Most of us are aware of Chicago’s reputation for exceptional improv. It plays host to not only the famous Second City, but also UChicago’s very own Off-Off Campus. If you have been lucky enough to see one of their shows this quarter then you have already experienced the wit and humor of our campus celebrity, Haley Johnson.
Haley is a second year Public Policy major and a member of the 26th generation of Off-Off Campus. She is also currently the Assistant Production Manager and will be the Production Manager next year. Improv is something that comes naturally to her and she feels very confident about her abilities, which is obvious to anyone who has seen her perform. After her experience in high school, she knew that improv was something that she would be interested in continuing during college. However, as she tells me, “I was definitely put in my place during our first rehearsal when I met the rest of the 26th generation and realized immediately just how much I stood to learn from all of these incredibly talented individuals.”
Although the stars of Off-Off may appear to create these hilarious performances effortlessly, this is far from the case. Haley had rehearsals from 7-10 Sunday through Thursday and any UChicago student will understand how hard it must have been to balance this schedule with a rigorous workload. However, Haley was far more concerned about missing out on basically every free food info session. Although, as she puts it, "At the end of the day, it's hard to complain about being forced to mess around with six of the funniest people I know for three hours a day. You win some and lose some, I guess!"
When asked what her favorite part of the experience was, she found it hard to choose but decided on the finished project of their sketch shows.
"It's so delightful to hear the sounds of an audience being really engaged with something you've written, whether they're laughing or gasping or not making any sound at all because they just want to know what happens next. With sketch you can really put a part of yourself onstage… you're sharing a part of yourself with everyone who is willing to look, which makes the whole process incredibly rewarding."
Being a part of Off-Off has enabled her to grow both on-stage and off, and she learnt that there is a lot more to the process than just being funny.
"People want to see things onstage that they understand, and fundamentally, people understand relationships and what it is to care about another person or another thing. Off-Off taught me the importance of compassion and consideration, and although it's difficult to explain, I think this is a common lesson learned for most of us who have gone through the organization… I think I speak for everyone when I say that what we learned in Off-Off will stay with us in all of our future endeavors."
Off-Off is also where she met some of her closest friends who are some of the most driven and talented people she knows, including the only other girl in the 26th generation, Natalya Samee. Haley told me, "I would be nowhere without her and she’s everything I aspire to be in a comedienne."
So if Haley has inspired you to audition for Off-Off then her advice is: “JUST AUDITION!!! What do you have to lose? ...We're happy to see everyone who comes out and you'll never regret giving it a shot."
And for those of us (including me) who maybe don’t possess the quick wit required for improv, go out and laugh till your sides hurt, 9pm 4th-8th week of every quarter at University Church.