Jim's Chicago Blog - Part 3

Big Forker Jim is currently in Chicago for five weeks, where he is undertaking some intensive training at iO, the theatre that is widely considered to have invented the Chicago style of improv. The intensive program at iO brings together over 150 improvisers from around world to spend five weeks immersed in the improv and comedy world. This blog is the third in a series where he talks about his experiences in Chicago.

Apologies for being a week behind on this blog - week 4 has seen me come down with a wicked case of the flu.

Week 3 Classes

Our teacher for week 3 is Shad Kunkle, a longtime iO and Second City vet. Week 3 revolves around the fundamentals of scenework. It involves a lot of two person scenes where we really try and drill into the relationships between the characters. Shad takes the time on Day 1 to really try to get to know us as people, which really helps build the trust in the room as we dive into the more focused scenework component of the course. 

While I've done a bunch of these exercises before back in Brisbane, it's interesting to see them fit in to a larger course of study. I'm still having "a-ha" moments, though, and seeing all sorts of things with applications for the work we're doing in Brisbane. We also dive into some more movement based work which I'm always keen to push myself towards. One particularly challenging exercise has us interacting with a new object in our environment between each new line of dialogue.

Some pearls of wisdom from week 3:

  • Interesting is better than funny. Most interesting things can be funny, but few "funny" things are all that interesting.
  • Kill ambiguity
  • Every scene is a story requiring transformation

Week 3 Electives

This week I also do two electives: one with Colleen Doyle and the other with Craig Uhler. Colleen is the Co-artistic Director of iO West in LA and perhaps my favourite teacher so far, and Craig is a human ball of improv love and energy. Taking their electives just makes me wish I had them as teachers for a full week here.

Top three things I've seen this week

3. Me & You

The first show I see at the famed Second City is a duo show by Michael Patrick Thornton which in past weeks had included Dave Pasquesi and Susan Messing. For this show, the last in his run at Second City, he drew the name of an audience member out of a hat and invited them to perform the full 45 minute show with him. Odile, a Swiss improviser from my section, was chosen to perform the show, and she smashed it out of the park. Have I said how consistently amazed I am by the improvisers in the section for whom English is not their first language? Because I am. 

2. Jazz Showcase

I tagged along with the Swiss crew the following night to take in some Jazz. There's nothing that helps you digest an intense week of improv instruction better than zoning out with a cocktail and listening to some world-class jazz.

1. Cook County Social Club

These guys started in Chicago before moving out to LA, and you can see the easy-going chemistry they have with each other in every element of their set. They play big and broad and hilarious, and it's almost certainly the most I've laughed in a show since I've been in Chicago. 

Shows I've seen this week

The Armando Diaz Theatrical Experiences, Movement and Hootenanny
Crab Atlantic
Virgin Daquiris
Carl and the Passions
Cook County Social Club
Improvised Shakespeare

Me & You
Baby Wants Candy
Cards Against Humanity Live Show

Other things I've done this week

Art Institute of Chicago - A really world-class art gallery, which when I went included a performance art piece by my favourite band, which was a plus.

John Hancock Centre Tower
Jazz Showcase