'The evolution of comedy'

Jan. 7, 2012

Charles Darwin once said, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” For the members of University of Arizona’s improv troupe, his words are their motto.

Founded in 1997 during a splurge of comedy groups’ start-ups, The Charles Darwin Experience continues strong as UA students from all spectrums of the academic field take the stage together. From those studying hydrology and psychology all the way to aspiring actors, the Darwins come together to share their love of improvisation comedy that delivers absolute hilarity.

Why the scientific name you ask? So did we. As student director, Bryan Ponton puts it, “It’s the evolution of comedy.” The troupe has become synonymous with the Darwin monkey. Fellow Darwin, Dana Dobbins adds, “We use the quote because it’s true, in improv, you don’t have to be the best, but you do have to adapt to whatever is thrown at you.”

Because of this laid-back outlook, the troupe rehearses on Sundays to map what “games” they’ll play, who will play which and from there they wing it at show time. This approach is a huge hit for their audience, who is able to interact and suggest crazy words for them to act out. The words fuel the games, which include sidesplitting scenes of talking in gibberish, singing and even dancing. 

One of the most memorable games for both the audience and the Darwins is LOW. The acronym stands for Location, Occupation, and Weapon. The game begins with each category suggested by the audience while three Darwins wait outside without any knowledge of the words. It’s up to one Darwin who is "in the know" to relay them to the others. The best part is that the actors are not allowed to speak in any known language. Exaggerated movements and frantic gibberish fill the scene as the Darwins struggle to understand each other. The crowd roars with laughter the entire show.

On campus and off, the Charles Darwin Experience has received recognition for its comical and sometimes outrageous wit. In November 2011, the CDE had the opportunity to show off their talent at the Chicago Improv Festival’s College Improv Tournament. They won the Western Regional Championship and will continue on to compete for the national championship. In March 2012, the Darwins will travel to Chicago to perform at the Mercury Theater with 12 other regional winners and two wild card groups to compete for the championship.

If you haven’t checked it out already, there is probably something missing from your life – uncontrollable laughter! Free and open to the public, the Darwins perform every Tuesday at 10pm in Gallagher, so there are a lot of chances all semester long to watch them respond to some pretty amusing changes, Charles Darwin style.