Category Archives: All the Funny

Why Did A Structural Engineer Take A Class In Improv?

AdultTrainingClassBannerThanks to one of our recent class members for writing this blog post about her experience in our program. Our next adult improv class begins October 7, and we still have a few spaces available.


Taking the Adult Improv Class has been one of the best things I have done in a very long time, both personally and professionally.

You may ask yourself, “why did a structural engineer take a class in improv?”  To explain, I will start by telling you a bit about myself.  I have had a life-long fear of public speaking that I have been working to overcome; had you ever had the distinct misfortune to hear me speak publicly during high school or college you will be able to confirm that I am not exaggerating!

I frequently had cause to speak as part of presentations to selection committees, for training, or in my capacity as an officer of a non-profit organization.  I found that the more I practiced, the more comfortable I was – to be sure – but only if I knew EXACTLY what I was going to say and had plenty of time to practice.  I found that whenever I needed to IMPROVISE at the last minute, answer questions I had not anticipated, or cover for someone else I FROZE!  I got stuck in my own head and could not find two words to string together.

Then I celebrated a friend’s birthday at ComedySportz!  At the end of the evening, the referee talked about upcoming adult improv classes. I remember thinking, “Well, if those can’t get you out of your comfort zone far enough for you to get over yourself . . .nothing will!”

And then I did a bit of reading.  Did you know that some very well-respected MBA programs around the U.S. Are requiring their students to take improv classes as a way to teach communication, listening, brainstorming, and teamwork?  I found still more articles that emphasized that improv isn’t about comedy, but about reacting to your surroundings.  Well, doesn’t that sound exactly like what I need!  Plus, this class fits firmly with my 2015 goals to look for ways to push the boundaries of my comfort zone.

This class was everything I had hoped for, and more!  Halfway through the class, I participated in a panel at a conference in Chicago; previously, I would have panicked every time the person to my right or left answered the question in a way similar to what I had planned. Thanks to ComedySportz, Improv and Christine Walters, I was able to stay in the moment, listen to everything that was said (instead of worrying about what I was going to say next), keep a “yes, and” attitude, and build upon what WAS said.  Was it perfect – no; was it better – ABSOLUTELY. And I know it will get better the more I practice.

I can no longer say I have a fear of public speaking; Christine even helped with a certain fear of failure!  I participated in the public showcase without a thought about what the audience was thinking of me.  It is the first time I have ever been on stage and not been completely in my own head!  Was I flawless? Absolutely not!  But the fear of my potential failure did not weigh me down.

I look forward to taking my next improv class in the fall – perhaps I’ll see you there!

Virginia Epperly



New Logo, New Look, Same Funny

New Logo, New Look, Same Funny

Posted on 18. Jun, 2014 by  in News


CSz Worldwide to expand creative services to organizations needing entertainment, training, and event marketing solutions

MILWAUKEE, Wis.—(June 18, 2014)—Today, ComedySportz®, the only world-recognized sport of competitive improvisation, is announcing the launch of CSzWorldwide, a global network of companies to serve organizations needing entertainment, training, and event marketing solutions. ComedySportz® is now licensed and overseen by CSz Worldwide.

The announcement will take place on June 18  in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where ComedySportz® founder and owner Richard Chudnow will reveal new logos for both CSz Worldwide and ComedySportz® in an unveiling ceremony. ComedySportz® team members from all 24 cities will be in attendance at the ceremony, as the launch of CSz Worldwide coincides with the 30th anniversary of ComedySportz® and the annual ComedySportz World Championship, which takes place June 1923, 2014 also in Milwaukee.

“We are thrilled to announce CSz Worldwide. We look forward to taking the values that have always set us apart from the typically sourced creative solutions, and expanding our services to markets that are in need of scalable, customizable, truly innovative thinking. Our rich 30-year history of ComedySportz® entertainment and training has not only expanded to over 20 cities, but has built a strong foundation of trust and quality with our customers and fans,” said CSz Worldwide Executive Director Patrick Short. “Our goal is to transform the world using improvisation. We believe in fostering collaboration, inspiration, gratitude and fun, and celebrating our 30th anniversary is proof that these values can enrich the lives of not just individuals, but families, friends, and organizations alike.”

The CSz Worldwide network is comprised of 24 cities across U.S. and Europe, with plans to expand further to meet the needs of more individuals, groups, and organizations seeking creative solutions. Organizations that access the expansive network of CSz Worldwide can now leverage its depth and breadth of hundreds of improvisers, teachers, trainers and educators, to benefit from a tailored, interactive solution that can be deployed anywhere in the world.

