Improv group allows students to express themselves


Courtesy of GIPS

GIPS members watch a performance at Bell Gardens High School. GIPS was founded in 1986.

Arianna Smith

“A lot of people try to be a famous actor and it is probably one of the hardest professions to get into.”

Michael Timoney, communications major, said this in regard to being a part of GIPS, which stands for Generic Improvisational Peep Show. “Being a part of GIPS, you get your own little stardom.”

GIPS is an interactive “straight up comedy” group that uses audience suggestions to play theater-like games. “It has 50 to 60 formats and specific rules and ways we play, and we get suggestions from the audience like a relationship or location,” Sal Velazquez said, who was a member of the first group and now is its current adviser and director.

The group started in 1986 at Cerritos College under the direction of theater arts teacher Kevin Hoggard.

Velazquez said that, initially, the group only performed for class and then it started performing wherever it could, such as evening shows at Cerritos College and local theater arts schools.

Velazquez even stated that it performed for a senior citizens home and a Cerritos College hair show. Now, the group performs for local high school students and it performs six shows a day that last 45 minutes to an hour long.

For members like Timoney, it definitely has its rewards. 

“You get kids who come up to you after a performance and say, ‘You were my favorite performer!’ And when you go back to that school in the spring they remember you and they come and talk to you, so it is always good to have a little fan.”

To Martha Montoya, undecided major and troupe member, GIPS isn’t just an improv troupe but also a teaching tool. “I like being in GIPS because it teaches me a lot, like being a better performer and being in front of people, talking and not being worried and how to think on the spot.”

Velazquez added that members of GIPS learn valuable character traits like discipline, professionalism, responsibility and how to behave.

“When we go to the schools, we are representing the college, so they learn to behave, and they learn responsibility because they have to perform at 7:30 a.m., so they have to be up early every Friday,” Velazquez said.

“It is a commitment.”

GIPS holds auditions every fall semester in October and the ones who make it are a part of it for the whole school year. Even though the group is currently on break, they will resume performing this spring.

Velazquez recommends that anyone who wants to audition to sign up for Kevin Hoggard’s beginning improv class, which is offered every semester.

“He’s the best teacher, he really is,” Velazquez said. 

He also recommends that if you want to have a good audition you should “know how to play the game and learn the fundamentals.”

For more information on GIPS visit their Facebook page at