NEXT SHOW: FFC performs the last show of 2008 this Friday night in the IMU Frangipani room! 9PM - Free!
The History of Full Frontal Comedy
In the fall of 1994, Derek Miller, Jill Benjamin, and Matt Hahn decided that the Indiana University campus was in dire need of an improv comedy group. So they took it upon themselves to form one, holding auditions shortly thereafter. Auditions yielded the first incarnation of The Original Full Frontal Comedy: Derek, Jill, Matt, Harlan Cohen, Jeremy Kryt, Moira Stone, Shane Phillips, Jordan Schatze, and some guy named Matt who quickly left the troupe to move to New York and was never heard from again.
After several months of rehearsal, Full Frontal Comedy performed their first show in the Collins Living and Learning Center. The next several shows took place in the Kiva or "Salad Room" of the Indiana Memorial Union. Throughout the semester the troupe honed their improvising skills and performed their final show of the year in the Frangipani room.
As a new school year began in 1995, FFC said goodbye to Jordan Schatze and began performing regularly in the State Room East. Shows were primitive; consiting mostly of short-form games swiped from the Internet. But Derek had spent the summer taking classes at Improv Olympic in Chicago and was determined to introduce the long form "Harold" into the troupe's repertoire. In October FFC performed "The Harold" for the first time. Long form improv quickly became a staple of the group's shows, and an identifying mark for the troupe on the Indiana campus. As the semester passed, audiences grew and performances were often standing room only.
In December, the troupe said good-bye to Shane Phillips and Harlan, who graduated, before welcoming new members Chris Ryan, Norm Thoeming, Tim Harris, and Gregggggg Arst. That spring marked the first non-Bloomington show, as the troupe traveled to Ball State to do a gig. A few weeks later, FFC went abroad again, this time to the University of Illinois, where they performed with two local improv troupes.
Meanwhile, back in Bloomington, FFC had begun performing in the IMUGallery, a move that allowed for increased exposure and audience seating. Audience sizes were frequently larger than two hundred, occasionally swelling to three hundred plus. The final show of the semester took place in the Georgian Room and the group bid a fond farewell to graduates Tim and Jill and warmly welcomed the new kids, Matt Komen and Fred Warner.
Fall semester began with an outdoor pavilion show for Freshman Orientation. The show taught FFC a couple of valuable lessons, namely that comedy isn't funny if no one is watching, and that no one will watch comedy on a ninety-eight degree day: Comedy = Cold.
But despite a lackluster beginning that semester, FFC saw it's exposure increase. The troupe began performing at Bear's Place, at One Liner's in Indianapolis, at various dormitories and Greek houses, as well as weekly shows at Ben & Jerry's ice-cream parlor. And all the while they continued to perform Thursday nights in the Union. During this time, improv veteran, Dave Pinzino joined the crew. Full Frontal's largest gig occurred in the late winter, when the troupe opened for the Second City National Touring Company, playing to an audience of over five hundred.
Freshman Nicole Parker joined the troupe in December of '96 and joined Moira, adding to the much needed female presence in the troupe. The next semester proved to be bittersweet to many in the troupe as the last original members, Derek Miller, Moira Stone, and Jeremy Kryt performed their final shows. In addition, the troupe was also saying good-bye to the graduating Norm Thoeming, Matt Komen, and Gregg Arst. But as always the good-byes were tempered with the introduction of new members, this time Travis Betz, Jeremiah Jordan, and Kirk Zipfel.
The following year saw FFC travel near and far, performing abroad, including U. of Illinois again and even down in the Bahamas. The troupe's popularity soared and they were soon filling the IMUGallery beyond capacity with over 300 being a common weekly audience size. The troupe added Nic Owen during the semester and said adios to the zany Zipfel.
The spring of '98, was a busy one for FFC. They performed more shows than ever and kept the audience rolling. However, the semester was brought back to reality when it came time for Dave, Chris, and Fred to say farewell. Once again this was offset by the wonderful addition of Jamie Hartstein, Troy Tucker, and Tom Ridgely to the troupe.
FFC had grown too big for its IMUGallery britches, so their weekly show was moved to the Whittenburger Auditorium. In the still of the fall of '98, crowds were erratic, being anywhere from 500 one week to 100 and then back to 500. But one thing was for sure... what they saw was damn funny. Full Frontal also added an official Residence Halls Tour to their schedule to bring improv to the entire campus, no matter where you were. With the expert accompaniment of Vince Lee on piano, FFC tackled their next goal of the long form musical, and accomplished it with varying degrees of success.
