Summer comedy is hot, hot, hot!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Comedy in Denver: What to see this March

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 and Jimmy 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!

Funny Four: The Best Spots For Improv Comedy In Denver

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.

Voodoo Comedy Playhouse

1260 22nd Street
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 578-0079
www.voodoocomedy.com

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.

Bovine Metropolis Theater

1527 Champa St
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 758-4722
www.bovinemetropolis.com

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.

ComedySportz at The Avenue Theatre

417 E 17th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
(303) 321-5925
www.cszdenver.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.

The First Thought: Part V – I Love to Laugh

“[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

 

“Ha Ha!”

-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?

The First Thought – Part I: Humble Beginnings

“A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching

“The journey of a hundred thousand miles begins in an airport that smells like feet.”

My friend Mike one time.

Hi, you. My name is Nathan. I have been invited to write a series of posts about my firsthand experience as a student of improvisation at Denver’s Voodoo Comedy Playhouse for you, the average human[note] I assume.[/note].

I moved to Colorado two years ago. A week after I moved I discovered the comedy scene here and dove in full force. You see, I’m a comedy nerd. I’m the sort of person who watched the Netflix making of documentary about W/ Bob and David, the Netflix series. When I was a kid, a week after I found out Weird Al was a thing, I was listening to Limewired episodes of Dr. Demento. When I found out about the alt-comedy scene that came out in the ‘90s from the Largo in California I sought out the comedians’ albums with the sort of reverent fervor other people have for rock stars. I say all this to impress upon you, dear reader, how much I care about humor. So around this same time in my life I was introduced to improv for the first time.

Now, I had some experience of improvisation from avidly watching any and all Comedy Central Presents I could get my mitts on. And I’m not talking about the semi-improvisatory delivery of an Eddie Izzard or a Paul F. Tompkins. I mean the times you could see a joke made up on the spot, that was one part reaction to the audience, one part the audience’s reaction, and one part the comedian’s sensibilities[note] A great example is Patton Oswalt’s takedown of a heckler on Track 18 of Werewolves and Lollipops[/note]. Other times comedians worked improv into their act to absolutely mind blowing results[note]For an example I would point you to the masterful Sean Cullen’s improvised song Food of Choice. Do yourself a favor and check out a few of his performances of that bit. They’re on YouTube and they’re hilarious and always improvised.[/note]. Around this point in my life I also started participating in a LARPing[note]Live Action Role Play-ing. You know, those folks with foam swords and cardboard shields that you make fun of but secretly wish you could be a part of.[/note] summer camp that focused on improvisational theater. But that is a story for another blog.

Skipping forward in time to last year, I started taking improv classes at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse to improve my stand up. I kept doing it because they are educational, worthwhile, and fun[note]Also I’ve met a lot of good friends through classes.[/note]. And when I say worthwhile, I do mean it. Getting better at improv has made me more quick-witted and empathic. The keys for good improv are trust in your fellow performers, making strong choices, and capital L Listening. In improv you learn to listen fully to someone: Listening so much that you understand both what they’re saying and what character or joke they’re trying to set up by saying it. That form of Listening is the skill I’ve learned from classes that I’ve found myself using the most in life outside improv. At work or in conversations with friends, that sort of playful empathy can really help you out.

But enough about that. Back to me. What can you expect from my next few posts? Well, in this blog I plan to document my feelings about the different forms of humor, my own experiences as a student of the improv and sketch classes, discuss notable shows I see or perform in, and talk about Denver’s comedy scene in general. Here are some ideas I’ve had for articles: a tortured sports metaphor comparing stand up, writing, and improv; my thoughts on the Voodoo as a performance space and how different shows capitalize on it; a take on how improv is an inherently community-building activity; comparing my LARP camp improv experience to the Voodoo classes; and probably more footnotes where I talk about comedians I like. I hope you stay tuned.

Listen to me ramble, though. I want to wrap this introductory post up. I’ll finish with this thought: One of the pleasures of performing for other people is the act of creation. In some performances, like stand up or music, you create something and practice, practice, practice it until you are ready to perform it spectacularly for others. In others, like writing, you are creating something with your full attention, completely engrossed in the act of creating, but the performance and consumption of your work is far removed from your creation of it. Improv is the most visceral experience of creation I’ve ever had. Not only are you creating something new but so is everyone else on stage with you and, in their way, so is the audience. Improv is created, performed, and consumed all in the same moment. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Come play sometime.

Be the Sky in Improv

be-the-sky-chill

In improvisation, it is important to understand the role each actor plays. Similar to things that occur in the sky, such as thunderstorms and sunshine, improvisation is a great way to teach one another that we are the sky, not the characteristics in the sky.

Many people view the improviser and/or actor as the driver of the improvisational scene. In a literal way, that is accurate. Figuratively, however, it is not. The improviser is merely the conduit to the scene. The messenger, if you will. Similar to the sky.

