Event: Chicago Stacked Improv
Date: July 9 Doors at 7pm, starts 8 pm
Venue: Jacksonville Comedy Club
Tickets: $10 + tax
Contact: 646-HAPPY (4277)
I’ll go ahead and get my bias out of the way upfront: I have never been a big fan of improvisation style comedy. While some comedy critics swear by it, shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway, where comedians are given random words and props and then come up with corresponding off-the-cuff bits to go along with them, have just never appealed to me and oftentimes even come off as a little embarrassing. Of course, this is not the first time I have been at odds with comedy connoisseurs; I am also not a fan of—gasp—Monty Python, which is an opinion that is considered blasphemy in some circles. This is not to suggest that the comedians participating in improv aren’t quick-witted and skilled, but perhaps the writer in me just prefers a clever, well-crafted script. Why should someone’s mediocre comedy pass as brilliant just because it was spur-of-the-moment? As a spectator, whether or not they have just come up with something ultimately means nothing to me. Funny is funny. While I’m at it, parody songs–unless perfectly executed–are something else that I often consider cringe-worthy. With that rant out of the way, in the interest of fair journalism I gave Stacey Smith of Stacked, an all-female musical improvisational group that creates comedic musical improv, a chance to tell readers why they should come out and see them. “Well, it’s interesting because ours is a very specific take on improv,” says Smith. “There are so many different types and not everyone is a big fan of every type. There is short-form improv that requires a lot of audience participation throughout the entire show; we do long-form so we just take one theme for the songs and go the entire time. It’s like any other art form, it’s subjective. All four of us are musically trained, so this form of improv is what works for us.”
The Stacked troupe “takes a suggestion of one word and delivers musical hilarity in four part harmony.” Whether you’re a tough customer like me or an improv junkie, you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether or not they are hilarious at Comedy Club of Jax on July 9th by showing up and suggesting to them your own word—just remember to keep it clean, as the Comedy Club attempts to be family friendly by remaining “F-bomb free.” Stacked will be performing there with our loveable local improv group, Mad Cowford.
Stacked consists of four women, Smith, Erin Goldsmith (“the one with black hair”), Jenna Steege, and Katie Yore. They’ve been together for three years and all four trained at what is considered one of the premier improv sketch comedy institutions in the world, The Second City in Chicago, where the quartet also reside. This famous school of sketch comedy gave rise to such greats as Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, and countless others. Beyond that, there just seems to be something in the water in Chicago that brings out the improv comedy in people—which goes to show that the Cubs aren’t the only ones in the Windy City who are capable of spontaneous hilarity.
“Oh, Chicago is unbelievable,” says Smith. “In LA and New York, it’s kind of like every man for themselves, but in Chicago it’s like one big love fest. It’s Midwestern hospitality.”
Smith points out that oftentimes improv at its most practical is used to eventually create the best form of scripted material. For example, comedic directors such as Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin) will often record reel after reel of film with improvisational takes on his scripts by the likes of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill and then later use the cuts that were the funniest. As a writer, I can appreciate that form of improv, as it obviously leads to a more natural feel for a film. Okay, so she got me…maybe improv comedy is pretty good after all.