No city in America is more closely associated with the art of improv comedy than Chicago. Indeed, the city is credited as the birthplace of modern improvisational theater. It also remains, to this day, the preeminent choice for the brave, inspired souls who go out on a limb to pursue careers as professional improvisation actors. While improv training and performances are in abundance year-round in Chicago, the city experiences a surge in activity each spring as the Chicago Improv Festival commences.
History of the Chicago Improv Festival
Founded by Jonathan Pitts and Frances Callier in 1998, the Chicago Improv Festival is an educational forum that offers students opportunities to engage, collaborate, and learn from professionals. An emphasis on innovation is palpably present throughout the forum, as students and professionals alike test out new methods and stretch the limits of their creative minds. Before its founding, no organized improv annual festival had ever taken place in Chicago, the improv capital of the world. While other improv festivals have been organized in the United States and elsewhere, Chicago’s remains the only forum dedicated “solely to the purposes of documenting, promoting, and teaching improv as an art form,” according to ChicagoImprovProductions.org. Educational workshops for those with a serious interest in furthering their skills and gaining experience are held during the day while rip-roaring, belly laughing shows open to the general public are held every evening of the festival.
2014 Headline Acts
Dozens of troupes from Chicago and around the country will take to the stages. Needless to say, there will be no shortage of talent at this year’s festival. The best known, most in-demand performance will be that of the Upright Citizens Brigade’s founding members, who will be performing their longform improv show that spectators in New York and Los Angeles have recently fallen in love with, ASSSSCAT. The talent behind this silly-named act consists of Matt Besser, best known for his role in “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story;” Ian Roberts, the hilarious stage manager from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy;” and Chicago native Matt Walsh, who played Dr. Valsh in “The Hangover.” They will be performing at 8PM on Sunday, April 6 at Second City Up Comedy Club.
Other headline acts include “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Paul Brittain and “One Small Hitch” actress Jet Eveleth, performing at The Second City e.t.c. on April 2 at 8PM; Chicago natives Jon Barinholtz and Rob Belushi, who will appear at Stage 773 on April 4 at 10PM; and Horatio Sanz, who will appear in the ASSSSCAT headline as well as with his own troupe at Stage 773 on April 5 at 10:30PM.
People come far and wide to be entertained by improv comedy acts and seek training in improvisational theater in Chicago. Set aside a few hours of your time to get a good laugh and watch one of the dozens of shows affiliated with the Chicago Improv Festival taking place between March 31 and April 6 in various venues throughout Chicago.
Are you an improv fan? Let us know who is your favorite performer or troupe in the comments below!
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