Laugh Like Crazy at the 4th Annual Detroit Improv Festival

By: Cara Boyer | July 31, 2014
Detroit Improv Festival logo

I think it’s safe to say that everyone loves a good laugh. Whether you prefer heading to the theater for the latest blockbuster slapstick flick or frequenting a comedy club for some live humor, everyone enjoys a good joke. It takes fewer facial muscles to smile than it does to frown, ya know!

The 4th Annual Detroit Improv Festival, held Sunday, August 3 through Sunday, August 10, will provide plenty of laughs. Produced by the Detroit Improv Collective, Inc. (DICo), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, the festival has something for everyone.

“Every show is completely made up on the spot and the audience gets to see this happen right in front of them. This is not standup comedy. Each troupe works together to present a show based on an audience’s suggestion,” Chris Moody, president of the Detroit Improv Festival, said.

Putting together the weeklong event each year is a huge process. In order to attract the best talent from all across North America, each headliner is hand picked and submissions are accepted from various improv troupes.

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“This year, we have over 250 performers coming to Detroit,” Moody said. “We also work very hard to attract partnerships, sponsorships and donations in order to provide a low cost festival for our locals.”

The Detroit Improv Festival (formerly known as the Spontaneous Combustion Motor City Improv Festival) always begins with recruiting Detroiters to come back home. The 313, a troupe consisting of Keegan-Michael Key (“Key & Peele”), Marc Evan Jackson (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Maribeth Monroe (“Workaholics”), Jaime Moyer (“Jennifer Falls”), Nyima Funk (“Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Josh Funk (“Second City Hollywood”), Marc Warzecha (“Second City Hollywood”) and Andy Cobb (“The Partisans”) all attempt to come back each year if their busy schedules allow, according to Moody.

“We also invited Detroiters Tim Robinson (“SNL”) and Mike O’Brien (“SNL”) who, in turn, invited Rachel Dratch (“SNL”) and Kevin Dorff (“Parks & Rec”) to perform with them,” Moody said. “Most importantly, we want to celebrate the art of improvisation and make this week a homecoming for our talented actors.”

The Detroit Improv Festival will kick off on Sunday, August 3 with a screening of the improvised film, “Best In Show,” at the Redford Theatre, 17360 Lahser Rd., Detroit. Comedian and star of the film Fred Willard will make an appearance, including a meet and greet with film attendees, a Q&A session and an onstage performance with his comedy troupe, The MoHos. Doors to the meet and greet open at 6 p.m., and the film will begin shortly after 7 p.m.

Additional festival highlights include an evening of improv featuring current and past Detroit improv players at Hamtramck’s Planet Ant Theater on Monday, August 4 and a showcase by students enrolled in the Detroit Public Schools’ Detroit Creative Project on Wednesday, August 6. There is a Family Friendly Show on Saturday, August 9 at 1:30 p.m., so you can bring the kids along worry-free.

Partners of the Detroit Improv Festival include Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, Go Comedy! Improv Theater, The Ringwald Theatre, The Rust Belt Market Theater and more. Proceeds from tickets to the festival will be donated to Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit and the Detroit Creativity Project, a group that teaches improv to students enrolled in Detroit Public Schools.

“We teach improv workshops twice a month at Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, produce benefit shows and donate $1 from each ticket sold from the festival to Gilda’s,” Moody said. “DICo also sponsors three to four students per year to participate (in the Detroit Creativity Project student program).”

While DICo brings a smile to many faces, it’s a pretty serious organization—one dedicated to advancing the art of improv comedy in the Metro Detroit area.

“DICo’s artistic mission is to promote the benefits of improv to local organizations to encourage team building, goal setting and self-esteem lifting among their members,” Moody said. “We offer complimentary improv workshops, performances and training to community non-profit organizations.”

There are several festival passes, including a nightly pass (Friday or Saturday, which allows you to attend three shows in one night for $50), weekend pass (Friday and Saturday, allows you to attend seven shows for $90 and includes a festival t-shirt) and festival pass (Sunday through Saturday, allows you to attend 15 shows for $125 and includes a festival t-shirt, as well as passes to all special events). You can, of course, buy tickets for individual shows.

Moody highly recommends purchasing a festival pass, which allows patrons to see as many shows as possible, including MUZ’s All Star show on Friday, August 8 at 8 p.m., the Magnet Theater Show on Friday, August 8 at 10 p.m. and Messing With a Friend on Saturday, August 9 at 10 p.m.

“I liken going to an improv festival to going to the horse track, in a way. For the inexperienced, you can look at a racing form and not know anything about the horse other than their vital statistics. You decide to put money on the horse because you like the name or the color of the silks,” Moody said. “At our improv festival, most of the troupe names will be unrecognizable. Pick a troupe that sounds interesting or comes from a place you’ve visited. Most importantly, when you come out of an improv show at the Detroit Improv Festival, your ticket will always be a winner.”

For more information on the Detroit Improv Festival and The Detroit Improv Collective, Inc., visit