On the first Saturday of every month, in the AS220 Black Box Theater at 95 Empire Street in Providence, Improv Jones puts on a show.
If you’re not familiar, improv comedy is different from any other style of comedy: Nothing is prepared. No rehearsal, no scripts, and never the same show twice. The performers are thrust into hypothetical situations – sometimes suggested by the audience, other times completely made up – and play games reliant on only their wits and natural talent. They take on characters and perform without qualms or inhibitions, to absolutely hilarious results. Improv Jones’ six current members all have different styles of comedy that play well off of one another. Most also perform with other troupes around the state, but there’s definitely something special that happens when this sextet comes together to put on a show.
“The Improv Jones performers are so talented,” says Tim Thibodeau, a long-time member of the group. “They brought a theater background to the stage and the performers were the most skilled comedic actors in the area.”
Improv Jones started in 1992 as a workshop at the now defunct Second Story Theatre, back when it was located on the East Side. Once it closed, the group took on the name “Improv Jones” and began performing at the AS220 Black Box Theater. There have been over three dozen members of the group over the years. They used to perform every Thursday and Saturday, but as the troupe grew and schedules conflicted, they all agreed they wanted to be able to put all their energy into one great show rather than eight not-so-great shows in a month.
“Our shows have been fantastic since we went to once a month as it feels like an event.”
Today’s members, Casey Seymour Kim, Tim Thibodeau, Dave Rabinow, Eric Fulford, Kate Teichman, and Stuart Wilson, are all seasoned veterans of improv comedy. Each with their own strengths and quirks, they can change characters and scenes at the drop of a hat. This group has been working together for over seven years now; they’ve only ever rehearsed once in the past 15 years.
“Our ability to trust each other on stage, listen, to be comfortable with each other with whatever is offered on stage, makes it honest,” Thibodeau shares. “Our theater and creative backgrounds are influenced throughout each show. It also makes us laugh and have fun – we don’t try too hard, we just believe in each other’s strengths and support, which enables us to be compelling and funny.”
Occasionally, Improv Jones will put on special shows, but this is more of an exception than a rule. In March, they host their own version of “March Madness” called “Bracketprov,” where the audience can vote on which storyline they’d like to see advance after watching several scenes, tournament style, until one is crowned the victor. The group also participates in Providence Improv Fest, created by Mauro Hantman, who is also a founding member of Improv Jones.
Make sure to check out the next Improv Jones show on January 5. Tickets are only $5 and the laughs are worth every penny.