The Improvisers Are Coming!

Maggie Dernehl

maggie dernehl | gb improv festival | oct. 2017

Photo by Maggie Dernehl.On October 12th, over 40 improvisors from four states will descend on De Pere for a three-day festival full of laughter and creativity. This marks the sixth year of the Green Bay Improv Festival. Once more, the Green Room Lounge, 353 Main Ave., De Pere, home of local improv troupe ComedyCity, will play host to more than a dozen teams from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and California.

So what exactly is improv? Simply put, it's unscripted performance. Following the basic rule of, “yes, and…” players create scenes, sing songs, and give life to unique and oftentimes quirky characters using suggestions they get from the audience. Many people have become familiar with improv thanks to the show, “Whose Line is it Anyway?” The quick scenes and games made popular by the show is just one style of improv, but there are many more performance styles that can be found in other cities and right here in Northeastern Wisconsin. The festival will showcase the familiar short scene/game style but will also host troupes that have a more theatrical style of performance where scenes are longer and more character and plot development can take place. The opening night will feature musical improv. All of it conveniently located in one place: the Green Room Lounge.

The Green Bay Improv Festival (GBIF) is the creation of local improvisor Sean Yahn. Yahn began improvising 15 years ago. While attending Finlandia University, he formed the troupe Laugh Allowed, and joined Michigan Tech's The Troupe, where he continued to hone his improv skills. Nine years ago he moved to De Pere and joined ComedyCity, now celebrating its 30-year anniversary. With a desire to bring the diversity of improv to the area, he chose to work with ComedyCity to start what he hoped would become a yearly festival. The goal, to bring together improvisors from different backgrounds and styles to a place where they could see what their fellow performers were doing, exchange ideas and learn from each other and to treat local audiences to shows they would otherwise have to travel to see.

This year's festival is a can't miss event that both regular patrons and first time audience members will love. A few familiar faces and names from previous years are coming back: Monkey Business Institute (Madison, Wis.), Community Ed and Dallhaus (Minneapolis, Minn.), Hot Lava (Chicago, Ill.), SqueezeBox Comedy (Green Bay, Wis.), HotDog! (Wausau, Wis.) and, of course, local favorite ComedyCity (De Pere, Wis.). Brand new to this year's festival are: Liquor and Sweatpants (Green Bay, Wis.), McGarnackle and Empty Pockets (Chicago, Ill.), Jorts! (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Stoltenberg & Co. (Los Angeles, Calif.).

The festivities begin on Thursday, October 12th with the night dedicated to musical improv. At 6 p.m. a free pre-show will be provided by local musician Dan (the piano man) Rafferty as he hosts a special Piano Bar Sing-Along. At 7:45 p.m. audiences will check in at the box office, order a handmade cocktail or craft beer and at 8 p.m. the improvisors hit the stage with players from Monkey Business Institute, SqueezeBox Comedy and making a triumphant return to the stage, Liquor and Sweatpants. Stick around for a free post-show podcast recording of Scott Ruins Your Podcast, featuring some of ComedyCity's finest. There are two showtimes for Friday, Oct. 13 and Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. These shows will be less musically inclined, although the possibility of a song or two cannot be ruled out. There is after all, no script. Friday audiences will have the opportunity to see ComedyCity, McGarnackle, Monkey Business Institute, Empty Pockets and Community Ed. Saturday audiences will be treated to ComedyCity, Dallhaus, Hot Lava, Hot Dog!, Jorts! and Stoltenberg & Co. Stick around after the Friday and Saturday shows and hang out with the players and fellow audience members at the post-show Laughter Party.

Come to one show or better yet, all five. No two shows will be the same!

Make reservations now at

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