The #Hashtag Comedy troupe ended 2014 on a high note. In November, #Hashtag Comedy was named Shadowbox Live's house improv troupe and will take over Wednesday nights at the theatre's Backstage Bistro on Jan. 7. Mixing improvisation, comedy, music and storytelling with a revolving door of guest performers, #Hashtag Comedy is hell-bent on keeping audience members laughing. We talked to troupe member Sarah Storer about the group's new digs at Shadowbox and their plans for the Columbus comedy scene in 2015.

The #Hashtag Comedy troupe ended 2014 on a high note. In November, #Hashtag Comedy was named Shadowbox Live's house improv troupe and will take over Wednesday nights at the theatre’s Backstage Bistro on Jan. 7. Mixing improvisation, comedy, music and storytelling with a revolving door of guest performers, #Hashtag Comedy is hell-bent on keeping audience members laughing. We talked to troupe member Sarah Storer about the group's new digs at Shadowbox and their plans for the Columbus comedy scene in 2015.

The first rule of improv is "yes, and…" Comedy has always been in my blood; I've always been into theatre and performance. I fell in love with improv at my first class nearly 10 years ago. Improv teaches you to embrace whatever is happening around you and make the best of the situation.

The goal of #Hashtag Comedy is to entertain first. We are very audience-centered. As much as we like to do experimental stuff and stretch ourselves artistically, we will never do that at the expense of the audience having a really good time. We really believe if we can make people laugh for 90 minutes, we might be able to change the course of the day. We want people to be happy and have a good time. One of the reasons we've been picked up by Shadowbox as their house troupe is because they saw how important it was for us to entertain our audience.

Our first meeting with Shadowbox [representatives] was a milestone moment for #Hashtag Comedy. We had done a couple of shows at Shadowbox prior, and we did better on ticket sales than I think they expected. A lot of us have day jobs in marketing and social media, so I think they saw the total package. Shadowbox is such an institution; it was amazing to have them recognize our work ethic.

Comedy in Columbus is growing because it's becoming more audience-centered. As much as we like focusing on the art of comedy it's still an audience-centered thing. If you don't do comedy with the audience in mind, it won't grow. We are starting to see more improv groups and comedians willing to sacrifice the art side of it in order to make sure the audience has a good time. In the past there hasn't been as much respect for the audience; it was always the audience's fault if comedy wasn’t growing. I think the audience is here, they just weren't having much fun at comedy shows. I truly believe if more entertainers and groups embraced the idea of comedy as community, in five years Columbus could be a comedy destination.

Comedy is a community thing. We really think we can make a difference in our city by making people laugh. Laughter is a shared thing, that's why we bring in bizarre musical acts, or work with community members Karina Nova. We want to include people and performers who might not always be associated with comedy. Every first Wednesday we host Stories with #Hashtag where we bring in a community member to share amusing anecdotes. We bring in musicians to perform twice on their own as well as with us, like “Saturday Night Live.” Improv is very share-based; it's about furthering the cause more than a personal agenda. It's important for us to give people the opportunity to work and play with us.

Photo by Meghan Ralston