Corporate Entertainment in Denver

Corporate Entertainment in Denver - Voodoo Comedy Playhouse

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.

(We also offer Team Building in Denver)

 

Contact us to learn more about our entertainment options.

Email [email protected], or call 303-578-0079 (extension 6).

Team Building Ideas in Denver

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.

Team Building Ideas in Denver

Team Building with the Voodoo School of Improv:

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”.

You can read more – Unique Team Building in Denver

A Night of Laughter

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 LoDoVoodoo 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!

Colorado Mountain MeadowVolunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC)

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.

Cheers

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.

United Way Denver

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.

The First Thought: Part IV – Sport

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].

This is all from one game, right? Some sort of Calvin Ball?

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.

 

The First Thought – Part II: Practice Makes a Fool of Us All

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  

Winston Churchill, Attributed Quote

 

“Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”

Jake the Dog, Adventure Time

Hi, you. I’ve finally returned to this blog. I trust you anticipated the moment of my return every day. Alright, well, at least I assume you maybe thought about the last post from day to day. Ok, well I hope you have read my last post. And I hope you are willing to go into another bout with me as I ruminate on that dreaded bugbear of any pursuit: being bad it.

 

There’s this Ira Glass quote[note]This one’s just chock fulla quotes! This guy’s nothin’ but quotes ova here![/note] on beginning to work on a project about taste that my friend, the academically vulgar Dan Weflen told me as we were on our way to some open mic or other[note] Full quote here: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/309485-nobody-tells-this-to-people-who-are-beginners-i-wish[/note]. To paraphrase the quote- when you start in a creative field it is because you have taste. You know enough about what you like and don’t like and you’re trying to make things similar to what you like. Whether it’s a novel, a poem, a dance, or an improv sketch, you’re trying to make something that matches your standard of taste… and you’re failing. Boy oh boy are you failing. For years. And you can cash your chips in there or stick with it.

 

But that decision isn’t what I want to talk about here. I trust that you have enough sense in your head, reader, to decide if you want to pursue something even though you’re terrible at it[note]Pst! Give yourself permission to fail. Acknowledge the failure, live in the failure, find a way to let the failure make you stronger. If you get this reference, dear reader, hit me up. You’re cool.[/note]. Rather I would like to focus on failing and, more importantly, watching other people fail.

 

Before I go into my main argument, I’d like to touch on the emotional side of failure. Failing, for lack of a better term, sucks. You can end up feeling humiliated or overly self-critical or even just like you’re bad at doing something you love. The thing of it is, failure is an inevitable part of the learning process so you’ll need to be okay with it emotionally. My advice is, like with swimming or existential philosophy, to jump into the deep end. That way you can rip away most of your fears like a Bandaid. Remember that you want to do this (whatever creative pursuit you have put your mind to) and you’re still learning. Failure can lead to a bruised ego and feeling foolish, but fear of failure definitely leads to never actually trying anything. If the failure gets to you, let it get to you. Experience that loss and shame fully. But don’t let them stop you and don’t turn them into something they’re not. One bad set doesn’t mean you’re a bad performer. It just means you’re learning. Turn your anxiety into excitement. Turn your self-criticism into awareness of your strengths. Turn your failure into a lesson. Swallow your fear and screw your courage to the sticking place. For today is a sword day, a red day, ERE THE SUN RISES! You’re about to create something.

 

Improv comedy is nearly always a team sport, as I’ve said before, and because of this it is typically more supportive and forgiving of failure. Your failure is a team failure and if someone can find a way to help your performance, they will try to. As I’ll discuss more in a future post, team creation, discovering the strengths and weaknesses of your classmates is as much part of the improv learning experience as the basic rules and forms. And everyone has your back.

 

But any creative pursuit fill find you in a room of like-minded people feebly attempting to create something great. In other words, you’ll be at practice. Say you’re at a Voodoo Comedy Playhouse Level 1 Improv class[note] Learn improv of the course of eight weeks and then perform in front of a live audience! Reasonable prices! Fun and wise instructors! …They are hosting my posts here, folks.[/note]. And you’re watching people make obvious (to you) mistakes, or worse, they’re making a scene that is repugnant (to your taste). This happens while honing any sort of creative skill; practicing involves watching a lot of your peers do it poorly. Performing improv, even poorly, feels thrilling and seems to only last a second. Watching bad improv feels painfully awkward and seems to last days. And the worst part of it is you have the suspicion that while you’re performing, your classmates are having similar feelings about you.

