An insider's guide to the ComedySportz World Championship.
This year, ComedySportz of Chicago turns 25 years old, and there couldn't be a better occasion to host the ComedySportz World Championships. Teams from around the country as well as Europe will converge to perform their signature brand of funny for Chicagoland audiences. Over the course of 9 shows (or games, if you want to get into the vernacular), all these teams will battle for their fans' laughs, cheers, and applause.
Now, for most Chicagoans, this will be the first CWC they've ever attended, and they may be wanting an inside scoop on what each show has to offer. As someone who has been attending championships regularly for the last five years, and helped put on the last CWC to come to Chicago (back in 2001), here are some inside thoughts on what this year's shows have to offer.
Game 1: The Big Hitters
GAME 1 • Buy Tickets
MATCH 1a, 8:00p-8:40p
MATCH 1b, 8:55p-9:35p
Opening nights of CWC usually feature strong teams known for bringing a lot of excitement early. These line-ups look like they'll be no exception. Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Chicago are all previous CWC champions. The wild card in this line-up is Manchester, traveling all the way from the United Kingdom. They had an incredible showing at last year's CWC in Indianapolis, and may give Los Angeles a run for their money. Of course, Milwaukee vs. Chicago in the second match will be tough. The "I-94" rivalry between Chicago and its ComedySportz "Big Brother" Milwaukee is almost as old at the Chicago team itself. Look for Milwaukee to bring old school improv games with lots of energy while the home team tries to win with Chicago style scenework. Long-time improviser and local stand-up, Rance Rizzutto, officiates.
Game 2: Late-Night Powerhouses
GAME 2 • Buy Tickets
MATCH 2a, 10:00p-10:40p
MATCH 2b, 10:55p-11:35p
Just like in Game 1, these teams won't disappoint. San Jose is known for its acrobatic, physical shows, while Indianapolis won last year's CWC. Quad Cities, the Beast of the Midwest, may bring some of its rough-n-tumble style. Again, the wild card comes from overseas, with Berlin. Don't worry, even when at home, they perform their shows in English. No translator required! Those familiar with the ComedySportz style will love referee Doug Neithercott. His trademark sarcasm and quick wittedness should keep these teams on their toes.
Game 3: East meets East meets West…ern Europe
GAME 3 • Buy Tickets
MATCH 3a, 8:00p-8:40p
MATCH 3b, 8:55p-9:35p
Most improv fans have to wait for events like the Chicago Improv Festival to see International improv teams. This show features Berlin vs. Manchester! Berlin is the newer of these two teams. Will that provide Manchester an advantage? This is a great opportunity to see these two European rivals in prime-time. As for the second match of this game, Buffalo and Philadelphia get to work out their longstanding rivalry for all to see. Philadelphia is thought by many to be the East Coast's strongest team, winning the CWC in 2010. Buffalo, on the other hand, has spent the last few years rebuilding itself and players there have said they are coming to Chicago with something to prove. Rumors are that Buffalo will, in fact, host CWC next year. These matches will be officiated by the Claire Wilcher, of Indianapolis, who had strong showing at CWC last year, and should bring her own brand of quirky comedy to the referee role.
Game 4: The Southern Strategy
GAME 4 • Buy Tickets
MATCH 4a, 10:00p-10:40p
MATCH 4b, 10:55p-11:35p
Of all the matches this year, it's the matches of game 4 that most make me wish the Athenaeum served Sweet Tea. The first half features the time-honored Texas rivalry of San Antonio vs. Houston. Houston has years of experience on the newly rebuilt San Antonio team, but both will bring their characteristic Texas swagger to the fight. In the second half, New Orleans will battle Richmond, Virginia in another fun-filled match. New Orleans is rumored to be supplementing their team with a Sacramento, California player. No word from Richmond if they plan on contending the roster change. If you grew up in the South, went to college in the South, or just watch a lot of Paula Dean, this will be a great chance to Southern Fried ComedySportz. And, if you're a fellow Yankee, ComedySportz's nicest ref, Andrew Berkowitz of Portland will probably still make you feel at home.
Game 5: Straight Improv no Chaser
GAME 5 • Buy Tickets
MATCH 5a, 8:00p-8:40p
MATCH 5b, 8:55p-9:35p
This is a must-watch show. Beyond being extremely funny ComedySportz teams, these four cities send world class improvisers to CWC year after year. Minneapolis and Portland are known for taking their time and building strong scenes within ComedySportz games. The cities of Philadelphia and Chicago regularly spar, not just in ComedySportz, but sketch, long-form, and stand-up. Philly and Chicago is one of the best kinds of rivalries: two teams that respect each other so much, they can't wait to beat each other! The icing on the cake of this show is referee James Bailey, a long-time stage and screen actor, as well as a member of the seminal musical improv quartet, The Impromptones.
