Uncovering the comedy greatness in our backyard
When I was first asked to take on the job writing about the local comedy scene for Quadcities.com I knew immediately what my first article would have to be about. I wanted to look back at where I personally got my start in comedy but because nearly every opportunity to do comedy in the Quad Cities stems from one organization’s timeline in our hometown; ComedySportz Quad Cities.
If you’re reading this but have no idea who or what ComedySportz is, I will tell you what you are in for if you attend a show. The style of comedy performed is improv comedy. Meaning everything you see and hear is made up completely on the spot based on suggestions from the audience. Which is one of the things that makes ComedySportz so special. The fact that every show you’re seeing, you are the first and last person that is ever going to see that exact same show. It’s an almost magical thing to be a witness. Their show or “match”, because this is a competitive sport after all, pits two teams of comedians against each other with a ref to call the action and control the flow. For over 20 years, ComedySportz has put on a show nearly every Friday and Saturday night. What makes this place even more unique is that it is guaranteed, family friendly entertainment. While there is plenty to do in the Quad Cities it is rare to have something so consistently available for the entire family, no matter the age. Personally I’ve seen 6 year old birthday parties, 60 year old birthday parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and anything in between. People here love ComedySportz because not only is it accessible to everyone but it is always fun!
To make their arsenal of shows even more diverse, over the past few years The Establishment, located downtown in the District of Rock Island and is home to ComedySportz, has opened their stage following the traditional ComedySportz match with their Studio Series. These shows by and large were create by ComedySportz players who took the opportunity to create their own brand new shows and perform them in a more R rated fashion. Which makes them only available to those over 18. The beauty is, if you attend the family friendly show and you feel like staying for the more adult show, it’s completely free. But if you just want the adult humor, it’s only $5. In future articles I will be talking much more about the shows involved with the Studio Series including my personal favorites, Don’t Try This at Home and Wisenheimer but now that I’ve talked about what ComedySportz is, I’d like to say why I think it’s important that you know about it and what it means to me.
Nearly every great comedian I’ve met in the Quad Cities has their roots in some way tied to ComedySportz. That’s no coincidence. It’s because ComedySportz, and The Establishment, are run by a committed group of comedians who live and breathe the craft of comedy. When I first joined ComedySportz or CSz in 2010 I had no improv experience and quite frankly I had been too intimidated to try out. I finally decided that I had to at least try and to my hand, I was brought on for training. I was lucky enough to proceed through the next few months of practice learning from some of the best improvisers our city has ever known; Patrick Adamson, Jeff De Leon, Jeremy Mahr, and George Schulz. All of whom still hit that playing field (The CSz term for the stage) nearly every weekend entertaining sold out crowds with their skills.
In the end, I was selected from my training group to be offered a part on the ComedySportz team. Which at the time was easily the highest point of my performing career! As time went on and the comedy scene in the QC exploded the way it has over these past six years, I have met so many other comedians with a story very similar to mine. CSz is where they began, it’s where their roots are buried. Being with these performers made them better, the exact same way it did for me. Then I began to meet comedians who, while they had never been in ComedySportz, were taught by former ComedySportz members. Some had a former CSz player as their theater teacher in college, or took their first comedy workshop taught by a CSz member. Myself included, I have been lucky enough to train brand new adult improvisers and even taught a high school workshop under the ComedySportz banner. So I got to be a part of adding to these already impressive community roots. Which is something for which I am greatly proud.
You may be saying to yourself at this point, “That’s all great for you, Josh, but I’m no comedian. So why does it matter to me?” And that is a very valid and kind of rude question, hypothetical reader. Here’s why I think everyone should know about and attend ComedySportz. We are so lucky to have it, that’s why. ComedySportz is a franchise with teams all over the United States and a few international teams as well. There are so many great people involved, many I got to meet when the Quad Cities hosted the CSz Championship last summer. I’ve seen a lot of comedy, I’ve been a part of a lot of comedy, and I would be willing to bet anything that this group of people, gathered in one place, in our own backyard are some of the best in the country. I have no stats or empirical evidence to back that up but I truthfully believe it. I hope that if someone can feel that certain in their opinion, then maybe if you have yet to make it out to see it for yourself, I hope this inspires you to give it a first try. I’m thankful to my core that I did.
ComedySportz is an anchor for the local comedy scene. It is our background and history for so many of us in the Quad Cities. Nearly everyone I know has a memory involving this wonderful place. There’s no telling what it would be like had ComedySportz never made it here and found its audience. Thankfully, we’ll never have to know.
ComedySportzperforms their family friendly entertainment every Friday and Saturday night at The Establishment, 220 19th Street, Rock Island, IL 61201. For tickets, show times, and calendar of events please visit http://www.establishmentqc.com/ or call their box office at 309-786-1111.