Friday, August 9, 2013

30 years of ImprovBoston!

This August 9-10, 2013 ImprovBoston is celebrating its 30+ years with an alumni weekend. I will be proudly performing with other alum on Saturday night at 8pm. ImprovBoston has been a huge part of my life. I have been a part of it for over 15 years and it has influenced me in ways that will shape my life forever. A majority of my close friends and many of my major life memories are a direct result of ImprovBoston. If it wasn't for this theater I would've moved to NYC, Chicago or LA a long time ago.

I know that it's not considered a major improv market but I definitely think it's one of the most vibrant improv and comedy scenes around. The way ImprovBoston, ImprovAsylum and other improv groups around the area have evolved the scene over the last 15 years has been amazing to witness. Supplemented by arguably one of the best stand-up scenes in the country and you have one amazing pool of talent. I'm very proud of what this community has created during my time here and am excited about what's to come.

That being said, having a strong sense of history has always been important to me. So, one of my contributions to this alumni weekend is a collection of memorable moments in ImprovBoston history. Thank you to Ellen Holbrook and Nancy Walker for their fact-checking and contributions. And thank you to the current IB staff, Board of Directors, Mike Descoteaux and Zach Ward for giving me a place to continue performing, directing, teaching and creating! know you're an ImprovBoston nerd when you know that:
  1. In 1982, we were called the Improv Olympic. Sound familiar? We performed at Riley's Beef and Pub in Government Center for a few months, and then at Satch's at Copley Square for about a year. In 1983, while at Satch's, we started to use the name ImprovBoston, but we were still doing a version of the Improv Olympic with a lot of smaller troupes and didn't yet have a "mainstage" troupe.  When we started performing at Ryles (1984), we formed a mainstage company of our best performers so that we could be sure of more consistently funny shows!
  2. ImprovBoston has a long history of Master Class instructors that helped to shape the evolution and growth of our theater. They started in 1982 with David Shepherd (formerly of the Compass Players, predecessor of Second City) and Michael Gellman (former mainstage player and director of Second City) and continued into the 21st century with Keith Johnstone (2000), Amy Poehler (2001), Mick Napier (2002) and continues all the way to 2013 with Kevin McDonald, Jimmy Carrane and others!
  3. ImprovBoston was first incorporated as a Non-Profit Theatre Company in 1984. The Board of Directors was about 5 people and Jim Flaherty and Ellen Holbrook were the only performers on the Board.
  4. In 1984, Ellen Holbrook co-produced the First Improv Convention at Second City with Charna Halpern! 4 members of ImprovBoston did a road trip to Chicago to participate - Ellen Holbrook, Jim Flaherty, Roger Hard, and Dorothy Dwyer.  The convention was mostly an opportunity for improv troupes from all over the US and Canada to do showcase performances at Second City and to learn different formats and many other things from each other. After performing at Second City on their last night, everyone went out for drinks and food at a Blues bar down the street.  At one point in the evening, Ellen was looking for Jim Flaherty, and someone told her that he was in the back room playing pool.  So she went to the back room, and there found Jim Flaherty - who was playing pool with Bruce Springsteen!  Bruce was apparently in Chicago to do a concert.
  5. Steve Carell - who grew up in the Boston suburbs - was a college student at Denison University in Ohio when ImprovBoston started.  He would come home to Boston for holidays and summer vacations. Because of the open format show in the early days, audience members were sometimes allowed to get up on stage with us and do the Harold and other games. Steve was so funny that the cast invited him to perform with IB anytime he wanted. So he would come around to Satch's and Ryle's a few times and he was also at a show IB did at Northeastern.  While he was never an official "cast member" he was definitely one of the more memorable regular guest performers.
  6. All of the Artistic Directors
    • Ellen Holbrook 1982-1984
    • David Thibodeaux 1984-85
    • Leslie Curtin 1985-86
    • Jack O'Connor 1986-87
    • Brad Jones 1987-89
    • Nancy Walker 92-95
    • Larry Pizza 95-97
    • Ron Jones 97-2000
    • Will Luera 2000-12
    • Mike Descoteaux 12-Present
  7. You get excited when you see these folks on TV, movies, magazines or hear them on podcasts because all of these people have been a part or have had a connection to ImprovBoston -

    It should be noted that Jane Curtin was never officially a member of ImprovBoston. She had been a member of "The Proposition" which was an improv troupe that preceded IB by maybe 10 years but also performed in Inman Square.

