Mock Turtle Soup is an on-campus improv comedy troupe at Clemson University. Formed in Fall of 2002 by senior Bryan Buckley and junior Katie Jones, the organization's goal is to present high-quality long and short form improvisational comedy to the student body. The group is part of the official Clemson student organization Clemson Improv (click here to view its constitution). Clemson Improv has sponsored other comedy ventures including a sketch troupe called Ask Your Doctor.
Mock Turtle Soup performs approximately four times a semester, usually on-campus at Clemson University in Lee Hall. Beyond performing on campus, Mock Turtle Soup sponsors trips to Atlanta, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Chicago, and other locations where its members perform, take classes from professional improvisers, and attend improv shows to increase their improv knowledge and skill.
To improvise is to invent, compose, or perform with little or no preparation. When applied to the theatre, improvisation (or "improv") is acting without a script. Originating with the Italian Commedia dell'Arte during the Renaissance period, improv has been used to entertain audiences and teach acting for hundreds of years. Most often, improv is used as comedic entertainment. The most widely-known example of this is the television show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" In this show, as well as in many improvisational performances such as the ones put on by Mock Turtle Soup, a group of performers(improvisers) are given a suggestion from the audience and must perform a scene based on the suggestion. Everything from the lines to the characters are made up entirely on the spot.
Improv games come in one of two types: long form and short form. The most obvious difference between the two is the length of time they require. Short form improv games usually take anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes, while long from games can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour. Whose Line Is It Anyway? performs exclusively short form improv. Short form is based largely on the rules of a set game, which are usually gags that create funny situations (such as "start every word in this game with the same letter").
With the advent of long form came a new approach to improv that included a focus on characters and relationships rather than jokes and slapstick humor. These ideas were based on the concept of truth being funnier than fiction, and are clearly layed out in the book Truth in Comedy by Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim Johnson. This book covers the basic ideas of modern improv, as formed by the creator of long form improv (and the famous Harold long form), Del Close. Long form has encouraged the view of improv as an art form. Long form originated in Chicago in the 1960's and has become very popular among professional improv groups.
For more information on improv, its origins, and how it's affecting the world today, visit any of the links in the links section of this site. In addition, Mock Turtle Soup recommends the following books on improv:
Truth in Comedy by Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim Johnson
Improvisation for the Theater by Viola Spolin
Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone
Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out by Mick Napier