Northland News

'War' -- of comedic quickness -- coming to Studio 35

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"Of course you know, this means war!" - Groucho Marx, Duck Soup, 1933

The members of a dozen improvisational comedy groups are girding themselves for battle because they, like Groucho, know when war is at hand.

"Improv Wars 2013: The Battle Continues" will be the third such contest pitting fast-thinking funny people against one another.

At least the prizes are getting better.

This time around, the winning comedy troupe will get tickets to movies at Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse, the new venue for Improv Wars.

A slice of Kraft cheese was shared among winners at past competitions, which were held as a limited engagement run at the Funnybone Comedy Club in Easton.

It wasn't generic cheese or Velveeta, mind, but still nothing the winners could take to the bank.

"It's for the pride of it and doing a good job," said Brad Shimp of Liberty Township in Delaware County. Shimp is one of the producers of the event.

"I think everyone understands this kind of event really promotes improvisational comedy in Columbus, and all the groups perform in different places," Shimp said.

"Personally, I want everyone to win, because the more people who get involved, the more venues it will open up."

The competitions, being produced by two local veterans of the improv scene, will take place at Studio 35, 3055 Indianola Ave. in Clintonville.

The first battle was held Oct. 1. Other competitions are scheduled Oct. 15 and Nov. 5 and 19. The winning improv group will be crowned Nov. 19.

The hours for the show will be 7 to 9 p.m. and admission is $8.

Gahanna resident Jeff Gage started Improv Wars in December 2011 along with members of the comedy scene in the Columbus area.

Having a dozen teams, most of whom have Facebook pages of websites, sign up is a "fairly significant number of people," according to Shimp, and shows the popularity of this type of comedy in the area.

"I would say central Ohio is kind of a hotbed for it," Shimp said. "Improv is gaining popularity."

Gage, a performer in the 1980s and '90s with famed local improv troupe Midwest Tool and Die, said he dropped out of the comedy scene for a while, but then was asked to do some coaching for a group.

"It kind of lit the flame under me and I got re-involved in the improv community through the teaching," Gage said.

Upon discovering how many improv teams there are in the area, Gage came up with the idea of getting them together for a mock contest to give the art form greater exposure in the Columbus area.

"That was the hope," he said.

"It seemed like in Columbus, it was only the people who knew the folks in the shows who went."

The contests are conducted along the lines of the television program "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

"We always get a suggestion from the audience to start our scene," Shimp said.

"That's always fun because you never know what you're going to get.

"Improv audiences are pretty smart people. They like the fact you're going up there without a script and jumping out there on stage," he said.

"It's not an individual thing. It's a relationship with the person you're having a scene with," Shimp said.

"If you listen and respond, make it big, it's usually successful."

"It kind of brought the community together," Gage said. "Everyone's friends now. It's competition in spirit only,

"I think seeing it live, seeing it made there on the spot, is a lot more rewarding for the audience," he said.

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