Instructors

Mark Amato

Mark Amato

Mark Amato’s credits include writing for “Saturday Night Live,” “Son of the Beach,” and “Suite Life on Deck with Zack & Cody”, “Baby Daddy”, as well as a spec comedy feature turned ABC/Family hit “Revenge of the Bridesmaids”. Mark began his career working as an assistant at ICM, then at management powerhouse Brillstein-Grey where he quickly ascended to the ranks of executive before heading to Sony Television as Director of Comedy Development. Quickly making the segue to full-time writer, Mark has written in almost all fields of television including sketch, half-hour, Sci-Fi, animation and movie-of-the-week. Having pitched and sold three network pilots before even becoming Story Editor, Mark knows a thing or two about getting executives to turn their heads and take notice. Mark has written television abroad as well, working in Toronto, Montreal and the U.K. Beyond earning shekels for the written word, Mark consistently finds new ways to tickle audiences like co-creating the hilarious showbiz skewering website DAILYANXIETY.com (which Entertainment Weekly dubbed, “wickedly mischievous”), wrote and starred as Jerry Lewis in “The Last Telethon” at the Comedy Central Theater last December, as well as winning the dubious title of “Best Christopher Walken impression” after his YouTube video “Christopher Walken as a Nursery School Teacher” went viral. When not writing, Mark works tirelessly at finding fresh ways to get his kids to roll their eyes at him.


Mike Canale

Mike Canale

Mike has taught written & performed sketch in Chicago & L.A. He co-created the Annoyance Theater’s sketch writing program and had a hand in creating the iO West Theater’s sketch writing program as well. Recently he sold a short film, and had another short film he wrote accepted into over a dozen film festivals. He currently directs the iO West Mainstage Sketch Team, “It Doesn’t Have to be this Way.”


Colleen Doyle

Colleen Doyle

Colleen Doyle grew up in Cleveland where she wrote greeting cards and was a part of the cast that opened The Second City Cleveland. She has made appearances in the indie features Close Quarters and Open Tables as well as the NYTVF Best Comedy Pilot, Shrink. Colleen taught at iO Chicago for the past five years (Teacher of the Year 2014) and performed with the lovely ladies of Virgin Daiquiri, Babymakers, and in the first sketch revue at the Mission Theater, Trap. In LA, Colleen can be seen with “Dummy” at iO West. For more info, please visit “thecolleendoyle.com.”

 

 

Craig Cackowski

Craig Cackowski

Craig Cackowski has been involved with the iO and iO West Theaters as a performer, coach, teacher and director since 1992. As a teacher, he is the three-time winner of the Del Close Award as Teacher of the Year. As a performer, he can be seen weekly at iO West improvising with Bob Dassie and Rich Talarico in Dasariski (celebrating 15 years together in 2014!). In Chicago, Craig performed with the Second City Mainstage and ETC, as well as with Baby Wants Candy, Carl and the Passions and the original cast of Close Quarters. Film and television appearances include Drunk History, Community, Veep, Newsreaders, Comedy Bang Bang, The Mindy Project, How I Met Your Mother, Trust Us With Your Life, Workaholics, The Kings Of Summer, 21 And Over and Year of The Dog. He may also be heard on the long-running podcast The Thrilling Adventure Hour, playing such characters as Colonel Tick Tock and millionaire hobo Banjo Bindlestuff.

He can currently be seen performing at iO with The Armando Diaz Experience, Quartet, and Dasariski.


Sean Cowhig

Sean Cowhig

Sean Cowhig is from Boston, MA and is a graduate of Emerson College. While at Emerson Sean joined the all improv comedy troupe This is Pathetic. He remained with the troupe for three years including his senior year when he was president of the troupe. Sean is a graduate of iO West’s improv program. He has been a member of several Mainstage Harold teams (Saucebox, Maddox Furley, Hey Swayze). Sean can be seen performing both improv and sketch at iO West with Dr. God, Pilot, and Top Story Weekly. He has guested in some of the greatest improv shows around, Opening Night the Musical, Dasariski, and The Armando Show.

Sean could be seen performing with  Top Story! Weekly, Dr. God, Spin-Off Cinema, Glory Stories, Dr. God Revival

 

Tamara Federici

Tamara Federici

Tamara (WGA, Dramatists Guild) became a staff writer for Important Things with Demetri Martin simply by having a great packet. She co-wrote pieces for The Daily Show by first gaining their attention with a strong submission packet. Then HBO liked The Daily Show pieces and hired her as Senior Writer for This Just In. All to say, she’s a big believer in the power of packets!

