Get your guffaw on
By Lisa Crutchfield, special to the Henrico Citizen 06/07/11
The laughs are back.
ComedySportz Richmond Improv Theatre reopened last month after a lengthy hiatus to re-charge and re-group.
With a new location in the Gold’s Gym Plaza on West Broad Street, an expanded team of owner/managers and two years’ worth of pent-up energy, the improvisational show again is ready to entertain Richmond.
“Our audiences are finding us again,” said Christine Walters, a partner in the reincarnated ComedySportz Richmond and former owner of the previous incarnation. “I’m trying to connect with people and shout it out and let everybody else know.”
What should they know?
“If you’ve never been, you should know that ComedySportz is a show that’s great for all ages,” said Walters. “It’s not at all a kids’ show, but it is appropriate.”
In a ComedySportz competition, two teams – the Richmond Legends and the Virginia Hams – are pitted against each other in a battle for laughs and for points as they make up scenes, games and songs on the spot from audience suggestions. The audience then votes for the winners.
To keep it (mostly) clean and to loosely weave in the “sport” theme, there is a referee who can call fouls.
“You can have fouls called on you if you say something inappropriate,” explained Walters. “You’ll be forced to wear a brown paper bag on your head.
“Then there’s the ‘groaner’ foul if you say something too punny. The ref will blow the whistle and person goes in the penalty box and will have to apologize to the audience.”
Since they can’t control where the show will go, ComedySportz’ improv players have to be ready for anything.
“You have to know a little bit about a lot of things,” said Walters. “You’re forever watching the news, media and pop culture.
“You have to stay abreast of many different things. You’re forever learning different theater styles, from Shakespeare to Kabuki, you learn movie directors from Orson Welles to Quentin Tarantino.”
Are they ever stumped?
Sure, said Walters, who jokes that a reason to close the old club was to avoid ever having to learn a Jonas Brothers song.
“But you have a team of players and hope they know something.
“We practice being quick, we don’t panic and we think of some way to convey.”
Richmond area comedy clubs have come and gone, but many are glad to see an old favorite return. The original club was established in 1996 and had several homes over the years.
“Most people forget that Richmond was one of the first places outside of the larger cities to establish comedy clubs and many of the superstars of the last 20-plus years have come through here,” said John Porter, a local comedian, theater critic and professor of stand-up comedy at Virginia
“Improv was a part of that scene as well and now Richmond has become known for its many amazing improv groups. I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that every one of those groups has a direct line back to ComedySportz.”
Walters and her ComedySportz partners – Cathy Garmon, James Manley, Dave Gau and Susan Scolvill – clearly are enjoying being back in business.
“Back when we closed, I was saying I was burned out, the economy was terrible and so I just threw in the towel,” said Walters. “But I kept telling the players that there was something good coming up, right around the corner.
“I feel that this resurrection of ComedySportz Improv Theater is going to make us all very happy and we’re going to see the successes we want to see.”
ComedySportz Richmond is located at Gold’s Gym Plaza at West Tower, 8906-H W. Broad St. In addition to live shows on Friday and Saturday evenings, the facility is available for corporate rental and parties. Children’s camps are offered during the summer. For details, call 266-9377 or visit comedysportzrichmond.com.
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