San Francisco Improv Festival 2010 and The Future & History of Improv

A vision from San Francisco’s improvisational past, the groovy and edgy clip above features Howard Hesseman (who later played Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati) and Mel Stewart, whose long career included a recurring role on Scarecrow & Mrs. King, as part of a performance by The Committee in 1969 on The Dick Cavett Show.

The foundation of San Francisco’s rich tradition of improvisational theater can be found in the 60’s troupe The Committee, whose alumnae include improv legend Del Close (teacher / improv guru to the likes of John Belushi, Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert), Rob Reiner, David Ogden Stiers and Gary Austin (who later founded The Groundlings). The Committee toured widely, had chapters in New York and L.A., and offered classes to teach the skills of improvisation to the next generation.

Now a couple generations further on The San Francisco Improv Festival is revisiting the legacy of The Committee and continuing their tradition of both entertaining and teaching improv.

The 2010 San Francisco Improv Festival takes place from August 12-21 and includes an incredible 20+ shows featuring nearly 30 improv groups over the 10 days, plus workshops, award ceremonies and panel discussions. It all happens at the Eureka Theater in downtown San Francisco. They have just released an iPhone App for the fest as well. Laughing Squid is a co-sponsor of this year’s festival.

The festival will feature rising improv stars, honor veteran local improvisers, revisit the history of improv in San Francisco, and give a behind-the-scenes-account of a classic film comedy. Check out the full lineup HERE.

Comedy historian (and Monty Python associate) Kim “Howard” Johnson will interview original members of The Committee on Saturday, August 14th. The next night, Johnson will talk about his own book Monty Python’s Tunisian Holiday: My Life with Brian recounting his time spent on set during the making of the classic British comedy Life of Brian, featuring a slideshow of photos he took at the time.

On the training side, the fest offers workshops for performers by three nationally known teachers Armando Diaz, Jonathan Pitts, and Ron West (Whose Line Is It, Anyway?). Armando’s “Improv Boot Camp” workshop sold out so fast that they are now offering additional “audit only” tickets for anyone who just wants to watch the class.

The dozen plus other events include an award night honoring Barbara Scott and her 20+ years performing with BATS Improv. Also there will be two performances by Uncle’s Brother featuring Saturday Night Live’s Tim Meadows. Here’s a clip of Uncle’s Brother in action…

The festival is produced by members of the San Francisco improv & sketch troupe Crisis Hopkins who have stoked the improvisational fire for many years, both with their owns shows and by holding regular “improv jams”, open-call performances that draw both veterans and newbies.

Finally great local freestyle rap band The Freeze will be performing the night of August 19th. They feature improvised music and freestyle raps based on input from the audience. It goes a little something like this…