The art of comedic improvisation is a risky business, but that is not stopping Improv Asylum from catapulting itself into Boston’s comedy scene.
“Improv is such a bizarre little thing, because people form a group and they’ll do a show one night a week,” Improv Asylum’s Artistic Director and Director of Training Center Jeremy Brothers said. “Our actors do as many as 10 shows a week, so they really know how to perform. They’re not just comedians—they’re really talented performers.”
According to Brothers, what separates Improv Asylum from other comedy theatres is the rigor and dedication required of its actors. Brothers got involved at Improv Asylum by taking classes at the theater, and is now working to spread the love of improv each day.
Located on Hanover Street in the heart of Boston’s North End, Improv Asylum was founded in 1997 and has developed to become one of the city’s premier producers of improv and sketch comedy shows. Recently named Boston’s Best Comedy by Boston’s A-List, Improv Asylum has put on over 10,000 shows for more than two million people, and continues to offer shows six nights a week.
The theater puts on a series of shows, but the most renowned event is the Main Stage Show, which the Improv Asylum puts on every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The Main Stage show is its “most polished show,” according to Brothers, and features the same cast of six actors each show. The six work together to create a show that combines improvised elements and a prewritten sketch to create what Improv Asylum describes as the intersection of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Saturday Night Live.
“We write and rewrite, and we put stuff up in front of an audience and get a read on whether or not it’s working, and how we can tighten it up,” Brothers said regarding Improv Asylum’s Main Stage show. “The first weekend went so well I kind of want to look around and say, ‘Are we done? Can we just call it here?’”
In addition to the Main Stage show, Improv Asylum offers a series of other productions, including “The Show Against Humanity,” which is based on the popular card game Cards Against Humanity. On Saturday nights at midnight, those with an appetite for something more explicit can also attend the “Raunch Show,” in which the cast is more lenient about the suggestions they will take—performing more vulgar improv scenarios while drinking beers on stage.
“We’re just wearing our regular clothes and sort of playing with each other,” Brothers said.
One of Improv Asylum’s most popular shows is the “House Teams” event, which features students and alums of Improv Asylum’s in-house Training Center acting alongside Main Stage cast members putting on a performance. The Training Center targets a younger audience in the Boston area—attracting recent college graduates, people who have just moved to the city, professionals who would like to get better at public speaking or presentation skills, as well as people who see the show and think to themselves “I want to do that, I think I can do that, and I want to learn how,” Brothers explained.
Besides working to bring a love of improv to the North End, Improv Asylum hopes that it can teach others how to better communicate in today’s innovative workplace. The theater provides a corporate training program to companies all over the world, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Converse, Staples, and many more.
“A lot of the skills we teach in the training center are clearly for improv and performance,” Brothers said. “But some of the same exercises have great communication takeaways—as far as working in teams, brainstorming, or active and aggressive listening to work together to move ideas forward.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Improv Asylum