Even the most ardent improv advocate might wonder why someone would travel halfway around the world to take improv classes in a city that isn’t Chicago, LA, or New York. While the advocate could make the case that the improvisers teaching are renowned performers from iO, said advocate would also need to wrestle with the added information that our traveler is coming from a city that has at least one workshop a month from a guest affiliated with either iO, Annoyance, Second City, or UCB.
If our traveler were to recount the most memorable moments from his journeys, he might talk about seeing a remarkable piece of art or architecture, but if someone asks him to recount a specific story from a trip, it will likely be a request for a moment in which he interacted with locals in some way, like that time he got food poisoning in Seoul and needed help figuring out how to get the equivalent of Pepto Bismal in a country that didn’t carry the brand; the time he met John, an intimidating man at a pub in Sydney, who warmed up as soon as he realized that our traveler didn’t know the rules of rugby and set out to explain what was happening on the telly; or the time a restaurant owner in Playa del Carmen, learning that our traveler was from the Bay Area, explained how he sold all his possessions in Palo Alto to move to that beach because of a girl he met on a vacation, and gave our traveler advice on how to meet the woman of his dreams.
However, in just two days of his international improv adventure, our traveler has had more conversations with locals in Copenhagen than on all those other vacations combined, played make-em-ups with them in which they worshipped a carrot Messiah, became the horror movie that they were watching, and saw the Big Bad Wolf turn into a
soccer football fan for the star player Little Red Riding Hood. He has discovered that despite the differences in language, the improvisers here are just as savvy as the ones at home, and just as diverse a group, from the student who officiated a cousin’s wedding in Thailand, to the public television producer who is working on a human interest show hosted by one of Denmark’s most well known television personalities, to a developer who recently switched to programming in C#. There are those who got into improv as a way to overcome anxiety, those who are adjusting from short form to long form, and others who would jump at the opportunity to move to Chicago if the paperwork would go through. They make bold, brilliant moves in scenes and openings, ask philosophical questions like how does one evaluate good improv, and contrast the aesthetics of iO and UCB. Plus they offer him an insider’s view into life in Copenhagen, where to go, what to avoid, etc.
Our advocate could now make the case that the trip isn’t necessarily about the improv itself but about the people, and that when it comes to stories, this trip will have more than its fair share.