July 31, 2008

Improv Blog Topic: July

Is there such a thing as being too nice? Too blunt?

Click through the blogs on the right to find out local Kansas City Improviser's answers.

Jill Bernard got in on the action.

July 29, 2008

A Weekend Recap

Jared Brustad (the inventor of Thunderdome) recapped the weekend:

Wednesday was the beginning of the Kansas City Improv Showcase at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. Mr. Guy Maggio had organized a Wednesday through Sunday improv extravaganza, and got it all under one roof. He acted as director, producer, technical supervisor, host, talent scout, stage hand, and a plethora of other titles during this stretch. The Fringe was a blast to be a part of and Guy deserves all the credit coming his way.

As for me, I had put together a mini Improv Thunderdome to participate in the festivities. Wednesday started the exciting week that was. Round 1 was between Trivial Prov-suit (John Robison of the Roving Imp Theater and James Nelson with the Makeshift Militia) and Loaded Dice (Improv Thunderdome's season one champions). Both sets were great, and in the end Trivial Prov-suit won the match by a vote of 12 to 11. The one vote difference was a Thunderdome first.

Friday, round 2 pitted Improv-Abilties (Organizers of the up coming Kansas City Improv Festival) against Spite (or "the lady parts of Tantrum", Trish Berrong, Nikki DuPont & Megan Mercer). Again, two great sets were presented, and once again one vote determined the outcome. Spite was victorious 16 to 15. An hour and a half later, Jen Roser, Megan Mercer and myself performed in the KC Improv Showcase as three fifths of the Trip Fives. We had a lot of fun. The set went by so fast. I had had one beer before the show (which I NEVER do) and felt as if it went right to my head. I personally felt "off" but nonetheless had a great time performing with Jen and Megan.

Saturday came the original Improv Thunderdome at the Westport Coffeehouse, round two of season two. Scriptease vs. Death Rattle vs. CCC. I thought all teams gave great performances, but to be honest, none of them seemed to have brought their A game. Each set included many great highs and great laughs, but each set also included a few down moment. Nothing down-right horrible, just some lulls that I think each and every performer would agree with, that is the only reason why I feel comfortable mentioning it. In the end, Scriptease received the most votes, and became the first 2-time finalists in Thunderdome's short history. I was very proud of everyone and am so happy that each person was involved. Also, big props to Loaded Dice who performed their first true show before Thunderdome. They all did great.

Sunday was the last day of improv at the Fringe, and the last show was the mini-championship of the mini-thunderdome. Trivial Prov-suit vs. Spite. The crowd, I believe, was the biggest of the week (Not of the whole Fringe Fest, I'm sure, but for the improv portion of it). 50 people came and voted Spite as the mini champs. And once again, for the third straight show in a row, one vote decided the winner. 23 to 22. Awesome, and completely unheard of.

Now that it is Monday, I am looking back on my busiest week of improv since 1998 or '99, or whenever the last Lighten Up/Funny Outfit sponsored improv festival was. This past week was a blast. After talking with Guy after show, we discussed the excitement of next year's Fringe Fest and ways of expanding the talent as well as the audiences. To be honest, the audiences were quite a surprise. Not to mention some of the press we got with the KC Star, the Pitch (both mini-dome & regular-dome), and even the KC Stage. What a week. The improv community should be very proud. And a big thank you should go out to all of those involved.


Thank you Jared, we could not have said it any better ourselves.

July 28, 2008

Quickie Catch-up

This is who won Thunderdome Round 2: Scriptease

This is who won Mini-Dome at the Fringe Fest: Spite (sorry for the blurry photo)

It was a very busy weekend, we are catching up on improv shows, stories, photos, and more. Thank you for your patience.

July 24, 2008

Kansas City Improv: an apparently thriving subculture

This is Jared Brustad (left) and Guy Maggio (right)

Guy Maggio helped organize the plethora of improv groups participating in this years Fringe Festival. Jared Brustad helped organize the mini-improv thunderdome in the same location. The events kicked off Wednesday night to a well attended Hollywood room in the former Paddy O' Quigly's. Come on down to see some great improv.

In other news. Another improv group has joined the Kansas City Improv Community. Holy Cow!
They will be performing at 1911 McGee St.
Wed July 23, 8:00PM
Fri July 25, 6:30 PM
Fri July 25, 11:00 PM
Sat July 26, 8:30 PM

Hollywood Room Schedule
Kansas City Star article

July 21, 2008

Video: Paul Rudd 1987

This is Paul Rudd and Sean Tevis of Shawnee Mission West High School performing in the final round of a Forensics Tournament in Olathe, Kansas in 1987. They were Improvisational Duet Acting state champions the previous year.