 

Now at this point the good people at the Voodoo may be reconsidering having me write these posts. But what I’ve written above I fully intend to be a recommendation for taking the classes. Watching and experiencing these failures are key to making any sort of progress. Given time and encouragement from the Voodoo’s wonderful teaching staff[note]Level one starts at less than $150 for twenty two total class hours. That’s only about six dollars an hour, what a steal! Please don’t delete this blog![/note] you will learn to see these failures for what they are: gifts.

 

Before I elaborate I want to take a moment here and macro-out the focus of the point I’m driving at. Because it’s not just improv. God knows it also happens in stand up comedy[note]Watch it happen live at any local open mic. I heartily recommend 5280comedy.com as a resource for any stand up fans in the Denver and greater North Colorado areas.  If you’re anywhere near an urban area you’ll probably find a similar site near you.[/note]. I’m not good enough at sketch-writing to have this experience in that realm yet. But I remember as a weird teenager[note]There are no other kind.[/note] I took piano lessons. I was fine. At one point I could read sheet music and even play Tom Waits’ Georgia Lee and the big band classic The Chattanooga Choo Choo. I knew good piano playing from bad. But during our annual class recitals I would sit through piano playing that ranged from people flubbing relatively easy tunes to professional-level playing of classical masterpieces. Comparing myself to these people I couldn’t see myself as anything except alternately mediocre and judgy. So I gave it up. I wasn’t in a band and you can’t exactly lug a baby grand onto the quad to woo a potential date. I couldn’t possibly see myself getting over the hurdles required to be where some of my peers were – playing by ear or even without sheet music. I didn’t even get to the most important lesson you learn from being bad at a new pursuit: failure now lets you know how to succeed later.

 

So, say you and your classmates in your Voodoo improv Level 1 class[note]They can even do payment plans if you ask nicely! I’m sorry for bringing up pianos! Please keep me on your site![/note] put on a scene that you think was dumb and bad. But stop and ask yourself these questions: Why was it bad? Why was it dumb? Was it because the scene was distasteful or bigoted or unfunny? Or maybe because the scene was classless or hack or inscrutable? It’s important to define exactly what went wrong and why before you can work on not doing it again. I see this as a further defining of what got you into this mess in the first place, your taste. The more granularly you can identify why something you’re seeing is against your tastes, the easier you can begin to identify countless and just-as-granular ways to create something that isn’t. This broadening of your vocabulary is an important addition to your creative pursuit related toolbox.

 

To summarize so far: watching someone perform bad improv can be torture. Performing bad improv yourself, while fun, can be worse. But it is important to perform poorly and even watch people perform poorly so you can begin to identify how to start performing well. To paraphrase a Dan Harmon quote: repeated failure is the key to success.  

 

And… I tricked ya! You could’ve just read the second quote in the article and gone to eat a Carmello in the time you read this article and still get my point!

 

…No. Of course not. I hope that going into this level of detail was important in understanding what a gift watching failure can be. And I’ll finish up with a thought about personal failure.

 

For me, failing at creating humor is easier than failing at other pursuits.  If I mess up a performance and end up looking like a ridiculous clown that is, in a way, good. I can lean into the mistake and play it up and relieve some of my embarrassment from being a failure. And, frankly, after two years of doing stand up comedy open mics[note]And another twenty six of being a human on Earth.[/note] it takes a lot to embarrass me. Looking silly in front of people while performing comedy is not only part of the learning process but also technically counts as performing comedy. Especially in improv comedy where looking silly in front of your peers is inevitable and encouraged. And with that embarrassment taken care of all I’m left with is a frank, constructive critiques of my work. Who can’t handle that?

 

I leave you with this fifth and final quote[note]This guy thinks he’s King Quotes ova here or somethin’![/note]:

 

“That is the saving grace of humor, if you fail no one is laughing at you.”

Comedy Writer A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture: An American Commentary

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.

