“I was in improv troupes in Chicago, as is everyone, in Chicago.” — Neal Pollack

“Hey Fuzzy,” people say every now and then, “you do that improv stuff, where should I take a class to learn to do that improv stuff?” CMB’s own Steven asked me that same question this week and I thought I’d answer him in a post.

There are three main places to take beginning improv classes in Chicago: the Annoyance, the ImprovOlympic, and Second City.

The Second City is the best known name of the three, certainly, and has two distinct sections of classes. The Beginning Improvisation section has five levels (A-E) that take you from the very beginning notions of improv through to an improv performance. The Conservatory Program, which also has five levels (1-5) requires an audition to get into and is focussed on the same methods Second City uses to create their sketch comedy reviews: using improvisation as a tool to create scripted sketch comedy shows. The fifth level of these classes is devoted to developing a show that the class then presents in several performances. Second City also offers a host of advanced and specialized classes (Writing, Directing, and Music Programs, etc.).

The ImprovOlympic‘s classes carry on the work of the late improv guru Del Close. The classes there are focussed on an ensemble of players creating a half-hour improvised show together (“Chicago-style long-form improv”). There are five levels of classes, with an optional sixth level (5B) that is devoted to creating an entirely improvised show that the class then performs on Sunday nights. IO also has a variety of elective classes.

Annoyance Productions are the bold folks who brought Chicago such shows as Coed Prison Sluts (Chicago’s longest running musical) and The Real Live Brady Bunch. They currently lack a permanent space to produce shows, but their training center continues to hold classes. The Annoyance classes focus on the individual performer creating improvised scenes. There are three levels and occasional workshops and electives. If you’d like a $15.95 preview of what the classes at the Annoyance are like, you can pick up a copy of co-founder Mick Napier’s book Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out.

And the Annoyance is really where I’d recommend any beginning improvisor to start in Chicago. I took my first Chicago classes and it really gave me some powerful tools that I then took with me to the ImprovOlympic to learn how to fit my improv together with others in an ensemble work. (And I think the same tools would certainly apply if you were interested in sketch and wanted to go on to Second City.) And the classes at the Annoyance are a bucket of fun.

OK, go take some classes and come back in a few months for my “Hey Fuzzy, I took some classes and I’m loving this stuff, now where can I perform?” post.

Annoyance Productions

3541 N Clark St

The Second City
1616 N Wells

1 Comment so far

  1. steven (unregistered) on May 24th, 2005 @ 8:26 am

    great post, fuzzy. i’ll check out the annoyance right away. it’s too bad they had to leave their old spot on clark, right across from metro.

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