Duo Improv Comedy Showcase Celebrates 10 Years
Unexpected Productions weekly improv show, the Duo Comedy Showcase, celebrates its 10th anniversary with a reunion show on August 22, 2018. This special performance features past performers and the winners of the 2018 Duo tournament.
"Our Seattle showcase may not be one of the longest consistently running showcases around, but improv duo performances have been around quite a while," explains the show creator, Unexpected Productions Managing Director, Jay Hitt.
The Duo Comedy showcase started on Aug 21, 2008, and has been offered weekly for the past ten years. Performances are held at Unexpected Productions' Market Theater at the infamous Gum Wall in Pike Place Market.
The Duos Showcase is Seattle's only "open mic night" for improvisational comedy and features different improv Duos; students, UP Improv ensemble members, out of town guests and improvisers from across the Sound including other theaters like Jet City Improv, ComedySportz Seattle and the Pocket Theater.
Over the years it has evolved into both a show and a community where improvisers can meet, perform and hang out with other improvisers in a tight knit social setting.
"I started managing Unexpected Productions at the end of 2006. At the time, we didn't have anything going on Thursday nights other than an occasional student showcase. I thought a night where improvisers could sign-up to do whatever they wanted, as long as it strives for entertainment, was a good fit for our improv company, especially since we had already done everything else. I got lots of excitement and encouragement from the UP cast, then started signing people up way in advance to be part of the show," explained Hitt.
"It was only supposed to run about 3 months, to October 2008. Then, because of the popularity with the performers we extended it through Feb 2009. Other improv companies and upper level students caught wind of it and wanted to be part of it, so it kept getting extended. In April 2010 and the Duo Improv Showcase moved to Wednesdays." Since its inception, it has been an audience favorite.
"It's probably the most fun-to-perform-in and also most entertaining improv shows in Seattle. The open-mic format means performers take risks and chances you don't see in more planned, polished shows. And because of that, I've seen wondrous, hilarious things happen from people who are on the stage for the first time ever. And I've seen some of the best improvisers in Seattle fail spectacularly trying all-new things -- and while those bits may not have worked, they were still entertaining because it's awesome to see things done for the first time, even when it's also deservedly the last," said Denny Atkin, longtime Duo participant.
"It's also an amazing, fun, supportive, and positive group performing on Duos night. It's a chance to perform with your improv heroes, or to jump in with a 'brand-new-to-you' performer and experience the unexpected in front of a live audience. And to meet some of the most enthusiastic performers in the Seattle improv community," explained Atkin.
"In the beginning, we would have 3 to 4 duos performing on that night. It was run like a professional Stand-up Comedy show. We'd have one or two openers doing around 10 or 15 min, feature act for 20-30, then the headliners doing 30-45 min. As more and more people wanted to be a part of it, I increased the number of acts and cut down the time. Now It's run more like an open mic, capped at around 12 with a group scene that offers the singles and duos who did make it up that night a chance for stage time, no matter the experience level. The general audience has found it as well. In the earlier days, it wasn't uncommon for us to have 5 or 10 paying audience members. Now it's not uncommon for us to have over 60," said Hitt.
"Duos is freeing and fun! I've met such an amazing supportive group of people. I love watching because it's a new experience every time, even when it's bad it's good!" explains Duos regular and UP ensemble member, Thandi Davis.
Over the years there have been several Duos tournaments. The winners of the last tournament were flown to Las Vegas to perform in the Duo All-star Showcase at the Las Vegas Performing Arts Center and Sin City Theater at Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas strip. Winners of the 2018 tournament will be featured performers in the 10th Anniversary Show on August 22nd.
The Duo community represents a microcosm of Seattle's entire improv community. It often has the same feel of an improv festival. You'll see performers and students from every improv organization and group around the Sound. You'll find traveling improvisers looking for a venue to perform. There'll be may duos working on their act they may be performing on a future weekend or for a festival. It's very welcoming. Many times someone who comes in without knowing anyone, leaves with connections and friends. It's even lead to the development of new groups and shows.
"If it wasn't for duos, my show FEELINGS wouldn't exist. It's the one place in town that you can show up and test out an idea. Or just show up and have fun. It is low stakes, fun, accessible, welcoming, inclusive, and the only thing like it in Seattle. No other theater offers a weekly (affordable) spot to just play. I am so grateful for duos every week," explains performer, Kinzie Shaw.
"It's fun to watch a green improviser grow into a solid performer. I also like watching the veteran performers try new things and dust off old skills that have lied dormant. The best thing is it gives the newbies a chance to work with the vets. This usually makes for a great act because the newbies are focused and on top of their game while the vets are on their game as well trying not to let down the rookie," said Hitt.
Every Wednesday, audience members may expect to see a well-rounded show with spectacularly magical improv scenes mixed with complete and utter train wrecks! Just like many open mics and even karaoke, it will always be a good time and is never a waste of money. Tickets are only $5 and drinks are inexpensive.
You never know what will happen. "My husband proposed to me during the first duo we ever did together, so I may be a little biased about how amazing Duos are, but you don't need to get engaged to feel the tremendous support, joy, risk-taking, community, and "yes and" spirit present on a Duos Night. All are welcome, encouraged and applauded. Chances are taken. Laughs are had. Partnerships are forged. The open opportunity of Duos Night is a true gift to Seattle performers and audience members...and, of course, a great way to propose," said performer, Eliza Furmansky.
"It's a great community of supportive improvisers. You can come straight out of a 100 class or you could have been at it for 20 years. It's incredible. I like attending as an audience member because so often magical moments happen," said Jonni Ressler.
"Some of my favorite scenes have been at duos. the combination of relaxed attitude and pure fun make for something totally unique. Like any other "open mic" setting, you never know what you are going to get- but it's sure to be memorable and likely to be a solid night of improv," said Ressler.
When asked where Duos will be in the next ten years, Hitt concluded that "Like improv, I'm sure it will evolve the way it's supposed to. I don't want to control its journey! Maybe we'll start getting some celebrities. I don't know!"