Top corporate entertainment in Denver – customized, hilarious and memorable.
We’ll deliver a performance that your guest will be raving about!
“We used Voodoo for our staff Christmas party and it was super easy, fun and I received so much positive feedback from my staff. It was a great night all around!”
– Miriam Frick, Kid-to-Kid Aurora
Whether it’s a staff party, a client appreciation event, a conference, a milestone anniversary, a product launch or whatever you’re celebrating, our team knows how to put on a memorable performance.
We specialize in customizing the performance specifically to your event and group, making for a unique, one-of-a-kind show that will have guests talking long after the show is over.
We’ll work with you to personalize the performance in a way that connects the room through laughter and the interactive experience only a customized improv show can offer.
Your group will help guide the scenes with your suggestions, creating a fresh show that appeals to everyone.
Totally customized corporate entertainment in Denver!
“We had an absolute blast! We were able to have food catered and use the facility for the whole event. The show was amazing and geared toward our group. This is top notch improv. I would highly recommend having your group activity at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse!”
– Emily O’Brien, Kaiser Permanente
We can come to your venue, or host you here at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse! We’re perfectly located for a corporate event in Denver, with our theatre in the vibrant LoDo/Ballpark district.
Give us a ring, or send over an email and we’ll be happy to discuss how we could be a fit for your next corporate event. We have packages that can work with a wide range of budgets.
If your group is looking for Team Building ideas in Denver, we have a few suggestions that could be a good fit.
Whether it’s a fun reward-type of experience, or you feel your team could benefit from an activity that motivates them to collaborate at a higher level, or you’re hoping to build trust amongst the group (or all of the above), there are a number of options that check the boxes.
As Denver’s leading improv-based corporate team building organization, we’ve been working with companies for years, custom designing memorable team building experiences. Our unique approach will not only have your team creating a lot of laughter together and having a blast, but they’ll also learn techniques that increase their ability to collaborate, to be a more positive and flexible teammate, to be more adaptable to change, embracing the unpredictable and thriving while “thinking on your feet”.
Another unique team building outing we offer is bringing your group down to our theatre to catch an improv show (we’re in the heart of LoDo – Voodoo Comedy Playhouse running shows five nights a week). There’s something special that happens when a team laughs together. Laughing together is always a great way to ensure a team outing is a success.
Come a little early, grab a drink and hang out before heading in.
Here are few more team building ideas in the Denver area that could be a great fit!
Get outside and get to work helping the local environment. Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) has corporate volunteer projects that allow your team to roll up the sleeves, head out into nature and give back as stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. It could be as close to home as cleaning up a local park, or heading out to the grasslands or into the mountains, there are many opportunities available.
Consider a wine tasting tour with a visit to The Infinite Monkey Theorem (if your team is all over 21 of course). You’ll get a tour of the winery, an education on the winemaking process and get to try out up to five different types of vino.
Another opportunity to give back within a team building experience. Volunteer Days of Service with the United Way combines community service with the opportunity to build camaraderie while getting outside the office.
There you have it – so the next time you’re bouncing around ideas to get the team together, skip the after-work “Happy Hour”…well maybe not skip, but rather add it to one of the above (yes, even the wine tasting, but be responsible of course) and try out something new, unique, fun and hopefully impactful.
As Denver’s premier improv comedy theatre company and improv-based corporate training organization, we specialize in custom designing team building sessions that are game-changers for groups.
Using our innovative approach, we focus on strategies that will increase collaboration and communication, that create an environment where team members actively support each other, where ideas are valued and built upon. As well, techniques that are designed to unleash a group’s creativity and innovation, to provide a template for new ways of managing change and becoming more agile as individuals and as a team and to embrace the unpredictable.
All while producing a lot of shared laughter and team bonding. Not only will your team leave the takeaways they’ll be able to apply immediately, but they’ll have an experience that will become a part of their story.
Our sessions are typically two to three hours in length. We will tailor it specifically to your group, focusing on your vision and desired outcomes.
