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254: Why is Chicago the Mecca of Improv?

Jimmy is really proud to share with you this piece he did for Curious City on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio, answering the question, “Why is Chicago the mecca of improv?” In this episode you will hear several people’s theories about why this is. Jimmy interviews old friends TJ Jagodowski, Susan Messing and Jonathan Pitts to get their input. This is a must-listen for any improv nerd, and Jimmy secretly hopes after you listen to this episode you move to Chicago.

Why is Chicago the Mecca of Improv?

Have you ever thought about why Chicago is the mecca of improv? Well, I recently had the chance to explore this question in depth when WBEZ, the public radio station in Chicago, contacted me about doing a story about it for their Curious City show.

If you ask me, Chicago really has all the right elements for making it the perfect destination for improv. I First of all, for a major city, Chicago is an affordable place to live on what an improviser makes at his or her temp job while taking classes and running around town doing shows.

Secondly, you have the history of improv here, plus so many different improv schools and performance opportunities, and of course, the genuineness of Chicagoans makes the people in the improv/acting community beyond supportive. Plus, there is a deep respect for craft here. There is no show business pressure here, so the stakes are fairly low, which makes it a great place to create, take risks and make lasting friendships.

In the story, however, we wanted to get some other people’s thoughts on why Chicago has become an important destination for improvisers, so I interviewed Susan Messing, TJ Jagodowski and Jonathan Pitts to get their thoughts on this as well.

Here’s a link to the final story. I’d love to know why you think Chicago is the mecca of improv, too.

220: Jonathan Pitts

Jonathan Pitts is the executive director of the Chicago Improv Festival, which he founded 20 years ago. In this interview, Jimmy gets an Improv Nerd exclusive — Jonathan tells Jimmy what he’s going to do after this year’s festival — and they talk about how Chicago has been able to stay relevant as an improv mecca and Jonathan’s experience working with David Shepherd.