Comedy in the City

L to R: Daniel Alvarado ’17, Chris Jones ’16 and Ryan Cannister ’19

Thinking on the spot is Ryan Cannister’s forte. Having spent the past two years in Gordon’s Sweaty-Toothed Madmen comedy troupe, Ryan ’19 is well-versed in the art of improvising.

“I’m drawn to improv because it’s new every time,” he says. “It can be super relevant and is a different way of expressing yourself.”

Now co-leading the Madmen with Jonathan Wacker ’18, Ryan’s improv comedy experience has developed through internships at ImprovBoston, a popular improv theatre company in Cambridge, MA. Now, having spent two summers as an intern with the company—as a “floater intern” in house management last year—Ryan was an office intern this time around, assisting one of the producers and managing director, running errands, looking at pre-sale ticket earnings and helping in customer relations.

“What benefitted me the most was being able to work with a group of people who have been working in improv comedy for so long and have a ton of experience,” the communication arts and theatre arts double major’s says. “The people I worked with also did a really great job at balancing fun and professionalism, both of which are needed in an improv comedy theatre environment.”

While at ImprovBoston, Ryan came to understand more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into each performance, adding layers of depth to his understanding of the business.

“Most people just go and see a show,” Ryan says, “but don’t think about all the stuff that had to happen [behind the scenes], like rehearsals, selling the tickets, getting the posters ordered or making sure that the performers get paid. I have a greater appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes.”

As compensation for their work, interns are given the opportunity to take an eight-week comedy class while they’re interning, taught by members of ImprovBoston’s company. This opportunity furthered Ryan’s understanding of comedy and improv by helping him practice his skills around a new group of people. The lessons learned, though, extend beyond the stage.

“I’ll always apply skills learned in improv,” he says. “Being positive, saying ‘yes,’ affirming other people, communicating clearly, taking risks, being confident. Wherever I end up going or whatever I end up doing, I can use improv.”

By Megan Harvey ’19, communication arts