Quick, what’s the fastest growing form of comedy entertainment in Syracuse at the moment?
Ding! Time’s up.
The answer is improv comedy.
“The improv scene in Syracuse is blowing up right now. It’s exploding,” said Nick Davoli, a member of the Syracuse improv troupe Saltine Warrior.
Improv, an off-the-cuff -- “improvisational,” if you will -- theater experience mixed with sketch comedy, is growing in popularity and gaining some notoriety in Central New York. Davoli said there are more than four active improv groups in Syracuse, and the scene’s still growing.
“You’re seeing troupes jump up at colleges, troupes jump up in theater communities,” he said. “It’s a great melting pot right now, to be able to go out and perform in a community that’s allowing it to happen.”
A typical improv show is anything but ordinary, Davoli said. Unlike a movie, improv comedy shows allow audience members to dictate the outcome. You could pay $10 for what will end up being a night of hysterical laughter, he said.
“We’re going to make up a series of scenes, in front of your very eyes, and nothing has been planned,” said Saltine Warrior cast member Andy Friedson. “We need the audience to supply us with some seeds to get us going.”
During and improv show, cast members lead “games,” mock situations developed through audience’s input and actor improvisation.
Improv shows are happening at venues of all sizes around Central New York, from Funk ‘n’ Waffles near Syracuse University to locations such as the Palace Theater or downtown’s RedHouse performing arts space.
Saltine Warrior cast members attribute the popular show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” with bringing the art of improv to homes across the country.
“What’s really happening is you’re seeing a synthesis of a lot more social awareness of improv—people who are aware of a scene that’s developing, people keeping their ear to the ground,” said fellow Saltine Warrior member Mike Borden. “The ideal would be if Central New York could evolve into this mecca of improv.”
“With the amount of sun you get in Syracuse, New York, people could use a good laugh,” Friedson said.