Improv club Actually Gavin brings big laughs to the Bluff

By Emily Davis | December 13, 2018 1:31pm


Members of Actually Gavin pose for a group photo.

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

On a late Thursday night, a group of college students begin their Actually Gavin meeting by standing in a circle in Mago Hunt Theatre. There seems to be a shared understanding between the students as they all begin clapping. The noise gets louder and faster. The claps begin in sync and then devolve into a nonsensical rhythm. This noisy warm-up is only the beginning of a two-hour long Actually Gavin meeting where students play games and do fun exercises to practice their improv skills.

Actually Gavin is University of Portland’s improv group. The group is a close-knit group of about 15 students who put on shows twice a month in Mago Hunt and even compete in regional competitions. This year, Actually Gavin is taking the club one step further by planning more events and making their presence known on campus. 

“Actually Gavin” is not a common name for an improv club. It comes from a inside joke within the club. Two years ago, when Actually Gavin President Brooke Paulsen was a freshman, the improvers were playing a game, uniquely called “The Game,” where players make up funny rules as they go along. One of the rules was that everyone had to respond to whatever was said with “Actually, Gavin…,” which was the name of the club’s president at the time. Thus, the name was born. 

Improv group starts their rehearsal with warm up games..

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

The name of the club was only a beginning to the transformation that took place for Actually Gavin. Sophomore Trevor Riedmann said the club members had several meetings last year, where they discussed taking Actually Gavin in a different direction than in past years. 

“Last year there was a coup, a takeover of the club by people who were concerned with the direction the club was going and since then, we’ve built a community that will only continue to get better,” Riedmann said. 

Now the future is brighter than ever for Actually Gavin. Since last year, the growing improv club has planned several new events and promotions.

This year, the club began partnering with Paramount Pictures to promote different movies, where they have raffles and give away Paramount merchandise. 

Actually Gavin’s biggest event of the year is called Project Improv Portland, an improv festival in March where Actually Gavin invites college improv groups in the Pacific Northwest to UP’s campus to perform sets. Anyone can come, watch and participate.

This year, Actually Gavin is revamping the festival. In the past, the event has only been a day long, but now they’re working together with ActUP to make it a weekend-long festival. They’re also inviting professional improvers to run workshops with students who interested in improv. 

In addition to events and promotions, Actually Gavin also has a competition team, where people have to audition before making a spot on the team. Each year they compete in the College Improv Tournament, a competition in Seattle, where Actually Gavin sends ten students to compete with other regional colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest. 

In this part of the warm-up, Actually Gavin members pretend to be in a car. The person in the driver's seat is the one that leads the group.

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

The tournament is one of Riedmann’s favorite memories with Actually Gavin. He said that the competition team work long hours in rehearsal, but he enjoys the time he spends with his team.

“Improv in general works better when you’re close to the people around you,” Reidmann said.  

Senior Olivia Bouchet is the coach for the competition team, and has been on the improv team for all four years of college. She said that the competition part of the club requires a dedication and a higher level of responsibility.

“When you get improv from people that are interested in improving themselves and getting better and working alongside the people around them, it becomes completely different,” Bouchet said. 

With rehearsals three times a week, everyone on the competition team is really close. They describe Actually Gavin as more than a club. It’s a family. 

Members of actually Gavin get on stage and improvise as many characters as they can in a specific time frame.

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

“There’s so much time we’ve spent together, there’s so much vulnerability that has to go into it that we all just really understand each other and we all have that one passion about comedy,” Paulsen said.

Actually Gavin meets up to five times a week, with open rehearsals on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. Anyone is welcome to come and watch. 

“The people in this club are so open to interacting with each other and just like jumping into stuff,” Bouchet said.

Improv shows take place twice a month on Friday nights in Mago Hunt, and every show has a different theme. Actually Gavin will hosted their last show of the fall semester on Dec. 7.

“It’s a really nice place to go on a Friday night,” freshman and Actually Gavin member Bryce Duncan said. “It’s also super cheap and a good way to stay sober. It is a clean activity that is both fun and accessible because it’s on campus.”  

Emily Davis is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at