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Professional comedians and Dead Parrots come together for first ever improv festival

Jet City Improv from Seattle act out scenes based on props audience members put in their "fun bucket" before the show on Friday, May 29, in the Old Main Theater. Jet City Improv performed in the improv festival the Dead Parrots Society hosted on May 29. // Photo by Christina Becker

Two professional improvisational comedy groups, Jet City Improv from Seattle and the Upright Citizens Brigade from Los Angeles, met in Bellingham to perform at Western's first improv festival.

The two-day festival hosted by the Dead Parrots Society held three separate shows over Friday, May 29, and Saturday, May 30.

The show featured prominent improv groups from universities around the United States and Canada.

Jon Ramsey, senior artistic director of the Dead Parrots, said he made the event happen after months of preparation.

"I just really wanted to make this [festival] a priority this year, because improv is always growing,” Ramsey said. “It's like ‘what is the next step? What can I do for this team to evolve or keep moving forward?’"

On Friday, Jet City Improv headlined with their fun bucket improv format where the team members from the audience bring props to put in a bucket. Jet City crew members then did an improv skit based off any items they choose from the bucket.

Nick Edwards, a former Dead Parrot, now works for Jet City. He came to the festival Friday night to support the Parrots and perform with his improv group.

Dead Parrots watch Jet City performances and skits to teach improv at their workshops and club meetings. The Parrots also attend the Northwest Convention of Intercollegiate Improv festival that Jet City hosts every year, Ramsey said.

"It was awesome to see professionals who are more local to us, see what they are all about and develop connections with them for when we move on past college," Dead Parrots member Alex LaVallee said.

The Upright Citizens Brigade, a well-known improv sketch and stand-up comedy group from California, also performed Saturday.

During the first part of the show, the improv group performed a skit based on an interviewed audience member’s life.

In the second half of the show, the group members took funny text messages from audience members and performed skits based on those those.

"It is so exciting that the Upright Citizens Brigade is here because they represent the most popular, successful improv organization in America, dare I say the world," LaVallee said.

The Upright Citizens Brigade has four theaters, two in New York and two in L.A. The group has hosted many successful comedians who have gone on to perform on Saturday Night Live, including Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan and Amy Poehler.

One of the Upright Citizens tour members, Kale Hills, did a workshop with the Dead Parrots Saturday before the show.

"The Upright Citizens Brigade brings a very specific aspect of improv," Ramsey said. "They have something that they definitely focus on, that they excel on, and we try to get some of that knowledge."

Six university improv teams attended the event, including The Collective from the University of Washington, the Bluffoons from the University of Portland, Sissy Magic from Northwestern University in Chicago, Vikes Improv from University of Victoria, Tall, Grande, Venti from California Institute of the Arts and UBC Improv from University of British Columbia.

Many of the teams performed tangent skits in which they took suggestions of single words or phrases from the audience and base dtheir skit off that.

Jameson Lambourn, a sophomore at Western and fan of the Dead Parrots, attends the Parrots’ club meetings.

"I really enjoyed the team from Northwestern. I thought they did a really great job and are probably among the best of the other people who came," Lambourn said.

This year, the Dead Parrots Society won the College Improvisational Tournament's Pacific Northwest Regionals.

They went on to compete at the Improv Tournament National Championships in Chicago, Illinois at the Vittum Theater on Saturday, March 14. They placed in the top eight teams.

The Dead Parrots have no more shows planned for the rest of spring quarter. Anyone interested in joining can attend meetings at 8 p.m. every Tuesday in the  Humanities Building.

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