Western New Yorkers are blessed with a vibrant improvisational community. Improvisational comedy, performing comedy without a script, was made widely popular by the television show Whose Line is it Anyway? and there are as many flavors of improv as there are of any art. If you are a fan of improv, consider yourself encouraged to sample as many as possible as each has something different to offer.
One group, Defiant Monkey Improv, is a flavor temptation you should definitely not miss. Why? One reason is because it’s the only local improv comedy duo. Two performers, Karen Eichler and Andrew Spragge, create over an hour of uninterrupted improvised comedy before a live audience.
Secondly, these Defiant Monkeys know their stuff. While Defiant Monkey Improv is in its second year, Karen and Andy are veterans of the improv and theatre world. Andy, a corporate trainer and graphic artist, has been performing as an actor and director since 1984 and joined the improv scene in 2005, performing with ComedySportz and as a founding member of Improv Buffet. With a Masters Degree in English Education, Karen, a university professor, has been performing in improv since 1997 and has trained with ComedySportz as well as with The Second City in Toronto. They are often joined by keyboardist Dan Schroder to help them create what sounds impossible: improvised musical theatre.
Improvisational theatre relies on its audience for suggestions and, yes, even participation. If that makes you sweat, Defiant Monkey Improv will set you at ease. “The great thing about improv comedy,” Andy asserts, “is that unlike stand-up comedy, we don’t make fun of the audience; we have fun with them. No one in the audience ever has to worry about being embarrassed.” All participation is voluntary, and if you think you won’t want to shout your suggestions, think again. You may even find yourself jumping to your feet and joining them on stage.
“One of things I like most about improvisation,” Karen says, “is that the audience helps us create something that has never been seen before and will never be seen again. It’s one of the few art forms that can only truly be experienced by the people who are there, sharing it as it unfolds.” Karen and Andy play all characters, male and female, young and old, of every background imaginable and no two shows are ever the same. Audiences come back again and again because they never know what theatre they will see that night, and that is the fun and excitement of improvisation, which brings us to the most important reason to see this show: fun.
It’s clear Karen and Andy love improvising, and that passion for making it up on the spot based on the barest suggestion from the audience makes for an extremely fun show.
To sample the energy and imagination of Defiant Monkey Improv, the duo’s next show at Rust Belt Books on Allen Street in Buffalo will be on Saturday, May 14th at 8:00 pm. Admission is $10, but if you bring a non-perishable food donation for Friends of Night People, you can get in for half-price.
They have also announced “Defiant Monkey Improv Jams!” which is an open improv workshop every Wednesday evening at 7:00 at the Second Presbyterian Church, 71Van Buren Street, Lockport. While prior theater or improv experience is helpful, it’s not required. The only requirement is a desire to learn and have fun. Cost for a drop-in Improv Jam is $5 per session, and only $1 for graduates of the Defiant Monkey Improv classes.
For more information, check them out at facebook.com/defiantmonkey, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two actors creating an entirely improvised show borders on magic. Two brains, two wits, two actors for all the characters who might appear, and two voices for all the songs that might be sung in a show created and experienced only once, for one audience only. Come join the unique theatrical fun with Defiant Monkey Improv!