Whether you’re looking for a fun outing to reward your team, an activity to bring the team together in a supportive setting if they’re dealing with stress, strategies for helping your group manage a shifting workplace landscape (e.g. new management, layoffs, an acquisition, a significant new corporate initiative) – we can create a session that addresses a wide range of desired outcomes.
Team Building in Denver
Get in touch today to learn more about our team building packages.
The heat may be here but so are the laughs. The Mile-High City is no longer an up-and-coming comedy town. It’s an already-there town with tons of big names touring through in addition to loads of local talent. From standup to improv to sketch comedy and more, there are so many amazing hot spots to get your laugh on that you can honestly spend the rest of your summer enjoying them. We’ve pulled together a few great summer options for you to check out as you get out of the house, seek air conditioning in a comfortable comedy venue and enjoy these hot summer laughs in Denver.
The Mads Are Back: July 27 and 28
Voodoo Comedy Playhouse is always a great spot for local talent, but this July some huge national names are stopping by. “TV’s Frank” Conniff and Trace Beaulieu from Mystery Science Theatre 3000 are bringing their national tour to the Voodoo stage for two nights only. Each night will feature a different film and life riffing courtesy the two names that started it all. Tickets include meet and greet events, photos and autographs – so if you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – and really, who isn’t? – then get online right now and book those tickets – seating is limited and this will sell out!
5280: Denver A to Z – through July 28
If you know Denver, then you’ll love this hilarious comedy show at the popular Bovine Metropolis Theater. 5280: Denver A to Z features loads of sketch comedy poking fun at everything from The Big Blue Bear to Casa Bonita, Prairie Dogs and Frontier Airlines. It’s a sketch comedy show written by Denver, for Denver and is perfect for anyone who grew up here and knows the legends of the Mile High City well. This one runs Friday and Saturday nights through July 28 and tickets are $18 online or $20 at the door.
High Plains Comedy Festival: August 23 – 25
If you’ve never checked out the High Plains Comedy Festival before – what are you waiting for? Founded in 2013, this popular annual comedy extravaganza is the brainchild of Denver’s own Adam Cayton-Holland – who started with The Grawlix and is now on truTV’s Those Who Can’t and was named one of Esquire Magazine’s 25 Comics to Watch among many other honors. The festival features a wonderful mix of local talents and national names in different venues throughout the city – though most are within the walkable Baker Neighborhood on South Broadway. David Cross, Baron Vaughn, Jonah Ray and Cayton-Holland himself are scheduled to appear – along with many, many other hilarious comedians. Book early, plan ahead and enjoy this annual comedy feast.
New Talent at Comedy Works Denver: Every Tuesday Night
You already know that Comedy Works is a very popular spot for touring comedians to showcase their skills, but did you know there is a new talent night every week? And did you know that nearly all of Denver’s popular comedians got their start here? Every week, New Talent Night features a mix of amateur comedians (many making their Comedy Works debut) as well as some popular locals and even touring professionals. The cover is only $12 and there is always a lot of great talent to see on New Talent Night – so it’s the perfect (and affordable) way to get lots of laughs mid-week.
The First Beat: Oh the pain–the rusty pain of doing scene work again–after so long. (A couple of months) Exhausting, really. The re-learning curve is steep. And the exploration of self is always a challenge. As a group when the team is all in this mode the energy is tepid. But after a few warm-ups, we had a bit more energy going. Starting with pass the clap always presses my reset button from a long day of tedium.
After week one and the high energy of the opening, the scene work in the first beat was a little subdued. Old insecurities and bad habits plagued me. I felt I would never listen, I would suck myself in to a side show of weirdness and random odd and confusing ideas far removed from what my fellow players were doing. But I did feel supported nonetheless. I started listening a little and saying “yes” to utterances I would previously ignore.
Anyhow, Enough whining. Even bad improv is good for the world and, for me, the interior universe. As a spawn of aliens who has difficulty connecting with anyone–or any entity–quickly, connection has, to my amazement, worked its way into my skill lexicon. Yes, my form of bonding is glacial, strange, and still encompasses Meercat-shy tendencies, often folding around in a boomerang of self pity. Improv assists with bringing out of nature and into the womb of the theater. Every week, whether i feel good about it or not; it is DONE. Another incremental, and sometimes painful learning experience that if easy would fail to be such a big deal. The 1st week was easy, this week 2 challenged and enthralled me as I ground through the fertile ground following the opener into the first beat.
