ImprovBoston presents A 35-Hour Comedy Marathon to Celebrate its 35th Anniversary

ImprovBoston presents A 35-Hour Comedy Marathon to Celebrate its 35th AnniversaryImprovBoston welcomes back 35 years worth of alumni for a historic 35-Hour Comedy Marathon on August 5 & 6. A fundraiser for the New England comedy staple, the event features more than 90 laugh-out-loud comedy acts including sketch, standup, character work, improv, musical improv, late-night bit shows, and more. All proceeds from the event will benefit the nonprofit theater's facility upgrades, scheduled for the week of August 7th.

One of the country's oldest comedy theaters, ImprovBoston welcomes back its illustrious founder, Ellen Holbrook, and many other alumni who have contributed to the storied institution over the decades. Big comedy names from around the nation will also make appearances via video, including:

Some recommended acts are:

  • The Fossil Show, featuring alums from over ImprovBoston's 35 years, August 5th, 12PM

  • Terrible People, sketch comedy for jerks, August 6th, 1AM

  • Wild Memory Nation (local storytelling at its finest), August 6th, 11AM

  • The Music Improv Cast, songs made up on the spot, August 6th, 8PM

  • Mainstage, ImprovBoston's resident all-star cast, August 6th, 10PM

The event will also feature the unveiling of an ImprovBoston ale (a special custom beer from local Aeronaut Brewing Company), auction items, commemorative presentations, comedians from near and far, and a band of adventurous improvisers who will attempt to perform a set during every single hour of the marathon.

How ImprovBoston Began

A graduate of Chicago's Second City and producer for Chicago's Improv Olympic (now "iO"), Ellen Holbrook moved to Boston in 1982 to create an improv comedy troupe. She started master classes and assembled and trained several loosely knit bands of improvisers into teams who competed in the Boston "Improv Olympic" at Riley's Beef and Pub in Government Center. Within a couple of years, ImprovBoston performed at colleges, universities, corporate events, festivals, and other local clubs and venues, including Faneuil Hall.

ImprovBoston's first dedicated space in Inman Square opened in 1993.

Since the early 1980s, ImprovBoston experienced steady growth. They opened their first dedicated theater space in 1993 in Inman Square, when they grew from five to well over 20 members, and introduced new forms of improv. In the 2000s, the comedy theater began its first weekly standup shows, first shows for families, and its first Boston Comedy Arts Festival, an annual celebration bringing together internationally-renowned improv, sketch, and standup comedy acts on multiple stages.

ImprovBoston cast circa 1989

Over the years, famous names made their mark on ImprovBoston:

  • Boston-area native Steve Carell came home from college to Boston for holidays and summer vacations in the 1980s to perform improv games with ImprovBoston casts.

  • Amy Poehler, Jim Belushi, Kevin McDonald, Sasheer Zamata, Greg Proops, and Tim Meadows taught a master class or guest-performed.

  • Janeane Garofalo helped fundraise for a new ImprovBoston space in the mid-2000s.

  • ImprovBoston's alumni include Emmy Award-winning comedians and acclaimed producers, directors, musicians, and writers featured on such shows as The Daily Show, America's Got Talent, Last Comic Standing, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

In 2008, ImprovBoston moved to a new venue in Cambridge's Central Square, where it operates today with over 25 shows each week between its two theaters.

ImprovBoston's location in Central Square, Cambridge. Photo by Caitlin Cunningham.

ImprovBoston Today

ImprovBoston continues its nonprofit mission of serving the community through laughter. The comedy theater features:

  • A regular performance selection of improv, sketch, and standup. With 25 shows a week and now more than 120 performers on its resident casts alone, the theater hosts hundreds of local artists and tens of thousands of audience members every year.

  • An acclaimed comedy training program featuring classes in all disciplines at beginner and advanced levels for both children and adults. Their faculty provide daytime, after school, and vacation classes to children ages 8-17. More than 2,000 students per year learn the art of comedy and the value of listening and support, both onstage and off. In addition, they award a wide selection of scholarships every eight weeks to students who represent diverse voices in comedy.

  • Outreach through the ImprovBoston National Touring Company offers innovative, customized entertainment and training packages based on the principles of improvisation. The theater works in K-12 schools throughout New England where they present their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) and anti-bullying programs. Corporations (Google, Novartis, Facebook and Harley Davidson to name a few) as well as non-profits (Dana Farber, Rosie's Place, Boston Children's Hospital and many more), and universities (Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, etc) engage ImprovBoston for its nationally renown applied improvisation expertise.

ImprovBoston's 35 Hour Comedy Marathon begins at on August 5th at 12PM and continues through August 6th at 11PM at ImprovBoston. More marathon details, a full act schedule, and tickets are available at

For over 30 years, ImprovBoston has been New England's leading theater and school dedicated to the art of comedy in all its forms. Voted "Best of Boston" by The Phoenix, The Improper Bostonian, and The Weekly Dig, ImprovBoston performers, teachers and students have included film stars, Emmy Award-winning comedians, and acclaimed producers, directors, musicians and writers. ImprovBoston alumni are featured on Conan, Late Night with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show, America's Got Talent, Funniest Wins, Playboy, Last Comic Standing and John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, to name a few. In 2014, the Independent Reviewers of New England honored ImprovBoston with an award recognizing its longstanding contributions to the Boston theater community. As a nonprofit arts organization, ImprovBoston serves the community through laughter with youth outreach programs, workshops for businesses, scholarships, a national touring company and, of course, performances at its theater complex in Central Square, Cambridge.

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