CSz Worldwide provides customized solutions to four markets:

  1. CSz Business enables companies to achieve their retention, development, and marketing goals with business appropriate entertainment, learning and development, and events marketing solutions.
  2. CSz Education supports individuals and educational organizations in their pursuit of artistic and personal growth.
  3. CSz Groups & Events provides high-quality, reliable programming to tour operators, destination management professionals, faith communities, and others.
  4. CSz Entertainment produces uncommonly fun, immersive experiences that bring laughter to people around the world, including their 30-year favorite, ComedySportz.

ComedySportz® has trained over 2,400 performers. Its High School League has trained over 28,000 high school kids and served over 10,000 businesses. Companies that have benefited from ComedySportz entertainment and training include Apple, Nike, Google, Disney, Groupon, Cisco, Adobe and the Indiana Pacers. For a sample of the over 10,000 companies ComedySportz® has collaborated with since 1984, visit the CSz Worldwide Corporate Client list.

About CSz Worldwide
CSz Worldwide is a global network of companies for organizations needing entertainment, training, and events marketing solutions. CSz Worldwide uses improvisation to produce fun, immersive experiences that bring laughter to people around the world, including their 30-year flagship offering, ComedySportz®. CSz Worldwide companies are currently in 24 cities across the US and Europe. For more information, please visit

About ComedySportz
ComedySportz® is the only world-recognized sport of competitive improvisation, founded by Richard Gerald Chudnow in 1984. In arenas throughout the world, teams of players do comedy battles based on suggestions given by the audience, known as Loyal Fans. Each sanctioned ComedySportz® match is run by a referee, and features several rounds of competitive play through a sampling of the sport’s myriad of official games. ComedySportz® is licensed and overseen by CSz Worldwide.There are currently 24 CSz companies located across the U.S. and Europe.


Yes, Ashley…

Kinley, Ashley, Ethan, Dylan, Kelly

Kinley, Ashley, Ethan, Dylan, Kelly

We are ever grateful for the chance to teach children the craft of improvisation. There are so many benefits that we experience through our work with our Elementary, Middle and High School Leagues, not to mention our summer camp programs. Recently, one mom called us to give us an update on her child and the results of her participation in our education programs. She was gushing with news and updates.

Her child, Ashley, attended our ComedySportz® Summer Improv Camp for Kids program last year. They made the commitment to drive from Stafford to RVA each morning to arrive by 9:00 am. Her mom, Lea Anne occupied her mornings running errands in the area until class ended at 12:00 pm.

The first day, Lea Anne expressed that Ashley is painfully shy, and may be reluctant to participate. We assured her that our goal is to support, encourage and nurture our students. If Ashley did not want to participate in activities we would not force the issue, rather allow her to join at her pace.

As class began, we reviewed the goals of the week, the lessons they’d learn, and that by Friday they would perform a mini show for their friends and family. Ashley’s eyes were very expressive – they seemed to scream with fear at the idea of performing in front of people. Thus, the next day when we asked Lea Anne for Ashley’s feedback of the first day, it was no surprise that she told her mother that she WOULD NOT perform in the show. Again, we assured her that if Ashley decided to make that call, we wouldn’t force the issue. We teach “We’ve Got Your Back”, so if that was her decision we would respect it. Lea Anne was calm, supportive and firm. She said that Ashley would indeed perform in the show.

Each day they drove an hour and twenty minutes to and from the theatre, and each day we watched Ashley grow into herself, becoming more confident. By Friday, we couldn’t keep her out of the show. She was eager, ready and willing to join her classmates in the performance. She beamed with joy and smiles at the response from the audience. That was it, she was hooked.

After the summer camp she joined the Middle School League; attending weekly practices and performing in monthly shows. That shy little girl has come a long way.

Lea Anne shared that Ashley participated in the National Career Development Association  Poetry and Poster Contest, and won second place. Ashley told her mom that she was able to write the poem in 5 minutes, and that it was easy because of her improv training of just saying “Yes And”. It also helped that the teacher had just finished a lesson on rhyming. Ashley also competed in a poster contest in Stafford County, in which she designed a poster and presented it as a character of child living in the south during the civil war, it was her own creation. Again, Ashley expressed to her mother that she was able to excel, and win first place, because “they teach how to create our own characters at ComedySportz®”. Congratulations to you Ashley!

And thank you both for connecting with us and being part of our ComedySportz® family and community.

Top 12 Reasons to Take an Improv Class (part 1)

Posted on 10. Jan, 2014 by in Blog

When Saturday Night Live announced Sasheer Zamata as their newest cast member to join the venerable late-night institution, we were floored to discover that not only had she gotten bit by the improv bug after seeing a ComedySportz show, but followed that urge by taking a chance on enrolling in a weekend workshop. Her first training course in improv was with ComedySportz Indianapolis (est. 1993) and the rest is comedic history/NBC’s future.

