Iowa State has many traditions around campus from the chime of the Campanile, to the magic in Hilton Coliseum. Adding to the Iowa State traditions for 21 years, the Grandma Mojo’s Moonshine Revival has brought laughs and tears to the Maintenance Shop.
“I’m ready to make something big,” said Patrick Cotter, opening the final Grandma Mojo’s Moonshine Revival of the semester. The audience spent all night laughing and applauding as the troupe performed through various scenes.
12 college students, all ranging from engineering to agricultural communication majors, come together to make up the improv comedy troupe known as Grandma Mojo’s. The troupe contains 11 members who perform regularly and one non-performing manager who focuses on event hosting and conferences.
Differentiating from the Iowa State Improv Comedy Club, Grandma Mojo’s allows students to improve their improv in a public setting. The two organizations are not correlated. Contradictory to popular belief, one does not have to be in the Comedy Club to be in Grandma Mojo’s.
Grandma Mojo’s has always incorporated crowd participation into their shows.
Right before the first half of the final show, Grandma Mojo’s performed a waterboarding scene. It included 3 members who would take turns with their head underwater while the other two improvised a scenario about strange uses of a ceiling fan. Once the member underwater could not hold their breathe anymore, they would raise their hand and the audience would clap, switching out members.
Twice a year Grandma Mojo’s host auditions for students. Throughout the semester, workshops and shows are available for students interested to learn more about improv and the troupe.
Grandma Mojo’s is currently working with troupes from University of Northern Iowa, Drake University and University of Iowa to host a possible improv festival in the fall. All the details are still in the works.
Sitting down with three current members, Matt Banwart, Chris Palacios and Matt Schroeder, one can see that everyone comes from different backgrounds.
“After a small flirtation with theatre in high school, I became more interested in the humor side,” said Palacios, sophomore in mechanical engineering.
When on campus, Palacios sought out the comedy clubs on campus and auditioned for Mojo’s. Palacios, an engineering student, plans to keep improv as a hobby after graduation.
For a student who is not a strong performer, there is still a spot in Grandma Mojo's for Matt Schroeder. Schroeder is the manager for Grandma Mojo’s and works with Student Union Board to host their events every other Wednesday.
“I had a bad experience with improv in high school, but I loved the first show of Mojo's I saw [at Iowa State],” said Schroeder, junior in agricultural and life sciences education. He attends the meetings twice a week and participates in conferences, but does not perform on stage.
If you are not accepted your first audition, do not fret because there is always next semester. Fifth-year Matt Banwart auditioned for Grandma Mojo’s five times before finally making it.
“I knew I wanted to do improv in college and I finally made it here,” said Banwart, senior in management. The super-senior who averages 17 credits a semester has no problem finding time for his passion for improv.
For 21 years Grandma Mojo’s at the M-Shop has only cost $1, earning the title as “cheapest date on campus”. Hosted by the Student Union Board, Grandma Mojo’s does not receive the proceeds of the $1, but rather it goes back to SUB.
Grandma Mojo’s has been known to host shows outside of Wednesday nights and receive proceeds. These proceeds are used towards members’ registration fees to the College Improv Tournament and other conferences where they can learn new formats and games.
“Yes and” is a common rule of thumb in improv. The members are forced to accept the situation and build from there.
“'Yes and,' means to me, that no matter how ridiculous the scene is, the person out there always accepts and adds onto it,” said Schroeder.
According to member Matt Banwart, improv is like a philosophy. It has a lot of core values and rules. Phrases like “yes and” help you accept yourself and the situation that you are in and continue from there honestly.
Another important lesson from improv is to “Treat your scene partner like a genius and a poet, and they will be a genius and a poet,” said Banwart. It is important to “treat others like they are doing well and that everything will work out”.
The final Grandma Mojo’s Moonshine Revival ended with a Beastie Boys-like rap battle. The audience was divided into two halves and offered words. Suggested words included Keith, Kevin and Doug. The two halves went back and forth rhyming the words until one could not think of a new word.
Parting speeches from the three seniors helped explain how being a part of Grandma Mojo’s helped shape their college experience. Many of them will go on to pursue careers and hopefully use improv in their free time.
If you are interested in joining Grandma Mojo’s for next semester, auditions will be held Monday, September 3rd. They are looking for social and talkative students who will commit to the reality of the scene.
“If you’re a social and talkative person, or a person that I want to hang out with, then you are someone I would want to troupe with,” said Banwart.
You can email email@example.com for information about the club and auditions.