How to cure your incessant comedy improv craving

By JENN DIAMOND | April 4, 2013

It’s Friday night. You are home, sitting on your couch (or your bed, or the floor or your super sweet bean bag chair or, fine, maybe you are just standing). Your eyes are glazed over, as if two tiny blankets have tucked in your pupils for a long night’s rest. It has been months since you have smiled. Your ab muscles have grown weak and flabby from going long periods without laughing. A dust bunny floats across the floor in front of you, and you wonder if your life is meaningless.

HAS THIS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?!?!?!?!!??

There’s a better way! Baltimore is host to a barrel of laughs that camps out inconspicuously in the Strand Theater. Is it a real barrel, you ask? Of course not, crazy! Laughs don’t come from barrels — laughs come from people! And there are plenty of hilarious people just waiting to amuse you in this cozy venue. Who are these hilarious people? Why, they’re members of Baltimore Improv Group! But when do they perform? And is it expensive?! Wow, you have a lot of questions! Most Friday nights you can find them serving up comedy in all sorts of improvisational formats for a cheap student price. While DC or New York may be havens for up and coming humorists, Baltimore manages to provide a little slice of the comedic pie to its residents. Baltimore Improv Group — or BIG — is home to a myriad of troupes, meaning that any one night will present entirely different performers from the next week’s show.

The Strand Theater, one of the main BIG performances spaces, is intimate to say the least. There are about four short rows of seats and a stage that feels crowded by more than five improvisors. If you wanted to be weird and annoying, you could even reach your hand out from the first row and touch the knees of the troupe members in front of you. Improv is an art form best executed in miniature spaces. A sense of comradery is forged between the actors and the audience members, as if everyone is sitting in a snuggly living room together, swapping jokes. That is, if snuggly living rooms had enormous, technicolor murals splashed across the back wall like the Strand does.

While every improv team at BIG is impressive, I would especially recommend both Gus and Plan B. These two troupes are small in number of members and perform a type of improv called “long-form” (basically, extended storytelling). Both groups are energetic, unique and made up of performers who seem to be genuinely having fun with one another.

Hats off to anyone performing comedy in Baltimore, a city whose humor scene shrinks in comparison to DC or New York. Thank you to these brave BIG pioneers for proving that Charm City residents appreciate silly things too.

If you go to see a show at BIG and feel inspired to take part in this small but vibrant comedic community, they do offer improv classes during the summer and school year. Try your hand at the ol’ make ‘em ups and maybe one day audition for one of their troupes yourself. Check out their website at http://www.bigimprov.org/ and sign up for anything from absolute beginner sessions to advanced long-form instruction.

Don’t find yourself alone and/or boring and/or a lame-o on Friday nights. Support local comedy and enjoy fun times with BIG. Make your ab muscles strong again.

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