So we have our ideas from the opener that initiated–but hardly ended–from a simple suggestion. Scenes. Not just random scenes, but coming from the chunks we caught from the opener. If I start a scene, my chunk melds and fuses with my partner’s and creates a transcendant-other that the scene becomes. Although we do not use the suggestion in the first beat, we use its inspiration to develop character and their every day musings and relationships. We commit and heighten the character. Who are they? They are what they do on a diurnal basis.
Steve mentions building tent poles and slipping them in where they belong; Taking them from flimsy lesser-grade nunchaku to vehicles of shelter and structure. Who are the characters, what are their quirks, what are their relationships like? How do they function, or dysfunction, throughout their day. The mantra is: THIS HAPPENS EVERYDAY. In the wings, we can support through scene painting or the occasional walk on. The characters will show who they are through banal situation, rather than telling is explicitly.
First Beat Examples: Chunks from Opener
Wendy is angry with her sister Sue for undermining her ability to make crepes. Mom taught Sue the secret family recipe making Wendy jealous and sabotaging the crepes by contaminating them with Skittles and Count Chocula, which is, of course a huge hit.
Carey is forming a band and wants to be the mysterious reptilian word smith virtuoso a la Jim Morrison, but lacks the poise and panache necessary for the role, and he’s generally cheerful. A close friend Stanford, who is constantly depressed, tries to help Carey get his disturbed poet mojo going, only to discover his own gift. And he can sing.
Faye and Jen talk at work about the project they were assigned. In typical fashion Jen takes over everything and Faye’s brilliant suggestions are twisted into grotesque versions of a deliverable resembling nightmares that Faye seems to have had already.
1st beat tips:
No Tag outs, but Canadian crosses and scene painting is OK if it supports establishing the characters and / or situation.
Don’t invoke the suggestion, of course, use the chunks generated from the opening.
Remember to DISCOVER, rather than plan or create.
Try to use physicality to establish the distinctiveness of the characters.
More confrontational than presentation.
This always feel a little awkward after an energetic opener and slows down to develop characters and situations from the lively chunks. The chunks are raw and need searing, or braising in character. It feels uncomfortable, a pit of doubt in the diaphragm. I am hoping next week gets better. My self worth is reeling from what? Just the learning process and self discovery. The journey of discontent reaps the rewards of insight. I hope.
What does the suggestion bulldozer bring to mind? To an intrepid tribe on a Monday evening it was evocative of smoking your parents’ cigarette butts and trying to be an adult, or seriously dysfunctional relationships, as well as radical environmentalism. What about grapefruit? Does it make you think of hail, or keeping your nuggets clean? A sampling of the gems we discovered in our first week of not only studying but also doing and being the form known as the Harold.
Whenever I hear about The Harold, it always makes me think of the question, “What about the Maude?” Maybe the Harold becomes the Maude if you do the Harold enough. More on that later, much later, maybe in a few years. To keep it short, Harold is the improv form developed and championed by Del Close. And if you do not know who Del Close is by now, then you probably haven’t read this far.
Anyhow, it is an honor to take level 5 with Steve Wilder, the grand pooh-bear of Voodoo (not self-appointed, just a label I came up with). Having had a variety of experiences with instructors at Voodoo, I felt almost immediately gelled with Steve’s manner and energy. Perhaps it’s just me, and I feel more comfortable about improv in general so it’s possible I am more gel-worthy than in prior classes. But he seems to have an intelligent twinkle and smirk that conjures a sage-like sensibility, and his belly laugh can instill confidence in the meekest of performers.
As I sat with Steve mid-break, I told him I still have trouble with self-doubt. He said he had done improv for ten years and still felt like he still was a novice. The good teacher is always a student, and the student always teaches the teacher, among other things. He does not carry the posture of a know-it-all, and his curiosity about learning is apparent.