The sky doesn’t make the sky. The actor doesn’t make the scene. The sunshine and clouds make the sky. The actor’s ability to highlight the characteristics in the scene (yes and theory) is the thing that makes the scene.

be-the-sky-full-moon The sky doesn’t make the sky.
Newer improvisers like to view them as the characteristics of the sky rather than the sky itself. Some performers come in like a dash of of lightning, for a split second and exit the scene. Others hang over the scene like dark clouds bringing down the energy. Then, there are performers that bring up the energy and light like the sun. Ultimately, the improv comedians are not any of them – rather, the improviser is the sky.
The sunshine and clouds make the sky.
The improviser in every scene must embrace the element of being the sky. Without clouds, the sky [to the normal eye] is plain. Plain old blue. Meh. The details in the scenes itself – the gifts – are really the elements of the sky. Similar to a full moon and beautiful stars; these are unable to shine without a blank dark blue canvas. The beaming sun and sugar white clouds; these are unable to be highlighted without a blank light blue background. Even the dark, fantasy purple thunderstorm clouds and flashes of lightning; unable to be seen for its beauty without, the sky.

be-the-sky-sunset

 

 

If improvisers viewed themselves as the sky and the gifts in each frame as the weather patterns, the actor is able to feel more grounded. To run this message home, storm the weather.

In improv. In life. Be the sky. You more than just a dash a lightning, girl.

Jon Jon Lannen is a best-selling author of the Giraffe children’s book series. He is an instructor, performer and writer for the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. More on him here.

Attitude Era, Histor-Improvisation

The improv scene has one city to thank for much of its success in mainstream. Chicago’s The Second City and Improv Olympic (later to be renamed to the recognizable iO) catapulted the improv performers to shows like Saturday Night Live (SNL) and other public avenues. As we spoke to in previous blogs, the early days of improv in the midwest is similar to the original World Wrestling Federation (WWF) – naturally, it would evolve to the Attitude Era.

Charna’s iO and Alexandar’s Second City had sold out crowds with their unique, yet similar styles. This left the gap for an army of misfits that didn’t have a home. Welcome Mick Napier and Company, also known to many comedians as The Annoyance. The Voodoo Comedy site did the Colorado exclusive interview with owner and founder of Annoyance in A Conversation with Mick. Mick Napier, along with instructing and performing, has penned two books and countless incredible articles and blogs.

The way Mick Napier approaches improv comedy is grounding, yet uplifting. Napier has directed and instructed many notable names including Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Amy Sedaris. To name a few; a very, very few. His no-nonsense approach has led to people flocking to Chicago to learn from him and his book is every improviser’s must-have. Mick Napier is one hell of a teacher, with one hell of a global reach. Beyond improvisation, Napier teaches people how to be better people.

The world famous Annoyance Theater has roots in the windy city, but has managed to have a global impact on improvisation. Mick Napier started the Annoyance and has a storied list of legendary improv comedians and comedienne alumn. Some of the Annoyance alumn include Martin DeMaat, Kate Flannery, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, Susan Messing, Amy Sedaris and Matt Walsch – to name a very, very few.

The theater opened as Metraform originally, later moving into a building – late 1980s (1987). The Annoyance then opened the infamous Co-Ed Prison Sluts which had a record 11 years running with a rotating cast. All of this success would translate into a new location in the uptown Chicago area and satellite locations in New York City, serving the East Coast.

The Attitude Era or improv shaped what many know as improv comedy – from east to west. The nest blog will highlight the reach Chicago had east, then west. Improv everywhere!
Jon Jon and everything he do
Jon Jon Lannen is a best-selling author of the Giraffe children’s book series. He is an instructor, performer and writer for the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. More on him here.

Pre-Attitude Era, Histor-Improvisation

As not only a Rupaul’s Drag Race and Real Housewives historian – I would also dub myself a historian of modern-day improv. I’m a millennial with a man-bun. Some of you may be rolling your eyes, but that role that your eyes play were vital in the birth of what I call the Attitude Era of improvisational, as asinine as that sounds.

Since the inception of The Second City, many people were highlighted in a mid-western city, but gave the opportunity for others to flourish in the community’s growth. No doubt, The Second City was the face of Chicago; the old school WWF. I’m talking gold-logo, Hulk Hogan, improv-mania. Then came the need for a heel. That’s where Improv Olympic came to engulf the flame of improvisation.

Improv Olympic, later named and most recognized as iO – opened in the 80s by the godfather of improv, Del Close and protege Charna Halpern. Charna Halpern is the current owner and powerhouse of iO Chicago located in Chicago, Illinois and iO West located in Los Angeles California. The iO is the original home of the Harold. The Harold is the official form of the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse School of Improv inspired by Del Close. [shameless plug – sign up for classes here]

Naturally that evolved the scene into the Attitude Era, the new scribbled WWF sign that drank up Stone Cold Steve Austin and smelled what the Rock was cooking. The birth of the Mick Napier‘s Annoyance Theater was born.

Jon Jon a
Jon Jon Lannen is a writer, performer and instructor at the Voodoo. He loves improv and fizzy drinks… a lot.

More on him here.