Zamata discovered improv because she was curious about comedy (it is what we do, after all), but that got us thinking about the (almost!) 30 years of teaching in the ComedySportz training centers. We asked ComedySportz playerz across our 20+ different locations and confirmed what we suspected: Improv is kind of for everyone. But why?

Photo credit: AP / Cate Hellman Photography )

Sasheer Zamata, Photo credit: AP / Cate Hellman Photography )

1. Because it scares you
“Getting out of your comfort zone is a scary concept yet also something many people wish they did in their lives, and an improv class is the perfect chance to seize the opportunity!  It’s a safe environment where taking chances, engaging risks, and being free to fail is encouraged.” – Jeff De Leon, CSz Quad Cities, player since 1995

2. To become a better friend, neighbor, parent, stranger
“As a teenager I started improv, something that I will be grateful for the rest of my life. I have grown to a person who has travelled the world with the mantra of ‘Yes! And’ but also respect for others and myself. Sounds sappy, I know, but I would not be the person I am today without improv.” – Rachel Wareing, CSz Manchester, player since 2001

“Thanks to improv, I have friends – good friends – in America, France, Australia, Switzerland, Bangladesh … all over the world. It gave me a forum to meet them, and the confidence to make friends with them.” – Sam Al-Hamdani, CSz Manchester, player since 2007

“You learn how to be a better parent. I kid you not – I would have been a disaster as a parent without improvisation training. I’m better at building frameworks, responding rather than reacting and I can recognize game-playing by children (and other parents) when I see it.” – Patrick Short, CSz Portland, Owner, player since 1987

“The learned elements of improv are woven into every fiber of my day to day life — I couldn’t be more grateful for my time studying with CSz. Confidence. Compatibility. Being a human being that people enjoy being around. That’s what you get from training the improv muscle in your brain.” – Andrew Pauly, CSz Milwaukee, player since 2009

 3. Improve your work life
“Improv classes improve public speaking ability and foster creative thinking. These are fundamental skills that are applicable not only to the stage, but also to many business and civic functions. If you want to gain an edge in the job market, make a better impression on your boss, or increase your visibility or networking, improv classes are excellent resources.” – Andrew Busam, CSz Twin Cities, player since 2007

“Improv is a great life skill for business and relationships. You never know when you’re going to get caught stealing office supplies, and being able to smoothly talk your way out of it in an instant could be a real game changer.” – Aaron Miller, CSz Philadelphia, player since 2013

“Whether you’re an actor looking to breathe more life into your performance, or a freshly-minted CFO who wants to be a more confident public speaker, improv can be life-changing. I’ve been doing it since I was an awkward teenager, and it’s made me the person I am today: a markedly less awkward adult. I’m a working actor, instead of a weird shut-in.” – James Moore, CSz Twin Cities, player since 1995

“You’d never guess how well improv skills help you to communicate in the corporate workplace. Learning to stay positive, accept the ideas of others, and then add your thoughts to enhance discussions all lead toward better relationships with co-workers and a more positive experience at work. I swear I wouldn’t have survived working 15 years at the same company if I didn’t have improv.” – Mickey McGee, CSz Portland, player since 1999

“Improv can make you fearless in ways that can give you an outstanding advantage in a classroom, a board room, a sales floor or a job interview.  Improv can grant you the power to say what needs to be said, to get done what needs to be accomplished, to pay attention to what really matters, and to figure out how to make just about anything fun, and those are skills that translate to nearly any walk of life.” – Aili McGill, CSz Indianapolis, player since 2004

4. Spark creativity
“One reason I too improv classes was to reconnect with my imagination as a young adult. Learning how to be playful again led to a perk I didn’t originally consider – developing deep, long lasting friendships with fellow classmates.” – Yvette Rebik, CSz Chicago, player since 2013

“Everyone is creative, whether they know it or not.  An improv class is a good way to find out how to let it out. We spend our lives being told to behave like everyone else, let’s take a look inside and see what stories and characters you’ve got to bring to life, what’s special about you.” – Jill Bernard, CSz Twin Cities, player since 1993

“I took improv classes to to learn a new way to make people laugh, and to entertain.” – Matthew Bistany, CSz Boston, player since 2013

“Improv classes train your brain to get out if its own way when you need creativity. Also, taking an improv class reduces your chances of watching reality TV and therefore guarantees that you will be smarter in the long run.” – Michael Wilcoxen, CSz San Jose, player since 2009

“I first saw a show in 1993. It took me until 1995 to take my first improv class and it changed my life. I wanted to become famous. However, I found that making people laugh at any level is worth it. It is a gift I can give to total strangers and that makes me feel so good.” – Sam Whittington, CSz Portland, 1997

