Hal Mayforth

Many a Princeton performance group tantalizes freshmen with claims of “no experience necessary!” The Lobster Club really means it: The group prides itself on being “Princeton’s first, oldest, and only completely no-audition improv comedy troupe.”

As freshmen, Preston Kemeny ’15 and Nicky Robinson ’15 tried out for the Quipfire! improv comedy group. There were more than 100 other students at auditions, and the group took only two new members. 

It was a sign of what Katherine Zhao ’17 termed “the cult of exclusivity” in an Oct. 2 Daily Princetonian column that recounted the experience of freshmen battling the odds to join an extracurricular group. “After winning the initial admission lottery and landing on the happy side of a 7 percent admission rate, once we’re here the odds are just not in our favor,” Zhao wrote. “When you’re told you’re ‘not good enough,’ it stings. And when you’re not in control of the groups you want to join, it’s even worse.”

Abby Klionsky ’14
Abby Klionsky ’14

Quipfire!’s advice, according to Robinson, was: “You should start another group.” So he and Kemeny joined with some friends to start an improv group open to anyone and everyone; it requires no auditions, no experience, and few commitments. Students can attend as many of the weekly open workshops as they want, though they must attend a certain number to perform in biannual shows. 

Students show up with a wide range of experience: “Improv is something a lot of people don’t have experience with in high school, so it’s one of those things where people say, ‘I’ll try that in college!’” Kemeny said. 

The Lobster Club has been joined by a French-language counterpart, Le Lobster. They are part of an umbrella group called ¿Shruggers?, which has built an infrastructure to support a theater troupe, a dance company, and an a capella group — all sans tryouts. 

“The idea of no auditions is that your success is not contingent upon 10 minutes of make-or-break,” said Lobster Club member Rebecca Sichel ’17. Or, as Kemeny said in a Prince interview: “Performing arts don’t have to be selective. Anyone can sing, or dance, or improv.”

Audience members seem to agree. Parth Parihar ’15 hasn’t seen another campus improv group perform since he started going to Lobster Club shows. “I feel like their improv is more natural,” he said. “The group just has fun with it.”