Bring your own P(rop)ineapple Johnny’s Improv Club

It all started with a pineapple and a dash of imagination.

After being created on a whim by close friends on a pre-COVID campus, Pineapple Johnny’s Improv Club has roughly doubled its members since last year, and they’re looking for new recruits.

Improvisation, also known as improv, is a form of impromptu acting where the actors have limited to no time to prepare for a skit. Improv is less restrictive than traditional acting, and it allows for more off-the-cuff moments. Sometimes, the audience has a say in contributing; in fact, this is how the name of Pineapple Johnny’s came to be.

Benjamin Schmitt, environmental science major and president of the club, said the unique name stemmed from a simple improv exercise. In this exercise, you have the audience shout out a prop and a name for your character.

“They had a pineapple and Johnny, and then they just thought that was the funniest thing in the world and that’s the name,” said Schmitt.

According to Schmitt, this name has lent itself publicity. At this semester’s involvement fair, the recognized student organization (RSO) adorned its station with a cardboard cut-out of a pineapple with a pair of sunglasses drawn on.

“It was just weird enough that people would stop and stare and come over,” he said.

Once the pineapple and curiosity create interest, students will find that the RSO consists of what Schmitt describes simply as a lot of fun.

The group completes various improv games within their meetings, but they begin with warm-up exercises. These range from the classic game of freeze to activities where you are an expert on a subject, but you are one of three heads and each head can only say one word at a time. Actors may conduct an interview but have no idea why the interview is being held, and they can only glean answers based on what the audience is telling them.

Schmitt encourages students who are even slightly interested to come down, experienced or not. According to Schmitt, most people have been doing improv their whole lives without realizing it.

“You can use improv everywhere,” Schmitt said, “if you’ve ever done an assignment 10 minutes before you hand it in, that’s improv.”

Improv can mean something to anyone, he said.

“It helped me forget about all like the stress and tension of all these due dates, all these new responsibilities, for just like an hour on a Tuesday evening everything went away,” he said.

“When I came to campus, I was an introverted mess, I had no idea how I was going to survive around all these people who are much more confident in me,” he said. “So I just started looking for clubs with similar hobbies.”

He walked into a room in Harugari on a Tuesday night, and there were just eight people there, most of whom were seniors and executive board members who were all friends.

Now, Schmitt estimates there are roughly 25 to 30 active members.

Although pandemic protocols keep the club from holding campus-wide events, Schmitt said that he and the executive board plan to hold improv workshops and shows on a similar scale to the pre-COVID theater club productions.

“If you are really good at just taking what life can throw at you and making it work for you, I think you would have fun,” said Schmitt. “Or if you just like random nonsense, if you like, creating something from nothing.”

Pineapple Johnny’s Improv Club meets from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays in room 301 of the Bergami Center.