Phoenix Improv Festival: To Make Them Stay

I think it would be super cool to make my living improvising and teaching others to do it.

This is really hard. This is really simple.

To make a career out of improv you have to

1.       Be a good improviser.
2.       Find LOTS of people who want to watch improv and learn how to do it.
3.       Make those people stay.

Last night, I’m sitting in the balcony of the beautiful (and BIG) Herberger Theatre in downtown Phoenix. I’m delighting in the improvisation of some wonderful local troupes at what was the opening of the 11th Phoenix Improv Festival.

I see this theatre full of people who want to watch improv. I see The Foundation take the stage. They are the teaching faculty from The Torch Theatre (Phoenix). They are 10 people strong.

I’ve got to know how they’ve got so many people teaching – possibly making their living doing this thing we love. They must have lots of people taking classes and coming to shows!

The national improv community loves to stand around, talk about improv and be friends just as much as our local improv communities.

I’m chatting with one of The Torch instructors, Sam Haldiman. I point out that their faculty is large. The crowd at the festival is large. I asked why he thought improv students continue to take classes. What makes people keep doing it.

Fittingly surrounded by the sights and sounds of people genuinely enjoying one another, Sam told me he thought most people were initially attracted by the chance to learn how to do something cool, but being a part of a community is what makes them stay.

I look around at all these people being open to one another and laughing together. I know this is true.

– Matt Graham

Fantasy Weekend: Pittsburgh, Phoenix, New Orleans, & New York

Thursday March 1st 10:00 Pittsburgh Improv Jam @ ImprovPittsburgh

This Fantasy Week is all about the community. Places that provide the space for interesting/weird/genius to happen. That’s why I’m starting off my unicorn ride with a stop in Pittsburgh. I’ve never seen a show in Pittsburgh, and I’m fairly certain I’ve never even stopped within the city limits. But something about the candor of this website in explaining what improvisation is while providing stage time for newbies sounds like they are in it for all the right reasons. Consider the $3 door and this description: “Seriously: talking about comedy is like trying to describe the color of a dream Crayon, or the effect that a cool breeze has on your income taxes. It’s just better to be here for it.”

Friday March 2nd 8:30 The Trifecta: PIMMP Edition Round 1 @ The Torch Theatre

Which brings me to Cage Match night in Phoenix, Arizona. This is the first round of the quarter finals, with all proceeds funding the Phoenix Improv Festival April 27th and 28th. Torch Theatre clearly cares about their scene, from a polished website and full calendar of shows to a community that is so strong they are closed the following Saturday night so people can attend instructors’ Jacque and Sam’s Wedding. Watching Salmon Shane square off against The Status Quo for a shot at the title; that’s giving the Torch comedy scene some nice stakes for initiations and piece-arc. Add in the Light Rail Pirates for a third set, while the votes are tallied, and I’m down for a Friday night jaunt out West.

Saturday March 3rd 9 & 10:30 Grand Opening @ TNM NOLA

But I know where my money is for Saturday night. The official grand opening of The New Movement in New Orleans, bringing together talent from multiple cities in the TNM collective. The night starts with Checkbook from Austin and goes into the NOLA edition of Claws with Fangs. 1 And the second set of the night puts powerhouse Handbomb opening for TNM founders Chris and Tami. There’s a reason the Big Easy is celebrating this opening with cover story articles. Individually hilarious, the progression of these groups together in one night will blow past preconceived notions of comedy. Include the brand new TNM website? Comedy in the South, consider your scene heightened.

Sunday March 4th 9:30 ASSSSCAT 3000 @ UCB

This is the show that cemented UCB as the place for NYC Improv.  The show name is born from Horatio Sanz’s commitment to comedic absurdity during a performance in a less-than-friendly bar. ASSCAT it is also known for the insane number of Comedy Superstar guests who’ve perform in it, including Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Andy Richter, improvising genius John Lutz (not this John Lutz) and many many others. As an Armando with pretty famous monologists, the free late-night slot has a seriously long line but also the most crazy cameos. While the original four seldom perform together anymore, the house cast is a tour-de-force.

And now to sleep on a rare speckled koala pillow bear.


Show 1 footnote

  1. Remember last week seeing CwF Austin Edition? Badass all-female group representation in both cities. Boom.