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Improv acts scare the hell out of me for a few reasons:
- Spontaneous audience participation has been my biggest fear since elementary school.
- I’d rather die than experience a long bout of awkward silence.
- Watching people embarrass themselves embarrasses me.
- A lack of direction gives me panic attacks.
So, you can understand why I was terrified last Sunday as I took a front row seat at The ComedySportz Theatre for Octavarius improv, the fastest growing independent comedy show in Chicago. The group performs every Sunday night at 7pm with a 90-minute, one-of-a-kind show. The first part of each show is scripted comedy based on a specific theme (this week’s was “The British Invasion” with lots of well-done accents, hilariously out of context Beatles lyrics and jabs at Ringo Starr), and the second half is 100% improvised, wholly crafted from an audience suggestion.
As the lights dimmed Sunday night and the show began, a robotic voice boomed over loud speakers: “The show you are about to see has never been performed and will never be performed again.” Cue loud music, tons of energy from Octavarius members taking the stage, and I immediately knew that I was in for it. In a really good way.
Octavarius taught me that things are much more fun without a script. This particular show, for example, included a spontaneous live game of “Guess Who?,” a Dane Cook stand-up routine in which he ends up crying, dysfunctional race horses and a bachelor party at an Outback Steakhouse. I should also mention the “Pun Queen” crown, passed from group member to group member as he or she makes unexpected puns throughout the various sketches, giving a little competitive flare to the stage.
Can’t make it to a live show? Not to worry. The performance is streamed online each week, and Octavarius also hosts an interactive podcast on Mondays, highlighting the theme for that Sunday’s performance.
If you’re interested in seeing something completely illogical come together in a logical way, Octavarius is a wickedly good way to do so. Get your tickets here, grab a beer and a front row seat, and get ready to laugh your ass off.
This week’s show: “The Founding Fathers Strike Back,” 7 pm.