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Crescenta Valley High’s ComedySportz team volleys quick thinking

Crescenta Valley High School students were holding their first rehearsal on Wednesday as part of the school’s ComedySportz team, a comedy improv group, when the subject of their first game was determined — bananas.

Tyra Sondergaard took the floor first, saying bananas are a fruit, yellow when ripe and shaped like a smile.

PHOTOS: Crescenta Valley High students wing on improv group

That’s when her classmate on the opposing team objected. “When bananas are ripe, they’re usually brown,” said Bean Mitchell. The student referee gave him the floor.

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“You see, a banana is yellow,” Bean went on to say. “It’s actually green when it begins to ripen, and then turns into a nice golden yellow, and then spots of brown begin to appear on it …” He was cut off.

Tyra challenged his point and stated, “The brown spots only appear if you’re reckless with a banana.”

“How can you be reckless with a banana?” Bean asked. But it was too late. Tyra won the floor.

“Listen, when you have a banana, it’s like a delicate being,” Tyra explained. “You can’t just be like, ‘whack, whack, whack.’”

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Opponent Samantha Abelson challenged her. “Monkeys aren’t gentle with their bananas,” she said, and the room of about 30 students roared in laughter.

In the coming weeks, they will compete against students from schools such as La Cañada and Verdugo Hills high schools and Flintridge Preparatory School.

When the teams compete, audience members will give points to the team they find funnier, determining who wins.

The quick thinking of the students is not only a fun way to spend the afternoon, but it’s helpful in other circumstances that may call for some improvisation.

“The ability to make stuff up on the spot can be useful in other classes,” said sophomore James Duquette. “Like when you forget to do your homework.”

Gavin Hall, a social studies teacher at Crescenta Valley High, began serving as the team’s adviser about a decade ago, shortly after the ComedySportz program had started there. He’s seen it nearly triple in size, forcing Crescenta Valley to create two teams, something that is rare among other high schools.

“Our schoolwide focus is critical thinking. There’s no better example of critical thinking than improv,” Hall said.

The students’ first competition will be held on Sept. 11 when they will go up against 2015 graduates of Crescenta Valley High who were involved in ComedySportz during the last school year. They’ll compete in one match per month, and one of them will involve competing against the school’s faculty.

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Luke Naoumovitch is the third brother in his family to have joined the group, and his classmates share more than just laughs.

“I just love this group,” he said. “We’re all like one, I feel like. We all share stories, and we know that it will never come out of the group. We can share secrets.”


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