Improv is like Religion

Improv and religion go hand in hand. Now, I know, yo’ mama told you not to talk about religion and politics, but this blog throws mama’s sentiment out of the window. Don’t want to read about improv & religion? Click the ? in the top right corner and Bye Felicia.

Gratitude. ¹

Gratitude. ¹

Improv, for many, can be a religious experience. For those of you involved, you know the feeling – you take a good class with a great instructor, you want to tell everyone about it; you perform a show, you want to blast in on facebook. For those of you not directly involved also know the feeling – that improviser is contagiously pushing you to perform, take classes or be the ear for improv excitement. Similarly, people involved in deep religious beliefs do the same – they may hear a good sermon and want to tell everyone about it; they read an inspiring quote or passage, they want as many people to know on social media or in person. Hell, some even knock on your damn door their so excited.

 

The fun is always on the other side of  YES.
-Martin DeMatt

Last month, the National Geographic Channel premiered an insightful series hosted by arguably the most recognizable voices, Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman hosts The Stories of God and dives deep, deep into God and religion. If you have not had an opportunity to see it, check it out. There was a similar television series by the same name produced by BBC. The show The Stories of God is a captivating journey into religion and its many forms. Freeman travels the globe in the hopes to learn about one thing: God.

Morgan Freeman hosts National Geographic’s Story of God. ³

Different traditions; different languages; different names for God; different types of architecture; different geography; different cultures; different prayers; different chants; different emphasises; one God. Despite their countless differences, all of the believers Morgan Freeman spoke to a higher being, a higher power. For the lack of better words, one magical spirit that provides the soul peace.

Beautiful church in Minneapolis. ²

Hearing the eclectic group of spiritual leaders speak, there was a common thread. They were all declaring the same message, but simply conveying it through different forms. Remarkably, on a universal level, everybody believes the same thing. Religion evokes the thought that there is something beyond human life – something spiritually larger, indescribable by human perception.

Even more remarkably, the same is true for improvisation and the study of the art. In the most simplest of terms, improv is religion. It could be argued that the arts are the over-arching religion, but this analogy is far more microscopic on the improvisational theater community and its reach. At the end of the day, every improviser, everywhere in the world, believes in something beyond goofy-character-work, pantomine-where-work or raw scene-work; everyone believes in Improv.

Different theaters have different warm-ups; different leaders; different shows; different names for games; different spaces; different geography; different audiences; different emphasises; one Improv. Much like The Stories of God spotlights, everyone, in the grand scheme of things, believes in the same indescribable being; improv. Chicago is a great example of this analogy at work. There are many wonderful theaters in the city of Chicago – including Annoyance Theater, ComedySportz, Improv Den, iO Chicago, Stage 773, The Playground, The Second City, Under the Gun Theater to name a few, truly. The cultivation of such a vibrant and diverse community comes from the same belief [improv], but emanate that [improv] belief in different forms. Different delivery and theory prominence; same message.

iO Chicago.

iO Chicago. ¹¹

Improvisation is a unique form of theatrical comedy. There are theaters where the primary goal for the improv comedy ensembles is to make the audiences laugh. There are experimental ensembles with the only intention to make the audience feel an emotion, without an emphasis on laughter. Some productions have a more humble approach; using improvisation as therapy. Others use the art of improvisational theater as entertaining, high-end productions like The Second City and Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

The key is every interpretation has a place in the improv world.

Denver’s improv circuit is booming and has sundry selection for education and live comedy, unique for a growing city. There are incredible things happening in and around Denver. The marijuana legalization has opened a niche for comedy shows centered around cannabis. Theaters all over Mile High City – like the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse – offer classes and shows. Like religion, explore all of the improv you can find. Read, learn, do.

Knowing what theory or belief you want to follow begins with being informed and educated; this art is your journey. Follow your heart and surround yourself with the community that vibrates your soul. Why? Improv.

Jon Jon Lannen chibi headshot
Jon Jon Lannen is a writer, performer and instructor at Voodoo Comedy. He loves improv, dogs and sparkling water. Learn more about him here.

