February 9, 2015

"With improv, it's a combination of listening and not trying to be funny." - Kristen Wiig

“The improv – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does, it’s like open-field running.”

That was the late Robin Williams describing the sensation that I can only imagine is perfecting the art of improvisation comedy.  Being in the audience of an improvised comedy show is half-roller-coaster-ride and half-spectacle.  I found myself holding my breath as the actors jumped in and out of scenes, interrupting each other with the greatest ease and seemingly reading each other’s minds. 

The Improfessionals are an improv comedy group who began their improv career with their first play in 2001 in Pigalle’s Café Oz.  Currently, they’re performing out of the Essaïon Théâtre, across the street from the Centre Pompidou, which is where I paid a visit to their “Synopsis” themed show.  Keeping with the heart and soul of improv comedy, every show they host has a different topic.  Past themes have included  James Bond, William Shakespeare, silent movies, and, most recently on the second week of January, New Years Resolutions.

The actors make the audience members not only feel welcome to the show, but also as if they themselves are improvisation pros, too.  Without encroaching on my comfort in anonymity as a member of their audience, the Improfessionals take advantage of the extra sounds, claps, and brains of the spectators.  Audience members were asked to take guesses about the movie synopses, to make decisions based on what type of skit should be performed next, and were called upon for props.  And it doesn't end at the curtain call -- after the show, the entire cast and crew went out for drinks at the neighboring bar, taking the entire audience with them.  

In short, you never know what you are going to get from each week’s show, starting from the skits and going right down to the actors.  The ensemble is made up of nine actors, representing six countries, and features musician Peter Corser from England.  Each week's show has a different, random number of actors.  I attended the show on 28 January, where four actors from four different countries each brought their own spice to "Synopsis."  With this setup, each show has the potential to play out in so many different ways -- an extra person had the power add (and take away) from the skits I saw. 

I had about as much fun watching Peter run the show with his DJ-keyboard-sound effects skills as I did watching the skits.  Everything from eerie tunes to wind blowing to drums beating – when it was part of the skit, Mr. Corser was on it.  I’m not sure which I am more impressed by – how quickly he was able to produce the music in real-time or the actors’ capability to make up plots. 

Seeing these guys live isn't just another night at the theater.  It's a night filled with laughs, suspense, drama, and new friends.  Their list of upcoming shows is posted! Even better, WICE Members receive a discounted rate of 12 euros instead of the usual 25 -- what are you waiting for?!