5. Meet people
“On five occasions, my career required moving to a new city. Four times, that meant struggling to meet people and make friends. The fifth time, I took a 101 class at CSz Portland. I’ll never fear moving again. I know where to find my people.” – Bill Evans, CSz Portland, player since 2012

“I first took improv classes at college when I was doing my degree at NYU. I think it helps me to be a better communicator, listener, performer, and thinker. I get excited when I meet other improvisers. I always assume that I’ll like them and they’ll be easy to talk to. It’s what I imagine it feels like when one friendly dog meets another friendly dog across the street. They just want to play.” – Kate McCabe, CSz Manchester, player since 2011

“As a long-time teacher of improv, I’ve seen: business networking which led to employment. Friendships established. One wedding that I know of (one couple met in the class and got married.) And of course there are several weddings that have happened because people took our classes and made into the show where they met their future spouse.” – Jeff Kramer, CSz San Jose, Owner, player since 1985

6. Be a better listener

“Improv will train you to look for the best ideas that are already around you. When you’re making it up you can’t afford to throw anything away. Before I took classes I was shutting down good ideas left and right without realizing it. Now when I hear it happen, it hurts. That’s how instinctual it becomes. Have you ever had a conversation with someone that clearly wasn’t listening to you? Improv classes will make sure you’re never that person.” – Ben Gartner, CSz Twin Cities, player since 2007

“Improv can be so energizing. To discover a creative relationship with like minded people is such a cool and exciting experience.”- Mike Kauth, CSz Milwaukee, player since 2001

What’s your reason? Throw it in the comments and click through for part 2!

“this is a re-posting of a blog from ComedySportz San Jose, one in our family of 20+ ComedySportz locations around the world – find the original piece here


Zach Arnold


Over the past six years that I have been performing in the Richmond area, I’ve had several people ask me how it is that I got into this absurd (and I use that term in an appreciative way) art.

I’ve been improvising for 15 years, give or take. Didn’t really get deeply into it until the winter of 2007, where I went to an 8-week workshop at ComedySportz Richmond, and joined the main roster of performers shortly thereafter.

That’s pretty much it. That’s my how. Cut and dry.

I think the bigger, more soul-fulfilling question, would be why I got into it.

Everyone’s motivation for going to an improv class, or joining a troupe, or whatever, are as varied as the color spectrum. Some improv to improve their public speaking. Some, because they’re funny, and like being around funny people. Some, they just think it’d be a fun way to spend a night a week.

For me, though, what has become a great passion of mine started out as a strategy to gain confidence.

Not more confidence. Confidence, period.

Starting at the age of 10, give or take, I became stricken with extremely low self-esteem. In my mind, everything I attempted was doomed to fail. The successes I had, I attributed to outside factors. I never felt like I deserved credit for anything good, but everything bad was a result of some decision I made, some action I acted upon.

I hated myself.

Theater became my shining beacon when I reached high school. Not so much the idea of obtaining glory and fame, as much as the idea that I could disappear on the stage, be someone else, someone who wasn’t me. A role wasn’t a role, it was an alias, a disguise I could place over myself so the audience wouldn’t see just how terrible I was as a person.

I convinced myself that this was building confidence. That my self-esteem was rising every time I stepped onto the stage.

Really, it was hiding. Attempting to sweep the loathing I had for myself under the rug, to be worried about at some other time.

This tactic worked, to an extent. It worked for around 8 years.

But then the opportunities to be on stage stopped in college, due to grades slipping. With that lack of outlet, that lack of asylum, the crushing blows came back, tenfold. They never disappeared, they just waited, gaining power.

That power overwhelmed, and I found myself out of college in December of 2005.

There was time spent working in a job I came to despise. There was more stage time, thanks to a theater group I auditioned for in the winter of 2006. And as grateful as I was for finding these new and brilliant people, the self-hatred continued.

I convinced myself I was never good enough. Not good-looking. Not a good actor. Not not not not not….

The time came for a change of atmosphere. And that’s how I found myself in Richmond. And how I found myself finally enrolled in an improv class.

One of the first lessons, one of the biggest lessons, took me by surprise: Don’t be afraid to fail.

Don’t be afraid? I had spent the last decade pretty much scared to death of failing. So scared that I barely attempted anything that could prove to be a failure. Classes, work, girls, etc… It was all off the table.

But there was that lesson. Don’t be afraid. There’s no need to be afraid because those around you in the scene will help you, support you, keep you afloat in the tsunami of judgment going on inside my head.

This idea was foreign. Here I was, a guy who had convinced himself that I was a failure as a human being, and I was being told that it’s alright to fail? That instead of judging me, there would be people who had my back, who wanted to make me look good?

