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SF Improv Fest: Propelling Improv Into the Mainstream

Comedy >

Are you a fan of Saturday Night Live? Or, for that matter, any of its offshoots, like 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation? This programming is made possible by a specific secret — and increasingly, not-so-secret — weapon of comedy: Improv.

Yes, improv made this exchange between Tim Meadows and Christopher Walken possible.

Speaking of Tim Meadows, he’ll be headlining the San Francisco Improv Festival with his improv trio Uncle’s Brother! Also leading this two-week Bay Area improv takeover are flash mob pioneers Improv Everywhere, who you might remember from hilarious stunts like this one:


The Eureka Theatre is going to be all improv, all the time from August 18-27. There are too many events to list in one place, but here are some highlights.

  • Opening Night with PianoFight: Local, hilarious production company PianoFighthosts some of the Bay Area’s best improv, including BATS Improv, Crisis Hopkins and The Super Dupers.
  • Del Close: The Early Years: For the comedy historian! Before he was The Improv Guru, Del Close was an actor in San Francisco’s legendary improv and sketch troupe, The Committee. Close went on to become director with The Committee, developing in San Francisco the improv format that generations of improvisors have been taught, the Harold. Join Charna Halpern, who co-founded Improv Olympic (now iO Theater) in Chicago with Del Close and Del Close biographer Kim “Howard” Johnson as they talk about Del’s time in SF, the founding of Improv Olympic, and the development of his improvisational work that directly influenced John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Robin Williams, Amy Poehler, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Amy Sedaris, Harold Ramis and Gilda Radner. This will be a discussion format that will be thrown open to audience questions for a short time at the end.
  • Karaoke Fun Time!: Happy Karaoke Fun Time begins with an audience suggestion and their pick of a track off the ever-changing karaoke playlist. That song becomes the opening number to a complete musical, made up entirely on the spot. All bets are off as the team improvises original scenes and songs without any idea what karaoke track their D.J. will spin next!
  • Workshop: Back to Basics w/iO Founder Charna Halpern Charna Halpern, co-founder of iO Theater in Chicago taught or helped train such performers as Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Tim Meadows — and now, you! Charna will be teaching a back to the basics improv class but that doesn’t mean it wont be perfect for those of you who are advanced. The basics are everything you need for beginning and advanced improvisation and she will even dabble in long form to take you to the next level. This is the real thing, folks; you might never have another chance at such a deal.
  • Workshop Series with Dr. God: The five members of Dr. God, who have contributed content to or appeared on Comedy Central, Nikelodeon, Fox, the WB, National Lampoon, MTV, IFC and more, will be teaching a series of five workshops — one each! — on topics like screenwriting, mimicry and honing the craft of actually acting, not just being funny.
  • Night of The Rising Stars!: See the Bay Area’s up-and-comers before they hit the mainstream. From Stanford University’s team, The SImps, to SF local scenesters, Tiny Godzilla; from USF’s energetic and rather awesome Awkward Silence to Pan Theater’s The Afters to EndGames Champion Dragon Viper Cobra — the hottest new acts in Bay Area Improv pack into one wild night, hosted by Sammy Wegent of SF’s The Comedy College.
  • Game Island w/Whose Line is It Anyway?’s Ron West: Whose Line is it Anyway? veteran and games director Ron West brings back last year’s amazing Game Island. It’s every improvisor for his or herself in this cutthroat romp of hilarity as comedians compete with each other Survivor-style — only with improv instead of physical feats. The last one standing is crowned King and/or Queen of Game Island!

Can’t wait for August 18? The festival gears up with two pre-festival events from Improv Everywhere — the MP3 Experiment in Union Square August 16 and a behind-the-scenes event showing their best videos with live commentary August 17.

Want to hit up all performances in the festival? There’s a pass for that — $55 for $250 worth of shows! Tickets to all the individual shows are available right over here.

Happy improvising!