Want to get involved in Birmingham’s comedy scene? Here are 4 improv groups to check out

Gladys Improv groups at Saturn
The boys of Gladys birthed Faraway Theater earlier this year. (Callie Morrison / Bham Now)

You sit in a crowd of people, lights dim and just when the eruption of applause stops, you’re transported into a world of perfect comedic timing and laughs. This atmosphere can be known as one thing: an improv show.

There are plenty of improv groups bringing this camaraderie to The Magic City. Buckle up, we’ve got a show for you.

1. Ugly Baby Improv

Since 2010, Ugly Baby has been a stalwart for long-form improv in the community and coined the phrase “Dangerously Funny Improv.”

I sat down with Chris Davis, who’s been with Ugly Baby since the glory days, to hear about the community guaranteed to form throughout shows and classes.

“You’ll get to interact with not just the people on the stage with you, but with the audience. When we do a show, we tend to hang out with each other afterward, so there’s a lot of camaraderie that comes with it.”

Chris Davis, Ugly Baby

For those of you eager to see this comedy for yourself, Ugly Baby’s next show is Saturday, September 9 at Red Mountain Theatre. Get your tickets now.

2. Faraway Theater

Faraway Theater improv class
Classes are in full swing with Michael and Tim at Faraway Theater. (Faraway Theater)

Talk about a full-circle moment—Jacob Simmons, Michael Greene and Tim Casper started Gladys Improv after meeting in Ugly Baby.

“We all came from other regions of the country that had robust improv communities, and we didn’t see a lot of that in Birmingham, so we were excited to foster that here.”

Michael Greene, Gladys Improv & Faraway Theater

Years after performing and teaching classes, Faraway Theater was born out of a response to the growing improv community in Birmingham.

“Earlier this year, we started seeing a lot more people come to our shows and thought it might be a good time to try and make that dream a reality.”

Jacob Simmons, Gladys Improv & Faraway Theater

In true comedic-fashion, Tim compared their role in creating Faraway Theater to that of a midwife’s.

“A community is aching to be born, and we wanted to have a place where we could facilitate that. We’re just midwifes ushering everything along.”

Tim Casper, Gladys Improv & Faraway Theater

The classes at Faraway Theater are for anyone and everyone willing to try something new. Jacob, Michael and Tim echoed the same thoughts: the skills you learn and develop in improv classes are applicable anywhere.

Faraway Theater offers 8-week courses taught by Michael and Tim—you can find more information on their website.

3. Chaotic Good Improv

Chaotic Good Improv
You can catch CGI shows at Sidewalk Cinema (Melanie Jeffcoat / CGI)

Chaotic Good Improv, affectionately known as CGI, seeks to connect with their audience through interactive shows. An improv show lends itself to a completely different world of creative possibilities, and the CGI team has a few thoughts about why audiences love this world so much.

“I think Birmingham has a growing younger demographic that are looking for entertainment aside from going to the club or the movies. Improv is one of those things where every show you go to is completely different.”

Scott Pierce, CGI

On the outside, improv—and comedy in general—looks a lot like a boys club. Melanie Jeffcoat shared how she broke these barriers and found her place in improv.

“For me, it was simply meeting the right people that made a welcome space and continue to do so. Now, even if I’m the only woman on stage, I feel a sense of responsibility for representation.”

Melanie Jeffcoat, CGI

See the CGI squad in action twice at heir next “CGI Fridays” show on September 8 at East 59 Cafe. Get your tickets now. You can also catch them at “Improv at the Cinema” twice a month at Sidewalk Cinema.

Eager to work with the culture at CGI? Check out the improv classes they’re offering starting mid-September.

4. Extemporaneous Theatre Company

ETC Improv
Contagious creativity and laughter comes from ETC Bham shows. (ETC Bham / Facebook)

Since 2008, Extemporaneous Theatre Company (ETC) has seen countless local comedians come in for classes or shows and move onto creating their own improv groups.

ETC offers customized workshops for schools, corporations or civic groups. These workshops are typically single sessions, but they work with each client to customize the experience.

We got to hear from ETC’s chairman about why he still takes the stage after two decades of comedy.

“When I started improvising back in 2000, I was looking to hone my comedy skills and earn a little extra pocket change–but the people I met and the skills I learned prove to be the reason for falling in love with improv.”

Douglas O’Neil, Jr., Chairman, ETC Bham

ETC is hosting an Improv Jam on September 22 at Birmingham Festival Theatre for other improv groups to create a unified display of our city’s talent. See Birmingham’s comedy stars for yourself—get your tickets now.

“Getting involved in improv is a great tool to develop your perspective on the world as a person and as a comedian.

You ask yourself the question, ‘Who am I as a person that finds humor in the world?”

Tim Casper, Gladys Improv & Faraway Theater

Planning on supporting Birmingham improv groups? Tag us @bhamnow to let us know which shows you’re headed to!

Callie Morrison
Callie Morrison
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