Imagine yourself in a dark room filled with people all looking for a good laugh. You sit up slightly in your seat as the lights on the stage illuminate the room and the curtain opens to reveal the night's host, who quickly introduces the four members of each team. The show begins with a game called Game-O-Matic, in which the initials of an audience member are used as an acronym for a newly created improv game. The game could be called Aged Monkeys or Asian Moustaches or even Aw, Man. The rules are set and the scene begins. Such is a very likely beginning to an improv show.
Of the many different types of comedy, improvisation (otherwise known as “improv”) is one of the least known and one of the most difficult. Contrary to popular belief, Orange County has a blossoming improv scene, especially in Fullerton. Here are a few improv groups and locations in Orange County:
Showcasing a variety of improv teams, including four in-house teams, Spectacles Improv Engine’s goal is to aid in the growth of improv in Orange County. Thus, on top of having a variety of shows that audiences can attend, Spectacles also has classes that aspiring improvers can take. Classes range in price, but are usually about $7-$10. Shows are about the same price and take place at the STAGEStheatre in Fullerton.
If you’re looking for something a little more family-friendly, there’s the Secret City Comics Society. Based in Fullerton, this group performs for a wider range of audiences, from adults to children. A Secret city outing is perfect for those of us who’d like to get out of the house, but not leave the kids behind.
Last, but definitely not least, is Improv Shmimprov, another Fullerton-based improv group. Though this group is geared more towards mature audiences, the cast is hilarious and very worth the $5 ticket price.
Improv Shmimprov Cast Insight
Nate Makaryk, Lindsay Henkenius and Curtis Andersen have deep roots in both the improv industry as well as the acting business. Makaryk began short form improving in college as a founding member of the improv team, Live Nude People (With Clothes On) at UC Irvine, having had little experience directly with improv up until that point. Similarly, improver Lindsay Henkenius did not begin professional improving until 2006, when her work with Imagination Machine (an improv group created to bring to life the stories children have written) began. Coming from a different background, Curtis Andersen began improving when he was about eight for his training as a child actor, though he did not begin doing it professionally until later in his career.
They all had similar advice for amateur and aspiring professional improvers. First, they expressed the difficulties in becoming a professional improver.
“I wouldn’t call it a career because none of the money [is] very good,” says Makaryk. “The more realistic route in comedy is standup because you can get a lot more play time.”
Learning improv is a completely different monster.
“One of the best ways to do it professionally is to keep taking classes and to take them in the right places,” Henkenius says.