Each year, all of the ComedySportzes around the world get together for a 'tournament'. The purpose of the tournament isn't to crush the other teams, but hang out, learn new games, and make new memories. This year's tournament was in Philadelphia. The crew from Chicago included Tara DeFrancisco, Dave Gaudet, Tamara Nolte, Rich Prouty, Rance Rizzutto, and me. This was my third (in a row!) tournament, and it will definitely be an annual endeavor. I have been going to improv festivals for 8 (I think) years, and this one is one of the bests.

Anyway, TD, Prouty, and Rance did the roadtrip thing, while TNo & I took United Airlines. Gaudet was already there for some filming thing. We all arrive on Wednesday, and TNo & I catch the last 10 minutes of the new games workshop. Sad to see that we missed most of it though. The NGW is one of my best daytime activities at tournament. Without it, we wouldn't be playing "Try That On For Size" every other show.

Wednesday night, we did a Beatbox show. All of the CSz folk that were there at the time did the show, plus we drafted Doug Neithercott (from CSz Twin Cities) to play with us. It was a really fun show, and there were time which I was crying because it was so funny. Tara & Rance were great. After shows, there is always an evening activity (which leads to an early morning activity). Wednesday night was Karaoke, followed by Murder (hosted by America's Rich Prouty). Going to sleep before 3 is uncommon.

Thursday morning started with a morning meeting (which is usually attended by 50% of the people) then 2 sets of workshops. I taught on Friday, so Prouty & I decided to wander to the Liberty Bell and see if epoxy could fix it. After a quick stop at Staples for directions and fun, we made it!

(picture by Rich Prouty)

We didn't have a show on Thursday night, but Rance had the privilege of reffing the opening match of Manchester UK vs Philadelphia and Milwaukee vs Portland. Rance is a good ref. Shows were great that night and we had a blast at the opening ceremony. We all marched in and paraded on stage. FUN! Can you see me?

(photo by someone on facebook)

Friday was an early morning, as I had to beatbox for 2 hours in a MadSkillz workshop. It was real fun, but it was tiring. Hopefully, people had an awesome time!

Hints from MadSkillz:

  • Use short, strong vowel words instead of multi-syllable words that end in a hard consonant. Bay is a lot easier to rhyme than catastrophic.
  • Don't be afraid to pause during your freestyle. There are 2 types of pauses. A silent pause is just what it sounds like. You are not rapping on a beat. A vocal pause is when you say something that doesn't have anything to do with the rap. I'm referring to the "Aw yeahs!" and "Check it out!". You will get eliminated if you use one on occasion, so be careful.
  • Save the money word for second in the couplet. In the typical AABBCC rhyme scheme, setup the word you want to use in the first A, and use it in the second A. For example, if the subject you are freestyling is food, think of references that are easy to rhyme. Brainstorming: pizza, fries, asparagus (gulp!), meat, steak, etc. I will choose fries, and then set it up as follows. "Look out y'all for this big surprise. I just ate a burger and fries" (now I'm really hungry)
  • Use your character/environment. If you are in a scene as a dentist, be a dentist in your rap. Rap about what dentists do/know. Keep that same accent. Where are you? Oh...an antique mall? There are so many things that would be in an antique mall. Rap about a few objects, like that old AM radio, Elvis Presley plate, and Cross Colors shirt.
  • Rap on what you know. The best raps (and songs, and scenes, and yes!) have detailed references. Which is better? "I'm going to the beach" or "I'm flying to the Galapagos Islands to swim with the tortoises".
  • Tweak words to fit if you need to (aka the dirty south style of rap). The words bay (I don't know why I keep using that word. I probably need to go SCUBA diving) and me don't rhyme. Tweak one and watch the magic. "Sittin down and drinking by the bay. No one around but you and may". Yes, you will get *clap clap* outta here, but it's fun.
  • If you can't rhyme something, fake it with energy. There will be a very small chance 0.001% that you won't come up with something amazing. In the event that does happen, know that you aren't rhyming, show us that you don't care your rap didn't rhyme, and heighten the crap out of it with energy. You are still amazing.
  • Use the last few words of the previous rhyme to start your rhyme. This is a great rap line trick. It starts you off and gives you time to fill in the rest. For example, if you were given the line "Ted is a teacher in a middle school", you can grab "in a middle school" and use it for "In a middle school, where he ain't no fool". If this happens a lot, you may get *clap clap* outta here.
  • Practice. Do this a lot. It will make you less scared of words.

