Once again, I apologize for my absence. I assure you though, it was not without just cause. These last five weeks I have been participating in an intensive improv comedy workshop at the iO theatre in Chicago. For those of you not familiar with improvisational comedy, the iO and the Second city are the foremost training and performance centers for comedy in, well, the world. They are home to greats like Tina Fey, John Belushi, Tim Meadows, Steve Carrell, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Amy Pohler, and the list goes on and on. Charna Halpern and Del Close created the Improv Olympic together and also created the long form improv style called the “Harold.” They are known for creating and training the careers of many, if not all, of the members of Saturday Night Live, including my personal favorite, Gilda Radner. In short, I literally spent my summer star struck. Just kidding, but taking this opportunity gave me the ability to train from the best of the best.
So, the summer intensive. What is it? It’s a five week crash course through all of the levels offered in training at the iO and Second City. I have had some truly incredible teachers along the way, including William and Mary alum Todd Edwards, ’97, who is living, performing, and teaching improv comedy in Chicago, Andy St. Clair, an alum of the Second City Mainstage, Jet Eveleth, and Craig Ulihr. Now, I have never done any improv comedy before, except for a little in acting class, nothing serious. I had no idea that there were rules, forms, games, and mannerisms to the craft that had to be incorporated into the scenes you were performing. So you can imagine that on the first day when I walked into the iO and stood on the Del Close stage, I was totally freaking out. I learned improv on the same stage that Chris Farley once stood, the same stage that my absolute idol Tina Fey once drew laughs. Being the great teacher and awesome W&M grad that he is the last thing that Todd Edwards told us as we left for class every day was that we should soak up every moment and remember how special we are to have been chosen to participate in this workshop. We should always remember that we are learning among the best of the craft, and in short, walking with giants. What a cool feeling, right?
This workshop also had its perks. I got to see every iO show and most Second City shows for free. So as you can imagine I took full advantage of every show I could possibly see. Which means I saw a ton of shows, standup, long form, short form, and sketch comedy this summer. At one point I was averaging an eight pm and a ten pm show every single night. Outrageous, I know, but awesome. They tell you in the workshop that one of the best ways to learn is to watch, so you better believe I did a TON of watching. One of my favorite shows, and one that I quickly became a frequent watcher was the Cook County Social Club. The show is super well known in the improv comedy world, having performed all over the country at countless festivals and corporate events. Two of the shows members are even Virginia school alums. One from Virginia Tech, and Greg Hess, class of 2003, is a William and Mary alum. You better believe I felt at home with all the William and Mary alums at iO! I even had the opportunity to take a workshop with the Cook County Social Club, and learn from Greg the tricks of their groups particular form. It was great to learn from a William and Mary Alum, it felt like I had an instant friend in a sea of funny people. If you get the chance to see these guys perform, DO IT. They are hysterical. You can even catch Greg in one of the photos up on the wall in the Market Place. What a celebrity.
As for me? Will I head back to school next week ready to try out for IT (the improv group on campus), or 7th Grade Sketch Comedy? Maybe, I definitely feel armed with an arsenal of information and five weeks worth of practice and comedy knowledge. There are some seriously funny people at William and Mary, as evidenced by the William and Mary community represented in the comedy world here in Chicago. Maybe someday I will get the chance to walk among them. Here’s to a great senior year! Holy cow!