Second Nature is a “cutting-edge improv comedy troupe” at USC, director Jacob Reed says. Like all improv troupes, Second Nature relies upon quick thinking and a sharp wit. The current eight-person troupe performs an hour of long-form improvised comedy at 11 p.m. every Friday at the Ground Zero Performance Cafe on USC’s campus.
“All of our shows are free,” Reed says. “We just want people to come and enjoy our shows.”
Long-form improv, Reed explains, is different from the short, quick, comedy often seen on TV shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
“We take a suggestion from the audience and go for 25-30 minutes creating a whole string of scenes that organically weave into each other,” USC senior Reed says.
Off campus, Second Nature performs in Los Angeles and around the United States with other professional and college troupes. Most of the troupe also take improv classes in Los Angeles and perform with other organizations.
“The general consensus of our troupe is that Second Nature is a place to hone our skills,” Reed says. “A lot of us would love to do it outside USC and pursue it in the future.”
The vibe of the troupe is relaxed and light-hearted, to say the least, but don’t be fooled: the celebrated troupe is highly competitive. About 50-60 students audition to join each year, and only two make the cut.
Once a month, Second Nature also has a celebrity show that incorporates a special format or guest performer. Past special formats include “The YouTube Show” and “The Facebook Show” with special guests like Dan Oster (“MADtv”), Kate Flannery (“The Office”) and Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!”).
“Second Nature was formed in November 2002,” Reed tells. “We’re very young compared to most college troupes, so we don’t have any famous alumni yet.”
However, a lot of Second Nature alumni are on their way to stardom as some are currently performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre – once home to Steve Carell, Horatio Sanz and Stephen Colbert. Other Second Nature alumni are performing at the iO Theater, following the footsteps of the great Mike Myers and Chris Farley.
The troupe’s greatest achievement is their annual Fracas! Improv Festival. Entering its fifth year, Reed says the Fracas! Improv Festival is the only purely collegiate improv festival in the world.
“It’s truly amazing,” junior Katie Teer says. “These guys are really talented and put on a great show every time.”
Hundreds of college students attend the three-day festival, which features performances from 18 college troupes. The festival also includes panel discussions with the nation’s top comedians and specialized workshops with L.A’s most talented improvisers.
Fracas! will be held April 17-19 from 6 p.m. to midnight at USC. Thursday’s performances will be held on McCarthy Quad, and performances on Friday and Saturday will be at Ground Zero. For more information, visit www.2nimprov.com/Fracas.