Sean Tevis and Paul Rudd in 1987

July 17, 2008

Workshop: Tom Farnan

Hello KC Improv People!!!

My name is Tom Farnan. I'm originally from Kansas City,
and performed ComedySportz...at least it was ComedySportz when I left. You might know it as Comedy City!

I've had the unique opportunity of studying, performing and/or instructing improv in Chicago at such theaters as The Second City, Annoyance Theater, IO and of course ComedySportz of Chicago! I
also had the pleasure of performing with The Second City in Las Vegas. Currently I live in Los Angeles where I perform with Opening Night the Improvised Musical and Hit and Run Musical improv.

I hear that the KC Improv community has just exploded since I've left, and it's also a great community to be a part of with a wealth of young and hungry performers always wanting to hone their craft.

So, here's a workshop:

It's a two day/nine hour event.


The Hollywood Room in the former Paddy O'Quigley's
100 East 20th Street
(east of Hereford House restaurant and north of The Cashew bar)
Kansas City, MO 64108
Parking and entrance off of Walnut, west of building


Saturday 7/26 10a-3p
Sunday 7/27 9a-1p

The first 20 people to contact me directly will be in this class. If we have an overwhelming response and need to schedule a second workshop for the following weekend we will do so. No pun intended but, we'll improvise.

Contact me individually and directly at velvet2k3@yahoo.com. Please give me your full name and contact info. I will e-mail you back. "Registration" for this class, will close Sunday night 7/20.

I'm sure there will be people of ALL skill levels at our workshop. Bring your patience and love and we'll have a good time. Oh, and dress comfortably. We'll be moving around.

What does this cost? What's it worth to you? it's 2 days and 9 hours of the thing you love to do the most (for some). I'm sure there is a really good reason why you're participating, so you set your own price. We'll keep it anonymous. Don't tell me or anybody else what you're going to pay. There will be a shoebox at the door. Shove your cash or check in it when you come in and that will be it. US currency only, and sorry no trades, favors or home made coupon books for free back rubs or whatever...tempting, but no thanks. Remember I've come all the way in from LA, so be generous.

I am thrilled! Hope you are too! Can't wait to see you!


July 16, 2008

‘SNL’ star Jason Sudeikis returns home to preview his film ‘The Rocker’


The Kansas City Star

“Saturday Night Live” star Jason Sudeikis, who grew up in Overland Park, returned to the area Tuesday night for a screening of his new film “The Rocker.” After the film ended, he took questions from the audience.

Next stop for Jason Sudeikis is the Foo Fighters’ concert with some friends. For the “Saturday Night Live” star from Overland Park, being back in the Kansas City area feels good, he said as he addressed fans at a preview screening of “The Rocker”.

So what does he like about home?

“It’s great. You get to eat Gates and Bryants,” he said. “Oh, and beers are cheap here.”

The seats at the Olathe AMC 30 were full for the screening of the film, which stars Rainn Wilson (Dwight from NBC’s “The Office”). The film centers on a washed-up drummer who almost made it big in the ’80s who finds fame playing in his nephew’s high school band.

Applause and laughter were fairly subdued until Sudeikis’ David Marshall, the band’s major-label manager, appeared on screen. Either the audience recognized Sudeikis as a local star, or his crude, slimy, two-faced role delivered many of the comedic highlights of the film.

“I think the movie would have been PG without me,” Sudeikis joked to the crowd, most of whom stayed after the movie to hear him speak and answer questions.

One questioner asked where Sudeikis got the idea for the popular “Two A-holes” characters on “SNL.” They were created late at night, with no particular inspiration in mind, he said.

“I guess you could say they are like Blue Valley kids,” said Sudeikis. The audience burst into either support or dissent at this point, and he went on to mention that other schools — including his alma mater, Shawnee Mission West — had some “turkeys,” too.

But Sudeikis’ academic life was not necessarily impressive after graduating high school. He dropped out of Fort Scott Community College after getting kicked off the basketball team for having bad grades. Oddly enough, the soon-to-be writer for “SNL” even failed English.

But Sudeikis started focusing on comedy. His troupe, Der Monkenpickle, performed around Lawrence before he moved to Chicago to become part of the Second City improv company. He was brought onto “SNL” first as a writer, then a performer.

