Last week, I was invited to the opening of Copenhagen’s first and only Improv Comedy theater, ICC Theatre. I had never seen an improv show before, but who doesn’t love a good laugh? So of course I went to check it out!
The theater is located on Frederiksholms Kanal, right by the National Gallery, in a small-ish, cozy space that’s a cafe by day and turns into a comedy stage every three nights a week.
Now, as I mentioned, I’ve never seen any improv theater show, comedy or otherwise (I’m guessing most improv is comedy, because how would you do an improv drama? That seems very complicated), so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was irrationally scared that improv comedy might mean that the audience would be involved, and I repeatedly broke out in cold sweats earlier in the day, imagining all sorts of scenarios in which I would be asked onto the stage during the performance. The horror! (Spoiler: I was not asked on stage.)
I remembered a fun team building exercise I participated in at my very first job as a consultant, where new joiners from all over Europe were meeting for the first time. To kick things off in a relaxed manner, they had hired a coach to do some warm-up exercises with us, which he said came from improv theater. I remember one exercise where we had to say the first word that came to our mind, and another one where we had to partner up and suggest activities to each other, and we were only allowed to answer “yes, let’s!” as enthusiastically as we could, regardless of how stupid the suggestion was. I remember other rules that said we could never say no, and never say “yes, but” – instead, we always had to say “yes, and”, and build on each other’s stories. It was a fun exercise, but my systematic, organized brain was really stressing out and I was very happy when we got to analyze our personalities and assign colors based on our traits. Yay, structure!
But enough about my amateur shenanigans, and let’s get back to the pros!
The ICC was founded by Stefanie Grassley, Stefan Pagels Andersen, and Kasper Jacobsen with the goal to “share the magic and the power of American-style improv with the individuals and businesses of Denmark“.
Stefan and Stefanie are both actors and part of the ICC’s performance team. They also teach workshops and classes, and there are live shows three times a week. Nothing is scripted, everything is fully improvised, and it’s 100% amazeballs.
As it turns out, long-form improv comedy was first performed in America, so they got the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, Rufus Gifford, to be a special guest for the opening – he even participated in the performance!
So here are the basics of improv comedy theater, as understood by me and in no way scientifically researched: It all started with a keyword prompt from the audience – in this case, very fittingly, “American football”. Rufus then started telling a little funny story around how lots of football players are actually trained in classical ballet, and explained how he had to quit high school football due to an injury. The performers then picked up and acted out short, funny scenes, incorporating items from his story (the ballet class for football players was hilarious).
The basic rules are (again, my understanding): you can never say no – just go with what your partner has given you and build on it. Always add something new, and be flexible in your responses. When someone taps you on the shoulder, they switch into the scene and you’re out. When someone not involved in the scene runs across the stage from left to right, the scene is over. Otherwise, there are no rules. Only hilariousness!
I thoroughly enjoyed the show and laughed quite a bit (seriously, the guy on the left in the picture above was a genius at accents!) – but I was also super impressed by the performers’ ability to just let loose and go with the flow. As someone who constantly overthinks and overanalyzes everything, I absolutely admired what these talented and funny people brought onto the stage.
I’ll definitely be back for another show soon, and I strongly recommend you go check the ICC out. Shows are every Monday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and cost DKK 80-100. You can find more info at improvcomedy.dk or on Facebook.
I was kindly invited for the opening night of the ICC Theatre. I received no further compensation for this post. As always, all opinions are my own!