Ross Reagan, a senior digital media major, is currently serving as president of the Drexel Football Comedy Improv Team.
The Triangle: What’s your story? How did you end up at Drexel?
Ross Reagan: I’m not originally from Philly, so I went to a public school in kind of a rural area of Pennsylvania. … I really didn’t have any experience with what digital media is now, which is 3-D art, 3-D animation, video game design, that sort of stuff. I did do art in high school and that’s what I enjoyed the most, and I wanted to get into something kind of related to that … that’s how I got into digital media. There are not a lot of colleges on the East Coast that have a program related to 3-D art or animation[SK1] . Some of them do, but not a lot have specifically CG animation, which would be something like [what] Pixar or DreamWorks would do. That stuff’s on the West Coast, and I really didn’t want to go all the way over there to a specific technical college. I wanted to go to a more actual university-college environment. And Drexel’s really the only place that had a program that I could find those kinds of things and that I could go to a real college.
TT: What is your role as president?
RR: My role is to schedule practices and shows, and then also during practices to lead people into having some sort of schedule of like, “All right, we’re going to do this stretch; we’re going to do warm-ups; we’re going to talk about X event.” And then deciding what games we should practice on and to kind of lead people into giving constructive criticism — how we could perform better or what could have been improved on what we’re doing during practice.
TT: How do you come up with the ideas for shows?
RR: Well, since it’s improv comedy, we do literally make everything up that we say onstage without any prior planning. We do plan out what games we want to play so we have a repertoire of improv games, and then we also do what’s called a long-form improv, which is like a spontaneous succession of small games that are just thought up without necessarily any rules or gimmicks or anything like that. We plan ahead of time who will be in what games and what order we will do them in, but other than that we are really making up everything else that we say onstage right when it’s happening.
TT: Do you face any challenges coming up with something to say onstage?
RR: I mean, it is challenging, yes. I bet anybody who does improv would tell you that, even if you were to interview Colin Mochrie or whoever from “Who’s Line Is It Anyway.” They’d say that it’s hard still. But you kind of just have to let yourself go. There are rules that you have to keep in mind in improv, so that you’re not just going off on a weird tangent so that it’s not funny anymore.
TT: How does improv work?
RR: It’s all about making offers to the other players, or characters. Basically, anything you say to someone else is an offer and it’s the other person’s responsibility to come up with a response to that offer that then drives the characters forward and drives the plot of whatever scene you came up with forward. Because otherwise there’s really no point to the scene; there’s no conflict between the characters, and much like any other type of entertainment, such as a movie or a play or anything, if there’s no conflict between the characters, there’s really no plot. So there’s the rules of how to approach things, like don’t decline people’s offers. … If someone establishes, “We are on a ranch in this scene,” you never, ever, ever say, “No we’re not, we’re in New York City.” That’s a pretty extreme example, but you never decline something that someone offers to you because otherwise the scene doesn’t develop anywhere and also the audience won’t find it believable that you are acting out this scene between two characters.
TT: What are you guys working on right now?
RR: Well, we [had] auditions on Sunday because we do only have four members right now. … After auditions we’re immediately jumping into doing the “TEDx Drexel” show, which is on Oct. 5 … in the Main Building. The people organizing TED approached us, asking if we wanted to perform. So we had a meeting with the person in charge of that, and it’s kind of unusual for us because we only have eight minutes to perform, and apparently it’s some sort of TED Talk tradition to mock or parody the speaker that went on. Obviously, we’re still going to do improv, so we aren’t going to plan anything ahead, but I wish we had some sort of jumping-off point. However, it’s only eight minutes, so I have no idea how it’s going to go.
TT: Is there anybody who inspires you to do improv, or an inspiration just in life?
RR: The person that inspires me is Joel Hodgson, the original host and creator of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” The show was just a man and his two robot friends who were puppets, and they would watch old, crappy black-and-white movies from between the ‘50sand early ‘70s and just make witty comments about how bad the movies were while watching the movie. They might have had it scripted, but anybody can do that as an improv thing, just watching movies and making fun of them, which I love doing every time I watch movies. And even though it’s not the same improv that we do on the football team, he’s one of my inspirational people because he made up this concept for the show, what was on it and developed it.
TT: What are you involved with outside of improv?
RR: I usually try to participate in the Drexel SIGGRAPH stream chapter. It’s a student-led organization for digital media students to present maybe new things you don’t learn in class to other students and for people to go to and just see what else is happening in the field of digital media that other students are going to tell them about or teach them. I [also] run the print center at the URBN Center a few days of the week, and I help the IT department set up computers [and] run events for them. I’ve been doing that since freshman year as an on-campus job.
TT: What is your favorite thing to do in Philly?
RR: I haven’t done it for a while just because I’ve been so busy, but me and some of my friends used to always go on the Philly Pretzel Bike Ride, which is this kind of secret-but-not-really-secret event that happens every Tuesday night where a whole bunch of people with bikes meet up at the art museum steps at midnight and all ride down simultaneously through this somewhat convoluted route through the city to get to this pretzel store down on 8th [Street] and Washington [Avenue]. They make the pretzels there and they sell them to stores, but if you go up you can actually buy them straight out of the oven, [priced at] three for a dollar, and they’re completely fresh Philadelphia pretzels. So that’s a pretty fun thing to do if you have a bike.
Triangle Talks is a weekly column that highlights members of the Drexel community.