What the hell is that?

I resisted initially. Tried to prove that I belonged. That I was funny and people should like me because I was funny and oh hey look at me I’m funny and not at all telling myself that I’m a fraud and don’t deserve the attention I’m getting.

But then I failed. And nothing happened.

The scene went astray, went off the rails. But there was no yelling. No judgment of my capabilities. Just an, “Alright, let’s try it again,” and back to business.

I could fail. And instead of cursing at the failure, the opportunity for learning was brought forth.

And that’s when I began to grow. To slowly, so slowly, realize that by hiding myself on the stage, I was preventing growth. Stagnating the potential for the self-esteem to rise.

The improv continued. I got better at it. I got better with myself.

Now, here, in 2013, I find myself still playing, still performing. But no longer do I feel like I’m hiding from myself. Instead of feeling anxiety before stepping onto the stage, I feel a sense of joy and calm all rolled together.

I’m going to perform. And if I fail, it’s okay. I have people there to support me, or fail with me in a grand spectacle.

There are times when I still feel the self-esteem come to a crashing low. But I know those times are temporary, and that I will eventually find myself being once more at ease, and confident in my actions. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Zach is the Assistant Artistic Director of ComedySportz Richmond, and has been playing with us since 2006. Follow his blog at insertfunnyhere.

Lessons Of Laughter: Behind the Improv

Recently we hosted our second annual YoutzFest in which our Middle School League  (MSL) and our High School League (HSL) played in all the weekend ComedySportz® shows.  Last year the weekend was a competition between both leagues, this year it was a collaboration or mash up, pairing two players from each league on the teams.


It was a weekend full of quick witted comedy, surprising and  entertaining  performances rivaling those performed by the major league team.  Hilarious as the shows were, it was the little things, the human action behind the comedy that I found enthralling.

Yes, we perform a comedy show. Yes, we teach improv. No, we don’t teach people how to “be” funny. The funny happens as a result of learning and practicing the basic principles of improvisation. In a nut shell, improv teaches acceptance, commitment, trust and teamwork and these lessons increase self-esteem, confidence, leadership, and communication skills.

Here’s what I saw at the YoutzFest that made Mama proud (I would be Mama in that statement).  As we started the weekend, the kids were given the coaches’ speech of “make each other look good”, and “have your partners’ back”. This is a huge lesson in the improv world; well, actually in any team community. Not only does it help keep the nervous performer out of his or her own head, focusing on the other person teaches us to listen to and support others first.

And over the years as I’ve been studying spiritual philosophy of many different paths, I find this teaching a constant thread in human relationships. For example,  in verse 17 of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu writes :

The great leader speaks little.

He never speaks carelessly.

He works without self-interest

and leaves no trace.

When all is finished, the people say,

“We did it ourselves.”

And Saint Francis famous prayer expresses:

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive

When I watched the shows this weekend, I was, in the words of Mike Myers, Linda Goodman, “verklempt” and needed a moment on several occasions. Why? What happened to elicit such a response? Well, let me share one such moment with you.

Acceptance: Accept each other. Accept the offer and build on it.  Both Sarah and Allen represented the HSL, and Ellie and Kinley are the youngest two little peanuts in the MSL . This was also Ellie’s first big ComedySportz® match representing the MSL.  The last game of the match was “One Minute Expert” and the score between the two teams was close. This game would decide the winner.

“One Minute Expert”: This is an all play game. One team steps forward and starts talking as an “Expert” on the topic provide by the audience. Any of the other players can challenge the expert, and when that happens the ref stops the clock, and asks to hear the challenge. If the challenge is valid, the challenger replaces the speaker and continues the discussion as the “Expert”. This continues until the minute lapses, and the last player standing as the expert at the end of the minute wins the game for his or her team.

As the game started, Sarah jumped out and was challenged by a HSL player from the other team, then Kinley challenged and became the “Expert”. The Legends’ player, Savannah (MSL) jumped forward replacing Kinley. Time was winding down, the Legends had the spot, and Allen paused waiting to see if Ellie wanted to jump forward, but after a quick glance he knew she wasn’t ready and he stepped forward to challenge and became the “Expert”.

20 seconds remaining and Taylor (HSL) replaces Allen. With 15 seconds on the clock, the win will go to the Legends unless the Hams step forward and replace Taylor.  The ref calls out “10 seconds”, and both Sarah and Allen look at Ellie encouraging her to step forward. Ellie looks up with a quizzical glance indicating she doesn’t know what to say. Sarah whispers in her ear giving encouragement. Allen pats Ellie on the shoulder. “5 Seconds” states the ref.