Friday night, Chicago vs Philly match! I was lucky enough to be captain, along with TD, Prouty, and Nolte. We started out with Beastie Rap.

(another photo from facebook, so i don't know who took it)

Other games include a fun Changing Styles and Dr Know It All with the cutest of audience volunteers ever!

(copyright Bron Edge I think)

The match was close, but Philly took the victory. That was okay on 2 parts. First, they played well. Second, it was their city. Of course, us Chicago folk couldn't leave gracefully, so we had to remind them about the Stanley Cup. Oops? I brought 4 t-shirts with me.

(i am pretty sure Bron Edge took this picture too)

The last show on Friday night was the All-Star match. Dave Gaudet was voted in as an All-Star. Cool! Sorry, no pics on him, but he is old and you probably don't want to see them. More bars and games after the shows. Saturday, there was no meeting, so we got to wander around some more. I think I went to Chick-Fil-A a few times, and Prouty got a new phone.

By about 9 PM, all of the teams were wondering and gossiping on who would be in the Championship match. They don't announce the finalists until 30 minutes before the match. Everyone was told to bring their gear, just in case. You know what? WE GOT IT! I couldn't believe it. Chicago was vote in to play Philadelphia in the championship. Dave graciously backed out of the lineup, so the players were Prouty, Rance, and me, with TD as captain. It was room 1011. I guess the people that stay together, play together. So excited (and nervous). We had to bring our A game, because we knew Philly would in their hometown.

We started out with Rap Line, which I got to the last position and lost. Philly brought it. Lots of Chicago vs Philly sports jokes straight out of the gate. I wasn't sure how the audience felt about us. We were in trouble! The 2 team choice games we played were New Choice and Forward/Reverse. Rance, TD, and Prouty did great stuff. Very patiently. I didn't really have much to add to either game, but it was fun doing bits on the side as a Jamba Juice worker and a guy making copies (respectively). Five things was really hard, but really fun. I say fun a lot, but that is what tournament is.

(who am i kidding, all of these pictures are probably from Bron)

The second half started with a combined Day In The Life musical. Kelly Vrooman from Philly played the volunteer girl Vinnie and I played her boyfriend Pramod. Pramod was a techie engineer, so the nerd bits started flowing.

(seriously Bron, you take good pictures)

A few games later, and it was the end. We lost by 4 points, but comedy was the real winner. They hoisted the trophy, made of 100% pure awesome, and we highfived out. See, we are all friends, even though Rance looks like he smelled something wicked.

(another FB picture, only because Bron wasn't in the room)

By the end, that Philly audience warmed up to us, and we all had a blast. We did a fun show with Philadelphia, for our friends and for the fanz. What could make the night better? How about a closing night party!

(Copyright some person at the bar)

Great tournament.

Great week

Great life!

Yes and!

Austin is a blast!

Friday night (after a short 15 minute delay from United), I did a show at CSz Austin. I had a great time. My team was Mike Champion & Bobby DiPasquale, and I played against the big boss himself Les McGehee, Sara Farr, and Shawn Utterback, plus Megan Flynn reffed. Everyone was really welcoming, and I'm honored that they let me play. The format was a little different, but still, games are games, and I enjoyed it.

Games list:

  1. Head 2 head: Try that on for size (TOP THAT)
  2. Team choice: Changing styles
  3. Head 2 head: Dueling soundtracks (first time Austin played it!)
  4. 5 Things: I guessed and got 3/5. I was lost on scrabble.
  5. Family dinner played as a catch up round. I was allowed to play an assist as the actual audience member. Supes fun.
  6. Team choice: Some game like Dr Sings-It-All but as a serenade
  7. Final Freeze: Object freeze.

