Sunday, February 1, 2009

Impish.

There’s an improv-only theater in Bonner Springs, KS.

Seriously, people. That just gets cooler as you think about it more.

And John, the guy who owns it, is a serious improv geek. (Of course, I mean that in the best way possible.) I got to sit in on his Red Rubber Ball show (and stuck around to watch his two-man show with Keith last night, which kicked some serious ass—they mapped feeding chocolate all the hell over drug and sex addiction).

The Red Rubber ball show was a blast to play. I was up with John, my old friend Don, Nifer, Keith and Patrick; I’ve played with all of them before either in classes or shows, so I was really looking forward to the chance to improvise with them. They made me feel welcome and completely at ease right off the bat. The Roving Imp is like that—the generous, playful vibe there really reminds me that performing isn’t the only reason I love improv.

In the first few months of playing with KC ComedySportz (now ComedyCity), the guys from Chicago came down for a show and workshop. They mentioned that if any of us ever happened to be in Chicago, we should come sit in. Chicago CSz played at the Congress Hotel at the time; I called them just to say I was coming to the show, and they asked me to sit in.

OK. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and they were probably short players that night. But I was a year into improvising and they accepted me without question. They trusted me enough to put me in a show just because I was one of them.

I was an improv fan before, but I think that’s when I officially fell in love.

Lighten Up started running festivals because we wanted the camaraderie ComedySportz teams have. Ours was one of the first national fests, and hit about the time Usenet groups were getting improvisers together online. We started getting to each other at festivals like ours and ImprovStock in Athens and the Big Stinkin’ fest in Austin.

After you do this for a while (uh, say, almost 20 years) it’s easy to forget the feeling of meeting people who get you for maybe the first time. I started doing this when there was no festival circuit…the major troupes in Chicago weren’t mixed and matched…and KC barely had enough improvisers to fill a few troupes, much less a community.

Playing with your own troupe, you get a heightened sense of that trust and camaraderie. But if you ever get a chance to sit in with folks you don’t normally play with, do it. Because making people laugh isn’t the only thing that makes doing this stuff fun.

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