 

 

Megan Grano

Megan Grano

Megan Grano has been teaching at iO West since 2008. Additionally, she teaches improv and sketch at Second City – where she’s worked for over a decade. She also co-created and taught the sketch-writing curriculum for the Annoyance Theater in Chicago.
Megan has used improv to coach people of all ages and professions, including corporate clients, children in foster care, and even the homeless. She has worked one-on-one with a wide variety of clients including up and coming comedians, Kathy Joosten, Ashton Kutcher, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Megan has taught workshops for Columbia College, UCLA Business School, The Great American Comedy Festival in Nebraska, and The Del Close Comedy Festival in New York. She flies all over the country to work with independent improv groups and she even was flown to Paris, France to teach the French improv group: Eux.

Megan can be seen performing with Grace ‘n Grano


Greg Hess

Greg Hess

Greg Hess has been performing at iO since 2003, where he has also instructed. As a performer his credits include Cook County Social Club, the Improvised Shakespeare Company, the Second City national touring company, and Baby Wants Candy, among others. He has been a featured performer at the TBS Just For Laughs Festival, Moontower Comedy Festival, the Chicago Improv Festival and Picollo Spoleto. On screen credits include Playing House, The Soul Man, Key & Peele, and he has also created a recent pilot for Comedy Central. He has trained at the Second City, iO and the School at Steppenwolf.

Greg can be seen performing with Cook County Social Club


Barry Hite

Zach Huddleston

Barry Hite is a senior writer for Second City Network. His web series Get Swole was selected for the 2015 LA WebFest. He was also a staff writer for Tough Season, a web series from The Onion Labs featuring NFL players like Andrew Luck and Doug Flutie. He also co-created the web series “I’m a Fan” in partnership with YouTube Space LA, Second City and The NFL.

He has performed sketch and improv at Second City, Chicago Sketch Fest, TBS Just For Laughs, iO, UCB, and Rahm Emanuel’s inauguration (it was uncomfortable). His first one-man shows: So Very Important and Barry Hite: Charisma Machine were Time Out Critics Picks. He thinks false bravado is only funny in people who aren’t actual dickheads.

Select credits include: Family Tree House Boat Accident, Holy Fuck Comedy Hour, and the Second City National Touring Company.

For more self promotion go to thebarryhite.com


Eric Hunicutt

Brian Jack

Eric Hunicutt has been performing scripted and improvised theatre continuously since he was 15 years old: everything from Shakespeare at Lincoln Center to sketch comedy in dive bars (with a lot of improv shows throughout). Eric has studied and performed with Improv Olympic (iO) Chicago, The Second City Chicago, Comedy Sportz, Steppenwolf, and is a proud alumnus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a working actor and director in film, TV, live theatre, and performs weekly at iO West, as well as touring nationally with the acclaimed Chicago-based ensemble The Reckoning. Directing credits include shows at The Comedy Central Stage, iO West, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, The Second City (L.A. & Chicago),The Upright Citizens’ Brigade Theateres (NYC & L.A.), and the University of California San Diego. In addition to iO West, Eric teaches at Steppenwolf Classes West, Warner Loughlin Studios, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Cal State University’s Summer Arts, and recently served as a Guest Faculty/Director at UC San Diego.

Eric could be seen performing with  The Reckoning, The Armando Show


Holly Laurent

Holly Laurent

Holly Laurent is a member of the longstanding improv group The Reckoning and is a consulting writer for The Onion News Network. As a cast member of the Second City main stage in Chicago she wrote and performed in their past three revues Southside of Heaven, Who Do We Think We Are, and Let Them Eat Chaos. She trained at iO Chicago, the Annoyance Theater, 500 Clown, and toured with the Second City touring company. Holly holds a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College and teaches improv everywhere.

Holly can be seen performing with The Reckoning

Lyndsay Hailey

Lyndsay Hailey

Bio coming soon.


Dave Hill

Dave Hill

Dave Hill is a Chicago native and veteran improvisational performer, writer and actor who has been performing at IO (Chicago and West) for several years. Trained at ImprovOlympic, the Annoyance Theater and the Second City, he was a member of the celebrated house team People of Earth at IO Chicago in addition to performing with numerous other wonderful ensembles including Atlantis and Jimmy Jimmy Do. Here at IO West he performs with King Ten and Cog as well as regularly appearing in the Armando show and the occasional sketch affair. He has done several commercials and TV and film work, but he does not think it germane to this biography.

