Bringing comedy to campus


Every other Thursday, The Cabin becomes a space filled with laughter and comedy made up on the spot. Instead of guest musicians performing on stage, a group of UW-Eau Claire students bringing unusual scenarios and situations to life without lines or scripts.

The Backwards Thinkers Society is the only improv group on campus, acting out new comical scenes with each performance.

“It’s just a place where you can go and be silly and there’s no judgment,” Sean O’Connell, president of the club, said. “There are no stakes, but still there’s a lot to gain from it.”

After the group’s formation in the fall of 2010, it has grown to include short-form comedy, such as “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” games, as well as long-form comedy, in which the performers make up a conglomeration of scenes as they go along.

With its new and consistent venue this year, The Backwards Thinkers Society can easily connect to its audience in a more intimate space, O’Connell said. This is essential to improv because the performances are built on suggestions and ideas from the audience. The audience plays a role in creating the material they see on stage.

“What’s different about an improv show is that the audience gives us a gift and we give them a gift (in return),” said Julia Jaskulske, a longtime member of the club and senior elementary education major. “It’s just a really interesting exchange
that happens.”

This kind of entertainment also benefits students in the midst of busy schedules and homework overloads, Hannah Zidon, a junior Spanish education major said.

Zidon said she sets aside time to come to the shows because they break up the stress of
her week.

The same is true for the members of the group. Improv acts as a creative outlet for both theater and non-theater majors to get away from the structured nature of academic life and freely share their talent, Jaskulske said.

During shows, what really makes the final product come together successfully is the sense of collaboration and connection among the group members, Zidon said.

The Backwards Thinkers Society works to build trust and understanding among the group through weekly rehearsals and bonding times at the beginning of the semester.

Jaskulske said these activities help the members interact in a meaningful way and pick up each other’s references in shows.



In growing and changing over the years, the group has had the opportunity to experiment with new types of humor and new personalities, she said.

Along with maintaining a good connection among the group, there are other challenges involved with improv.

Overanalyzing and thinking too much about what to do next is a struggle that performers in the group must learn to deal with, O’Connell said.

The funniest material comes on the fly, when the group members turn off the voices in their heads, Jaskulske said.

Outside of The Cabin, The Backwards Thinkers Society has performed with a variety of improv groups from Eau Claire and the Twin Cities.

In December, the group will head to Minneapolis to compete with other student improv groups from the Midwest region as part of the College Improv Tournament.

Although the stakes may be higher for this tournament, The Backwards Thinkers Society will continue to perform for laughs in its easygoing environment on campus.

Next performance at The Cabin: Thursday, December 12