Improv group Varsity Nordic headlines ‘Romance on Main Street'

Varsity Nordic members Hannah Davenport and Eli Zavatsky pretend to be on a radio show during the group's 24 Hour Improv event in April 2013.

Varsity Nordic members Hannah Davenport and Eli Zavatsky pretend to be on a radio show during the group's 24 Hour Improv event in April 2013. Photo courtesy of cade beck/The Pioneer


WALLA WALLA — Who can resist a good laugh?

Apparently the proprietors of Canoe Ridge Vineyards can’t, nor can researchers.

“Improv is funny,” said John Klein, who is organizing a Canoe Ridge co-sponsored improvisational evening, “Romance on Main Street,” on Friday at Main Street Studios in Walla Walla.

“With improv, the performers invite the audience in on the show by letting the audience help set the scene for the in-the-moment theatrical sketches.”

In short, “Romance on Main Street,” will be something along the lines of the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” And there will also be music by the Whitman jazz trio Downright Citizens, Canoe Ridge wine, and the ambience of Main Street Studios will include candlelight.


Varsity Nordic members, clockwise from left, Henry Nolan, Sam Gelband, Jeremy Howell, Rose Gottlieb, Sam Halgren, Eli Zavatsky and Cory Rand.

If you go

“Romance on Main Street”

Main Street Studios, 207 W. Main St., Walla Walla

Doors open Friday 7 p.m.

Age requirement: 18 and older, and at least 21 for wine

Admission: General, $10; front row VIP table for two and two glasses of wine, $40

But the pièce de résistance will be 90 minutes of improv laughter by the Varsity Nordic.

“I though it would be a different take on Valentines,” said Klein, who wants to see more comedy acts in Walla Walla. “Something new. Something different. But it is also comedy and comedy is classic.”

For researchers, comedy is a mystery to be solved, especially when it comes to romance and laughter.

Take a 2006 Westfield State College study by Eric Bressler, Rod Martin and Sigal Balshine that questioned “the influence of humor on desirability.” The Massachusetts college’s study led to numerous articles on the differences between men and women when it comes to finding a mate with a sense of humor.

Getting right to the punch line, Bressler, Martin and Balshine found that women favor men who make them laugh. Men, on the other hand, are indifferent to how funny a woman can be.

“Women evaluating men showed a greater preference for humorous relationship partners than did men evaluating women,” the study stated.

To prove this, the researchers took 210 subjects, half male and half female, and showed them equally attractive and neutrally posed photos of men and women. Along with each photo came a brief autobiographical statement of one to four lines. Some of the statements were funny, others were not.

Then the photos and statements were all randomly viewed through a computer program by the 210 subjects, who then rated the desirability of the person on the computer screen.

The results found no connection between humor and desirability when men ranked the women they saw on the screen. Women, on the other hand, preferred the men accompanied by humorous autobiographical statements.

In short, women want to laugh at his jokes, but don’t expect men to laugh at theirs.

But what similar effects does laughter have on both men and women?

Does laughter bond us socially?

Can it diminish a perceived threat in another individual?

Will it signal sexual interest?

These are contemporary questions that have enthralled scientists, and are possibilities noted in a study published by the The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. But so far the research is ambiguous.

But one purpose of laughter that was supported in a 2011 study is that laughter helps us deal with pain.

In the study, subjects were asked to view funny, boring and neutral video for 15 minutes. Afterward, study participants were subjected to pain caused by a frozen wine cooler sleeve that was pressed onto a bare arm with a blood pressure measuring collar.

The result was that subjects who viewed funny videos were able to withstand more pain pressure, suggesting that laughter releases endorphins.

It should be noted that the study didn’t actually measure endorphin levels, probably because that would have required the collection of plasma from the individuals, which would not be funny. Nor did the study delve into the tolerances of emotional pain, like a broken heart.

But one thing that is clear, laughter is important. And at $10, “Romance on Main Street” maybe even the cheapest date of the year in Walla Walla.

“I wanted to offer people the opportunity to go out and do something that is less expensive and fun,” Klein said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at or 526-8325.


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