Do you enjoy the relief from stress that comedy provides, but you’re tired of hearing the same predictable jokes?
Then make a commitment to visit Comedy Sportz Indianapolis when the New Year arrives; it is a resolution you will be glad to keep.
Comedy Sportz is located in the Mass Ave Arts and Theater District near downtown Indianapolis. Comedians at the sports-themed club, called “Actletes,” wear jerseys and are divided into teams who compete to provide the best improvised routine.
“You’re going to see a whole bunch of people on stage making the audience laugh and having a good time,” said Sean Jones, a comedian and the member of an improvisation team at Comedy Sportz. “And the awesome thing is it’s unpredictable and different every time.”
In other words, there is no script – each round or scene begins with the comedians receiving topic suggestions from the audience, in similar fashion to the ABC television show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” At the end of the round, audience judges vote on which team is funnier.
“Improvisation, or improv, is fun because you don’t know what you’re walking into. You never know what’s going to happen next, so you have to literally improvise,” said Terrell Woods, another team member at Comedy Sportz.
Rounds at Comedy Sportz are conducted just like athletic games, with referees who enforce rules and keep the action going. Different penalties can be given to players, including the Groaner Foul for those who say something unfunny or stupid and receive groans from the audience, and the Brown Bag Foul, when a comedian has to wear a paper bag if something naughty is said, which keeps the match clean.
“It’s just good entertainment for the entire family,” Woods said. “You can bring your kids because we have fun, but there’s nobody getting drunk or using dirty jokes. You have to get somebody to care for your children when you go to some places, but you can bring them with you to Comedy Sportz. You don’t need a baby sitter.”
When it opened, the Comedy Sportz location in Indianapolis began with an all-white cast. However, it became more diverse as individuals across the community developed an interest in the venue.
Woods became the first African-American team member at Comedy Sportz in 1998 after a friend there encouraged him to audition.
“It seemed like a good opportunity because I’ve enjoyed performing all my life, from grade school to college,” Woods said. “Even at home I got out of trouble by telling jokes and making my mother laugh.”
Jones also discovered his gift for comedy at a young age, and has been a professional stand-up comedian for seven years. During a visit to New York in 2004, he was able to meet the cast of one his favorite shows, “Saturday Night Live.”
“It was an awesome experience, especially meeting Keenan Thompson, because I enjoy his brand of comedy,” said Woods. “Being a comedian is special because it feels good to laugh and make someone else laugh.”
Both Woods and Jones have looked up to famous comedians that have inspired them along their journey of hilarity. Jones has been inspired by Richard Pryor, Wayne Brady and Eddie Murphy, especially routines from his video “Delirious.”
Woods’ influences have included Pryor, Murphy, Bill Cosby, Bernie Mac and the host of comedians who appeared on the 1990s weekly HBO program “Def Comedy Jam.”
Although he enjoys his work with Comedy Sportz, Jones has aspirations of expanding to a national level of comedic notoriety.
“I want to have a one man show soon at the Madame Walker Theatre, then take it to venues around the nation in places such as New York and Los Angeles,” Jones stated. “My ultimate dream is to be on Saturday Night Live.”
Anyone can join Comedy Sportz after auditioning and undergoing a series of fun training sessions. General comedy training courses and summer camps are offered for adults, high school students and junior high school students. In addition, comedians from the teams can be hired for special events.
Woods encourages families to set aside some time for Comedy Sportz in the New Year.
“To be on this stage you have to have a wide range and use a variety of material,” said Woods. “So we’re able to offer something that everyone can appreciate, enjoy and relate to.”
Note: On this week’s Around Town cover are Woods (left) and Jones.
Have some fun!
What: Comedy Sportz Indianapolis
Location: 721 Massachusetts Ave.
Typical show times: Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Kids shows usually first Saturday of the month at 4:30 p.m.
For more information: visit www.indycomedysportz.com, call (317) 951-8499 or cal toll free 866-91-LAUGH.
Common tips for a successful comedy career
Decide what type of comedian you want to become (stand up, impersonator, sketch, improvisational, etc.).
Find local comedy clubs where you can share your talent.
Build some jokes around your personal experiences; it helps with originality.
Develop your own comedic style and performance characteristics.
Try jokes among friends before taking them on stage. Be open to advice and constructive criticism.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun and the audience will, too.