Meet Jam Officer, Mark S.!
How long have you been improvising?
I started improvising in my first year of high school six years ago.
How long have you been involved with the UIG?
I have been involved in UIG for two years.
What or who got you involved in improv?
Growing up I had a terribly hindering speech impediment that was actually pretty hilarious looking back on it. Every second sentence I would say would either be incoherent or would result in me drooling. So you can guess how popular I was! When I entered junior high my impediment slowly went away but the effect of being socially isolated through most of elementary lingered and I became very shy and quiet. A self-perpetual loop surfaced of me being so cripplingly afraid of acting socially awkward that I would do incredibly socially awkward things like walk away in the middle of conversations and would come up to a person I would want to talk to and stare at them just to leave when the person would stare back. Again this is something I find hilarious looking back on. I then entered high school and learned that my school had an improv club. I also learned that one major principle of improv is to fail spectacularly (which is a strength of mine), so I decided to join and it gave me this freedom to not be afraid to say or do anything while in the middle of a scene. This freedom was something that I eventually was able to translate and make use of in the real world which is something I am so thankful for.
What is something most people don’t know about UIG?
I would say it would be the surprising diversity of the UIG in not just education and age ranges but also in improvisational styles. Some members are amazing at creating incredibly zany and loveable characters, while others create incredibly engaging and hilarious stories. Some members have a very infectious high energy, some are very good at being deadpan and bringing calmness to the stage while others are great at creating incredibly sincere and touching scenes. Because of this diversity, watching and performing in the UIG always feels refreshing.
What is the best part about being a member of UIG?
Once you join, you will immediately figure out all of life's problems. Because of the UIG I figured out the meaning of life, the secret to immortality and how to wake up feeling refreshed at 6:00am on a Wednesday after a long night of partying. I'd tell you the answers but I'm not a fan of spoilers.
Are there any scenes or lines that have stuck with you?
In last year’s festival I was doing a 25 minute set with incredibly talented improviser Raegan Aleman. (The shout out is to bolster my street cred). There was a point in it, where we were trying to create a psychological thriller, so Raegan asked an audience member to come on stage and then started to call him Mark Scott. So I decided to take his seat and cheer on a one minute scene between Raegan and the audience member. It was a huge risk that payed off and felt very satisfying in the moment.
What advice would you give someone interested in trying improv?
In movies there is the trope where the protagonist sees a big intimidating scary monster that scares the protagonist at first but when he/she eventually interacts with it happens to be actually very lovely and sweet. Well improv is that monster; it is way less intimidating than it seems and most who approach it learn to love it.
Why should someone come to a UIG Show?
You should come see the UIG if you want to watch an incredibly entertaining style of storytelling at the low cost price of as much as you want to donate,
The UIG is a diverse group: what is your field of study/work/interest outside of improv?
I'm double majoring in psychology and philosophy and experience existential crises on a weekly basis because of it.
Anything else you want to add?
Improv isn't exclusive to people who love the sensation of performing. If you love storytelling in general improv is right for you. The stories created in improv range from goofy and crude, to tragic and beautiful, to heartwarming and cute. The best feeling in the world for a storytelling lover is creating a beautiful story using only the imagination and cooperation of yourself and your scene partner.
One last thing: Some people are scared of doing improv because of shyness. Because of self-experience I’m a big proponent that improv is one of the best ways to try to overcome shyness and other social insecurities instead of the other way around!