Acting Out in Boston: Behind the Scenes at the Improv Asylum

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When it comes to nightlife, Bostonians are not exactly exhibitors of a wallflower demeanor once the streetlights flicker on. Established in 1998, Improv Asylum is nestled in the heart of Boston’s North End-and it couldn’t be a more entertaining addition to the neighborhood. It’s a wildly hysterical destination spot for first dates, bachelorette parties, or just a unique night out. The Improv Asylum has been featured on HBO, and was recognized in 2015 as Boston’s Best Comedy Venue by DigBoston.

We were fortunate enough to chat with assistant general manager, Erica Leblanc. Erica is a graduate of Suffolk University, and has been involved with the Improv Asylum since April 2014, when she began working as an usher. Open seven days a week, the Improv Asylum hosts a revolving schedule of customized shows. We were most enamored with the basis of their Thursday night show, “Half Cocked,” a drunken-history show where a belligerent expert engages the audience in a topic they are particularly knowledgeable about. (Erica’s topic was Beyonce-which made us fall in love with her just a little more). In addition to their signature sketches, the Improv Asylum also offers unique corporate training as well as improve classes, for those looking to get their foot in the comedy world. (More information about the corporate training program can be found on ianinnovation.com)

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As Erika explains, there is no scarcity of variety in their shows. Audiences can expect the unexpected. “All the shows vary. You can get a show that is 100% improv, and some which are a combination of sketch and improve. Some shows showcase students from our training center. Others are a combination of alumni from the theater and staff members.” Audience members should also brace their belly’s for some real laughs-as cast members and audience participants are not exactly known for a tendency to hold back.  When asked to recall one of the most memorable shows for her, Erika was kind enough to regale us with the unforgettable premise of the first show she ever worked for at the asylum, aptly named “The Victoria Secret Drinking Problem.”

“When you’re behind the scenes you see the show so much that you have every lined memorized, every cue memorized.” Erika assures us, however, that the show never gets old. “I laugh just as hard every time.” Being assistant general manager has also enabled Erika to witness firsthand the performance evolution of both the actors and the skits as they find their niche in the comedic improve world. All jokes aside, it’s been quite the ride thus far for the Improv Asylum team as they approach their 20th anniversary year. If you’re in Boston and need a laugh, grab your ticket at the door and get your giggle on!

 

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