Thursday, June 26, 2008

Naming an improv troupe

Naming an improv troupe, originally uploaded by tberrongkc.

Above—the way Lighten Up mini-focus-group tested and designed our logo (that's the original in the upper left, with some inspiration from a design annual in the middle). It's so...retro. Graph paper and Sharpies. Imagine.

Whether you need to put time and effort into your name depends entirely on what you’re doing.

(NOTE: Um, it might be that because I work in marketing for one of the most recognized brands around, I’m a teensy smidge biased.)

Companies pay writers big bucks to name products, programs and services. They have strategies—should names be descriptive? Or more evocative? Real or made-up words? They do trademark searches, focus-group test the crap out of the names and invest millions to sink them into the public consciousness.

Improv troupes…don’t.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not important. A name may be the only thing an audience member sees when he makes a decision about whether to see your show. Or what an event planner uses to decide if she’ll call you about the company holiday party. A name is a branded snapshot of what you’re selling. And if you’ve got long-term plans, your brand is your most valuable asset.

(ANOTHER NOTE: Turns out this is exactly where two things I’m pretty passionate about come smack up against each other.)

In my improv land, there are six categories (with examples I’ve been involved with):

  • Short-run shows: Chick*Show, Corn Dog, NightLight, Act Two Baby!
  • Temporary troupes (like Thunderdome teams): Burnin’ Sternums
  • Events: Spontaneous Combustion, KC Improv Festival, KC Improv Showcase
  • Open-run shows: Play It By Ear, On The Spot, Outside The Lines
  • Performing troupes: Funny Outfit, Tantrum, Spite, Straight Man
  • Theater, performing troupe, corporate consultants: Lighten Up

The first two categories can be named on a whim. Shows get descriptive names, troupes get fun names. Show names just have to get people in the door—they’ll be gone tomorrow. Thunderdome troupe names don’t matter much at all, because the names that draw the audience are Thunderdome (public) and the players (family, friends and fans).

But event and long-run show names—and troupes or theaters—matter a whole lot more.

OK. This is officially the KC improv blogger topic for Sunday. I should probably save some blowhard stuff for then.


  1. LOU!!! You know, that logo really was fantastic on its own. But nobody could ever top the prolific John Dill for hilarious and mind-bogglingly creative embellishments. I expect, of course, you saved all his work from over the years?

  2. What's the JHC face? That's not Lou. Is that for Jesus H Christ?

    That would've been a good name for a comedy troupe.


New rule: I'm not approving anonymous comments. If you want to sit at the grownup table, you have to sign your name.

Now c'mon. Pick a fight.