For example, the suggestion horticulture was given and stimulated a description of chopping down a tree, which led to mention of something called a “back-cut”. Steve inquired more about what a back-cut was and how it was important in chopping down the tree. I pondered how getting absorbed in something like the back-cut adds layers to the improv experience, both for the performers and the audience.
Attention to these details in improv make it so rich and therapeutic. As an instructor the feeling I get from Steve is one of discovery and wonder through fascination, immersion—and doing.
He may not be an expert lumberjack but knowing much more in the improv realm, Steve took the lead in sharing his insight on the Harold. In our first class we focused on the Opener:
Steve says it is very important to get the opener down. Really nailing the opener makes the rest of the Harold easier.
Here are some general takeaways from the Opener class with Steve:
Start the opener with high energy to engage the audience; the energy can subside and increase again throughout the opener, but high energy is generally better
Get three ideas for scenes from the opener
Avoid character development in the opener
Try to develop away from the suggestion; the suggestion is just the starting point
It’s easy to start binging on virtual food in the opener and get stuck in food and eating instead of growing to concepts.
Commitment: even if the thing it is not funny or seems like it sucks, if the audience sees that we are committed to it, it will work.
We tried out a few different types of openers.
Here are some tips and takeaways from the monologue:
It’s better to share from true personal experiences to avoid getting into character in the opener.
It’s ok to tap out someone mid share in the monologue if you want to go with an idea; especially if someone is slowing down in their monologue; this helps to keep the energy high.
Not an opener I’d tried before. Here are some takeaways from scene painting:
Pay respect to the objects in the scene
Avoid having humans (characters) in the scene
It’s ok to build on the last object or description when scene painting.
Example: we started with a stack of cases of freeze dried food and beer. A propane grill and a vent extending from it into a wall. Freeze-dried hamburger patties sat next to the grill. A table stood next the grill with a bible opened to revelations. A loaded shotgun lay on the table next to the bible.
I dread flocking; it seems so dorky and awkward and theater geeky, but somehow I’m growing into liking it. Takeaways:
Start by mimicking the last action / sound
Let changes happen; try not to force them
Avoid marching; its really hard to get the rhythm out once it starts.
Add words or phrases for ideas but not for characters
Example: the suggestion “cruise ship” started with horns and led to sinking motions to shouting out “Jack!” to shouting out random names, from freezing cold to the Oscars and envelopes.
We didn’t get to try the “organic opening” (It makes me think of either an orifice of a free-range chicken, or the debut of a health food restaurant), although I’m sure we will have the opportunity in the weeks to come as the Harold unfolds before us.
And remember kids, keep your powder dry and your nuggets clean!
It happened. You blinked and now February is over and March has started and before you know it, it will be December again and have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Ok, while you probably still have time to think about the 2018 holiday season, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a date night out or a fun night with your pals. And lucky for you, Denver is packed with tons of comedy in every shape and style. Whether you’re a fan of long form improv, short form improv, standup comedy or sketch, there is something for you this month in Denver. So read on and check out some of our favorite picks for your comedy buck this March.
High Plains Comedy Presents Rory Scovel At The Bug Theatre 3654 Navajo Street Denver, CO 80211
High Plains Comedy seems to be behind some of the best stand-up comedy shows in town these days, and here is another one to look forward to. Rory Scovel, who has been seen on everything from Modern Family to Those Who Can’t, Conan andJimmy Fallon (just to name-drop a few) is headed to Denver this March. You can catch him on stage at The Bug Theatre along with his special guest, Denver’s own Adam Cayton-Holland – who is best known as one of the Grawlix. Grab your tickets in advance for this one. They’re $15 now but $20 if any are left at the door. It all goes down March 17th at 8:00 PM.
Denver’s Next Improv Star – Season 9 At the Bovine Metropolis Theatre 1527 Champa Street Denver, CO 80202
Every Saturday in March you can cheer your favorite local improv talents to stardom at Bovine Metropolis’ annual Denver’s Next Improv Star. This ninth exciting season continues weekly as the contestants are thrown into a variety of games and situations all depending on suggestions from the audience. From familiar games to musical improv you’ll see it all at this fun weekly showcase. You can catch this one every single Saturday night at 8:00 through May 5. Tickets run $22 online or $24 at the door.