The Second City Blows In, Hisor-Improvisation

The most astounding thing about improvisation is that there are is such a rich history behind the art; despite, what at the surface, some critics don’t warrant as its own art – that’s another discussion. The roots of modern-day improvisation have many cities to be gracious to, but the windy city is the mecca of improv.

As we talked about in past blogs, there were vital people in the construct of this form of comedy, including Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, Del Close – and later, others – Charna Helpurn, Mick Napier among many other leaders in Chicago’s improv landscape.

Arguably the most famous is the acclaimed Second City in Chicago – also, Toronto and Los Angeles. First, Spolin, therefore Sills’, therefore countless others – impacted the scene in Illinois, moving south – we will highlight the impact the windy has had west to east coast; and even north – not to mention globally. Before we get there, let’s talk The Second City.

Some of my biggest idols have roots to not only Chicago, but the world famous The Second City. Here is a brief, and I mean quite brief history of the most famous improv/sketch stage. Such a rich history in such a short amount of time – 50 years of funny.

1959
The Second City
 opens its doors!

1960s
First workshops begin, Del Close joins the squad, first performance in London, first performance in Toronto, air on television, begin to to tour nationally, Bob Curry joins the team, they moved, performed their 28th revue and Harold Ramis joined. Holy. shit.

1970s
John Belushi joins The Second City, show opens in Toronto, Second City Toronto opens, new ownership in Andrew Alexander, SNL debuts with many notable alumni, SCTV aired on American television.

1980s
Sheldon Patikinn joins The Second City, SCTV wins Emmy, revue opens in Manhattan, New York – New York City, The Second City training center opens officially with curriculum, Amy Sedaris and Mike Myers join The Second City, as well as the return of one Del Close.

1990s
Chris Farley joins the party at The Second City, debuted in Scotland, began outreach, opened Second City Detroit, Horatio Sanz joins the cast, the shows format take a new spin, Mick Napier directs a show, and the 90s close with the death of guru Del Close.

2000s and on
The small place where many notable actors, directors and, well, famous folks, have roots in The Second City. With all of that history¹, the Second City inspired what we will call the “attitude” era of improv next.

Jon Jon Lannen is a best-selling author of the Giraffe children’s book series. He is an instructor, performer and writer for the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. More on him here.

¹ The Second City (1950 to 2016). History – 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s. Retrieved by The Second City website.

Chicago Boom, Histor-Improvisation

Chicago, no doubt, is known as the modern-day mecca of improvisation. Many notable schools, instructors and actors come from an improv comedy background; most with extremely close ties to Chicago, Illinois. The last blog highlighted the start of improv, dating back to the 1800s – read the article here – this blog will spotlight the windy city and its role in the boom of improv. Improvisation was studied by Stanislovksy, articulated for education by Viola Spolin, performance-based theater games by Keith Johnstone and that left a gap in Chicago. It didn’t take long before that gap was filled and the revolution of improv as a performing art began.

Many performers were responsible for pushing performing arts to another level in the Midwest. In the area, Paul Sills was a major player – a Compass Player, if you will. Paul Sills was the founder of the Compass Players alongside David Shepard. Sills and Shepard are said to be the creators of the first improv cabaret; also known as improvisational theater performance. The Compass Players were an integral piece to the Chicago improv puzzle in the 1950s into the 60s. Paul Sills was the son of Viola Spolin, the Mother of Improv. These names are vital in the history of not only Illinois’ scene, but improvisation as we know it.

Compass & company played a major role in notable stars as Alan Arkin, Elaine May, Mike Nichols & Jerry Stiller, among others.  One of the less mainstream protégé’s was Del Close. The Compass Players would later evolve into what many claim to be the most famous comedy school in the world, The Second City. The Second City premiered in 1959 with a show directed by Paul Sills. Then, the rest is history – shows, shows, shows. With more performance opportunity came the need for improvisational training. Viola Spolin was the primary educator of improv for Compass and passed on her teaching to many notable instructors. The Second City became number one in modern-day improv showcases and training.

The Second City has ties to countless celebrities. Thousands of famous names had ties to the famed Second City including Alan Alda, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, John Candy, Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Dave Foley, Jeff Garlin, Eugene Levy, Shelley Long, Tim Meadows, Colin Mochrie, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Amy Poehler and Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers, Ryan Styles and Fred Willard. Major. This is truly the only the tip of the iceberg.

Above we mentioned a Compass Player named Del Close. Del Close may be singlehandedly responsible for what improv is today – the Attitude Era of Chicago improvisation occurred due to his relentless, raw realness. Close was the founder of the Improv Olympic and would soon partner with Charna Halpern – current owner of iO enterprise – to create Harold [the official form of the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse]. The only real competition to the mainstream [the] Second City. Then the Annoyance came and the world changed. The next blog will highlight the change the improv landscape saw after Del, Charna, Mick and others hit the scene.

Jon Jon Lannen chibi headshot
Jon Jon Lannen is the best-selling author of the Giraffe children’s book series. He is an instructor, performer and writer for the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse.
More on him here.