is a really fun experience to interact with other kids who do Comedy Sportz,” Harding said.
In highlighting the teams’ strengths and weaknesses, Croce only wishes they had more time together.
“We’ve been working hard every week to hone our skills, learn new games, and bond as a team,” Croce said. “Each team member has their own strengths, and it is my job to make sure everyone is utilizing these strengths. The team is well-balanced this year, and I feel that we have been able to work together effectively.”
Harding and McCrea agree that the team’s biggest weakness is the tendency to speak over each other.
“I think we’re very strong at coming up with characters and being crazy but we never know when to pull back and not talk over each other,” McCrea said.
The team plans to work on this in the future. Even after the first loss, the team chooses to focus on its successes and carry on the rest of the season with high hopes.
“Even though we lost (our first competition), I think the most important part of any Comedy Sportz match is having fun, which both the teams and the audience definitely did,” Croce said.
Due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19, it is unsure whether the team will compete in another match this school year. The next competition was scheduled to be at home, but this will likely have to wait until next year.
When school reopens on campus, students can explore the team on Mondays in the Performing Arts Center lobby during lunch.
“This year has been a blast for me and my team,” said Croce. “We’ve been working hard every week to hone our skills, learn new games, and bond as a team.”