  8. In the 90s, ImprovBoston would perform a show called the Fruitcake Variations which was quite controversial. IB received angry letters because at the end of each show we’d ask for an unusual death and then improvise a scene which culminated in the death of an actual fruitcake in that manner. People were outraged that we would destroy food.
  9. Around 1990, Noah Gregoropoulos from iO came out to Boston to teach the Harold to members of ImprovBoston and other improv groups around the city like the Guilty Children and Angry Tuxedos so that they can compete in a public show at "Catch a Rising Star" in Harvard Square. For a while after that the ImprovBoston show consisted of first-half short-form and a second-half Harold.
  10. In 1993, after performing at the Back Alley Theater at 1253 Cambridge St. in Inman Square for a few years, the cast took over the lease when the space became available and made it the first ever permanent location for ImprovBoston. On a limited budget they built out the seating area, stage and hung lights. ImprovBoston now had a place to call home. 
  11. In two seperate fundraisers, famous celebrities have helped out ImprovBoston. In the eighties John Cleese met with several members of ImprovBoston when they were working on getting their first venue and in the 00s, during a fundraiser for our new space, Janeane Garafalo met with members of ImprovBoston and shot this video with us - Janeane Garofalo visits ImprovBoston
  12. If it weren't for a chance encounter at a Cinco de Mayo party, Adam Felber and Nancy Walker would not have met Steve Gilbane who they invited to join ImprovBoston. If this never occurred, Gorefest would have NEVER EXISTED! Or at least the music part of it wouldn't.
  13. You know that the first ever Showcase show was "Election" directed by Ron Jones. It has returned every election year since! Although in 2008, we did a twist when we did a 5 hour mega Boston News Net show! For one night we moved the BCN show from the Studio to the Mainstage for an amazing 5-hour extravaganza which included comics, dancers, music and more! 
  14. The original Harold team at IB was Project D, which was started in 2002 by C Todd Lombardo and included performers Michell Barbera, Neraj Tuli, Sue Constantine, Selena Coppock, Mike Manship, Lisa Cordner, Matt Cuccaro and more! Project D was also the first Expansion team (predecessor to the Studio Teams). It was ultimately directed by Joe Kendall and then Will Luera.
  15. The first weekly stand-up show started in 2003 when Chris and David Walsh brought The Great and Secret Comedy Show to Thursday nights at ImprovBoston. It quickly became one of the hottest nights in Boston for Alternative Comedy.
  16. YAP was started by community member Bill Griffin who passed away in 2007. It was originally a meetup group that met at MIT and then in Davis Square. As it grew, IB and Bill decided to work together to bring YAP to ImprovBoston. 
  17. You have heard of and know of IB's integrated history with the Angry Tuxedos, Renegade Duck, Guilty Children, Comedie Du Jour and of course, The Tribe!
  18. BCAF initially started out as Goonfest (in honor of the now retired ImprovBoston goon). It ran for two years at the old Inman Square space.
  19. You have heard of the capital campaign, led by Elyse Schuerman, that helped move the theater from Inman Square to Central Square. Elyse was assisted by many IB performers including John Serpico, Katie Leeman and Rachel Rosenthal (and many more) that helped move the theater from Inman Square to Central Square. There were several amazing fundraisers including the memorable Bachelor/Bachelorette auction! 
  20. You watch this video from our 25th anniversary and tear up!  You also remember the epic night when we brought together several generations of casts and did snippets of every showcase show ever. If you were there you would also remember the infamous "Uniprov" incident...and cringe just a little.