30, 2005 - THEY are Featured
in the Miami Herald
THEY improv was featured in an article by
Brett O'Bourke profiling the South Florida improv scene in the
Miami Herald. If you would like to view the whole article, click
here for the Miami Herald. A subscription may be required.
Life - Let's Go
The improv scene's improving in South Florida By
Brett O'Bourke - Friday, September 30th, 2005
Florida isn't exactly a hotbed of live theater. Most people are
more familiar with waiting in line to get into a nightclub than
Waiting for Godot (it's a play by Samuel Beckett. Check it out).
One form of theater, however, is pulling in small (but faithful)
audiences from the Grove to Jupiter: improvisational comedy.
With six well-established South Florida troupes, chances are there
is one near you: Just the Funny performs near Coconut Grove, Impromedy
in southwest Miami, Laughing Gas in Miami Lakes, They improv in
Broward, Mod 27 in Lake Worth and Gated Community in Jupiter.
While channel surfing the nether regions of your cable box late
at night, you've probably at least caught a few minutes of the
American version (the show was created in the United Kingdom)
of Whose Line Is It Anyway? hosted by Drew Carey. It's classic
improv. Simple scenarios are created and the actors must play
them out without script or guidance. They make it up as they go
along, and the result -- they hope -- is funny. It's bare bones
theater: no sets, few props, the occasional attempt at costume
thrown quickly over the top of clothes.
''All we need is a stage, some lights, some fans -- which is optional
sometimes -- and we're ready to go,'' says Alex Perdomo of Just
While all six South Florida troupes perform improv, each comes
at it with its own brand of humor and style.
Laughing Gas (the grandaddy of South Florida improv, formed from
the remnants of Miami's first improv company, Mental Floss, founded
in 1986) performs the most Whose Line-ish type show with some
music, improv games and short sketches.
Just the Funny, which was formed by a splinter group of Laughing
Gassers in 1999 (apparently even comedians can have ``creative
differences''), and Impromedy perform a similar style but with
fewer games and more sketches. And since their audiences consist
mostly of college kids, they get a little more crude.
improv founder Todd Rice, who is also a member of Laughing Gas,
says his troupe performs Chicago-style improv (Chicago is the
birthplace of modern improvisational comedy and is home to famed
companies such as Second City and ImprovOlympic, from which more
than a dozen Saturday Night Live actors have emerged).
''It's quick, quick, quick,'' Rice says. ``There are no breaks,
everything moves from one bit to the next. Fast.''
Mod 27, which got its name from the portable classroom they used
for rehearsals, specializes in long-form. They'll take a single
idea or scenario, usually an audience suggestion, and build on
it over the course of scenes.
Gated Community, which added a show because it was selling out
the 200-seat theater it performs in, sticks to the short form
and musical parody.
LABOR OF LOVE
Sell-out shows are not the norm for most of the troupes. Actors
aren't paid and ticket proceeds go toward overhead (read marketing),
which may be small, but so is the take at the door. Tickets average
Nobody's getting rich (or even making gas money for that matter);
everybody's doing it for the love.
have as good a time, more so sometimes, than the theater audience
does,'' says Perdomo.
The troupes say they draw audiences of 10 to 50 people per show.
Except Gated Community, of course, but troupe member Jesse Furman
attributes their success partially to location:
''Other than going to the beach, there isn't crap else to do in
Jupiter, Fla.,'' he says.
Unfortunately for the companies south of Jupiter, that's not the
case. They say getting people out to see the shows is the hardest
part of the funny business in South Florida.
''Getting on stage, being funny is not the hard part,'' Rice says.
``Getting people in the door the first time is the hard part .
. . I'm shocked that in an entertainment-oriented city, more people
don't come out to any kind of theater for that matter but especially
improv . . . but once they see a show they're hooked, they always
Which, it appears, is why improv is growing in South Florida.
''I'm surprised there aren't more [improv companies],'' Furman
says. ``It's improv. It's funny. It's such a great thing to go
out and laugh for an hour and a half.''
IF YOU GO
For information and showtimes check out improvsouthflorida.com
THEY improv is an informal group of actors
getting together and performing improv, often for charities and
always for the betterment of everyone. For now there is no corporate
structure and no financial relationship, with their first several
performances to be done for charities and the money never even being
seen by the troupe. Marketing funds and efforts will either be donated
by the members or provided by the charities themselves.