Ellie looks back up at Sarah, and we can see on her face she’s almost ready to jump in. “3, 2, 1….and time!” shouts the ref. Game over and the Legends won the match.

The Hams technically lost. However, Sarah, Allen, Kinley and Ellie did win. They won because they were ready to support each other. They allowed the moment of “Fail to Succeed” to happen. Ellie might not have had the confidence to step out and take the stage alone at this match, but give it time and she will. We could see that desire in her eyes, and Sarah, Allen, and Kinley were ready to forfeit the game to give Ellie every possible chance to excel.

These are the moments that, after 20 years in the world of improvisation, that I cherish. Yes, we perform a comedy show. Yes, we teach improv. No, we don’t teach people how to “be” funny. We teach human interaction, we teach Lessons Of Laughter.


(If you are interested in participating in one of our improv classes or joining one of our leagues sign up for our email, and we’ll let send you information about our next classes)

The Hundred Thousand Dollar Improv Game


Over the years, we’ve had many of our High School League team, or Minor League team as we called it, use their experiences, or skills as inspiration for their college admission essay.  One student wrote a poem, one create an entire song of which I still proudly own a copy and play from time to time.

The students that have shared their story with me, also shared that they received admission to the college of their choice. One student’s story stands out among many.  Perhaps it’s because he was the first to share his story, or perhaps it’s because of his mom!

Some years ago, one of our original High School League members was inspired to use one of his experiences at ComedySportz in his college acceptance essay. He received a full scholarship to Duke University. Now, I am assure that Keven “Super Genius” Fogg would have received a scholarship with our without his ComedySportz experience, however, his mom firmly believes that it was ComedySportz, and specifically one particular game, that urged a closer look at his application.
While cleaning out files I found Kevin’s essay, and my heart was filled with those warm fuzzy feelings of gratitude and appreciation. Grateful to have had this amazing student, and appreciative of the lessons he has taught me.  Allow me to share the first paragraph.

“A heavy base rhythm thumped away in the background and a bright light shone on the stage. I nervously watched my fallen comrade descend to her seat. An audience member bellowed out the name “Skip.” My mind started racing, how many words could I rhyme with Skip? Sip, trip, flip. How many of these words would my opponent use? Lip, rip, hip. We were on the stage at a professional improv show. I and my fellow performers were playing the game “Da-do-run-run,” based on the old fifties song. The objective is to continue the song through as many rhymes as possible, the player who cannot come up with a thyme is out. We were down to the last round, and the outcome of the match depended on who won that game. All the pressure was on me. Zip, tip, clip. My opponent fires a skillful line, employing the word “quip”. I quipped back just as easily. “The isle of Ceylon used to be called Serendip!” And with that, I won the game.

Kevin is now a Faculty of History, at University of Oxford. As of Friday he received confirmation that he will be teaching at Oxford for the next four years! Congratulations Super Genius! We always believed in you, we love you, and we know you’re doing great things.

I suspect you are an amazing teach, as I know that you have taught me many, many lessons oh wise one!

Middle School League vs Majors

YoutzfestCollageWhat an amazing show! I’m not sure who actually had more fun, the audience full of Loyal Fans, family and friends, the players, or myself, the Middle School League (MSL) teacher and acting referee for the show.

The kids, the middle school team, brought their A-game! They were ready to play and have fun. After all the players suited up, we warmed up improv style. We got into circle formation and started playing fast paced improv/theatre games that prepare us to be connected and play in the moment. The games are also designed to remind us of the importance of non-verbal skills such as eye contact. Then we end the pre show warm ups with some storytelling games to keep us focused on solid story telling skills which will help us develop solid scene work.

The older players seemed filled with a child-like innocence and joy in playing with their younger counter parts. Their exuberance in accepting the offer to play in the show with the MSL was infectious. Just watching the joy on every ones face made me happy to be involved in this show.

There were some people that thought the show with kids playing against the major league team would be a “kiddie” show, but that was hardly the case. These kids were fabulous! They had game and tons of personality. One of the young players, Robert, learned quickly how to endear the fans and encourage them to vote for his team.

As the ref asked for the fans to vote for the team they thought did a better job in the last round of improv scenes between the MSL team used their secret weapon. Robert, an MSL player, jumped up, looked at the referee and said with wide eyed innocence “Ghee ref, I sure hope some of the fans vote for us!” Then, ever so slowly, Robert turned his head to the fans with a wide smile. The loyal fans went wild, and the major league team threw their clip board, shouting, “We can’t beat that!”

