The Improv Conspiracy – A Night in Chicago

By Elyce Phillips 

I’ve been a fan of The Improv Conspiracy for a while now. Their weekly shows over at the Dan O’Connell in Carlton are one of the highlights of the comedy off-season. And so, I headed over to the Croft Institute expecting a top-notch night of improv and I was not let down.

For this year’s Fringe, the group is trying out a new improv format – the Armando (named after improv legend Armando Diaz). Developed in Chicago, the format is perhaps best known for being used by the likes of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey at Assscat.

The evening begins with a storyteller responding to a personal question asked by a member of the audience. From there, the group takes the story apart and plays with the elements, creating scenes until the storyteller steps in with a new tale.

On the evening I attended, Creative Director Adam Kangas was the storyteller, letting loose with some brutally honest stories after being asked “When did you lose your virginity?” Over the course of the night, we heard some great stories about his time at nerd college and his family.

It’s wonderful watching the improvisers at work, playing with some of the tiniest aspects of a story and pulling them out into something altogether absurd. A passing comment of Kangas’ about his siblings being not so ‘genetically gifted’ became a rousing round of Genetic Lotto. A story about his stepdad building cabinets for a strip club led to some rather uncomfortable times for a couple of strippers. A simple list of his siblings’ names led to Luke Ryan organizing an almighty family reunion, involving Kangas’ lesser-known relatives Spaceman and War Machine Kangas.

If you’ve been to some improv in Melbourne before, there might be a few familiar faces – the likes of Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd and Charlie Sturgeon also perform at HOO-HAA! and Theatresports and just about every other improv night in town, so you’re in experienced hands. The crew work together intuitively and are consistently funny.

There is a new storyteller each night, so there’s no telling what will happen from one show to the next. But with such a strong group of performers, you’re not going to be disappointed.

The Improv Conspiracy – A Night in Chicago is on at the Croft Institute until October 5.