It all started with a Halloween show. Mick Napier and a few of his friends dreamt up a cheekily winking sendup of the slasher genre in 1987, and by the time the lights dimmed on the blood- and pudding-splattered stage, they had received a standing ovation. Inspired by the production's success, the group decided to establish an ensemble that embraced the uncensored and subversive—and The Annoyance Theatre was born.
The company has staged more than 100 original plays and musicals since its founding, including The Real Live Brady Bunch, the long-running Coed Prison Sluts, and an annual re-mount of that first fortuitous show, now appropriately known as Splatter Theater. The Annoyance celebrates the impromptu art of improvisation as well, hosting frequent long-form sets that highlight audience interaction and completely blank scripts. This anything-goes approach to material both rehearsed and off-the-cuff has won the theater plenty of fans: the company trains aspiring comedians in both Chicago and New York, and recently opened a sparkling new venue thanks to community donations.
Chemical imbalances have too long been the scapegoat for thieves, killers, and the animated lamp that steals your teeth in that recurring nightmare about the puppy farm. Shake up the biochemical pathways between your funny bone and your laugh bladder with today’s Groupon to Chemically Imbalanced Comedy. For $8, you get four tickets to any of CIC’s shows. Split your tickets among friends (as long as you're all over the age of 13) and go to see a show together, or keep them to yourself and see any four performances you like. CIC is BYOB, so you won’t dump money on overpriced drinks or spend the evening with a dry, humorless throat.
Conveniently located in Wrigleyville near the Irving Park Brown Line and the Sheridan Red Line el stations, Chemically Imbalanced Comedy’s theater is home to a repertoire of improvisational themes and competitions that feature talented comedians from across the city. In Desperately Seeking, CIC's sultans of spontaneity choose a random classified ad from the Chicago Reader’s Matches section and improvise on the life of the person who took out the ad. Place your own ad before you go and wish on a magical cricket that you’ll get to see your life played out before you by the hysterical fun-makers. Otherwise, stop in to see Pimprov, the acclaimed portmanteau that gives four pimps a chance to improvise and escape the repetitive, predictable mundanities of their 9-to-5 (a.m.) day job. If you’re new to the city and need an introduction to all the funny people, head to The Comedy Showcase, which features three different improv or sketch comedy groups each week.
Laughter works your abdominal muscles, stretches your vocal chords, and invigorates your internal organs with radiant vibrations, gently massaging your sweetie’s heart and stimulating his or her sense that maybe it isn’t just the dark and the wine that’s making you look so cute. Cozy up to a potential life-mate in the dark and let mutual bursts of laughter serve as an excuse for sidelong glances and casual arm touches.
The Chicago Reader offers this rave review of Chemically Imbalanced Comedy's show Pimprov:
- The group stays heavily engaged with the crowd throughout this high-energy show, bringing people on stage and carrying on multiple side conversations during and between bits. What I enjoyed most were their hilarious, spontaneous dancing (from tap to b-boying) and varied characters. These are no one-trick pimps: at the show I saw they shrewdly played everything from north side trixies to blue-collar Chicagoans. – Ryan Hubbard, Chicago Reader
Yelpers give the improv group a solid four stars, and four Citysearchers award it a perfect five:
- Great improv and professional actors…Pushing the envelope for sure but got some great laughs out of our group. My stomach hurt and I was hunched over from laughing. – Kristin K., Yelp
- This was one of the funniest shows I have seen in a long time. – sally_massino, Citysearch
The artists at Profiles Theatre enthrall audiences through interpretations of established works and independent premieres such as the Jeff-award-winning production of Tracy Letts's Killer Joe. Following in the company's two-decade tradition of staging thought-provoking theater in an intimate setting, the 2011–2012 season kicks off with the midwest premiere of Martin McDonagh's A Behanding in Spokane. Directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Rick Snyder, the dark comedy documents a man's search for his missing left hand. Leslye Headland's Bachelorette, the story of three unhappy friends barging in on a former classmate's bachelorette party, contrasts the spiritual The Break of Noon, Niel LaBute's retelling of a memorable lunch break. Finally, Deirdre O'Connor's Assisted Living premieres, enchanting audiences with a tale of a young optimist who helps a middle-aged woman rediscover happiness.
At The ComedySportz Theatre, audience suggestions keep an all-ages, family-friendly and fast-paced vortex of scenes, games, and songs spinning in competitive shows that pit two improv teams against each other. Inside the intimate, 149-seat theater, spontaneity rules as a referee moderates the all-ages-appropriate hilarity pitched between the Chicago Bosses and The Evanston Express. At the end of each comedic duel, the points and audience votes are tallied to determine the winning team, sentencing the losers to feed the doves that live inside the winners' top hats.
The ComedySportz Training Center's seasoned instructors also teach six-week courses in the art of improvised hilarity and the essential virtues of spontaneity, risk taking, and engagement with the moment. Through scene work, ComedySportz games, and short- and long-form improv, students learn to keep audiences roaring in order to jump-start a career or become a more affable bank robber.
Under the Gun Theater may be a newcomer on the Chicago comedy scene, but its founders, Angie McMahon and Kevin Mullaney, are anything but. McMahon was the founding director of Chemically Imbalanced Comedy, Mullaney previously served as artistic director of New York's Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and both have tons of performing experience and withered apples from former students to their name. Their new venture isn't just about improv?both their shows and their classes are apt to add elements of storytelling, music, and physical theater, though it's a sure bet that any given performance will have laughs in store.