Tribbitt, a member of Mandatory Friends Improv Comedy, is also Training
Center coordinator for The Second City. "I've seen such enormous
changes and growth in improv here in Las Vegas since The Second
City arrived in 2001," she says. "I think troupes like Mandatory
Friends is helping the Las Vegas audience understand different components
of theatrical experience."
Tribbitt also points out, "There are more long-form troupes now
and I think there's more experimentation as there is in Chicago,
the absolute hub of improvisational entertainment. Certainly, the
touring company performers who come to our main stage at the Flamingo
bring with them that Chicago expertise."
With "spot" improv, a group takes the audiences suggestions and
creates the scene "on the spot" to create scenes. Many stand-up
comedians are grateful for their improv background when dealing
with audiences who sometimes throw comments to the stage.
Most improv is done as a group so it's fundamental that there is
an instinctual agreement between individuals regarding the material.
Everyone has to quickly agree with each other about where they are,
who they are and what's going on. to make a scene work and be able
to build upon it.
Phillips, one of the founders of Mandatory Friends improv group
points out what makes the difference between a stand-up comedian
and improvisational performer. "A stand-up comedian likes to keep
the spotlight to him/herself," he says. "Working in improv requires
a team player personality as everyone works off each other."
Phillips and Mandatory Friends Jennifer Smith, Scott Roeben, Veronica
Moorhead, Jennifer Tribbitt and Brandon Muller get up on stage at
the Bourbon Street hotel-casino every Tuesday night. "We spend an
hour doing long-form improvisation," says Phillips. "It's a blank
slate and we have little but ourselves to work with but we always
come up with a great show."
The audience is a 50-50 split of tourists and local residents who
come to see a show without props, costumes or preconceived plots.
"We create characters, locations and objects as we go," Phillips
says.Admission is free. "We really do it purely for the artistic
love of it, honest," Phillips says. "There's no money, but lots
of fun and satisfaction. I realize that's not common in a city where
money rules and everyone wants to have a show to make money. It's
a more common attitude somewhere like New York, which is not to
say I don't like Vegas. I love it here."
Aspirations for Phillips and his troupe are purely artistic. "We
want to keep getting better and funnier," he says. "And we hope
someone likes us as we are and sets us up with a permanent venue."
Phillips explained that "long form" improv includes taking an idea
and building the show for an entire one hour. It's sometimes accomplished
when one member chooses to "tap out" characters from a scene to
take the others in another direction into a whole other scene. One
element builds upon another.
Meanwhile, members of Mandatory Friends keep their day jobs as
a writers, teachers, car valets, training coordinators and sales
reps. All have studied with the prestigious Second City.
The Second City has its roots in Chicago but has grown with strong
footholds in Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Here,
their resident theatre is in the Flamingo with shows seven nights
It not only offers top-notch comedy and improvisation. It has an
outreach program to increase minority participation in the arts.
And The Second City Training Center offers classes in the art and
creation of sketch comedy, improvisation, satire and comedy writing
taught by working professionals in their fields.
"Some people come with their girl or boy friends just for fun,"
says Kristin Burnett of the four-week Intro to Improv class. "That's
enough for those who are just curious. Others have been out of the
biz for a long time, and go on to many other classes here."
Training graduates have a great opportunity. "Scriptless [improv]
cast can be drawn from classes," says Burnett. "It's a perfect opportunity
for actors without main stage experience.
Scripted actors at the Flamingo main stage Second City are union/Equity
performers. They are hired out of the main headquarters in Chicago
after paying their dues performing with The Second City touring
Phillips, who has been doing improvisational comedy for almost
two years suggests that neophytes first read Del Close's book, Truth
in Comedy. Close is touted as being a pioneer in improv. The best
way to develop unique improv skills he offers, "is to take classes
with The Second City, then experiment and do, do, do."
Read the full article at Backstage.com.