On the night of December 7th 1998 a great red cloud gathered above Bloomington. Thousands of people mobbed the streets exclaiming things like, "It's so big!" and, "What could it mean?" The next day, everything became clear when Devin Barry and Blake Bowen arrived on the improv scene. Making waves with lines like, "cyanide pill," and "My name is Sal," Blake and Devin established themselves as two damn funny tall dudes. And tall they were. Blake even replaced Travis as the tallest member of the group, and they both did a pretty good job of making Tom seem just that much shorter. As the dorm tour tapered off, Full Frontal began to perform the majority of their shows at Ben and Jerry's. They also attended the first annual Chicago Improv Festival, and also performed at the University of Illinois, it was a damn fine semester.
As the dust cleared from the funny of the previous semester, a lone warrior approached the troupe. You could see by the way he walked that he was no stranger to rejection. You could see by the look in his eye that he would not be turned away, and you could see by the way he slapped someone with his improv penis that he belonged in the group. I'm talking of course, of...Ward Roberts. Ward made the troupe after auditioning a record four times, proving once again that persistence is the key. However, the joyous celebration of Ward's acceptance was cut short when an out-of-breath messenger burst into the room and announced that Troy Tucker would not be returning to the group due to some life choices that he had made. It did help to ease the blow when we learned that Ward was in Lamda Chi with Troy (kind of) and that we'd still have one person in the group that thinks Magic Carpet Ride means more than it does. So with the addition of Ward and the loss of Troy it was stormy seas, but it turned out to be one of the funniest semesters yet. With shows in both Ben and Jerry's and the Indiana Memorial Union Full Frontal Comedy was forging ahead.
The year 2000 saw new members Ian Martin and Sean Ellis thrown into the fray. Using proven techniques such as swearing and falling down, they forged ahead. Full Frontal seemed to have entered a Golden Age as their Saturday shows consistently brought in crowds of over 400 bodies. Full Frontal Comedy also accomplished some networking in the business by performing at the Improv Olympic in Chicago during the College Improv Fest with Northwestern University's Titanic Players. Alas... with all highs there comes a low - and it got pretty darn low when the group lost Jerimiah, Ward, Travis, Nicole, and Devin to the West Coast; and Jamie to the Midwest Coast.
The Autumn of '00 found FFC with three new members: Michael Hancock, Kristen Nesbitt, and Jeffrey Schwab-and this magical trio was just that... magical. Beating arse and taking names, FFC traveled all around this great state of ours, and performed many packed shows in the Indiana Memorial Union. Playing with great groups like IU's Ladies First and Pumpernickle, Full Frontal was working in entirely new circles.
Then Spring descended upon the group like a pile of poop in a field of daisies, and more daisies. Love was in the air, music was in their ears, and passion was in their hearts. A new pin filled its respective place in the pin cushion of Full Frontal Comedy annals, and this pin's name was Amy Odgers. Along with Amy came a new family-like atmosphere to the group(and Erik Robert Johnson was there, too, wowing the crowds with his Minnesota canines)--many pot roast dinners, sleepovers, facial masks, a trip to New Orleans, the crazy uncle with two belly-buttons--you know, the whole shebang. There were laughs, there were tears, there were "see-you-later-chum-pat-you-on-the-back" jeers. Everyone got along for the most part. When someone said, "Bring me the butter," the butter was got. When someone needed a friend, a friend was there. When the master went down to the corner to pray, oh how those cats did play. They were smiling and laughing and joking and dancing and prancing. Memories were made, and fun times were had with these two so-and-sos. They were good, they were fun--now they're gone--like a bullet from a gun. Poof. Oh yeah, and Erik's gone to Ghana, too.
And then Autumn returned, bringing Kevin McKernan and Sam Rude as FFC's newest members; and though they were both freshmen their ages were separated by three years. Shows became bizarre, going anywhere from the very, very good (IMUG, November) to the very, very bad (Ben and Jerry's, October). At least fun was being had. Full Frontal Comedy did their best to repair past transgressions by performing all around B-TOWN, but for the most part we just sat around. It was a fun time, and our tails were high in the air with delight--all those except for Ian and Blake who tucked their tails between their legs and dejectedly marched off into the setting sun. They will be missed.
