As Binghamton University’s only improv group, the Pappy Parker Players aim to make students laugh with their clever acting skills. This semester’s show was inspired by the Halloween season and demonstrated the actors’ knack for creating skits on the fly.
At the door of Lecture Hall 10, attendees were offered the opportunity to write funny words or phrases on slips of paper. These words contributed to the aspect of audience participation in the show, as the performers routinely utilized the slips of paper or called upon audience members for improv content.
The night opened with the video of a skit titled “Demon Boyfriend Show,” written by Ana McKiernan, treasurer of the Pappy Parker Players and a junior majoring in geological sciences. The skit was performed in an infomercial style and advertised the ability to transform your boyfriend into a demon.
McKiernan explained the inspiration behind this semester’s Halloween-themed show.
“Because the Pappys tried to plan our performances this semester to not overlap with performances by the student theatre groups or a cappella groups, we decided to have a show during Halloweekend and knew we had to make it something special,” McKiernan wrote in an email. “The theme ‘Evil Pappys’ was originated by one of our senior members, Ryan Nostro, and we just thought it was such a funny show title unlike anything we’d done before.”
The live improv skits began with performances inspired by audience-provided words on slips of paper. Using the prompt “Where could you get a cold glass of milk,” the actors performed a humorous skit about two farmers. Throughout the skit, the actors reached into a hat for slips of paper to add new lines into their sketch.
Audience inspiration and participation continued to play a role in the hilarious sketches. With audiences calling out words of inspiration, the sketches included a girl who wants to break up with her boyfriend because he fishes too much, running into your professor at Olive Garden and a skit inspired by the worst conversation you’ve had with an ex.
The performers also challenged themselves with creative restrictions. During the middle of the show, the actors performed a 15-minute straight improv set that was inspired solely by words provided by audience members. In the game “A-B-Scene,” every line had to start with the next letter in the alphabet, inspiring off-the-cuff solutions and even the phrase “zoo wee mama.”
Jack Harkins, vice president of the Pappy Parker Players and a senior majoring in cinema, discussed the process of preparing for the show and experience of improv.
“The planning of the show is one of the best parts of being in the Pappys,” Harkins wrote. “Everyone submits the games they’d like to play during the show, so everyone gets a game they enjoy playing. After practicing how to play these games we’re ready for the show! Best part of improv, you don’t need to learn any lines.”
Toward the end of the event, the actors played a game called “Frankenstein,” in which one actor stood behind another and served as the actor’s arms. The actors also invited audience members to the front for “Mad Libs,” in which actors cued volunteers to finish their lines.
Ryan Lang, a senior majoring in music who manned ticket sales at the door, talked about his experience watching the show.
“I’ve been watching the Pappys for a good couple years, and I’ve been helping out at the door and everything,” Lang said. “They’re always funny. It’s always gut-busting. I’m always laughing really hard.”
The show concluded with more free-form sketches, including a skit with cowboys debating how they should style their rodeo dances. The sketches drew laughter from audiences throughout the night in response to the actors’ clever ad-libbing and the inclusion of audience prompts.
Lilli Butler, president of the Pappy Parker Players and a senior majoring in music, expressed her wishes for viewers of the show.
“The most important thing [for] all of us is making everyone laugh,” Butler wrote. “We know how stressful the semesters and life in general can get, and we are all so grateful to be able to lift people’s spirits even just for an hour.”