Bent Improv At The Walnut Room 3131 Walnut Street Denver, CO 80205
If you’ve never checked out The Walnut Room, you might be surprised at how many great shows pop up at this comfortable local hot spot. Stop by on March 31st to check out Bent Improv – Denver’s only long-form LGBT improv comedy ensemble. This team shows up at Voodoo as well, so here’s a great chance to get to know them before they become your new favorite local improv group. Tickets for Bent Improv at the Walnut Room are $10 in advance or $15 at the door and it all goes down at 7:30 PM on March 31st.
Makeshift Shakespeare At Voodoo Comedy Playhouse 1260 22nd Street Denver, CO 80205
One of our favorite shows is sure to be one of yours! Makeshift Shakespeare takes the stage every Friday night at 8:00 PM. This hilarious ensemble takes the stage once you, the audience, decide what new Shakespearean-style comedy they will be performing for you that night. The performers stay in the style and absurdity of The Bard himself, making up everything on the spot. Once you catch Makeshift Shakespeare for the first time, you’ll want to come back to see what these brainy improvisers come up with next. You can get your tickets in advance for $13 or pay $15 at the door. Be sure to stick around after this one! Up next is Hit and Run Musical Improv, which follows this show every week!
Denver’s comedy scene continues to grow as it gains national attention, but did you know that Denver is also home to a robust and thriving improv comedy scene? That’s right, unscripted comedy is alive and well in the Mile-High City thanks to several of these great local hot spots. Looking for some fun things to do this weekend? Need a great date-night idea for that special someone? Or just looking to find something different for your entertainment dollar? Here are four great places to catch the best improv comics in Colorado.
Since 2008, The Voodoo Comedy Playhouse has been the best place in town to catch a huge variety of improv comedy, sketch comedy and tons of talent! As home to the most unpredictable night of entertainment around, you can find a show here nearly any night of the week (Tuesday through Saturday.) Like musicals? Check out “Hit and Run: Musical Improv” every Friday night for a totally new, totally improvised musical comedy. Or go for a decidedly classic spin with “Makeshift Shakespeare” and you’ll laugh along with the absurdity of The Bard’s own classic comedy paired with some insane improv talent. Plus, if you’re looking to dip your toe into the world of improv comedy, you’ll find loads of classes and workshops here. Whether you’re looking to perform yourself, or you’re a fan of improvised comedy and want to enjoy a truly side-splitting night of entertainment, then Voodoo Comedy Playhouse is the place for you.
If you’re a fan of unscripted comedy, then you might already know about Bovine Metropolis in Denver. Since 1996 this local venue has been home to both classes and performances for Denver’s improv comedy scene. Regular shows include the “Improv Hootenanny,” which has run Mondays at 7:30 PM for the last 17 years. The “hootenanny” opens its doors to all sorts of improv teams with a variety of experience, and each take turns on the stage to show off their undeniable improv chops. There’s also the annual “Denver’s Next Improv Star” which is now in its ninth season. This weekly elimination-style competition show is always a great time as it leads up to the ultimate title of Denver’s Next Improv Star! Get the calendar of events and find some great improv to check out at www.bovinemetropolis.com.
The Avenue Theatre has been home to many local improv groups over the years, and is now excited to be hosting the Denver chapter of the national improv comedy show – “ComedySportz.” This competition game show pits two teams of improv comics against each other (complete with a referee) playing up to 12 different games every match. It’s always different, always improvised and always hilarious. You can visit the website to find out who will be competing each night so you can visit often to cheer on your favorite local talents.
So what are you waiting for? Get out of your dinner-and-a-movie rut this weekend and go laugh until your sides ache at any of these great improv comedy hot spots in Denver.
