The members of the Purdue University North Central Improv Group, the Ranting Llamas, come from a variety of backgrounds, have an assortment of majors and different interests. What brings them together is a shared love of laughter and good humor and the desire to share that with others.
The group, created in the fall of 2011, was the inspiration of Justin Knoll, a Biology major from LaPorte, who now serves as club president. Knoll brought up the idea to Bridget Dudley, of Chesterton, who agreed the concept of an improv group “sounded interesting.”
Knoll found a lot of interest on campus, “getting members was easy.”
Drew Holt, of Long Beach, who has a long history of acting and performing, knew that improv suited him and quickly joined.
Friends in the group brought their friends to practices who soon joined the club, too.
“I accidently followed a group of friends to a practice,” admitted Tim Hofstra, of Crown Point. “I ended up becoming part of the group.”
He, in turn, convinced his friend Nathan Werner, of Union Mills, to give it a try.
“I like it,” said Werner. “I like the weirdness.”
The group’s improvisation comedy plays off of the comedy style featured on the show “Those Line is it Anyway.” A simple word, action or an idea can be the basis of a skit performed by one member of the group or the entire ensemble. In performances, audience members are asked to contribute one or two word inspirations for skits – concepts like throwing snowballs, riding a bus, walking a dog or staying awake in class can all be become the basis for skits that are laugh-out-loud funny.
“We make things up on the spot,” said Devon Hogan, of Chesterton, the group’s vice president. “We’re not afraid to laugh at ourselves.”
“Improv is whatever you want it to be,” added Knoll. “It's like starting a painting with a blank canvas and throwing paint at it till it makes something.”
Even when the Ranting Llama members get together to talk, their knack for rapid-fire comedy is obvious. The club members enjoy sharing their laughter.
“Laughter, life is about laughter,” said Justin Garetto, of Hometown, Ill.
“We love to laugh, the more the audience laughs, the better we like it,” said Rachel Rogers, of Michigan City.
Now in its second year, the club members have had time to learn their craft and become more comfortable with an audience.
“We gain more confidence with each performance,” explained Leah Gladkowski, of Wheaton, Ill., one of the original members.
She admits that she initially intended to work behind the scenes but soon found herself in front of the audience. She considered herself to be a quiet individual, but found she enjoys performing.
Similarly, Dan Carson, of Union Mills, described himself as “introverted” and joined so he could try something new. He not only found new friends, but discovered a new side of himself as well.
“I found myself more comfortable in front of people. I can now make a fool out of myself and not care,” he said.
Neil Cohen, of Michigan City, welcomes the opportunity to perform and notes that someday he’d like to see his name in lights.
He advised his fellow students to follow their passions and get involved on campus, “Enjoy the time you’re here. Meet friends, learn to interact with others.”
The group members are united in their belief that their Purdue experienced is heightened by being involved on campus.
“Don’t be afraid to join a club,” encouraged Gladkowski.
“Look for people with similar interests,” advised Hofstra.
“Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone,” added Dudley.
And they are successful in the classroom, too.
“The professors are accessible,” said Chris Novotney, of Michigan City.
“It’s a great atmosphere here. Professors here care about you and want you to succeed,” said Holt.
“Ask questions. Study whenever you have free time,” added Dudley.
“Never sit back and watch life pass you by,” concluded Hogan.