Why We Love Improv Comedy

We here at Hugs and Pullups all share a common trait – an absolute adoration for improv comedy. I’ve done straight acting thanks to a theater degree, and I’ve done stand-up comedy, but neither of them come anywhere near the fun of getting onstage with all my friends and goofing off for 20-30 minutes in front of a live audience. It sends chills down my spine just thinking about it – or maybe that’s just the chilly Chicago winter.

That’s pretty much the only downfall of Chicago improv comedy though – the cold weather. Other than that, everything is unbeatable. Chicago is home to the finest improv comedy schools in the country – iO theater, the Annoyance theater, and the most famous of them all, Second City. Those are the big three, but there are many others too. Comedysportz is here too, which has a more national presence than the other theaters but still has one of its most powerful ensembles here. We all met at iO, where the teachers teach long-form improv, where instead of just playing improv games (fun as they are) we are acting out full scenes, where we develop characters and locations, see what kinds of situations we end up in as those characters, and by reacting to each other line-by-line, we figure out where they are going to go. It’s completely unpredictable, and it’s more fun than anything else I can think of.

If you had to see just one improv comedy show here in Chicago, it would be a hard choice. Second City and their famous mainstage show is guaranteed to be great, though by the time it makes the mainstage it’s mostly written out sketches you’re watching. IO has some excellent shows – the Improvised Shakespeare company is well known for bringing a very strong understand of Shakespearean plays into the improv world. They’re so popular they have two shows every Friday night, and they usually sell out too. Very highly recommended.

Of course, we have some upcoming performances that you may be interested in. We love the process of inventing characters on the spot and finding out where we’re going to take them as an ensemble. If you want to see what we mean, either give us a comment here or show up for a show!

If you want to try it yourself, then you’re a very brave soul. Not a whole lot of people have the guts to stand up in front of an audience with nothing planned ahead of time. It took me about nine months to do it without freaking out a little bit! But of all the improv comedy tips I was given, the best one was to focus all your attention on your scene partner. You must keep in tune with your partner, and with some practice you’ll find yourself forgetting about the crowd and just reacting to your partner instead. This is called being in the zone, and it is incredible.

If you’re a fan of improv comedy, and you’re in Chicago, I really hope to see you at one of our shows, or in one of the classes we’re taking at any given time. If you haven’t seen it before, I think you should come to one of our shows and see what it’s all about. We look forward to seeing you there!

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