The University of Indianapolis’ Shelby Street has a new business, The Wit Theater, which opened fall 2022. The theater, formerly where Books and Brews was located, is a comedy club and entertainment space. The theater houses many comedy shows, including ComedySportz, according to company founder, Co-Owner, President and CEO Ed Trout. Trout said that the organization currently has about 26 locations around the world. The organization presents improv comedy competitions done by professionals to a wide range of audiences, Trout said.
“We do improvisational comedy. So it’s presented as a sporting event between two teams of professional improvisers. There’s a referee that moderates, gets all the suggestions from the audience, calls fouls, because it is a real sport, and the referee also helps keep it clean, because it is intended for everybody,” Trout said. “So it’s not a kids show, but we want everybody to feel welcome there.”
Improvisational comedy, according to ComedySportz Co-Owner and Artistic Director Todd Kenworthy, is an art form where a group of people try to come up with a collective mindset to tell a story on the spot. Kenworthy said matches are usually 90 minutes long between teams competing for the most laughter.
“We really can’t do anything without the audience’s suggestions. So they’re gonna give us anything from our settings to a topic, whatever it may be to help drive the game and then at the end of a couple of rounds, the referee may stop and have the audience vote on which team they thought did a better job,” Kenworthy said. “And then points get awarded and we have a different winner each performance.”
Trout said that in the future, the Wit Theater would love to work collaboratively with the University of Indianapolis and to give students more opportunities to get involved with the organization. ComedySportz looks forward to getting involved more with the community, according to Trout.
“We’ve been around for 30 years and we always like to be a positive influence in the community. So being open to hosting community events, being open to donating tickets for silent auctions and things in the area,” Trout said. “We are open to all of those kinds of collaborations, we really want to try to be a force for good in the world.”
According to Trout, if a student is interested in joining the professional performing team, they would need to try out for a role. Performers must be 18 or older, Kenworthy said and they will be hosting their next round of auditions for roles on Feb. 25-26. If a student is interested in learning more about how to do improvisational comedy, the organization offers classes that meet once a week for six weeks, costing $195, according to Trout.
“We have four levels of regular classes, and then sometimes some one-off classes for special skills. But our next round of classes will be starting in March,” said Trout.
According to Trout, the ComedySportz shows take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. Kenworthy said that the theater also hosts late night shows starting at 9:30 p.m. that are for ages 17 and up, consisting of more adult-oriented comedy and that the late shows range from games, to improvised musicals to parodies.
“I really believe in improv both as an entertainment tool, and just as a way of approaching life,” Trout said. “There are a lot of improv skills that I think are life skills. So I think everybody could benefit from being exposed to more improv”.
According to Kenworthy, prices of tickets to these shows differ depending on whether purchased online or at the door. Tickets are available to purchase online up to a month in advance at CSZindianapolis.com. Tickets are $18 online and $23 at the door, according to Kenworthy and large groups or parties are encouraged to call ahead to work with them on deals. Food and drinks are available at the venue for additional cost, Kenworthy said.
Kenworthy said he believes that improv can help people in finding more joy in their own daily lives. Improv comedy helped to overcome a fear of public speaking, Kenworthy said, and is an outlet for relieving stress, whether it is in the form of performing or watching improv.
“I started doing improv in 2002 when I graduated college, for the sole purpose of overcoming a fear of public speaking. During that process, the people that I’ve met, it’s become more of performing improv and watching improv has become more of a stress reliever than I ever thought it would be,” Kenworthy said. “So, coming in watching one of our performances, whether it’s our ComedySportz match, or one of our late night offerings, it allows, even if briefly, allows a nice little escapism for somebody to come in and just kind of take a step away from their day and have some laughs because ultimately, we always say laughter is the best medicine”.
Kenworthy said that ComedySportz is looking to expand their offerings over the year and currently has about 50 members of their ensemble. According to Kenworthy, ComedySportz will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary this month and they will be having anniversary matches the weekend of Feb. 24 with more available shows.