Who is KARL and why is he on our campus?
The name “K.A.R.L” has been looming over our campus recently, and many want to know: Who exactly is K.A.R.L, and why do they hate Trevor? Sophomore Max Church gives us insight to what this mysterious name is about and how its resurgence on campus has taken the attention of many students.
K.A.R.L. is one of the University’s three improv groups, along with Mama’s Pot Roast and Suspicious of Whistlers. K.A.R.L’s members set their focus on short-form improv, resulting in a show that consists of a variety of games. When asked what K.A.R.L. stands for, Church laughed and replied, “It’s a group secret; that’s one of those things I can’t tell you.” So, if you are reading this article just to finally find out what this acronym stands for, you can stop reading now.
Church recounts the group’s first in-person show of the year, “Better than Trevor.” The promotional picture for the show was the group flipping off a young boy, explicitly showing their hatred for the child. Again, Church replied very vaguely when prompted to explain who Trevor is and why K.A.R.L. has so much spite toward him — “Oh he’s a random kid. The way we choose names is completely random, but they wanted to create an idea of this fictional kid we all hate named Trevor.”
Church auditioned for the improv group the spring of his freshman year, and recalls the audition process as very fun and lighthearted.
He further describes how the audition process created a fun environment through warm-ups and icebreakers. One icebreaker in particular, where auditionees are placed in groups of three and then have the opportunity to give a one-liner based on the person before them, caught his attention. “This is a good icebreaker — it helps auditionees realize they can make a scene out of anything. It also helps them understand that they are in a group, and they have to make good use of their time,” he said.
The bond of all the improv groups seems to be the key factor in having a successful show. Church describes a trip to Chicago that the three groups attended, which was a great opportunity to watch different improv and sketch shows as well as create a bond with the groups and the WashU improv community.
“Improv is very much a team sport. [The groups] want to know how you work with others as a team and not just [how you] do stand up.”
The show last week proved just how important the group’s bond is. When asked about why and how he got involved with K.A.R.L., Church reflected on a memory of a K.A.R.L. show he watched upon visiting his older sister at WashU before he was a student.
“I wasn’t into theater in high school, but once I saw people just go on stage and just have fun with their friends, I knew it was something I wanted to get involved with.”
Even with several hours of practice during any given week, Church says that the experience does not seem like work at all — it’s simply hanging out with friends and creating fun content. This is the exact thing the Church does in his free time anyway, so improv felt very natural for him.
At their first performance of the year, the group previewed their skills with many short-form games. Church was especially impressed by the freshmen’s performance; they didn’t know what game or prompts they would get before coming out. In addition, they only had three weeks after auditions to prepare for the show.
The group’s show had a great turnout, and they expect even better attendance at their other events on Nov. 11 and Dec. 4. Despite having a show in the middle of midterm season, the group’s lecture room had all of the seats filled. It was a great opportunity for the improv community to get their name out there, and specifically for K.A.R.L., it was a chance to stir commotion about the mystery of K.A.R.L.