citizen improv

I just got back from Ann Arbor’s Improv Inferno. A friend had asked to me to come down and check out a new program there that he’d helped initiate, called “Citizen Improv.” This, I believe, was the third installment of the series, which seeks to wed improvisational comedy and the local community. Each week, a different person from the community is selected to share anecdotes drawn from his or her life, which then serve as the inspiration for improvisational comedy. (The guest shares three stories, and, after each, a number of improvisations takes place.) To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting a hell of a lot, but what I saw was extremely promising. I had never thought of improvisational comedy as a means by which to initiate local dialogue on substantive issues, but what I saw tonight makes me think that there may be real potential in this format.

Tonight’s guest from the community was a local web personality who calls himself Homeless Dave. He did an admirable job of tying together a series of monologues on a wide ranging series of topics that took him from his love of teeter totters to the discovery that his great grandfather’s term as Postmaster of a small Tennessee town had been cut short by a prison term for embezzlement. The crew of improv actors did a good job creating comedy from the seeds that Dave had planted, but, more so than by their performances, I was struck by the potential of what was possible. It occurred to me, as I was sitting there laughing, that this could really be a powerful tool for bringing disparate groups of people together and initiating meaningful dialogue on sujbjects of local importance, if it could be harnessed and directed.

There are probably still a few things that need to be tweaked, but I think my friend, and the other people behind this series, might really be on to something. While I’ve been involved in a number of meetings where the topics of discussion have been local issues and events, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced being drawn in like I was tonight. Laughter must open up different parts of the brain or something…. or, now that I think about it, maybe it was just the beer.

Citizen Improv takes place Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM (309 S. Main, Ann Arbor). The cover charge is $5.

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  1. Theodore Glass
    Posted February 2, 2006 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Sounds promising, but, for my money, clowning is the way to go if you’re really looking to create long-lasting sustainable change.

  2. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted February 2, 2006 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    If you did your research, you’d know that Clowns have a higher calling.

    I believe it’s the mimes doing most of the groundbreaking social change work these days.

  3. schutzman
    Posted February 2, 2006 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    If only the city council knew how to improvise, Ypsilanti might not be in this mess.

  4. mark
    Posted February 4, 2006 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Everyone in city government who could improvise got the hell out.

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