Mock Turtle Soup: Clemson’s Best and Only Improv Troupe

“Mock. Turtle. Soup!” If you’ve ever been to one of our shows, you know that this is how we start a scene. If you’ve been to a Mock Turtle Soup show, you know that your suggestions may inspire a scene that plays out onstage. You know that the show we create is happening in the moment, it’s one of a kind, and it’ll never exist again after you leave Lee Hall 111.

Mock Turtle Soup is Clemson’s “best and only” comedy improv troupe, and I have been fortunate enough to be a member since my freshman year. Our goal is to present high-quality short form and long form improvisational comedy to the student body. We practice every week, put on shows every month, and participate in local comedy festivals (Follow us on social media for our show dates). Founded in 2002, MTS has gained and lost members throughout the years, but our traditions and the spirit of the troupe have always remained the same. Mock Turtle Soup has been the vessel enabling me to fall in love with this bizarre and hilarious art form.

On the surface, improvisation seems like something you can just show up and do –

and in a way, it is – but there’s a good amount of training and technique that colors every scene. When discussing improv practice with friends, on multiple occasions, I’ve sensed this type of confusion; “You can’t practice improv  − you can’t deliver DiGiorno.” During MTS practice, we work on skills like initiations, character, physicality, heightening, emotional intelligence, etc. We are a self-taught troupe, but we draw our philosophies from the most notable improv theatres in the country: The Second City, The iO Theatre, and The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

For the improvisational novice, three concepts, my personal favorites (and concepts you can recognize during a show) are: 1) “Yes, and” 2) Support and 3) Authenticity. “Yes, and” is one of the most important improv 101 concepts in my opinion. By saying “yes” to your scene partner’s idea, you accept it as a new truth to the scene. Then, you expand on that line of thinking, furthering the scene, “and-ing,” so to speak. Support, to me, is about making your scene partner(s) look good and playing with their ideas within the environment you’ve created. Finally, there’s the idea that comedy naturally arises from the truth of the scene; it’s not carefully curated or overly jokey. “The truth is funny. Honest discovery, observation, and reaction are better than contrived invention.” (Truth in Comedy by Del Close and Charna Halpern).

Throughout the past three years in Mock Turtle Soup, I have learned and grown as both an improviser and a person. Improv is beautiful, honest, silly, scary, and it has taught me about life. Support one another and don’t stop, listen your heart out, and follow the fear (credited to legendary improv instructor, Del Close). The turtles are my family, and I will be forever in love with this art form.