Happy to Be Here is an improv trio from Orlando featuring Billy Mehler, Marina Russell, and Marko Torres. They will make their Countdown Improv Festival debut in the 8:30 p.m. block on Thursday, August 11 in the HCC Mainstage Theatre. In this spotlight interview, the trio discusses what audiences can expect from their show, their improv origin story, and why Disney World is so damn expensive.
We’re so excited to have Happy to Be Here making its Countdown debut this year! Tell us a little bit about your show: What can audiences expect to see when you take the stage on Thursday night?
Happy to Be Here: We are so excited to be making our Countdown debut! Our show will be focused on character driven stories where we delve into character relationships, the dynamics between them, and the worlds they live in! Some stories may be more light-hearted, while some may be more poignant.We will be performing our signature format, Three Worlds, where we take a suggestion of one word to inspire three completely separate worlds that we explore and that may eventually collide!
We love a good improv origin story. How did the three of you meet and start working together?
HTBH: We graduated from the SAK Comedy Lab Conservatory together. After graduation, we wanted to try working in a small group with a focus on stories and let out our inner nerdy theater kid who wanted to do “ART” (insert dramatic hand gesture). We felt a chemistry and joy in playing together, embracing each of the other’s abilities, and after a meeting at the Orlando Public Library, it was decided. We were Happy To Be Here!
What’s your favorite way to warm up or focus up before your show? Do you have any favorite pre-show rituals?
HTBH: We like to start with a group check-in to catch up with each other, ground ourselves in the space, and bring up any physical, mental, and content boundaries to be aware of in order to take care of each other and stay safe while playing. We like to do vocal warm-ups, energy boosters, and word associations, including one warm-up where we pass a sound and movement around the circle, building off each other, which usually devolves into screaming like banshees by the end. After each weird thing we do, we pretend that was our set and thank the imaginary audience. We laugh hysterically every time, and that laughter is a huge part of our warm-up!
In the spirit of being “happy to be here,” what are some places you’re always happy to be in in Orlando?
HTBH: Some Orlando spots that we are always happy to visit include Lake Eola, Mills 50, SAK Comedy Lab, Park Avenue, Leu Gardens, Piccolo Coffee, The West Orange Trail, and DG Doughnuts, which Marko swears are the LITERAL best doughnuts on Earth!
We’ve been asking ourselves this question for years, and now we have to ask you: Why is Disney World so damn expensive, and is it worth it?
HTBH: Disney is definitely very expensive! We aren’t sure why Disney keeps getting more and more expensive, and while the three of us might rather spend our time and money elsewhere, we believe that whether Disney is worth the price or not is up to the individual. As Central Florida residents, we are glad that Disney is a place where our friends, families, and many others have the opportunity to work and perform. We simply think Disney should give residents a free pass just for dealing with them and the tourists.
Finally, who do you think will be inducted into this year’s Countdown Improv Festival Hall of Fame?
HTBH: Anyone who’s doing a solo act cause… TERRIFYING!! We are super impressed with all of the talented performers taking the stage this weekend! We can’t wait to support them and we’re so happy to be a part of the festival this year!