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|A ComedySportz Primer|
|News/Features - Comedy|
|Written by Mike Schulz|
|Wednesday, 11 July 2007 02:57|
Founded by Wisconsin native Dick Chudnow, ComedySportz originated in Milwaukee in 1984, and has grown to include troupes in 21 cities nationwide, with another based in Manchester, England. As its name implies, this stage entertainment turns the art of improv into something of a team sport. (In America, at least, the show even begins with the singing of the National Anthem.)
In a typical 90-minute performance, two selected groups of players - the red team and the blue team - face off in a series of improvisational games officiated by a referee, while members of the audience provide prompts and suggestions. After both teams perform, audience members vote on which team was the funniest, points are accumulated, and the team with the highest score wins, leaving the losing team to mourn - often in weeping, slow-motion hysteria.
Donning black-and-white stripes and a whistle, the ref is in charge not only of explaining the games' rules to the audience, but making sure those rules are adhered to, occasionally calling fouls on players who break them. Yet the referee's parameters extend beyond those on-stage. Since its inception, ComedySportz has been designed as a family-friendly show, and anyone who ventures beyond the limits of good taste - comedian or audience member alike - will be called out on a "brown-bag foul," and forced to wear a brown paper bag over his or her head for as long as the referee deems necessary.
As in the TV series Whose Line Is It Anyway, the individual games generally last between three and five minutes, and are chosen from dozens of options. "Changing Emotions," for example, finds the ComedySportz players enacting a scene, during which the referee yells out new emotions for the players to suggest as they progress - a "happy" scene can quickly turn "angry," or "depressed," or "terrified." "Emotional Replay," by contrast, finds its participants having to perform the same 60-second sequence three times over in different emotional styles.
"Styles Replay" follows the same format, but instead of emotions, players' alter presentations - a scene's tenor can change from "soap opera" to "action-flick" to "Kabuki." In "Forward/Reverse," the players must repeat a scene's dialogue and actions in reverse order whenever the referee yells "Switch," oftentimes backing up beyond where the scene originated, while "Musical Comedy" is just as its title suggests - players use prompts from the audience to create a spontaneous, four-minute musical-comedy number.
Rock Island's team - originally composed of 13 fledging improv artists from roughly 120 who auditioned - made its debut at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse in August of 1990, began performing weekly at the Rock Island Brewing Company in January 1991, and moved into a venue at 1818 Third Avenue (capacity 145) that June. They've been there ever since, and proudly advertise ComedySportz as the longest-running show in the Quad Cities.
For more information on ComedySportz, visit the franchise's Web site at (http://www.comedysportz.com).
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