The lights come up in the crowded theater as I stand on stage next to a handwritten sign that reads “GLOBAL WARM: FACT, OR SCIENCE FICTION?” I introduce myself as George Lucas and reveal to my audience that Star Wars was literally real, every frame of it.
In reality, of course, I am not George Lucas. I am a fourth-year English major at the University of Chicago and I have never written, nor have I directed, the film American Graffiti. Rather, I am a member of Off-Off Campus, the student-produced sketch and improv comedy performance group at UChicago and I am performing for the last time. Though it seems like a monologue, it’s a final exam. In many ways I am presenting my thesis as a culmination of a major that will never appear on my diploma.
The eyes of my friends often went wide when I tell them how much time I spent rehearsing with Off-Off Campus. “Rehearsal”, though, is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. “How can you rehearse for improv comedy?” my friends would ask. “Isn’t it all supposed to be unplanned? Are you a dirty liar?” In reality, rehearsal was a class that taught us how to think, how to respond, and how to create collaboratively. Our professor was an older member of the group, someone who could teach us from first-hand experience. And for three hours a day, five days a week, for four quarters, we studied diligently. But, the academic classes that my cast members took were diverse. One studied computer science, another studied history, another comparative human development. As dissimilar as our respective majors were, we all shared an unofficial major in comedy.
People sometimes ask me how I could devote so many hours to a single club, and the honest truth is that it was because I loved every minute of it. I formed some of the strongest friendships I’ve ever had. The classroom in Cobb Hall where we practiced became like a second home, a place that I could always look forward to no matter how my day was going otherwise.
That’s what I’ll miss the most about my time here at UChicago: the thrill of creating something from nothing, and exhilaration that comes with throwing yourself into something completely and not looking back. And as the lights slowly go down, the feelings are bittersweet. It’s my last performance, but I accomplished precisely what I set out to do and I’m proud of the work I’ve done. I can’t wait to see what comes next.