 

¹ Gratitude Photo (2015). @jonjonlannen. Retrieved from Instagram.
² Church Photo (2016). @jonjonlannen. Retrieved from Instagram.
³ Morgan Freeman still, The Story of God (2016). National Geographic via SkyGo. Retrieved from SkyGo.
¹¹ iO Chicago Photo (2015). @jonjonlannen. Retrieved from Instagram.

Love and Improv

Most people that get involved in the art of improv typically have an immediate affectionate for the form. Improv and Love go hand in hand, really. In honor of the commercialized Valentine’s Day holiday, this blog is dedicated to love and basketball, err improv.

The Voodoo Comedy Playhouse’s School of Improv explains to everyone who walks through the theater doors that improv is everyone’s own journey. Some folks do it for therapeutic reasons, some for psychological, some for confidence and some who simply enjoy entertaining people- and some do it for all those reasons. There are an array of reason why everyday folk get involved in improv comedy and end up loving it.

St. Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us and I had the honor to sit down and have some pizza with the wonderful teachers of the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse and asked them all why they love improv and/or what they love most about the craft.

Misty Saribal, a experienced performer and instructor, tells the group, “I love improv because it gets me in touch with my inner child, that radical kid who wasn’t afraid to talk with spaghetti sauce on her face.” Harnessing the inner child yields for amazing results on and off stage. Misty is one of two Level 1 improv instructors at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. She goes on to tell us what she loves most about improv, “I get in touch with ancient ways of knowing and being known: narrative, embodiment, and intuition. The magical moments of connection in improv make me feel really alive in a dangerous, wholehearted, adrenaline-pumped kind of way. What can I say? Improv is my medicine, and my most favorite thing to share with people.” As you see, for Misty improv is like medicine and the connection is one of the most important pieces to her journey.

I met Nick Trotter a few years ago and I love him as much as he loves improv. Trotter is one of two Level 2 instructors, alongside Voodoo staple David Schultz. With a strong background in clown performance and connecting to the audience on a deeper level, he explains, “What I love most about improv is that it is a live event. It was not taped yesterday, or ten years ago. It was not written in the past for some other audience. It happens in the here-and-now, involving all of the people in this very room, and it will never happen again. It has the immediacy and the high stakes of sports. It is the essence of theatre, and it does what no other art or medium can do: Be. Here. Now.” It’s true. Improv is all about remaining in the moment and this level 2 teacher explains it in the best way possible. Be here now.

“I love improv because it is a fun and creative way to practice being in the present moment,” seconds Heather Curran, the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse’s Level 3 improv teacher. Curran is one of the most dynamic, in-the-moment performers in the Denver scene. She tells us, “I love coming on stage with an idea and having it turn out completely different than what I expected because my scene partner and I discovered something original together.” Coming together as a group enables performers to not only elevate others, but have confidence in what gifts they bring to the stage as individuals.

Allison Learned‘s journey is similar to Misty’s in that she indicates, “I’ve not matured past 6 years old, so play time in strange lands of our mind’s make believe is quite delightful for my brain.” Allison comes from a diverse background in theater and provides a unique perspective on improvisation. She is Voodoo’s School of Improv’s Level 4 instructor. “I love watching people find freedom in creating concepts and realities that would be scoffed at elsewhere but in improv they are loved, desired and respected!” In most cases people will look crazy, but not in improv. In improv, everything is a vital piece to the show.

“I love improv because it gives us the chance to tell the honest truth. So often in life, we are scared to tell the truth, or unable, or unsure of what the truth even is. Improv forces us to slow down and accept the reality of what’s in front of us, and to respond with fierce honesty. That honesty may be funny, or heartbreaking, or empowering, or joyous. But it will always be a powerful experience,” says Owner and Level 5 instructor Steve Wilder. Wilder is right, the art of improv teaches everyone how to live more truthfully. His passion for the art is addicting telling us all, “What I love most about improv is that it is truly an equal opportunity art form! Anyone can do it and do it well. We all progress at different speeds, so what comes naturally to some may prove more difficult for others. But ultimately, if you put in the work and dedicate yourself to it, you will become a master improviser.” There is no better way to put it. Improv is for everyone, so give it a whirl.

In the comment section below tell us why you love improv!

There are countless different improv schools and workshops in and around Denver. For more information on the classes held at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, please click here.