Lots of energy and fun. Plus, my 15ish nerds from the Avlis meet (along with other people) were there, which made it a packed house!

On Saturday, I met with about 10 of the ensemble and taught an abbreviated version of MadSkillz.  If you are an improvisor and are interested in learning a lot about freestyle rap, this is the class for you. It was great getting the crew rapping in a cypher and playing games. I'll see everyone at the ComedySportz World Championship Tournament in Philly this July!



WCR at the Comedy Sportz Theater
by Peter Coffinail

When the gorgeous ladies of the Windy City Rollers aren't issuing out healthy doses of bruises and battering egos, you might find them out and about gracing the city of Chicago with their presence. This past Thursday night was no exception, and a lucky crowd was able to see these ladies (and even UNK from the referee staff) flex their improv muscles. A raucous WCR team had an opportunity to square off against some of improv pro's at the ComedySportz Theatre on Belmont and Clark.

The ComedySportz Theatre show offered up a unique blend of adult toilet humor and improv comedy. The basic premise behind the competition pits two teams against each other in front of an MC in games that the audience selects, and points are awarded based on how hard the improvisers make them laugh. The two teams battled it out for five rounds of sidesplitting fun. The MC for the evening was a local funny man and improv specialist, Nick Hausman.

The Windy City Roller team consisted of WCR All-Stars Ruth Enasia and Hoosier Mama, head referee UNK, newly recruited Fury skaters Tackle Box and Ska Face, and the newest addition to the Double Crossers, Tina Flay. They squared off against an all-woman improv team called the "Battle Pros" consisting of Annie, Nicole, Natalie, Julie and Denise. Both teams looked poised and ready for improv battle as the night rolled into its first round.

The opening round was called Extreme Conducting Story bringing out the first WCR improv teaming of Tackle Box, Ska Face, Hoosier Mama and UNK. The basic run-down for this round is the two teams stand in a line on the stage. The MC pings the crowd to come up with a topic, which for this round was Napoleon Bonaparte. The MC opens the competition by pointing to one individual from either team. This person has to start a sentence based on the topic. The MC then randomly points to another player from either team and they have to pick up where the last person left off. If the last person talks while the newly pointed to person is talking, the last person is disqualified. This goes on until there is only one person remaining from one team. The Battle Pros showed why they have pro in their team name. They came out with wits blazing in the opening round spouting off some situations of utter hilarity putting Mr. Bonaparte in anything but a French sailing vessel. Their candor and poise on stage was nothing but professional. Queue the WCR team. Tackle Box was the first to be disqualified, but not before adding a swath of adult humor to the round. Ska Face answered with a scenario where Napoleon was pole dancing and then was ritualistically disqualified followed by a not-quite-loose-just-yet UNK. This left Hoosier Mama as the lone survivor and even though she put up a good fight, the WCR team went down leaving the score 5-0 after one round.

Round two was called the Battleboard Round. The players had to choose from four categories: US Open, The Dub, Costume Party, and Glee. They act out a scene based on the audiences choosing. The Battle Pros, being gracious hosts, let the WCR team go first. The comedic styling of Tina Flay, Tackle Box, Ska Face and UNK were put to the test when they opted for Glee and the audience had them acting out existing on Dimension X. An option for the Glee category is if the scene gets dull, the audience can begin to chant and the team has to stop dead in its tracks and begin singing in unison. Having to act out the whole Dimension X scene was a difficult task in itself leading the ladies gliding around the stage like they were in outer space and UNK trying to just fit in with a "what the hell is Dimension X?" look on his face. The scene dulled twice and the team sang "Safety Dance" and "Don't Stop Believing" in perfect unison earning them 5 points and tying the game. The Battle Pros were up next opting for the Costume Party category. The crowd dressed the competitors from a cornucopia of extravagant wigs, hats, jackets and jerseys. The second round lacked the energy of the first round but the Battle Pros managed to eek out 3 more points after acting out the Inquisition ending the round in the lead 8-5.

