When we first formed this indie improv team, we didn’t realize that, shortly thereafter, a military coup led by a legion of sentient cyborgs led by a power-hungry yet eerily grandfatherly old man would turn this former bastion of democratic ideals into a wasteland of anarchy with small urban pockets of civilized communities held together through the fierce and iron-fisted rule of our self-proclaimed Supreme Leader. We also didn’t realize—for who could have foretold—that at the moment of the coup, everyone would be separated into factions by improv team name. Looking back, it makes perfect sense: with 87% of the world’s urban 20-somethings currently on improv teams, it was the most efficient way to create order. Families were torn apart, parents separated from their children, all in the name of a new world order.
The Punsters were first to be organized: The Yes Andersons, the Show Me the Funnies, The Justifliers. They executed the will of the Supreme Leader with efficiency and wit, and were generally beloved for their positive outlook and ability to turn any situation into an opportunity to make a pun.
The Warriors, responsible for the safety of our citizens, were created out of teams with vaguely martial names: The Teacup Legion, The Maginot Line, et al, along with all of the “lesser-known rebellion” teams (Whiskey, Shay’s, etc.) They were strong and stalwart, protecting the cities from the teeming, unwashed suburban masses whose only exposure to improv was Who’s Line is it Anyway? or that one time they played Freeze at camp.
The Before and Afters (Yellow Submarine Sandwich, David Foster Wallace Shawn) were responsible for inter-faction communication and alliances. Their ability to see the common ground between disparate elements in our broken world made them uniquely suited for this role.
The Whimsies, charged with maintaining unadulterated joy and happiness throughout the land, were the least organized faction, but they were beloved for their quirkiness and devil-may-care attitude. They contained all of two-word non-sequitor teams: your Corkscrew Lampshades, your Monkey Gardens, your Lipstick Parades.
The Exclamations, one team for every urban center, became the town criers. In the former New York City it was Bees!!!, in what was left of Chicago, Cake!!!! The number of exclamation points varied from region to region, city to city, but their commitment to spreading the word of the Supreme Ruler never wavered.
The Stoics, with their dry and straightforward manner and their commitment to always playing to the top of their intelligence, comprised the Great Council. The Stepfathers and The Reckoning presided, although their original members had long-since disappeared in the 2023 Cyborg War of Independence. Also on the Council were Back Line, Alabaster, and Rockport, among others. They were patient and relationship-based, and their meetings would change from day to day depending on the form they felt was best suited to the people’s needs. Everyone respected The Stoics, though few had ever actually seen them in person, relying instead on tales told by drunken old men at abandoned warehouse parties and shitty videos taken with iphones. Still their legend fueled a general awe and fear, and their power was unquestioned.
Of course, all teams that replaced an “s” for a “z” were summarily executed. We mourned the loss of Bonerz, Raw Dawgz, Sir Laffz-A-Lot (who tried to argue that they were Punsters to no avail), but order demands sacrifice.
As for us, we remained Unnamed. For as the war raged on, we continued to argue over lists and lists of names that were completely unrelated to either our individual or our collective personalities, nor to the product we hoped to produce on stage. There was a moment when we were inches away from choosing The Fosterz, and it was only in hindsight that we realized how narrowly we had escaped our deaths.
And now we are nobody. A team without a name, without a faction. There are others like us. We are the forgotten ones—neither house teams nor bar-prov regulars. We live in the underground, seeking out other unnamed teams, attempting to cobble together an existence in two-hour rehearsal chunks, built from what we can remember of what we learned in our 301 class that ended abruptly after Week 4 due to the destruction of our training center in The Great Purge, feeding off of the scraps of new warm-up games our scouts learn on the surface and return to teach us.
And yet…someday we will rise up, for we are those who cannot be categorized. We defy definition. We are neither short form nor long. We are neither narrative nor concept-driven. Some of us even have more than two women or people of color to a team. We do not find the game of the scene; we are the game of the scene. We are everywhere and nowhere, and we are coming for you.
Are you ready?