MinniHaha: Splendid Improv with Splendid Things (and friends)

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Ask a comic from Chicago about the Windy City's venues for local standup, and you'll likely hear a lot of grumbling about too few rooms and too many improv shows. They might shortly thereafter grumble about moving to Minneapolis. The Twin Cities standup scene, meanwhile, is well-served and appears to be doing a bit of expanding.

But Twin Cities improv groups might do a little grumbling of their own. There are venues and shows, sure, but improv teams spend a lot of time homeless, venue-hopping for a short run here or there without the ability to build a steady audience with a consistent showcase. To that end, the members of the improv team Splendid Things are doing what they do best -- winging it. The group has put together A Splendid Evening (with Splendid Things and Friends) for a ten-week run they're hoping to parlay into an open-ended weekly show.

Every Monday night the Splendid Things gang (Knobel, Hannah Kuhlmann, and Michael Ritchie, who met while working together at ComedySportz) splits the bill with another crew; Ferrari McSpeedy, Five Man Job, and The Mustache Rangers, have all performed, and this week the Gay/Straight Alliance becomes the first group to do the show twice.

Knobel says one of their main goals is to achieve a consistency not just in the quality of performance but in the scheduling. That's in large part, he says, because he understands that when audiences shell out cash for a show, they should have some assurance that the performance will be reliably professional. Anyone who's wandered blindly into more than a couple improv shows likely knows the gnawing awkwardness that fills a room when the comedy falls flat.

"We want to take out that hesitating factor when people are considering going to an improv show, and instead make it something they can't wait to see," Knobel says.

Good improv, he adds, is "a team of people silently agreeing on weaving something very simple or very complicated together using some kind of freak group-mind. So when you not only see an individual, but a group of individuals come together as a team to do all of this, and it works, it's an incredible sight."

A Splendid Evening (with Splendid Things and Friends). $6/$10. Monday, April 27, 8 p.m. at the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater.810 W. Lake St. Minneapolis. 612.825.8949.

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