First, an a bit of an announcement. At some point tomorrow, I'll host a post by another writer as part of a Blog Share. This person will post anonymously as I will elsewhere. Please come back tomorrow to check it out.
On another note, my best college buddy, Steve (married to Tracy - see my blog links) has a new blog. A recent post of his led me to another web-acquaintance, Pete, who essentially posed the question, "What is the importance of an improv troupe name?". I think the name is pretty damn important. After dabbling in improv briefly ten years ago, and almost weekly from 2003 through 2007, my opinion on this matter has changed.
In 1998, I began working with Suzanne and Kim, formerly of Big Purse and Matching Shoes. Theirs had been an all-female troupe in South Florida that also did sketch comedy. The name was familiar in that area, which helped with recognition. It also was indicative of the gender of the performers. I never saw them perform, but I sure as hell knew who they were.
The three of us (along with Keven Scotti, who would soon depart) began some light improv rehearsals. I had no training up to this point and Keven had been in two troupes in our university. Once Keven had gone, the ladies and I began to develop a sketch-revue spoofing public television. It never got off the ground, but we did PR photos, a Second City training and more to prepare. We also agonized over a name for our trio. I threw out some suggestions which were not used, but I still love - Three-Tards, One With Sausage - Two Without. Both names reflected upon the group makeup, but were fairly offensive and somewhat obscure.
For a brief time, we adopted the name, Riding Chickens, which was apparently part of a joke about outlaws who traveled on poultry as opposed to horses. Another obscure reference and very silly. This name stuck for awhile, before we settled on Baker Act. I kind of liked this one. It had the word "act" in it, which implied performing. The name, Baker was open to interpretation as it could mean "we're cooking up some entertainment" or that we all assumed it as a surname. Like The Ramones. For obscure reference-lovers, a Baker Act was a Florida law which allowed families to admit relatives into mental institutions. Or something like that. Good enough.
After we all married (within two years of each other). We drifted away from each other and I moved up to Jamestown. After a year of living up here, several like-minded friends and I started an improv troupe. Our teacher and leader was Eric, who'd been performing with Comedy Sportz (good national recognition, name reflects nature of the show) in Buffalo. We were not an extension of them and needed our own name.
I wish I could remember all of the ones we brainstormed, but I can only come up with our first name and our lasting name. Our inaugural performance was under The Bonapartes. I may have come up with this one as it was a street I'd lived on in Long Island. It didn't last any longer than the first night. While it might have picked up recognition at some point, it wasn't indicative of anything we did in our shows and sounded more like a band name. Like The Ramones.
I don't know who came up with our final name, The Unexpected Guests, but this one stuck. Unexpected can relate to the nature of improv, while Guests could be the characters created at each performance. We like it. A lot. The group name has regional recognition, to the point where people screw it up (Uninvited Guests is the most common). Our audiences have also given us acronyms (T.U.G. and The UG). For me, the name works. What do you think?
For the record, I'm not crazy about names like Laugh Riot or Funny Is as Funny Does. I don't like punny names either. I'm not into performing in T-shirts with the name on it or bowling shirts. In TUG, we've adopted black shirts and denim. I love the Second City model of dress shirts and ties - more adaptable than you'd think.