FFC got back on their feet, though, when the troupe was joined by Justin Franklin, who is meshing like a chain link fence and crowd control. The Spring of '02 brought back increasingly larger audiences as the troupe got smaller. The shows contained only five cast members most of the time. By the end of the semester, FFC had risen to the occasion and had the IMUG packed for its last show with many audience members on their feet.
The Fall semester of 2002 brought many changes to the face of FFC. S. Ellis, S. Rude and J. Schwab left the troupe. Sean got married, Sam disappeared with some of our cash and Jeffrey went to fall around in Ireland. Anywho, the troupe received a record breaking FOUR new members in Molly Emmons, Brandon Pusey, Holleh Husseinzadeh and Jaclyn Schuenzel. Also, Erik Johnson returned to the troupe after a year of spritual retreat in Ghana. The semester was a rollercoaster of emotion and direction. Slowly, the new troupe painfully adapted to one another and by the end of the semester seemed to be showing new promise. The messy, but glorious semester ended with the comedic retirement of J. Schuenzel and the acceptance of a glittering star in Tenaya Hurst.
The twinkle in the troupe's eye would have made you think they were waiting in line to ride their favorite rollercoaster. And ride they did, with no seatbelts or handlebars this time. Spring of '03 brought challenges and changes to the dynamic of FFC. Near the middle of the semester, Holleh and Molly retired their comedic minds and Tenaya left to study and flirt in Belize. Jeffrey Schwab crawled out of an Irish pub only to save the day and add a much needed 5th member to the troupe. At the end of the year, auditions added a drop of estrogen in a pool of testosterone. Jen Moeller, the girl that every Pi Beta Phi chick said was "the funniest girl I know," joined the troupe.
Boy oh boy! In the fall of 2003 the Tenaya Hurst decided to leave the troupe in search of her "scripted theater" dreams. But the Original Full Frontal Comedy, entering its 10th year of survival, had thick and meaty dreams of its own. With just four members in FFC, Erik Johnson, Kevin McKernan, Brandon Pusey and Jennifer Moeller kept audiences foaming at the mouth with their inventive sketches and improvisations. Like any solid ensemble -- this particular cast had its secrets, strange contests and both an equal amount of unhealthy love and healthy hate for one another.
In the Spring of 2004, Erik's awkward person packed his bags and headed to his hometown to work in a factory. Jen left as well but rather than paying her dues at blue collar job like Erik, she lounged in her (father's) very own luxurious condo in downtown Chicago. While FFC felt the burn of their abscences, they soothed that very same burn with a mix of IcyHot, cough drops, and Tinactin AKA new members Joe Rogan and Zach Pollokoff. Still keeping with the recent trend of smaller troupes -- FFC continued to work hard but also play very hard. During this semester, FFC celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a very special alumni show in which past members of FFC Sean Ellis, Jeffrey Schwab, Jeremiah Jordan, Jen Moeller, Nic Owen, Devin Barry and Chris Ryan did a show to a fully packed house at the IMU's IMUG.
The 2004-2005 school year got off with a gunshot bang! FFC added 3 new players with Anisa Dema, Emily Chovanec and an f'in grad student P. Alex Dodge. The 4 dudes and 2 gals had a blast performing at free shows in the Union. Somewhere in the semester, FFC alumni Brandon Pusey, Erik Johnson, Ian Martin and Sean Ellis came back to perform with the troupe as well. And like a high school slut claiming to be a born-again virgin senior year because she finally started feeling guilty for loving so many so well, FFC decided to get back to its wholesome, innocent roots and dedicate time and energy to performing more long form improvisation. Although they still sprinkled their shows with classic FFC games like "Shoulda Said" and "Lines from a Play", it was obvious that Full Frontal was (like all the guys who were loved by the high school slut freshman through sophomore year) going for something much deeper.
Without adding anyone new to the troupe, FFC marched on in to the Spring '05 semesty with the hopes of simply improving the already-strong chemistry. They did just that by not paying for office space or risers at the Union, stealing photocopies from sororities, and doing a mediocre job publicizing shows. Joe videotaped each show, P. Alex referenced anything he could, Zach said the f-word, Emily played a mother, Kevin was moody, and Anisa got kicked out of the country. The semester ended with a nearly unforgettable performance by Full Frontal Comedy at the Chicago Improv Festival.
The troupe can still be seen performing all around Bloomington, carrying on the tradition that Derek and Jill started. Catch a show and see for yourself!