March 2024
A Funny Thing Happened . . .
The Prescott Improv Collective Risks All for a Laugh

Logically enough, it was a whim. There was an open audition posted on Facebook, and I figured, why not? What’s the worst thing that can happen? The Mile High Comedy Theater opened its doors and invited anyone who was interested to come and audition at the Elks Performing Arts Center on St. Patrick’s Day, 2019. 

I walked into the room and immediately felt small and scared. There were so many people there! One of the members of the directorial board took my picture and gave me a form to fill out, then it was time to play.

One improv game after another, different potential comedians bringing their perspectives and senses of humor to the floor. I may not remember every person who was there, but I remember leaving that day with a sore belly from laughing. I didn’t expect to be invited to join the cast, I didn’t expect to make some of the best friends I’ve ever had, I didn’t expect to be performing for sold-out audiences, I didn’t expect all the ways that improv and this group would change my life, and I didn’t expect that less than five years later the group would have a new name, a new approach and a new director — me!

That single day put me on a path that has since included performing as a stage actor, stepping into some small films, performing improv comedy to audiences of up to 400, securing my dream job, co-creating and running the Preskitt Mystery Company, and directing the Prescott Improv Collective.

Improvising has several definitions, but my favorite, “to make or fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand,” describes what’s at the core of improv comedy. I think it also defines daily life. Being able to think on one’s feet, twist and turn with the curveballs that life throws, find humor in the mundane, appreciate those who support you in your endeavors, and provide a moment of levity in a tense situation are all skills that the practice of improv provides.

Improvisation as a comic medium has been around since the early 20th century as exercises for children and dramatic performers. The modern style is most often credited to performers in the Chicago area in midcentury. The Second City, which began in 1959, has long been the gold standard of improv comedy. Many actors on NBC’s Saturday Night Live came up through its ranks.

Improv comedy reached a broader audience with the introduction of the Whose Line Is It Anyway? programs. Whose Line? began as a radio show in the UK in 1988. After six episodes it became a television program and ran for ten years. An American version launched at the end of the British run, hosted by Drew Carey on ABC, running till 2007. In 2013 The CW network revitalized the show and Aisha Tyler became the new host, with the main cast returning.

Personally I find the episodes of Whose Line? wonderfully creative and funny. What the viewer may not realize is that you’re not seeing true improv comedy, however. The shows run about 23 minutes around ads and feature several games, but that’s edited down from about two hours of taping.

When attending a live improv show like the one coming on March 30 at the Elks Performing Arts Center, the entire show is truly created right in front of you. From audience suggestions the members of Prescott Improv Collective create scenarios, characters and stories.

Does every joke land? Absolutely not, and truthfully, that’s part of the fun. The audiences tend to enjoy watching us flounder just as must as seeing a sketch hit it out of the park. True improv comedy is a partnership between performers and audience, requiring the actors to bob and weave with the punches, working on a huge amount of faith each can step in and support the others. Collective member Bliss Streetman says that improv is “a trust-fall where the best-case scenario is that everything goes wrong.” Additionally, unlike televised programs, the experience of live improv can never be duplicated. Since the entire performance is created out of thin air (or whatever’s on hand), it’s a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of quick wit, twisted minds and creative acting.

As the director of the Prescott Improv Collective I am eternally grateful and exhaustively tickled to work with Lisa Doherty, Cassi Hallam, Stacee Lavallee, Weston Parmelee, Randy Skidmore, Clay Smith, Bliss Streetman, Ashly Wolfe and Logan Wolfe. This warped cast made up of actors, standup comics, writers and performers has become what we call “our funny family.”

In addition to several performances each year, the Prescott Improv Collective hosts “open-play days,” inviting anyone in the community to try their hand at improvisation. No experience is ever necessary to come out and step into “the dating game,” “the alphabet game,” “questions only” or any of the many other opportunities to stretch the imagination and improve stage performance. We welcome everyone willing to laugh at themselves or at us. Our unofficial motto is, “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”

More info at, 928- 756-2844, or

Lizabeth Rogers covers the local-theatre beat.

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