Manhattan College’s resident improv troupe met on a recent Wednesday evening in the Chrysostom Hall lounge, but it was not for a comedy show. Instead, Tyler White, Carolyn Egan, Andrew Baumgartner, Kevin Amatulli, Rachel Salcedo, Sam Martin, Drew Murphy, RJ Liberto, Mary Kate Kelly, Danielle Valachovic, Angela Benevenia, Brendan Goggins and Gavin Sass, collectively known as Scatterbomb, were seizing the opportunity of a scheduled photo shoot as an excuse to be together on an off-night.
The Quadrangle was able to sit down with Gavin Sass, while the the rest of Scatterbomb kept a willing photographer busy for as long as they could. Sass, a senior, has been with Scatterbomb for three years. He is the current president of the group, though he abhors the title.
“I’m just the guy who fills out the paperwork,” said Sass, suggesting modestly that if there is any operation that needs no president, it is that of an improv troupe; where everyone has the same role, and that is to simply take care of one another.
Displaying a thick, copper beard and a floral-print ball cap which he wears backward, the lanky English major shares resemblances with those of a brewmaster from Chicago. The Midwestern look is fitting for a self-proclaimed comedy nerd like Sass, considering the city on the lake, and home to the famed Second City comedy enterprise, has a deserving place in comedy, and especially in improv. Like many of his Scatterbomb cohorts, however, Sass grew up on the eastern seaboard, and knew little about improvisational theatre before auditioning for the troupe.
“The first improv performance I ever did was here, at Manhattan College. Some of us did improv before, but most of us hadn’t,” Sass said.
When together, Scatterbomb seem like the family that is suspiciously a little too happy. It’s hard to believe that any thirteen people can get along so well.
“In improv, you’re taught to accept your partner, always say, ‘Yes, and…’ and then take in the ideas of other people,” said Danielle Valachovic, who, along with Angela Benevenia and Mary Kate Kelly is one of three new members to join Scatterbomb this year.
Although during the 1970s and 80s, there was a renaissance in stand-up comedy, which saw an ample amount of subterranean, brick-walled clubs appear throughout Greenwich Village, comedy in the form of improvisation took its time getting to the east coast. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 90s, when companies such as the Upright Citizens Brigade proved that improv could have a home outside of Chicago.
“No one is going to organize our stuff for us. There’s no connection to the curriculum,” Sass said. “There are definitely faculty members who help us out, but there are no professors who did improv, no professors who teach courses on improv, and that’s a blessing for us, because we get to figure it out.”
Emphasizing their independence, veteran member Brandan Goggins thinks that Scatterbomb would still exist, with or without Manhattan College.
“We’re still going to do it,” said Goggins. “But, we have a platform to do it here, at the college.”
They don’t stop at improvisation, “we organize stand-up shows, we have a podcast and we do sketch, which includes editing and filmmaking as well,” Sass said.
The Scatterbomb and Friends podcast just launched and it’s easily accessible through the group’s Facebook page, where you’ll also find a complete schedule for all of their upcoming shows at Hayden Hall, including this Friday’s show, when Scatterbomb presents “PIMPIN’ ALL OVER THE WORLD.” Each performance is individually titled, though the sets themselves are completely unrelated. Doors open at 7:30. Showtime is 8:00.