And Sudeikisimprov history is clear when he speaks to an audience. When asked whether he would concentrate more on making films than “SNL,” like former cast member Will Ferrell, Sudeikis was quick.

“Yeah, do the Will Ferrell thing and make $20 million a film, buying houses for my boats?” Sudeikis said. He would like that, but he has a long way to go.

After all, he is only working on “low-budget” movies with around $15 million to spend. Well, low-budget for Fox, anyway.

July 15, 2008

Sudeikis in town

Jason Sudeikis is back in his home town promoting a new movie he is in with Rainn Wilson called "The Rocker." He will be doing a question and answer session directly after the movie premieres.

July 14, 2008

A History: Hype 7

Chapter One: Early Times

Sometime in the early 1990's, there was a group of Kansas University students who liked to play improv games, and perform them in front of audiences. They called themselves Waiters-to-Be. Some went their separate ways, presumably to better futures than food service. The remaining players renamed themselves Single White Males (which was largely the case).

Well before "Whose Line" hit the air, SWM had gained a following in Lawrence, performing at intimate venues like the Renegade Theater and Liberty Hall, and making appearances in larger productions like Rock Chalk Revue. The troupe combined ironic, off-the-beaten-path sketches with the traditional short-form improv games. In contrast to the spontaneity of improv, the sketches were acutely rehearsed and often technically ambitious. They poked fun at the dark arts of aerobics and Centipede, and never missed a shot at the current University Theater production.

Next: What's With the Name Change?

July 9, 2008

A History: Roving Imp

For awhile, there was a lot of talk about someone opening up an improv dedicated theater in town. In swooped John Robison, the owner of Roving Imp for over a year now. We asked him about Roving Imp's history and here is what he had to say.

"In most respects, the creation story of the Roving Imp is unspectacular and unimportant. Boiled down, the whole story is “I was tired of scrounging for space and being hassled by the man, so I bought a theater.” As with most things, however, if you dig down, there’s more just beneath the surface story.

I’ve written before about the community theater group I created just out of high school, the Better Than Fair Players. This group was together for eight years, performing all over Bonner Springs, Basehor, and Shawnee, in churches, schools, rec centers, and even outside. Toward the middle and end, we were doing five shows a year without an official permanent home. Each show was another negotiation for space. Each rehearsal represented another day of completely setting up the stage from scratch, rehearsing, and then completely breaking everything down and loading props back in cars and stowing sets in an out-of-the-way place. It was during this four-or-more-times weekly exercise in frustration that the seeds were planted. Yes, like 50% of all actors, I got the completely original idea, “We should have a theater of our own.”

Unlike most, however, I began to do some research, and I began to look for an appropriate space. After about a year of looking, I found a place I really liked. I put an offer on the building… and it fell through for various reasons which may or may not have to do with the fact that the seller had just emerged from prison. After another six weeks, I found another place. It wasn’t as ideal, but I thought I could probably make it work. I put in an offer, but the deal fell through, as it had problems with sewers… mainly the fact that it wasn’t connected to any.

At that point, my personal life sort of imploded for awhile, and to say that the theater search took a backseat would be a gross understatement. My main focus in life at that point was to try to save my marriage (which didn’t work, by the way). After that little disintegration occurred, I decided to expand my horizons by doing some shows in the big city of Kansas City for awhile. It had been eight years, after all, since I had done a show for someone else… I’d been directing my own shows since I was 19 years old, and I thought it might be a good idea to go learn from other directors.

I did a couple shows, and quickly found out that those other directors should really be learning from ME. The directors I worked with were great people, but did not live up to my own standards. I wanted specific feedback and a consistent, coherent vision for a show. This is not too much to ask, but I didn’t get it. (This is not uncommon, from what I have heard, unless you work with certain specific directors.)

Though this foray into “big city theater” was disappointing in certain ways, it really opened up my world in other ways. First, it got me known as a person that knew what he was doing. I quickly got hired to direct shows in town, and found that my directing skills transferred very well from the small town to the big(ger). Second, it introduced me to the world of improv.

I had done improv before. I had even taught improv before. However, I had never before been plugged in to the “world” of improv. I had always before been the one that had known the most about improv in the room (which was not much, FYI). But when Full Frontal Comedy took a chance on me (due completely, I think, to a funky made up dance I came up with in a show), I found a group of really talented, funny people that I didn’t teach and that I wasn’t responsible for. I learned a lot from that group, and made a lot of great friends that I have to this day.

