“Is there an improv group on campus?” “No, I don’t think there is.”
“Want to start one?”
According to legend, that conversation between two students was all it took to get Mama’s Pot Roast off the ground in 1993.
The all-student comedy improv group recently celebrated its 10th year and shows no signs of slowing down.
“Pot Roast has been the best thing to happen to me in college,” senior Kevin Skiena said. “I look forward to every rehearsal, and I like the fact that we’re all friends outside of the group. We make each other laugh, and we really trust each other.”
The nine-member troupe rehearses about five hours a week and performs one or two live shows a month, normally somewhere in the South 40.
A Mama’s Pot Roast show resembles the ABC hit Whose Line Is It Anyway? starring Drew Carey. Audience members yell out a situation, location or action and then members of the group act it out.
All the sketches and games are rooted in improvisation.
“The audience energy at our shows is high, and we all really love performing,” senior Steve Heisler said.
Heisler was involved with theater in high school but not improvisational theater. He joined the group his freshman year and credits his involvement in it with teaching him about comedy and also with giving him an outlet to reduce stress and “hang out with a wonderful group of people.”
“I’ve definitely seen our audiences grow since I’ve been involved,” Heisler said. “We are more mainstream, and I think anyone who comes to one of our shows will find something they enjoy.”
Recently, 28 Pot Roast alumni and current members participated in the largest show in the group’s history to celebrate 10 years of bringing comedy to campus. That show, held in Brown Hall, was very well attended and quite a success.
But what about the crazy name?
“As far as I know, ‘Mama’s Pot Roast’ was made up on the spot by one of our founders when someone asked what the group was called,” Skiena said.
The name stuck, and the group has come to be recognized as one of the best sources of off-the-cuff comedy on campus, although its message is sometimes misunderstood.
“We were invited to perform at an office Christmas party a couple of years ago,” Heisler said. “Right in the middle of one of the games, a woman stood up and yelled, ‘What’s the point of all this?’
“We were sort of shocked at the time, but it made us realize that not everyone does ‘get it,’ and we have to do everything we can to make sure the audience understands what we are doing. I think we’ve really succeeded in doing that.”
The next Mama’s Pot Roast show will be the semiannual Knighta Komedy at 8 p.m. Dec. 9 in Brown Hall, Room 100. They’ve been getting ready for it all semester.
“We’re really excited about the Knighta Komedy show,” Heisler said. “It should be our best show of the semester.”
Heisler, a psychology major in Arts & Sciences, has enjoyed his experience so much that he’d love to pursue a career in improv theater after graduation.
“I’m not sure if that will happen or not, but I do know I want to have a job working with people,” he said. “I think one of the main things Mama’s Post Roast has taught me is how to get along with people, and of course, make them laugh.
“I want to keep doing both after I graduate.”
For more information on the troupe, go online to restech.wustl.edu/~potroast.