The show continued to up the stakes as each team tried to gain love and respect from the fans for votes. Then in the second half of the show, as the ref asked for the fans to vote again, one of the major league players stepped on the field and asked the same question Robert had earlier. Of course the audience laughed, then little Abby stepped up on the field and said in the most humble and sweet voice of a child “It doesn’t matter if we win. We’re just glad to be here and get to play with you major league players!”At that moment the majors knew they lost the match. There was no amount of talent or bribery that they could use to influence the fans vote.

In the end the MSL team won. It isn’t easy to beat cute. I suspect that is one of the reasons W.C. Fields said “never work with children or animals.” Well Mr. Fields, I suspect you have a point, however, I for one, am eagerly looking forward to the next Middle vs Major League match.

The Improv Student

Recently, one of the students turned major league player of ComedySportz

Glenn Abernatihy
The Improv Student – Glenn Abernathy

shared his story at one of our High School League practices. Many of us had not heard his story, and we were moved and asked if he would write and share his story. Thank you for sharing your story

“I was not a particularly happy child during my formative years. In middle school, I fluctuated between having zero friends to maybe a maximum of about 3. Most of my time in class was spent either being sarcastic or being quiet. I went to school, I played video games, I ate, and I slept.

My parents were not a fan of that lifestyle, as it turns out. As punishment for my apathy, they shoved me into a couple weeks of ComedySportz kidz camp. CSZ camp lasted 4 days per session, three hours per day, plus a little showcase on the last day for our folks to see what we learned. In terms of content, the camps were rather simple. We were taught to work as a team, get out of our heads, and enjoy ourselves via lots and lots of improv games, ranging from simple scene games to wars with poison swords.

I was not amused.

They wanted the kid who hated people to be a team player. They wanted the perpetual thinker to act on instinct. They wanted the child with the eternal scowl to get rid of it.

My thoughts after one summer of CSZ: NO NO NO A MILLION TIMES NO.

Naturally, I had a lot of problems throughout the last year. My parents were concerned, once again, about my ever-simplifying lifestyle. I ate less, slept less, and aside from spring track, did virtually nothing of substance. So, naturally, they signed my surly butt up for another three weeks of camp.

I will admit, these sessions were a good deal better than the previous ones, for two reasons. First, my quiet side had pretty much gone extinct, so only sarcasm remained. While this wasn’t necessarily the best thing for the people around me, it was much easier to get out of my shell this time around. Second, I made a friend. Only one friend, yes, but quite a good friend, especially considering my penchant for driving people away at this point. By the end of week three, me and the aforementioned friend were close enough that she was able to twist my arm into auditioning for the CSZ high school league with her that fall.

(SIDE NOTE: I still have no idea why they let me audition at that point, let alone why they let me in. I was below high school age, I wasn’t actually in high school, and, other than a reasonable sharp mind, I showed no aptitude for improvisation. I routinely tried too hard to be funny, I picked my spots too meticulously, and I was an absolute black hole as far as team play goes. My parents were benefactors of the theatre at this point, and my little sister, two years my junior, was a much friendlier, much more responsive person. I guess it’s their fault.)

The rest of ComedySportz high school league did not take as well to me as my friend did. There were about 20 of us when I was accepted into the troupe, and the other 18 of them either hated me or were allergic to me. And, frankly, I don’t blame them. Did I mention that I was a sourpuss with a lot lot lot lot lot of teenage angst? I spent the first several months of CSZhsl stuck between a rock and a hard place. I hated being at home, so I spent most of my weekends there, between the practices and the major league shows (To which I had free admittance).

And, by spending time at CSZ, I mean I spent most of my time in the parking lot. During practices, I typically had the common decency to at least stay in the theatre (Though I’d take prolonged trips to the bathroom to avoid going onstage for games that made me uncomfortable. Read: Most of them). I pretty much sat in the back, shut up, and zoned out. During the major league shows, I’d typically grab my iPod and just walk around in the parking lot out back, which has probably become the most famous part of this story. It got so bad at times that my folks came to the shows JUST to make sure I actually watched. But I really couldn’t. I hated the people onstage. They were so good and I was so horrible. I didn’t get it.

Boy, I didn’t get it.

But then something funny happened.

There must have been a conference or something, because things turned after a while. A few people looked at me differently. I wasn’t a surly, unaccepting, sarcastic kid anymore. I was a kid with real problems who needed help. So they picked me up. I’m sure I tried a fair bit to shove them away, but they didn’t budge. And why would they? They were my teammates. And the only one that didn’t understand that was me. After 2+ years there, I still didn’t get the point of ComedySportz Richmond.

Coincidentally, this coincided with the worst summer of my life. My pre-high school summer was filled with all kinds of crap. I got slammed with all sorts of everything, and then some. I got thrown from my own little world into a world where I absolutely couldn’t survive. Since I had no school, there were no academics to take my mind off it either. It was either the real, suddenly cruel world, or it was ComedySportz. For the first time, CSZ wasn’t a convenient way to feign business to my parents (or myself). I needed it.