At about the same time I found FFC, I also went back to school to get my master’s degree. The combination of FFC, a very special moment in an entrepreneurship class, and a pivotal conversation with my (new) wife’s sister resparked this idea in my head: I can open a theater now. Not only that: I MUST open a theater.

I quickly mapped out the pros, cons, and things I would need to do before it would be possible. The main thing I needed: a true pedigree from a respected place of improv. So I signed up for classes at i.o. in Chicago. i.o. has the style of improv that is most like the style I like best. Yes, Second City is better known, but has the philosophy that improv should be used as a tool, whereas i.o. founder Del Close always maintained that improv is an artform by itself.

Chicago was fantastic. It helped me in ways that I could never have imagined. I am now a completely different kind of improviser than before I went: a good one. I consider the majority of scenes I do now to be successful… because now I have the experience to recognize why things go awry. Maybe that’s a different post.

Anyway… now I had the experience, knowhow, and the credentials. Now for the hard part… making the theater happen.

To be continued…"

Stay tuned for next part soon to come.

July 8, 2008

Spotlight: Kansas City Fringe Festival

The Kansas City Improv Community will be well represented at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. Not only that, but all improv will be performed at The Hollywood Room at the former Paddy O'Quigley's, 100 East 20th Street.

Makeshift Militia
Spite-the ladies of Tantrum
Loaded Dice-Thunderdome Season 1 winners
Trivial-Provsuit-John Robison and James Nelson of Roving Imp
Full Frontal Comedy
Roving Imp
The Trip Fives
The Hypothetical Seven

Click on the picture to see a better view of the schedule. Hope to see you there!

July 7, 2008

8: Kansas City Improv Festival

Tickets are on sale now!!!!

Call 816-460-2020

July 3, 2008

What's in a name?

That was the question that many Kansas City Improvisers tried to answer. Click through the blog list on the right to see how important an improv troupes name is to them.

Parents should also think before they name their child, or at least sound it out a few times.

The 10 worst names ever:

1. John Koffman - His friends and enemies call him Jack
2. Sharonda Cox - It might be pronounced ShaRONda, but it sure looks like "sharin da" to me.
3. Justin Butts - Good luck with life Justin.
4. Harry Ball - Really, is this real? His parents are stupid.
5. Amanda Buttram - These are getting worse.
6. Richard Large - This is a good name right...why is it in the worst list?
7. Mai Butt - This one makes us laugh the longest.
8. Ben Dover - There is more than one, go ahead, google it.
9. Gayford Buttram - Must be Amanda's brother.
10. Michael Huntsucker - Last and certainly not least, pray he doesn't go by Mike.

July 2, 2008

Improv Thunderdome: Season 2: Round 1 Winner

STD's (Some Technical Difficulties)

This band of youngsters from the infamous Exit 16 Liberty High School improv troupe kicked ass Saturday night and are headed to the championships on September 27th.

Congrats STD's!

The man in white is their director, Exit 16 alumnus Andrew Brant. Fresh from Improv Rebellion at Improv Olympic in Chicago.

A History: Full Frontal Comedy

Straight from their website:

When d
id all this craziness start?

In the fall of 1998. Our director and owner, Tina Morrison, was supposed to direct "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" for the Northland Actors Ensemble (NAE). Some stuff happened and the show didn't, but NAE still had dates to fill on the calendar. Tina took those in the cast willing to learn improv and, based on her 7 years of improv with the groups Laughing Stock and Caught In The Act, she started our group to fill those spots. The group has been performing ever since.

Were you drinking when you came up with your name?

The short answer is: Yes.

Now for the long answer. Some of the original members of the group met over some beers at 54th Street Bar & Grill. They'd already begun rehearsals for the NAE show but needed a name. Stasha Case thought (and still does to this day) that the group should be called "Show Me The Funny". She shouted it out repeatedly during the evening, which failed to amuse our fearless leader, Tina. Hence, it is not our name today.

Luckily, Bill Case came up with Full Frontal Comedy. The stars aligned and the children sang and people around the world settled long standing disputes in celebration. Well, maybe. In all actuality, the group probably just ordered another round of beer and each scarfed down a Baja Biggie Basket. For those taking notes, this is the official food of all FFC members except Dave Martin. He prefers the Hearty 12 oz. Bowl of Idaho Baked Potato Soup (order it by name.)