Winging It: A Closer Look at UD’s Improv Comedy Club


By: Missy Finnegan – Copy Editor

Everyone loves to laugh. It’s a general statement, but it’s true. On the Fly understands this and the team uses their humorous talents, that many of us wish we had, to put on a show every month or so. I think they’re worth getting to know a little more, so I asked some On the Fly members a few questions and here’s what I got.

On the Fly is an improvisation comedy club made up of about ten UD students. They act out scenes and play improv games solely based on audience suggestions. It was created in 2006 making this year the club’s 10th anniversary.

President of On the Fly, Norb Wessels, described it as, “a team of a bunch of friends who like to perform and create comedy.”

An improv comedy group’s success requires more than just being a humorous group of people. Each of the team members stressed the importance of trust in improv comedy.  

“Trust yourself and your teammates and some amazing things can happen,” said senior Bobby Swanson. This would make sense, considering everything that is said or acted out is based on what the other person or people in the scene have done. It’s a chain reaction.

Trust leads to success on stage, and it comes from teamwork. Sharing the stage, listening to your partner in a scene, and having patience are necessary for improv comedy.

Improv is different than other forms of comedy, such as stand up, because of this teamwork aspect. The difference in the audience is also apparent in improv versus stand up. In improv, the audience wants the people on stage to succeed, wants them to be funny, and is more conscientious of the fact that they’re completely making everything up on the spot. In stand up, however, the audience expects you to be really funny the entire time, and can be ruthless if you aren’t.

The first ever improv group and arguably one of the most famous is The Second City. It started in 1959 in Chicago and has been performing a show every night since. Many recognizable comedians have gotten their start from The Second City, such as Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Steve Carell and countless others. The Second City paved the way for other improv groups, such as On the Fly.   

Performing in front of a live audience can be terrifying, but according to On the Fly it doesn’t really matter if the audience doesn’t laugh in improv. It isn’t always about getting that reaction. Sometimes there’s a “pregnant silence about to erupt in laughter,” said Wessels. The key to improv is to keep moving forward through the scene and it’ll usually drive itself somewhere funny, which is also where trust is key.

Some embarrassing situations have played out on stage, because no one knows where a scene is going to go or what is going to happen.

“We played a game last year where Johnny, Norb, and I had to take our clothes off if we asked any questions,” Swanson said, “so that got interesting.”

Similarly, Matt Beebe described his cringe-worthy moment, which happened in a show last year. “I made [an inappropriate] joke while forgetting my parents and both sets of grandparents were in the crowd.”

On the Fly will have their next show on Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. It will be the largest show yet, taking place in  Kennedy Union’s Ballroom, rather than their usual Sears Recital Hall location. It will feature alumni from previous On the Fly teams, which will bring a different layer of hilarity.
Check out their Facebook page for more information and to stay up-to-date on events.

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