Getting your friends to come to improv comedy can be a hard sell. Much like musicals and heavy metal shows, there’s a certain impression a lot of people have about what to expect, and they’ve already decided it isn’t for them. Thankfully, all of these things can be very good, it’s just knowing what to take them to first. If they think they won’t like musicals, take them to see The Lion King. If they don’t like metal, have them listen to Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All. And if they don’t like improv comedy? Take them to KO Improv.
Their monthly shows have been on my ‘must see’ list for a while now; I’m very glad I finally turned up. All of the quick wit of stand up comedy is there, but with the added energy of everything being decided on the spot. Taking audiences suggestions and spinning them into magic there and then is a difficult feat, but KO Improv is a group that knows their craft, and there’s barely a dull joke in there. What makes them special is the energy they have together; they’re not just performers trying to make an audience laugh, they’re good friends trying to make each other laugh. That energy translates into their performance to great effect.
Every show comes with a theme, and the skits at each performance are designed with that in mind. This month’s theme was ‘It’s Kold Outside’, and was loosely based on Valentine’s Day. Rather than create a number of larger, longer scenes, the first half of the show was dedicated to a number of smaller, intimate scenes devoted to smaller groups, usually two or three people. One of the best moments from this first half was a skit in which three members of the group were given ‘quirks’ by the audience (in this case, ranging everywhere from having snakes for arms to just having a really positive outlook), and a fourth, in a bachelor-style interview, had to figure out what those quirks are. Scenarios like these are pretty perfectly designed to reveal the greatness of the performers, and their personalities, as well as their chemistry, shone through brilliantly.
The second act a single, long-form skit, and the space that allowed them to let jokes breathe, and build to a conclusion, paid off brilliantly. The premise was simple: an audience member offered the group a conversation from their Tinder inbox, and in a series of scenes with just two performers at a time, they told that story again (with some exceptional creative liberties). The conversation was less than ten messages, some of which were five days apart; the story lasted some thirty minutes, and included attacks from wild birds, rich people betting on horses, robot servants and identity swapping. And it was incredible.
If the performers don’t even know what to expect, everything is possible.