Comedy: The joy of discovery

Improvapalooza turns 12

“Improvapalooza” is 12 years old — it has finally hit puberty, is wearing deodorant and sprouting hair where there was none. Louisville Improvisors’ lynchpin and “Improvapalooza” founder Chris Anger has been there for every growing pain along the way. Using the anniversary to look back, the Louisville Improvisors (Anger, Alec Volz and Todd Hildreth) have decided to bring back two of their favorite guest performers from the last 12 years — Colleen Smith and Candace Brown, both from Los Angeles’ storied improv troupe The Groundlings. As Anger puts the finishing touches on the show and prepares for the launch of the Improvisors’ new monthly show at The Improv (which launches Wednesday, Jan. 18), he takes time out of his busy schedule to talk with LEO.

LEO: Anything stand out in your mind from the past 12 years of “Improvapalooza”?
Chris Anger: Not one thing, per se … I remember moments. To be honest with you, after 12, I have to really rack my brain to remember the first few. A couple of years ago there was a fire … that one kinda sticks out.

LEO: How do you rehearse a show that by definition is supposed to exist in the moment?
CA: Well, you don’t. Especially with “Improvapalooza,” because our friends from L.A. will come in usually the day of the show — so we decide what games to play and that’s it. As a group, (the Louisville Improvisors) rehearse in general, especially when you’re trying to bring someone new in — it’s mostly about building chemistry and trust.

LEO: If someone was interested in learning improv, how would you suggest they get better at what ultimately amounts to making shit up?
CA: (Laughs) The best way to improve, here’s shameless self-promotion, take a Louisville Improvisors improv class — that’s the best way to improve. Honestly, we always tell people there are no rules when it comes to improv, but really there are a couple that make the difference between good and bad improv. One of them is The Rule of Agreement, ”Yes, and …” The majority of people, when they start on stage, their first response is “No,” because they don’t like the idea, or it’s unfamiliar, or they don’t wanna eat garbage. It’s like, “We’re making it up, you’re not eating real garbage, you’re eating improv garbage.” We call it blocking, negating people’s ideas — sometimes you just have to go with other people’s ideas. Improv is all about trusting yourself, trusting your partner, and the joy of discovery.

LEO: I’ve always thought the “Yes, and …” rule should apply to life as well.
CA: You know what? I agree, because if you talk to people and start to realize how many people say, “No,” a lot — it’ll blow your mind. Life should be a “Yes, and …” experience.

LEO: Are there any audience suggestions you don’t like?
CA: We always tell the audience to try not to be funny, interesting or clever — leave that to us. We did a show a couple of years ago and asked for a relationship between two people. And to show you where this guy’s head was at, he yelled out, “Incest!” I was like, “We’re not fuckin’ doing incest — work that out on your time.”

LEO: If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
CA: Maybe Abraham Lincoln — he’s a smart guy. He’d get the concept pretty quick, and he wouldn’t go on too long.

LEO: Considering the world is supposed to end Dec. 21, 2012 — you all may not get to have an “Improvapalooza 13” — so this could be your swan song performance. Do you have anything special planned?
CA: (Laughs) Well, we’re going to invite everyone out to the compound after the show. I lived in San Francisco for years, which is where Jonestown started, so I don’t wanna give away too much, but there will be Kool-Aid after the show.

LEO: I assume the Kool-Aid is on the house.
CA: Dude, the first one’s free.

Louisville Improvisors’ ‘Improvapalooza’
Jan. 6-7
Kentucky Center
$17; 8 p.m.