Game 6: The "Be Very Afraid" Show
GAME 6 • Buy Tickets
MATCH 6a, 10:00p-10:40p
MATCH 6b, 10:55p-11:35p
If you consider yourself a fan of improv, this show will be your guilty pleasure. People who really love improv, live for the moments of almost-chaos where the show threatens to fly apart at that seems but then magically comes in for the perfect landing. There's a couple reasons why this may happen. First, ComedySportz of Chicago's Friday 10pm audience has always been a crowd that rewards adrenaline with wild applause. Multiply that by the size of the Athenaeum and this show should get "big." Second, most of these teams will be playing their second or third show of championship. At CWC, teams that play more than once usually end up going for broke in their later shows. They know they have to take big risks to get to Game 9, so they start making big plays. These teams won't be playing it safe. Plus, New York, the team that is debuting, played a very high-energy show at last year's CWC and knows it will have to do the same to beat Chicago. And what's the third and final reason to "be very afraid?" This show will be hosted by none other than Chicago's "Ref Trainwreck" Josh Breit. ComedySportz players who love Breit's bizarre style of reffing actually launched a Facebook campaign to get him on the bill at CWC. Pairing these four great teams with the insanity of this ref could make this the wildest show of championship.
Game 7: Fast for the Whole Family
GAME 7 • Buy Tickets
MATCH 7a, 6:00p-6:40p
MATCH 7b, 6:55p-7:35p
These four teams play fast and are known for tight shows. While all of ComedySportz is all-ages friendly, the Saturday 6pm slot is traditionally a great fit for families, and these teams certainly exemplify that tradition of fast, clean, fun comedy. Another reason to trust this show is the firm reffing of San Jose's Courtney Pong. Pong likes working big venues and keeping shows cooking. With Provo (ComedySportz's nicest team) battling Buffalo (ComedySportz's coldest team… in Winter), there should be plenty of fun antics in this show.
Game 8: The Main Event
GAME 8 • Buy Tickets
MATCH 8a, 8:00p-8:40p
The Saturday 8pm show of Championship is exciting for many reasons. For one, it's when the votes are tabulated to announce who is playing in the Championship match at 10pm. For another, it usually features the best improvisers in ComedySportz. This year is no exception. The first half will feature two teams known for great music and scenework, as well as being two of the pound-for-pound funniest teams in all of ComedySportz, Los Angeles and Minneapolis. This year, however, it's the second half that will be a little different. While ComedySportz managers are somewhere in a dressing room at the Athenaeum casting their ballots for the championship teams, the audience will be treated to an All-Star show. Here's how it works: on the Friday of Championship, all the rostered players at CWC will cast ballots for who should play on behalf of them all in the All-Star show. Eight performers will be chosen. These eight will be divided into two teams and will play. Think of this as ComedySportz meets your Fantasy Football draft. It's a chance to see line-ups you can never see throughout the year. Beyond promising to have some of the funniest players of Championship, it will also feature one of Chicago's favorite funny ladies as referee. Called "Funniest in Chicago" by Chicago Free Press, Tara DeFrancisco will wear the stripes in the 8pm show.
Game 9: The Championship Match
GAME 9 • Buy Tickets
CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH, 10:00p-11:35p
Referee: DAVE GAUDET (Chicago)
NBC once said of ComedySportz, "if you haven't seen it, you should." And when it comes to the Championship, I couldn't agree more. Seeing a CWC final round should be on every comedy lovers bucket list. Here's what happens. Over the course of the week, managers from the different cities vote for which teams had the best showing at championship. The top two teams face each other in Championship. The one that wins becomes the ComedySportz World Champions for that year. Besides bringing bragging rights to their city for an entire year, taking home the Championship trophy defines a ComedySportz team as having truly achieved a synthesis of extreme comedic talent with sublime improvisational skills. (Yeah, people get real excited about it, for serious.) Perhaps this is why it's appropriate that 24 year ComedySportz veteran Dave Gaudet is reffing The Championship Match. Gaudet led his team, the Downtown Chicago Bosses, to victory in the CWC of 2001, when Championship last came to Chicago.
That's the scoop! The truth is, every show at Championship is a show worth seeing. That's why Chicago is offering season passes so you can see all the great matches for one low price. Also, while not the most modest move ever made, Chicago is already planning the weekend after Championship to be a victory celebration at their theater at 929 W Belmont. More information should be released on Monday, July 23rd.