Who doesn’t miss Live TV? On Sunday nights at 7 pm, two improv groups harken back to that golden age of live TV, where anything could happen and there was no five second delay. Every week, the improv groups Legacy and BattleProv create two new TV shows based on titles suggested by the audience. You might see a police procedural and a soap opera one week, and a hospital drama and a reality show the next. You never know what you’re going to get until you tune in.
The two talented ensembles performing the TV Show are no strangers to the ComedySportz stage. The gifted performers in Legacy all came to Chicago after playing with ComedySportz Theaters across the country, from New Orleans to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, BattleProv takes the ComedySportz Theatre stage every Wednesday at 9 to challenge the city’s best short-form teams to an improv showdown.
The two teams decided to get together to mix the wacky energy of their regular shows with the kind of TV Show formats everyone knows and loves. “People are always looking at TV and saying, ‘I could write something better than that,’” says Bruce Phillips of Legacy, “Well, we’re trying to do exactly that.” Rob Grabowski, of BattleProv, agrees, “When I was growing up I watched a lot of TV. It’s fun to play with all those different styles of shows I watched growing up. I love being able to come in and do anything from a Law and Order parody to an Ed Sullivan-esque variety show.” And for at least one performer—Josiah Jenkins of BattleProv—“I like this show because it may be the closest I ever get to being on TV.”
Not only do the performers get in on the TV-style fun—the audience does as well. They provide the titles for every show including recent shows like “Down and Dirty,” “Beach Bums,” and “The Koalas of Sunset Beach.” And unlike real TV, you won’t want to skip the commercials. Every show features “commercial breaks” made up of world’s worst product pitches, movie trailers, celebrity PSA’s, or just about anything else—all based on suggestions provided by the audience on the spot.
And if you enjoy the performers in the TV show, you can catch both teams at other times on the ComedySportz stage. Both teams regularly perform in the “Two Dollar Bill,” running at 8 pm on Wednesdays through the end of March. And starting in April, you can stick around after the mainstage show to watch BattleProv on Thursdays at 10 pm.
So turn off the tube and get tuned into some live comedy. The TV Show is the best “TV set” in town. Tickets are only $5.00 and also include admission to the Chicago Improv League show, which follows at 8:30 pm.
Founding Member Tim Chidester reveals the secrets of "Chicago's Dirtiest Improv Show"
Interview by Alonso Cisneros
June 11th will mark the fourteen year anniversary of The Hot Karl, Chicago’s dirtiest improv show. Since 1999, every Saturday at midnight, some of Chicago’s best improvisers and eager audience members pack into The ComedySportz Theatre for a night of unpredictable and unadulterated fun. The Hot Karl, named The Chicago Reader’s best improv group a few years back, has built up a first class reputation among theater critics in the city. They have also garnered a large following, thanks to their consistently bold brand of humor. Chidester, a founding member, calls the show, “Dirty twisted improv” and says that, “Some people are ready for it. Some aren’t.” Chidester explains that show is witty and that when they go blue, “it’s like dirty sprinkles on top.” This helps separate The Hot Karl from some other comedy shows, as its humor doesn’t rely on common tropes and easy jokes. Chidester explained that the show is like a cross between “Monty Python and Don Rickles,” making it both a surreal and off color performance. “It has some truth and heart to it…It can be nasty, but it has a lot of heart to it.”
The audience continues to flock back to their shows, which are never the same twice, as the cast members of The Hot Karl have forged a connection with them. The cast members have long been devoted to their audience, always keeping them in mind. “We come out of the show and talk to people,” Chidester explains. “We love our audience. We want them to have a good time.” Chidester and the other cast members keep their audiences laughing and playing along with them, and they’ve only gotten better at this over the show’s run at ComedySportz. “We know when to stretch something out or to quit when it’s great,” a trick that they’ve picked up over years of experience.
The cast members tend to riff on pop culture and relationships, a source of many of the show’s premises. “We take weird things and put them in normal situations. We also take normal things and put them in weird situations,” Chidester explains.” For example, in a recent show, the ensemble riffed on unicorns, three ways, and tacos, demonstrating their aptitude for juggling bizarre premises. “For some people who haven’t seen it, it’s a magic trick,” Chidester explains. The show leads the audience down a path with sharp twists and turns, as even the cast members are unsure of where it’ll lead to. “It’s definitely where the sidewalk ends,” Chidester explains. “Then we go beyond it. We follow the inspiration.” The Hot Karl keeps managing to pull off an impressive blend of “raunchy sophomoric” humor every Saturday night, and there’s no sign that they’re going to slow down any time soon. .The current cast members include Tim Chidester, Randy Smock, Kat Gotsick, Eric Lindberg, Zach Thompson, Nathan Jansen, and regular guest Bethany Remely.
Improv games to celebrate Irish culture, drink specials from the Emerald Isle and free souvenir photos to memorialize the nights.
The Irish are best known for…. their sense of humor? Well, maybe that’s their second-best known quality, but it will be celebrated in the six ComedySportz shows leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. ComedySportz’s celebrated improv artists, with the help of audience suggestions, will add their own brand new contributions to Irish art forms like folk songs or limericks.
As to the best-known characteristic of the Irish (or at least of many St. Patrick’s Day revelers), ComedySportz will offer Irish drink specials - $5 cans of Guinness and $5 shots of Jameson. Whiskey.
An added bonus will be the opportunity for show goers to get a free photograph of themselves in the ComedySportz Club Room.
These extra activities will happen at all six performances St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, beginning on Thursday, March 14th and continuing through shows on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16 and tickets are $22-$24. For reservations, call 773-549-8080.
$5 for Fresh, Unexpected Comedy on Sunday Nights
The ComedySportz Theatre and Chicago Improv Productions present
The TV Show and Chicago Improv League
Two improv companies with long histories in the city have partnered to create an affordable evening of new comedy. At 7p, The TV Show features an evening of improvised television. Performers provide two new improvised “shows” every week. Audiences might see a forensic cop drama in the first half and an old school game show in the second. Commercial breaks, PSAs and other standards of the TV milieu will be lampooned in this creation by the performers of two long-standing improv troupes from The ComedySportz Theatre: Battle-prov and The Legacy. Tickets: $5
Guests of The TV Show are then invited to stay for free for the Chicago Improv Productions presentation of The Chicago Improv League. CIP calls these performers “the next generation of improv.” Featuring alumni from CIP’s national competition of new talent, the College Improv Tournament, The Chicago Improv League promises an off-the-wall party atmosphere for their brand of fresh and unexpected comedy. Tickets: $5
Touting the evening as “The Sunday Double Scoop”, The ComedySportz Theatre and Chicago Improv Productions are hoping the $5 price, fresh content, and party atmosphere will not only showcase the next generation of improv talent, but attract the next generation of improv audiences. “Our new line-up will be fun for everyone, but we were especially thinking of the younger, value conscious audiences who want to pack one more fun experience into their weekend before returning to work on Monday,” said Matt Elwell, President and CEO of The ComedySportz Theatre. In keeping with the party atmosphere, performers of the Chicago Improv League will host an after-party for guests of both shows in The ComedySportz Theatre’s Club Room to cap off the evening.