So, despite all my issues, I sat up a little straighter. I talked a little friendlier. I moved my chair a little closer. I opened my ears a little more. It took a long time, but the light came on. I was still a long way away from ideal: I still fumed on the inside every time somebody else was team captain (Which happened most of the time) or when someone beat me at my favorite game (Which happened less), and I still measured my shows on how many people laughed at me and what I was able to accomplished. But I was onstage, I was thinking less, and I was driven as hell to put a good product on that stage.

My social life improved dramatically after this, and I started to notice some things. Improv requires confidence, decisiveness, teamwork, trust, attitude, and drive. As I slowly added these traits to my improv repertoire (And I stress slowly. I was nowhere near complete at any point during my high school league career), they translated into my life. As I made friends, I got a little happier. I still had issues dealing with my life, but I had made it into something I could live with. As the improv experience grew, the life improvements continued to build in the long run, despite inevitable setbacks. I wouldn’t say at this point that I “got it,” but I was certainly in the process.

April 28, 2009, if memory serves, was the final day of existence for ComedySportz Richmond on Staples Mill road. I was crushed. I still needed ComedySportz. I wasn’t done growing into myself yet. I had never been one to show emotion, despite the troubled soul inside, and I still spent hours crying. I’m not sure something has ever made me as upset.

What I didn’t realize, though, was that the damage had been done. For good. (Well, perhaps damage is the wrong word)

Despite my lack of a stage, my confidence still found ways to build. My apathy continued to disappear. My faith in humanity continued to restore. My reliance on my fellow man contined to grow. My outlook on life grew increasingly bright. Why? Because CSZ was, is, and always will be embedded in my brain, my heart, and my soul. ComedySportz gave me a life worth living. It might sound cheesy, but that’s not an exaggeration. In fact, it doesn’t do CSZ enough justice.

In the years between CSZs, I did a few things to pass the time. I ditched my abhorrence for scripted acting and finally got my rear end into some plays. So far, I’ve been part of a school one-act that advanced to regionals, several plays (Including one lead role and another to come this summer), and a couple random open mic nights where I tried to do some stand-up (I don’t think I’m THAT bad at it. Others might disagree).

My name is Glenn Abernathy, and I think I get it.

The new CSZ opened up in Gold’s Gym Plaza in April 2011. As of July 12, 2011, I have been a player in the CSZ Major Leagues. I assist in a lot of the programs designed to teach kids the values of improv and the fun it can bring. I perform on many weekends in the shows I used to hate to watch. I regularly WATCH (and enjoy) the shows I used to hate to watch. I regularly perform in birthday and other child-audience remote shows.

And now, it seems as if I have become the poster boy for CSZ, and how it can make a happy person out of anyone. CSZ Richmond, and everyone involved between 2005 and now, thank you. You saved my life.”

5 Things To Help Your ComedySportz Audition

Thinking about auditioning for ComedySportz! We’d love to have you come and give it a try. Many of our players have been involved in and performing improvisation for years, but they didn’t start knowing how to be a great improviser. Many of us just tried out because we thought the it would be fun. And it was! So much so that we made the team, and have been experience oodles, and oodles of fun performing and being a part of the ComedySportz

Here are a few tips that can assist in your efforts when auditioning!

1) Be present! Think of improv auditions like a musical jam session and  just go with the flow. When you try to force the music it never sounds right, but when you just let it happen, it’s pure nirvana! Well do that. Let it happen by being present!
2) Don’t force the funny! Please, please, please, don’t try to be funny! It’s never funny when you try to force the funny. It comes across as “LOOK AT ME I’M FUNNY!! NOW LAUGH!” If that happened in a ComedySportz show, the audience (“Loyal Fans”) would cross their arms and become defensive or defiant. The funniest things happen, when you are not “forcing” the funny. Stay out of your mind. Thinking of the next thing to say while in a show, instead of simply responding, is writing script. And in going to your mind, you often do not hear what is actually happening and by the time you add the your line of thought, the line you just scripted in your head, the moment has passed, and it’s no longer going to be funny.
3) Support the players with whom you are working. Make them shine more than you want to shine. Make ’em look marvelous! The auditioners always notice team work.
4) Fail! Don’t be afraid to fail. If you do, enjoy the moment. Generally, when a mistake happens in the show, the audience laughs. It tends to be comedy gold. So, accept it, embrace it, let it happen, and continue. If you act like it was a mistake, if you have that look of “failure” or “sorry” on your face shake it off, otherwise, it comes across as “I’m not good enough” and of course, you are.
5) HAVE FUN!!!!