Automatic Improv Takes Chicago!

by Amy Farley

I don’t know if you know this about Kevin Barry, but he has a birthday1. And just two weeks ago, he had it for the 30th time.

To celebrate Kevin’s entrée into adulthood, Automatic Improv sent a delegation2 to the improv capital of at least Illinois– the great city of Chicago!

Jumping in Chicago.

Jumping for joy in downtown Chicago. (Photo by Elicia Bryan)

Most of us had never visited the Windy City before. We weren’t sure what to expect, besides chilly temps and one pretty great lake. Over the course of our four-day weekend away, though, we learned a lot about about life on the mean Chi-town streets.

Things We Learned on Our Trip to Chicago

  • People are forced to completely re-evaluate their worldview upon discovering that, although one is from the South–that vast land of slavery, plantations and grits, whatever those are3–one does not necessarily speak like a Honey Boo Boo. Our American Newscaster accents blew minds all over town. Sample dialogue: “You’re from Atlanta? Then why are you talking like that?” 
  • Chicago-style deep dish is just pizza that’s confused. It’s okay, little pizza. You can keep your “toppings” on the inside if you want. 
Chicago Pizza - Photo by Elicia Bryan

Identity crisis pizza. (Photo by Elicia Bryan)

  • Whether you actually enjoy Shakespeare or just pretend to in order to sound smarter, you will enjoy the Improvised Shakespeare Company, a group that puts on a full-length, completely improvised Shakespearean-style play. A handful of men in puffy shirts play all the characters, basing the whole two hours on an audience-suggested title (ours: “The Prince & the Groundhog”). And it is awesome.
Front row for Improvised Shakespeare. Photo by Elicia Bryan.

Front row for Improvised Shakespeare at iO. (Photo by Elicia Bryan)

  • When you’re walking around a beautiful city, bundled up in a pea coat and scarf, it’s impossible not to feel a little bit like you’re starring in a romantic comedy4.
  • Andy “Diamonds” Coen can and will make friends with anyone in his path. If you see him out in public, beware. You’re about to get befriended, hard, and you’re going to like it.
Watch out for Andy. Photo by Elicia Bryan.

Watch out for Andy. (Photo by Elicia Bryan)

  • Improv shows are a lot more expensive in Chicago, so when you come drop $10 to see not one but two Automatic Improv shows (Fridays at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. right now!), you’re getting a steal!
  • We are a nation divided– between people who are scared of heights and people who find them thrilling. Also, the Willis Tower (née Sears Tower) is really freaking tall.
Amy and Andy are different. Photo by Elicia Bryan.

Doomed or excited? (Photo by Elicia Bryan)

  • Seeing improv in a new location, with different formats and styles than you’re used to, gives you a lot to think about. It makes you excited to put the things you learn as an audience member into practice once you get back to your improv home.

All in all, the trip was a rousing success. We learned a lot; no one got mugged5; pizza’s pretty tasty in any configuration. I look forward to the next Automatic birthday, when we will be visiting Omaha, the improv capital of Nebraska6.

1 We all have birthdays, in fact (John Mangan’s was just two days ago; Keith Hooker’s is today!), and accept gifts in the form of cash money, baked goods and attention.

2 More like we sent ourselves.

3 I know what grits are. That was me doing my impression of a northerner. Duh.

4 This may be just me, as I always on some level assume I’m starring in a romantic comedy.

5 Why do that in Chicago when we could just do it back home in the ATL?

6 Nope.

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