My heart stopped when I looked at my friend, Julia Horowitz, and realized it was our time. “Oh God, here we go,” her expression seemed to say. She grabbed my hands as we turned to face our audience, full of our friends and friends of friends, to explain our next game. “Jarvis Can’t Rap is a game where we do a scene based on your suggestions,” she said, mildly laughing. “We start to rap whenever a beat is dropped by Mark [McPhillips] until it stops and exposes our lack of musical talents.”
When choosing games for our improv comedy club shows, sometimes we choose a game that we personally find difficult because either no one else wants to do it or someone says “Dani you should do it!” I usually accept because the main rule of improvisational comedy is “yes, and.” Both of these reasons are how I ended up performing in this rap-battle game that terrifies me. I have always loved music while simultaneously being awful at it, which is why the thought of freestyle rapping in front of a filled lecture hall in the basement of Olin Science Center had me mildly nauseous for the entire week leading up to the show.
Freestyle rap is intense. Rhyming with a beat while also being clever and, in a comedy context, being funny without pausing is really hard when you have no rhythm. Every day leading up to our show we rehearsed each game with a new suggestion every time. One time we were stereotypical cooking show hosts, another time backhand-complimenting gardening grandmas. Each time the scenes were hysterical but I would start to rap and end my sentence with a word that seemed impossible to rhyme. As someone who listens to hip-hop and rap regularly and who is also guilty of judging others’ musical abilities, I assumed that if I had weak rhymes and no punchlines that no one would laugh. I was wrong.
On the night of the show, I fidgeted around to deal with my nerves and embraced the suggestion “Pot Luck!” Julia and I started our scene, I was a woman in human resources and Julia was an employee who hit someone with her car. The first beat dropped and I started to rap. In hindsight, I have no idea what I was saying and I can only vaguely remember that some of the words rhymed well enough. When I rapped out a sentence that ended in a word I couldn't rhyme, I blurted out my final line with a condescending rap battle-esq tone, “And I'm going to throw you in the trash.”
It was not a punchline that made sense contextually and was only mildly funny but the crowd lost it. People started clapping–clapping so hard we had to pause the scene for the applause to die down. The reaction was so unexpected that when it happened again after Julia’s follow-up rap, which was much better than mine and involved great body movement, I broke character and started laughing too.