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I n 2008, University of Colorado students Matt Barats and Richie Alfson were brainstorming how to create a comedy troupe that could provide some stress relief for their fellow Buffs.

Now, five years later, the founders of CU’s Left Right TIM improve group have graduated, leaving their vision in the hands of 14 students who entertain a crowd of more than 120 students every week. Left Right TIM member Lauren Cross said the troupe will host a one-of-a-kind show in celebration of their fifth anniversary tonight beginning at 8 p.m. in Hale, room 270.

“(Tonight’s) show is a whole new format for us,” the CU junior said. “It’s a bit of a secret but we wanted to surprise our regulars and try something new.”

CU junior Dylan Dragassa said the show is keeping a musical trend this year that was driven by Corey Garretson, a musically-talented member who was willing to share his skills with the group.

“The shows have been pretty fresh this semester since we’ve added in more musical components,” Dragassa said. “We’ve done one show with the Buffoons, an a cappella group on campus, and we’ve always been fans of freestyle rapping, but this is the first time we’ve been serious about pulling it into public performances.”

The group performs an improv show every Friday, filling the room with 120 to 200 students, which includes a mix of regulars, occasional guests and newcomers, the members said.

The shows are $3 for students, making it the “the cheapest and funniest date ever,” Cross said.

Left Right TIM member Kailyn Bennett said the troupe has become the leader of improv comedy on the Boulder campus, inspiring other students, including some of its own members to launch similar projects.

CU’s The Sweater Vest Sketch Comedy and Side Effects, which recently moved to Chicago with several of its founding members, were founded by and made up of mostly Left Right TIM members. Side Effects members then launched Mea Culpa, The Secret Recipe sketch group, which does not currently have any Left Right TIM members. Bennett is also a manager for CU’s Umbrella Improv Initiative, which was created to train future Left Right TIM members, she said.

“It’s a breeding ground for upcoming improvisers,” Bennett said. “LRT looks for show-ready performers but Umbrella looks for potential.”

Left Right TIM has opened for stand-up comedians like Tig Notaro, who has been featured on Comedy Central and “Last Comic Standing” contestant Natasha Leggero. The group has also brought improv troupes like Mission Improvable and the Upright Citizens Brigade to CU.

The team also competes in the College Improv Tournament, where they won regionals last year and were named in the top six groups at nationals, members said.

Despite increased interest during auditions over the past five years, the members said they have not allowed more than 16 members into the group at a time in an attempt to maintain close relationships and stay focused on individualized training and improvement.

“To provide the professional show that we want to put on, we need to give personalized attention to the performers,” Dragassa said. “It’s easier to maintain that quality in a smaller group.”

Cross said the group tends to change with its members due to the nature of improv, but they hope they have been able to maintain the founders’ intentions to provide funny, witty shows to their peers.

“What makes improv a unique experience is that everyone is bringing something new to table,” Cross said. “It’s not a script, it’s not Shakespeare, so it’s about different people interpreting their own characters for a magical capacity on state.”

“Because of that, the team morphs with every member that graduates and every member we take on but we always try to stay true to the original intent that was established five years ago, providing a fantastic performance.”

Follow Whitney Bryen on Twitter: @SoonerReporter.

If you go

What: Five years of Left Right TIM

When: Tonight at 8 p.m.

Where: Hale, room 270

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