“[Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”
–”The Chronicle of Young Satan”, Mark Twain
-Nelson Muntz, The Simpsons
As some[note]Who reads these besides my fellow improvisers and my parents? Oh hi, NSA agent.[/note] of you may know, I recently performed my first ever live Harold for a live audience. All parts of my advice and year of training in improv aside I want to talk about that live element: laughter. I promise you this – nothing will prepare you for a hot audience. Whatever humorous performance you are doing laughter will energize your performance the same way a lightning energizes Frankenstein[note] …’s monster. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?[/note] or our red sun energizes Superman.
The thing about practicing and trying to git gud at being funny is that you’re surrounded by people who are trying to do the same thing. Whether it’s at open mic nights, classes, improv jams[note]Strong recommend here for the Barkley Jam at the Voodoo.[/note], at all of these comedian gyms you’ll be performing for an audience that is typically mostly- if not exclusively- other comedians. And they, frankly, are not good audience members. I blame it on either having heard your jokes or versions of them before or trying to break down how they could improve your jokes[note]Best case they come up and offer you some advice, worst case they tell their friends how they could do your joke better.[/note]. It’s a combination of fatigue and experience that results in an audience that are usually hard laugh on top of already being pretty small.
That’s why I was not surprised when one of my teammates told me, after our level five graduating show, that the whole Harold had seemed like a blur to him. It’s easy, during class, to break down every element of a scene. You can get into your head trying to define the characters in the scene, their relationships, and what the game of the scene is. In front of a live audience you will still be looking for those things but as soon as you get a laugh it cements what the scene is about and energizes your performance. Whatever gets a laugh is for certain where your scene will go, as you are doing a comedic performance. This is not to say that you will not need to define your traditional scene aspects – setting, characters, and game are necessary to build jokes and get laughs[note]If you were just trying to get laughs as quick as possible farting a bunch could work.[/note]
The first time performing in front of a hot crowd is life-changing. It reinforces that the skills and vocabulary you’ve been building up for months in front of your cold-hearted[note]At least this is how you’ll perform a variation on the same act they’ve seen at least three times before.[/note] and humorless[note]This happens less frequently in improv compared to stand up and sketch but you still build up a callous.[/note] colleagues are toned and work. It will reinforce that your school teachers were wrong, you are hilarious. Another thing it will do is screw your timing right up.
Imagine you’re on a sitcom, just a mediocre slice of TV that you churn out every week and specifically one that has a laugh track added in after taping. I don’t want to make any enemies so I’ll just make one up, let’s call it Bazinga. Now when you tape Bazinga after each joke your director intentionally makes all the cast hold for a beat or two so that the folks in editing can add in the laughs. This way, about 18 minutes worth of script is padded out to the standard 22 minutes plus commercials. Now, stop imagining that. Imagine, instead, that you are performing Bazinga in front of a live audience after years of pre-recording it. This time you have that extra four minutes prepared, because you are not sure what jokes, if any, the audience will laugh at. Now you have some idea of how much I hate The Big Ba- I mean how much of a delightful roller coaster performing live comedy can be.
With all this in mind, please go out and watch more live comedy. An audience is a necessary part for any show and you could find some really great, even free, comedy around Denver tonight. Knowing how much you could improv some comedian’s life, how can you not?
“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.”
Langston Hughes, The Collected Works of Langston Hughes
“Well, they say overweight people use humor to achieve affection.”
Eduardo Furtillo (as played by Eduardo Veråstegui), Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Imagine a ball. One for your favorite sport. Imagine it from all angles. Flying through the air. Striking against the ground. In play. Hold it in your hands. You’ve got it? Good. Because it’s time for the-
~EXTENDED, TORTURED SPORTS METAPHOR[note]I asked Voodoo if we could make this play a little song when you read it, but they said it wasn’t in the budget.[/note]~
Now, put aside the fact that this was written by someone who has not played a sport since high school and that most of these will actually be similes. I will be using the imagery of sports to examine the different styles of humor as well as explain my own obsession with it. I am after all, a fanatic of humor the way some people are fanatics of sports teams. Though, admittedly, without as much body paint and destruction of local infrastructure[note]Without as much. I still paint myself blue and white and knock over phone booths when Emo Phillips comes to town.[/note].
