Improvisational comedy is a bit like watching a flying trapeze act: the excitement comes not simply from the skilled moves of the performers, but from the danger inherent to the act. Except in the case of improv, there is never a net.
Chicago, 1955: Paul Sills and David Shepherd formed The Compass Players to experiment with improvisational theatre. Sills’ mother, Viola Spolin, had invented a series of games that she used to teach acting to children. For tremulous adolescents who were too self-conscious to even touch hands, for example, she created the game “Contact,” which required the players to make physical contact with another actor after delivering a line of dialogue. The sheer repetition soon wore away any discomfort.
Sills utilized his mother’s games as the foundation for the light-hearted short skits that the company performed at the finish of an evening of the longer dramatic scenarios. The skits were created from suggestions by the audience, and were often topical. These comic sketches became so popular that Shepherd, who was more interested in the concept of egalitarian theatre than comedy, left The Compass Players. Sills and Spolin would go on to evolve The Compass Players into the well-known improvisational comedy troupe and training ground, The Second City.
But you don’t have to go to Chicago to experience improv comedy. The Sloppy Joe Improv Troupe is from Newman University. They play various venues throughout the city, so for a complete listing of when and where to find them, visit their Facebook page.