Jon Jon
Jon Jon Lannen a writer and teacher living in Denver, Colorado. He currently instructs, performs and writes for Voodoo Comedy. Learn more about Jon Jon here.

Ithamarathon Weekend

Denver’s comedy scene is booming. You’ve heard it, you’ve seen it. On top of the top-notch talent Denver hosted in 2015, the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse will welcome Ithamar Enriquez’s one-man show Ithamar Has Nothing to Say the first weekend in February. This will be huge. If you are a comedy afficianado, get your tickets now. Ithamar Enriquez’s show is a hit.

Ithamar Enriquez looks familar. Why? Because he is. You’ve seen Enriquez’s face on many hit TV shows including Arrested Development, Key & Peele, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and some other spots. His web-series, also named Ithamar Has Nothing To Say, is executive produced by Key & Peele’s, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.

Ithamar Has Nothing To Say

Ithamar Enriquez

You will cream your proverbial pants when you see Ithamar Enriquez do where-work, in improv often referred to as object work. The thing that makes Ithamar Has Nothing To Say unique is the fact that the actor, you guessed it, says literally nothing for the duration of the show. You have never seen anything like this. Ithamar has a clear background in improvisation and sketch. The Charleston City Paper hailed him the “21st century Charlie Chaplin” and they nailed it on the head. I sat down and got Ithamar to talk a little bit.

Welcome to Denver! What are you most excited about?
I’m excited about bringing my passion project to a new audience! I’ve always loved visiting Denver. Since my days touring with the Second City, the audiences here have always been energetic and always willing to have a good time!

For those unfamiliar, can you tell us a little bit about your show?
Ithamar has Nothing To Say is a one man sketch show I perform without saying a single word. I play about 30 different characters throughout the show, sometimes multiple characters in the same scene. Most of the scenes are done to songs from artists like Louis Armstrong, Daft Punk, The Who and more.

Who or what inspired you to create Ithamar Has Nothing To Say?
I’ve always loved the physical comedians. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Rowan Atkinson, Gilda Radner, Steve Martin. Physical comedy is timeless and universal. I wanted to put a modern twist on this very classic form. Also, I’m TERRIBLE at memorizing lines.

I hear that. What cities have you been able to take this show to?
The show opened in LA and has been to Austin, Charleston, Chicago, San Diego and Phoenix.

We’d love to learn more about the web series, Ithamar Has Nothing To Say. Can you tell our readers more about that project?
Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, along with Maker studios produced six shorts based on my stage show. Some of the episodes are direct lifts from the stage show and others where written specifically for the web series. Much like Mr. Bean, the show follows one character, named Ithamar (it was tough to come up with his name). He finds himself trying to fit in to different locations and situations. All while never uttering a word. The show can be found on Maker.tv.

What was it like to work with Key and Peele as executive producers?
They have always been heroes of mine. Since I saw them performing on stage in Chicago. They are unique, smart, silly and amazing talents. Having them on board as producers (and performers in the first episode of the web series) is something I will always be very grateful for! Their guidance and talent helped put this series on the map!

If you had one message you want people to hear, what would that be?
I have nothing to say.

Ithamar Enriquez is a rock-star talent and Denver has the honor to host him February 5th and 6th. Join this modern-day Chaplin at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse for two shows of Ithamar Has Nothing To Say and a workshop on Saturday. To purchase tickets or to sign up for the workshops, please click here.

Jon Jon
Jon Jon Lannen is an intructor, performer and writer for Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. He loves writing, improv and fizzy drinks. Learn more about him here.

Whitney’s Wit

Whitney Cummings, classic roaster and stand up comedian, has a new special coming out in January. Can we call her a powerhouse? The special is called “I’m Your Girlfriend” and is showing on HBO on January 23rd so mark it. While we wait we can watch some clips from her last 2 specials. After that we can learn some things about Whitney that we didn’t know.

Here’s a couple clips from her latest special entitled “I Love You”.

You can get the full version from Comedy Central.

Her first special was audio only and was called “Emotional Ninja”. Here is a hilarious clip about women’s secrets!

To fill some more time while you’re at work doing nothing, you can learn some new things about Whitney by watching the latest Joe Rogan Experience Podcast.

Hope you enjoyed!

-KJ Willy