But I do earnestly love humor on a sports fanatic’s level. I love watching specific comedians and teams. I like watching humor and breaking down exactly what plays they made. I like practicing humor. I hope to raise my children, should I ever be lucky enough to have them, to play with ideas and be humorous themselves. Hell, sometimes if I’m just hanging out with friends we’ll crack a couple of beers and start joking around just to enjoy ourselves[note]This, of course, is a lie. As my friends will tell you, I drink only malort and prefer the company of my vast collection of joke books to people.[/note]. As such I feel qualified to compare the three types of humor I have performed to sports.
Before I go into my metaphors I want to return to that ball you’re imagining. You didn’t drop it, right? Ok, good. Because what you’ve been doing is a good metaphor for the essence of humor. Picking up an idea, imagining it from all angles, extending it into bizarre and extreme situations, throwing it into new and strange contexts… that’s what most of humor is. The rest of it is just set dressing. …I am definitely over-simplifying and -generalizing here. Smarter people than me have written about elements and essence of humor but I haven’t read ‘em[note]Mostly out of fear of what I’ll call “dissecting my pet frog”.[/note]. And probably neither have you. You’re stuck with my half-informed musings!
Stand-up is like tennis. In this metaphor (read: simile[note] Don’t at me, grammar nerds[/note]) the two players would be the joke teller and an audience. The train of thought, the joke, is bounced back and forth between teller and receiver. Both work on and inform the other how they can respond. A skilled player can work their opponent into corners only to suddenly switch their momentum and hit the ball in an unexpected direction, scoring[note]Sadly, since audiences never stay together long, an audience will never develop these skills.[/note]. Force (of personality) is required but so is a certain intelligence and wit. The similarities do not stop there: after a brief love affair in the ‘80’s America got tired of both tennis and stand up, unless you are paying or already good enough to showcase you will typically only practice by playing against people in your skill level or a literal wall, and in both occasionally you will see people who work really well as doubles. Also John McEnroe is the bad boy of both.
I’d equate improv to volleyball. Your teammates are always focused on the same objective[note] Getting the joke idea ball over the performance net.[/note] and are invested in your success, as well. You all set up, support, and spike ideas by establishing premises, building worlds, and creating punchlines. However, the audience-opponent thing does not apply here, honestly. To describe the various types of people and their jobs that make up an audience would take a much more keen-eyed performer than me. Instead of scoring against another team, I would encourage you to imagine a version of volleyball where teams were awarded points based on style and panache. With the right juggling, passing, and spiking of the ball you and your teammates can perform a truly fascinating display. It largely depends on your team’s individual strengths and communication as a group. With the right combination of players your team can pull off plays that seem nearly choreographed they are so beautifully performed.
I have also taken sketch writing class at the Voodoo. I’d like to do it more but, as a neophyte I cannot tell you which sport it reminds me of. I would lean towards swimming[note]The only competitive sport I have actually played for any serious length of time.[/note] simply because it is largely solitary. However, it would need to be a sort of swimming where you first get together with your team to talk about how you’ll practice, actually practice, and then watch other members of your team swim in the body you’ve been training who will then tell you how you should change your swimming style in future.
I did not choose the humor and athleticism comparison by accident. Both are skill-based pursuits that involve a high degree of play, so to speak. Some people are just funny or just athletic, others aren’t[note]We’ll talk about nurture vs. nature more in-depth in another blog post.[/note]. I believe it has a lot to do with how you were raised. And you can get that way with enough practice, as well, though without focusing a lot of your time on it, you’ll mostly be doing beer-league stuff. Both humor and athleticism are communal activities and very regionally-specific ones at that. Even one town will have different local sports and jokes. But one of the key differences is that in addition to being communal humor can be world-expanding. I realize that specific athletes can expand worlds, but in the world of humor, equipment and athleticism are replaced with ideas and rhetoric. Humor mostly relies on tweaking and changing expectations and because these expectations revolve around ideas you can compare and challenge various dogma and point out hypocrisies. The right joke can change someone’s point of view on racism or sexism or even the more banal prejudices people hold that should be examined. That is one of the main reasons I’m happy I got raised funny.