A good improviser knows stuff. A lot of stuff. They not only need to be book smart but they have to have a brain that is hungry for information and for knowledge. That’s the kind of brain that I want to improvise with. I don’t care what kind of improvisation you practice, your quest for knowledge should be never-ending. It’s this quest that ultimately makes you a better and funnier performer.
This August 9-10, 2013 ImprovBoston is celebrating its 30+ years with an alumni weekend. I will be proudly performing with other alum on Saturday night at 8pm. ImprovBoston has been a huge part of my life. I have been a part of it for over 15 years and it has influenced me in ways that will shape my life forever. A majority of my close friends and many of my major life memories are a direct result of ImprovBoston. If it wasn’t for this theater I would’ve moved to NYC, Chicago or LA a long time ago.
I know that it’s not considered a major improv market but I definitely think it’s one of the most vibrant improv and comedy scenes around. The way ImprovBoston, ImprovAsylum and other improv groups around the area have evolved the scene over the last 15 years has been amazing to witness. Supplemented by arguably one of the best stand-up scenes in the country and you have one amazing pool of talent. I’m very proud of what this community has created during my time here and am excited about what’s to come.
That being said, having a strong sense of history has always been important to me. So, one of my contributions to this alumni weekend is a collection of memorable moments in ImprovBoston history. Thank you to Ellen Holbrook and Nancy Walker for their fact-checking and contributions. And thank you to the current IB staff, Board of Directors, Mike Descoteaux and Zach Ward for giving me a place to continue performing, directing, teaching and creating!
So…you know you’re an ImprovBoston nerd when you know that:
- In 1982, we were called the Improv Olympic. Sound familiar? We performed at Riley’s Beef and Pub in Government Center for a few months, and then at Satch’s at Copley Square for about a year. In 1983, while at Satch’s, we started to use the name ImprovBoston, but we were still doing a version of the Improv Olympic with a lot of smaller troupes and didn’t yet have a “mainstage” troupe. When we started performing at Ryles (1984), we formed a mainstage company of our best performers so that we could be sure of more consistently funny shows!
- ImprovBoston has a long history of Master Class instructors that helped to shape the evolution and growth of our theater. They started in 1982 with David Shepherd (formerly of the Compass Players, predecessor of Second City) and Michael Gellman (former mainstage player and director of Second City) and continued into the 21st century with Keith Johnstone (2000), Amy Poehler (2001), Mick Napier (2002) and continues all the way to 2013 with Kevin McDonald, Jimmy Carrane and others!
- ImprovBoston was first incorporated as a Non-Profit Theatre Company in 1984. The Board of Directors was about 5 people and Jim Flaherty and Ellen Holbrook were the only performers on the Board.
- In 1984, Ellen Holbrook co-produced the First Improv Convention at Second City with Charna Halpern! 4 members of ImprovBoston did a road trip to Chicago to participate – Ellen Holbrook, Jim Flaherty, Roger Hard, and Dorothy Dwyer. The convention was mostly an opportunity for improv troupes from all over the US and Canada to do showcase performances at Second City and to learn different formats and many other things from each other. After performing at Second City on their last night, everyone went out for drinks and food at a Blues bar down the street. At one point in the evening, Ellen was looking for Jim Flaherty, and someone told her that he was in the back room playing pool. So she went to the back room, and there found Jim Flaherty – who was playing pool with Bruce Springsteen! Bruce was apparently in Chicago to do a concert.
- Steve Carell – who grew up in the Boston suburbs – was a college student at Denison University in Ohio when ImprovBoston started. He would come home to Boston for holidays and summer vacations. Because of the open format show in the early days, audience members were sometimes allowed to get up on stage with us and do the Harold and other games. Steve was so funny that the cast invited him to perform with IB anytime he wanted. So he would come around to Satch’s and Ryle’s a few times and he was also at a show IB did at Northeastern. While he was never an official “cast member” he was definitely one of the more memorable regular guest performers.
- All of the Artistic Directors
- Ellen Holbrook 1982-1984
- David Thibodeaux 1984-85
- Leslie Curtin 1985-86
- Jack O’Connor 1986-87
- Brad Jones 1987-89
- Nancy Walker 92-95
- Larry Pizza 95-97
- Ron Jones 97-2000
- Will Luera 2000-12
- Mike Descoteaux 12-Present
If I suddenly had the ability to play the guitar, I would play the opening riff of "Sweet Child of Mine" over and over and over.
I auditioned for many local plays in an effort to fill that creative void that I was leaving behind. One day I was out on an audition at the Boston Playwrights Theater in Brighton when I saw a flyer for an improv class being taught by a local instructor named Marjorie Burren. I wrote her number down and gave her a call. Later that day I was registered for my first real improv class.
I was doing exercises geared towards acting professionals and everyone there applied the necessary level of discipline and hard work needed to succeed. After feeling like I had reached a pinnacle of improv achievement as a senior in college, I could feel myself being challenged in new ways and becoming a better improviser. Aside from the actual improv instruction, the ability to break through this threshold was one of my biggest takeaways from that class. I was suddenly exposed to a deeper and more meaningful level of improvisational theater. It was great to receive instruction from a seasoned veteran.
I had a little too much fun with this website that is quite the fun timewaster – www.pointerpointer.com/
I will never forget the moment I walked in to Bukowski’s last night. Thank you to Christine Cuddy and Maria Tereza Schaedler-Luera for coordinating an amazing night with friends and colleagues. I am still at a loss for words to fully describe the emotions I felt. Thank you to all of those who could make it last night.
I’ll be in two shows tonight at ImprovBoston. At 7:30 in the Studio 40 show with special guest Asaf Ronen and at 8pm in the Mainstage show for Pat Parhiala’s final show. Come by and say hi!