PASCO — Pasco High graduate Alison Luhrs desperately wanted to make her father, the late Kurt Luhrs, proud by taking up gymnastics as a kid.
But it was not for her.
"My dad tried so hard to get me into gymnastics, but I was never flexible enough," she explained. "I love the sport, but I'm lousy at it myself."
Instead, she found her mojo in comedy while attending Western Washington University in Bellingham. She joined the university's Dead Parrots Society, an improv comedy troupe.
Improv comedy is about how fast you can think, in a silly sort of way. Improvisational acting is spontaneous, with comedians usually taking suggestions from the audience to create a dialogue, setting and plot.
The Western group competed in the National College Improv Tournament in November and won the overall title of funniest improv troupe.
The win also earned the group an invitation to perform at the renowned Chicago Improv Festival next month. The annual event showcases improv comedy from across the world and invites only one college group to perform.
"We've already gained national comedic recognition and are so excited to perform on the international stage in April," Luhrs said. "I so wish my dad could be there to see me perform."
Kurt Luhrs died in 2005 after losing a battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. He was an all-American gymnast and college coach in Colorado before moving to the Tri-Cities in 1991, and he worked for the city of Pasco as its human resources director.
"My family (mom, dad, brother) are the most naturally funny people I know," Luhrs said. "I come from a family of funny women and there aren't a lot of funny girls out there. ... Someone's got to prove we exist!"
Her mom, Debbie Luhrs, still lives in Pasco and couldn't be more proud of her daughter.
"I was always a little jealous of Alison's quick wit, because I can't think that fast on my feet like she does," her mom joked. "My humor is much slower and drier. But hers is also intelligent humor. She loves Saturday Night Live."
A gig on that popular TV show is Alison's ultimate goal.
"Saturday Night Live has been my dream since the first time my mom let me stay up late to watch it when I was little," she said.
She took part in high school theater productions before heading off to college after graduating from Pasco High in 2007, but improv was new to her.
Western's Dead Parrots Society performs occasionally at the Upfront Theater in Bellingham, which is owned by veteran improv comedian Ryan Stiles, who's well known for his Whose Line Is It Anyway? TV show.
Currently, Luhrs is touring with her college theater group in London and New York City. She will return to the Northwest in early April to prepare for the Chicago gig.
"I am very excited to enter the professional theater and comedy community when I graduate in the spring," she said.
So can we expect to see her as a regular on SNL anytime soon?
"Anything's possible," her mom said. "I'm happy as long as she's happy. I just hope whatever she decides to do, she gets health insurance."
* Dori O'Neal: 509-582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org