By Mary O’KEEFE
The ability to think fast, have a knowledge of current affairs and pop culture and the most difficult thing of all time – putting it all together with humor. That is ComedySportz: High School League.
For 14 years a select group of Crescenta Valley High School students have been entertaining audiences with a unique type of theatre that has combined improvisational comedy and sports.
Similar to the television show “Whose Line is it Anyway?,” ComedySportz: HSL has players – four each on two teams – but also a referee and rules that need to be followed like in any other sport.
Teams play improv games taking suggestions from the audience, then make up a scene on the spot.
For 11 of the 14 years, Crescenta Valley High School teacher Gavin Hall has been the ComedySportz: HSL coach. He has seen the program grow and now there are so many interested students that auditions are held for a spot on a team. At present there are 25 team members that include 10 members of the varsity team.
The program’s performances have grown in popularity as well.
“At our (May 6) show for seniors it was sold out,” Hall said.
Hall added the students work as a team and being on ComedySportz: HSL teaches them how to listen to each other and to take direction.
“Critical thinking – that plays hugely into what we do,” Hall said.
The players need to have a working knowledge of pop culture, be well read and up on current affairs.
“We have a lot of kids in [advanced placement] classes,” Gavin said.
But those who make up the teams come from all areas of academia. Hall said that some kids who find their way to ComedySportz: HSL are there because they may not fit in other clubs, or other sports, and find their calling in this type of improvisational humor. But those who find their way to this sport become part of a strong team competing against other schools like La Cañada High and Flintridge Preparatory School.
Teachers get into the act as well with teacher matches and a popular game with CVHS alums coming back to play. On May 20, students who graduated from 2004 to 2009 will be competing. They are called “G.O.L.D.” –Graduates Of the Last Decade.
“The first time kids see [the G.O.L.D. team] they are in awe,” Hall said.
Current high school students get a little intimidated when the alumni show up, said Hall.
Another aspect of Comedy
Sportz: HSL is that it is family-friendly. In fact, bad and offensive language is one of the infractions the referee can call.
“We call it ‘brown bags,’” Hall said.
If the player or audience member makes what is considered an “R” rated comment, they are given a brown bag to wear.
“It makes us a real family-friendly show,” he added.
The program is self-funded. ComedySportz: HSL is a licensed program; the donations are used to pay for the rights and for advertising.
Hall would like to reach a wider audience. He pointed out that there are not many comedy clubs in the nearby area and nothing in Crescenta Valley that can also be considered family-friendly.
One of the best ways to support the team is to watch them play. Their next show is the All-Alumni Match on May 20 at CVHS Underground Theater, 2900 Community Ave. at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults. ComedySportz: HSL has also started sponsorship levels ranging from $50 to $500.
For more information on CVHS ComedySportz: HSL, visit www.cvhsfalcons.com/Domain/205, follow them on Facebook – CV ComedySportz – and Instagram – @CVCOMEDYSPORTZ. The matches can be seen on YouTube by searching ComedySportz CVHS.