The third round was called the Do Your Thing round where the teams would act out scenes based on audience suggestion. The WCR team went first bringing out Tina, UNK and Ruth Enasia, who graced the stage for the first time. They acted out a scene where Tina was a real estate agent and UNK and Ruth were married and in the market for a new home. What happened next was a gift of comedic genius. UNK came out of his shell and went into a Chris Farley-esque tirade on having explosive diarrhea. Working off Tina and giving the crowd what they paid money to come see, UNK really gave the show an amusing and memorable twist. That earned the WCR team four points putting them in the lead 9-8. Up came the Battle Pro team giving a slightly uneventful showing at the beginning. They stole the audience, though with a laugh-out-loud scene of three hit men standing over a dead body. Their use of the traditional Italian mob hit man accent was spot-on. Coupled with some choice four-letter words, they won the round earning them three points and putting them ahead yet again with the score set at 11-9.

On to round four, playfully named the Torture Round. This is where each team picks something hard for the other team to act out. The Battle Pros gave way to the WCR team of Hoosier, Tina and Tackle and picked out a scene called Sit, Stand, Kneel. The skit ran its course with the sexy trio bantering about hayrides and lovely places on the body to put the hay. This earned the WCR team four points putting them ahead 13-11. When it was the Battle Pros turn to step up to the challenge, the WCR team picked the queen mother of all torture skits; act out a derby bout. The Battle Pros' comedic genius and ever-expanded sense of imagination was put to the test, but they came out on top smelling like roses (or old derby pads). The ladies brought out the old school derby from back in the 70's and mixed it with a little WWE flare, tagging in skaters as another was hurt. It was well received by the predominantly WCR audience and the game was tied 13-all at the end of the fourth round.

The final round was dubbed Group Improv and involved every player from each team. The round was adult-themed and pitted the ladies (and UNK) against each other in a battle royale. Classiness was out the window and made room for raunchy jokes and jeers leaving the audience in stitches. At the end of the round, an audience vote would judge to see who the overall winner would be. In what one would think would be a landslide win for the WCR team, they walked away the victor with a 49-46 triumph over the Battle Pros.
The evening rounded out with a game of flip-cup held by the 1984 Flip-Cup Champ, Ricky Ray Stevens. Both teams met afterwords for drinks and casual conversation. Friends, family and fans alike were all awash in the spirit of the evening. There were good times had by all, and the Windy City Rollers had a chance to prove that they were more that just derby vixens with a lust for blood and competition. They also have a flare for the obscure and could improv with the best. 

Yo, we'll solve it.
District 9 is a highly trained force of professional problem solvers.  They saved their first round of lives last Wednesday during CSz's Free Night of Comedy.  
Check out the hook...
Most improv groups, teams or shows have a theme...something to lay on top of the improv so it doesn't seem so random.  We call this thing a form. In our particular form, D9 agents use improv games to solve the audience members' problems.  (Psst, I'm pulling back the curtain: your "problems" are our "suggestions.")  
...while my DJ revolves it.
So how does a team create a form?  Well, as their coach, I'd like to take all the credit.  But I can't.  Many factors inform the players as to what context they will play in, or to put it simply, what their gimmick will be.  Let's get philosophical: the form usually finds you.  It plays to a team's assets, strengths, and its frame of reference.  The gift of short form improvisation is that it is theatrical Silly Putty.  It can be stretched or squished into any shape you like, and it can pick up funny if you press down hard enough.  District 9 played with a few different forms before we found the one that was just right for us.  My players' natural abilities to come at one thing from 10 different angles and still manage to fully support everyone's idea lent themselves well to problem solving.  Form found.  
Alright stop.  
Collaborate and listen.  Because that is what improv is all about.