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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson comedy scene full of laughs

    Rebecca Marie Sasnett

    Performers for Tucson Improv Movement rehearse in their new theater on Seventh Street on Tuesday.TIM performs on Saturdays at the Red Barn Theater but are in the process of moving to its new space at 329 E. 7th St.

    Tucson’s comedy scene is alive and well, and in a few short years, Tucson has seen its number of comedy clubs grow. As Laffs Comedy Caffe, a longtime Tucson staple in local entertainment, celebrates its 25th anniversary, two other improv companies have also set up shop.

    Laffs, at the corner of Broadway Boulevard and Country Club Road, hosts weekly open mic nights as well as a plethora of rising stand-up comedians. Many of the comedians who have performed at Laffs over the years have eventually soared to stardom. Big names include Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Mitch Hedberg, George Lopez and many more.

    In 2012, Tucson Improv Movement introduced the community to another art form: longform improv comedy. Longform improv comedy consists of building an entire 20-35 minute show from a single idea provided by the audience. Justin Lukasewicz, founder of TIM, describes longform improv comedy as more artistic and similar to the Harold, an improv style developed in Chicago in the 1960s. In addition to the Harold-styled show, TIM offers Throwdown, Soap Box and Cage Match.

    TIM offers five levels of comedy classes to the general public. People who wish to become a member of the company must first complete a minimum number of classes to learn the philosophy in order to be able to audition to join the company.

    “[TIM has] 30 performers from all different walks of life,” Lukasewicz said. The diverse backgrounds of actors create an interesting team.

    Previously, TIM was based out of the classic Red Barn Theatre. However, due to increasing popularity through word-of-mouth and social media, the company has quickly outgrown that location, and is now moving to a new location on Fourth Avenue. Although TIM will have a space of its own, it now has to purchase all the equipment to go inside, including a stage, lighting, seats and everything else that goes into running a theater. In order to fund this massive project, TIM has launched a full-fledged crowdsourcing campaign through Kickstarter.

    TIM has had huge help from the community thus far; with just less than two weeks left of the campaign, it has raised almost 75 percent of its goal. The new theater is expected to open in September.

    The support from so many Tucson residents is indicative of a greater interest in improv comedy overall. Lukasewicz said it encourages a fun and positive environment since there is an implicit agreement attitude. The interaction between the performers and members of the audience makes each show dynamic as well as engaging.

    With that attitude in mind, it is not surprising that TIM is not the only improv troupe establishing a theater of its own in recent history. Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed is another improv troupe and although formed in 2002, it just opened up its theater within the past year. The troupe specializes in shortform improv comedy rather than longform improv comedy. It regularly schedules family-friendly shows along with its late-night variety.

    Lukasewicz said that each theater has a different focus and that TIM and Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed do not view one another as competition. In fact, the two hope to work together to bring in guest comedians in and maybe even host festivals in the future.

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