The Ranting Llamas are (seated, from left) Devon Hogan, Dan Carson, Leah Gladkowski, Alex Parry, Tim Hofstra and Rachel Rogers; (standing) Neil Cohen; (kneeling, front) Justin Garetto; and (upside down) Justin Knoll. | Photo provided
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:49AM
Members of the Purdue University North Central improv group the Ranting Llamas come from varied backgrounds, have an assortment of majors and different interests.
What binds them is a love of laughter and the desire to share it. The group was created in fall 2011, thanks to Justin Knoll, a biology major from LaPorte who serves as club president. He brought up the idea to Bridget Dudley of Chesterton, who agreed an improv group “sounded interesting.”
Knoll said, “Getting members was easy.”
Drew Holt of Long Beach, who has a history of acting, knew that improv suited him and quickly joined. Friends in the group brought other friends to practices; they, too, soon joined.
“I accidentally followed a group of friends to a practice,” Tim Hofstra of Crown Point said. “I ended up becoming part of the group.”
He, in turn, convinced a friend, Nathan Werner of Union Mills, to give it a try.
“I like it,” Werner said. “I like the weirdness.”
The group’s improvisation comedy plays off the style featured on the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” A simple word, action or idea can be the basis of a skit performed by one member of the group or the entire ensemble.
Audience members are asked to contribute one- or two-word ideas. Concepts like throwing snowballs, riding a bus, walking a dog or staying awake in class can be become 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.”
Added Knoll: “Improv is whatever you want it to be. It’s like starting a painting with a blank canvas and throwing paint at it ’til it makes something.”
The group’s next performances will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8 in the PNC Library-Student-Faculty Building, Room 144.
Even when the Ranting Llamas simply talk, their knack for rapid-fire comedy is obvious. Members enjoy sharing their laughter.
“Life is about laughter,” said Justin Garetto of Hometown, Ill.
Rachel Rogers of Michigan City agreed: “We love to laugh; the more the audience laughs, the better we like it.”
Now in their second year, club members have had time to learn their craft and become more comfortable with an audience.
“We gain more confidence with each performance,” said Leah Gladkowski of Wheaton, Ill., one of the original members.
She admits she initially intended to work behind the scenes, but soon found herself in front of the audience. She considered herself a quiet person, but found she enjoys performing.
Similarly, Dan Carson of Union Mills described himself as “introverted” and joined so he could try something new. He found new friends and discovered a new side of himself.
“I found myself more comfortable in front of people; I can now make a fool out of myself and not care,” Carson said.
Neil Cohen of Michigan City welcomes the chance to perform and notes that some day 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,” Cohen said. “Meet friends; learn to interact with others.”
Group members are united in their belief that their Purdue experience is heightened by being involved on campus.
“Don’t be afraid to join a club,” Gladkowski said.
Added Hofstra,“Look for people with similar interests.”
“Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone,” Dudley said.