- Members of two ComedySportz teams engage in the helter-skelter competition of improvisational humor.
Two super bowls in one year? Warm up for February's NFL bout with the 2011 ComedySportz World Championship, July 20-23. According to Ed Trout and Lynn Burger, founding members/owners of ComedySportz on Mass Avenue, if you've never attended an evening at ComedySportz in Indianapolis, now is your chance to see what it's all about. And if you're a regular, you know what a big deal this is. The four-day event will be held at the Athenaeum; this isn't to confuse regular patrons of the Mass Ave. club. Burger says, "We're having it 'at the A,' in order to accommodate all of the fun."
In the vein of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (A TV comedy "game show" -- the U.S. version was hosted by Drew Carey and starred Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady and Colin Mochrie), ComedySportz is competitive improvisational comedy. Trout says, "We get a lot of calls from people asking who the headliner is, but we're not like most comedy clubs: there is no headliner. Teams compete." And not all teams work the same way. In fact, Trout claims that they're all very different. "Some rely heavily on physical comedy, others use music; they all work together."
The fact that the World Championship is in Indianapolis this year is a big deal for everyone involved. Trout and Burger listed the names of other cities where the championship has been held in previous years, (Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Austin, Portland, and L.A.), and they're proud to have Indianapolis on the list.
"It may be a once in a long-time experience to have it all right here," says Burger.
Trout makes it clear this event is entertainment for all ages. "There is audience participation, but we're never laughing at you, we're laughing with you." Burger adds, "They might ask you what your favorite color is, but that's about as intrusive as it gets."
In fact, teams earn fouls and are penalized if they say or do something that would qualify as less than family-friendly. The audience doesn't experience embarrassing, put-on-the-spot comedic ridicule, the improvisational routines hinge on ideas and requests from the crowd. Plus, the audience votes for the winners and a referee keeps things clean and fun.
Trout notes: "In support of Indianapolis' own ComedySportz Executive Director, Mia Lee Bauman, a portion of the ticket sales will be donated to the Indiana State Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society."
Teams from more than 20 cities, including a team from Manchester, UK., and one from Berlin, Germany will be represented in the tournament.
The tournament will feature four nights of competition, each show leading up to the championship match will feature four different teams. The two teams that emerge from the competition as winners will compete in the late show on Saturday, July 23, for the World Championship.
Burger says, "If people are trying to decide which night to start with, you can't lose: each night will be different, for sure." There's really no way of knowing which teams will make it to the final round until the final night. Trout mentions that this isn't a members-only kind of event, "Don't feel left out if you've never been to a match; people get into it right away."
Each match is original and the ref keeps things going at a fast pace. Even though all of the action for the World Championship is at the Athenaeum Theater, if you like what you see, Trout and Burger encourage people to stop by Mass Avenue and check the regular schedule.
A few notable competitors
Steph DeWaegeneer (Houston, TX)
Steph has worked with ComedySportz since 1991, at first in Houston, then in Chicago, then back in Houston once more. On her improv platform of "Yes, and!!" Steph was crowned 2009 Ms. Plus America, even though it meant she had to miss the Tournament in Milwaukee that year to compete.
James Bailey (Los Angeles, CA)
James is the current President of the World Comedy League, the organization which binds together all of the ComedySportz cities worldwide. In addition, James is the Producer and Artistic Director of ComedySportz LA, where his ComedySportz High School League has become the largest, most successful improv training program for high school students in the country.
Dick Chudnow (Milwaukee, WI)
Dick, one of the founders of the Kentucky Fried Theater, is the comedic genius behind the original ComedySportz format. The whole ComedySportz World Championship is only taking place because this man had a vision back in 1984 of what ComedySportz could be.
ComedySportz Manchester, UK Team:
Since 2003 (in Washington, DC) ComedySportz Manchester has sent a team to represent the only UK city. ComedySportz Manchester started life as ComedySportz Chorley back in 2001. Once the move to the big city happened in 2007, there was no looking back, and CSzMan is thriving more than ever. Now in their 10th year they are organising (notice the British spelling) their 10 Year Anniversary Show this November back in their original home in Chorley, and even Dick Chudnow (ComedySportz Founder) will be flying in for the occasion. For the record, the last time they were in Indianapolis everyone had a ball.