Upcoming Shows

  • April 16, 2014 7:30 pmMILLENNIUM QUEST: WARP JAWN @PHIT
  • April 16, 2014 9:00 pmTHIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN + SABOTAGE @ PHIT
  • April 16, 2014 10:00 pmTHIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN @ PHIT
  • April 17, 2014 7:30 pmTHE FLAT EARTH PRESENTS… @ PHIT
  • April 17, 2014 7:30 pmMILLENNIUM QUEST: WARP JAWN @ PHIT
  • April 17, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • April 17, 2014 10:30 pmTHE SIDESHOW @ PHIT
  • April 18, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • April 18, 2014 7:30 pmTHE FLAT EARTH PRESENTS… @ PHIT
  • April 18, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • April 18, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • April 18, 2014 9:00 pmTHE FLAT EARTH PRESENTS… @ PHIT
  • April 18, 2014 10:30 pmATOMIC CINEMA VAULT @ PHIT
  • April 18, 2014 11:00 pmSKETCH UP OR SHUT UP @ PHIT
  • April 19, 2014 7:30 pmSarcasm Comedy Club
  • April 19, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • April 19, 2014 7:30 pmTHE FLAT EARTH PRESENTS… @ PHIT
  • April 19, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • April 19, 2014 8:00 pmBye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play
  • April 19, 2014 9:00 pmDR. SLEEPOVER @ PHIT
  • April 19, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • April 19, 2014 9:30 pmSarcasm Comedy Club
  • April 19, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • April 19, 2014 10:30 pmBIG BABY + MAYOR KAREN @ PHIT
  • April 20, 2014 4:00 pmPHIT PRESENTS: MILLENNIUM QUEST: WARP JAWN
AEC v1.0.4

Improvising Tragedy – What Happens When a Comedy Show Gets Surprisingly Intimate?

Last Saturday, I encountered an improv show that radically expanded what I believe the form is capable of.

At the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea, New York, an improv team called Grandma’s Ashes has a Saturday night show titled Grandma’s Ashes Gets Dark. In lieu of getting a one-word suggestion for inspiration, the team invites an audience member to share the story of the worst moment of his or her life.

That’s right. Grandma’s Ashes starts its improv comedy show by asking the audience to think of the most painful thing that’s ever happened to them.

While asking for volunteers, an improviser offers up some past stories as examples—somebody nearly severing her leg in an accident and calling her dad thinking that she might be telling him she loved him for the last time, a person who lost his job, got kicked out of his apartment, and found out his mom died—and the examples are extreme, but have a certain, could-have-happened-in-a-movie quality, a survived-the-storm distance that allows us to laugh.

A young woman volunteers, and improviser Abra Tabak sits down with her for the interview, asking what moment in her life she’d like to talk about. The woman takes a breath and answers:

“It’s when I realized that my dad had been raping my sister for 18 years… and then I remembered that it had happened to me too.”

 

CONTINUE READING…