Dave can be seen performing with King Ten, The Cherry Pick, The Armando Show, Hill / Jones


Zach Huddleston

Barry Hite

Zach Huddleston has been performing Improv, stand-up, and sketch comedy for the last decade around the country. He graduated from the University of Florida where he was a member of the improv group Theater Strike Force and toured as a standup comic. He performs with HeyDay, 2014 Del Award Winner for Best Harold Team. He’s also an expert at playing exasperated police captains who are sick of you being such a loose cannon.


Brian Jack

Eric Hunicutt

Brian Jack is an actor, improvisor and writer born and raised in the greater Chicagoland area. He got his start improvising & performing sketch comedy at all the top comedy institutions like Columbia College, Improv Olympic and Second City. He even spent a few years abroad performing comedy with Boom Chicago. He has appeared on television shows such as “Mad Men”, “Cougar Town” and a commercial or two. Brian teaches improv workshops several times a year at theaters & universities throughout the country and of course at iO West!

Brian performs regularly at iO West with The Reckoning on Thursday nights and with Armando on Saturday nights.


Ed Lee

Ed Lee

Ed Lee is an alumnus of the iO West Improv Training Center. He has been on the writing staff of almost 100 episodes of television comedy (including “Are You There, Chelsea?” and “The Drew Carey Show”), written numerous freelance episodes, and worked in punch-up rooms of several television pilots. He has also lectured and taught seminars in film and screenwriting at Wesleyan University and Gettysburg College.


Margot Leitman-Curry

Margot Leitman

Margot Leitman-Curry is a four time winner of The Moth Storyslam, and was the Moth Grandslam winner in New York City. Her first book “Gawky…Tales of an Extra Long Awkward Phase,” comes out this May from Seal Press. She is the co-host of the storytelling shows “Stripped Stories” and “Small and Tall Tales” and has written online for the Lifetime Network, College Humor.com, EHow.com, the Frisky.com and in print for Playgirl Magazine and the NY Press. She is the co-writer of the made for TV movie “Cupid’s Bed and Breakfast,” starring Haylie Duff, airing soon on the Hallmark Channel. www.margotleitman.com

James Mastraieni

James Mastraieni

James Mastraieni has been improvising all over the place for awhile now. After moving to Los Angeles in 2005 he decided to take on the daunting task of taking classes at Second City, iO West, and Upright Citizen’s Brigade at the same time. After all that hard work, dedication, and confusion he was one of the first people hired out of LA to tour for the Second City cruise ships. He spent two years at sea, returned to LA and picked up where he left off, spending three years on iO West Harold team, The Cartel, followed by a year with the Harold team, Sweeterhouse. Now, he regularly performs at iOWest every Friday night at 10pm with Orpheus Roy on the mainstage and over at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade on the Harold team The Ruckus. He’s been teaching at iOWest for over a year now and coaches many teams including DCT Harold team Hooligan and he coached two Time Best DCT Harold Team Del Close Award winner Popular Science. He also has written two web series “Unemployed: The Show” and “2Bed/1Bath.” He’s a master at plugging a show.


Brian James O’Connell

George McAuliffe

Brian James O’Connell is a working actor, writer, director, filmmaker and improviser in Los Angeles. Brian is a graduate of the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts (David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jody Hill,Ben Best, Peter Hedges, Mary-Louise Parker, Tom Hulce,Terrence Mann, Chris Parnell, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jeff Nichols) and moved to Los Angeles to follow his dreams of a career in filmmaking. Read more about Brian here on his website

George McAuliffe

Brian James O'Connell

George is an improviser and writer living in Los Angeles. He started in Chicago with the iO team Revolver and is a founding member of the critically acclaimed Chicago sketch group Sad On Vacation. He currently contributes writing to The Onion News Network. George has written and performed in pilots and films that have screened at the New York Television Festival, Sundance and South By Southwest Film Festivals. He has been a featured performer at TBS Just For Laughs Festival, in Bob Odenkirk’s Not Inappropriate Show and has written five critically acclaimed comedic plays at The Annoyance Theatre. George can be seen performing with the harold team Boy at iO West, The Blank Experience Sketch Show and Single’s Motel.

Douglas Sarine

Douglas Sarine

Douglas Sarine is an improviser, writer and producer living in Los Angeles. He is an alumnus of iO West and The Second City L.A. where his credits include improv and sketch shows such as The Armando Show, Goal, Encino Evil, and Lloyd Dobbler’s Boombox.  He is the co-creator of the Webby Award winning web series Ask A Ninja as well as working on a ridiculous number of internet shows and videos. He’s been on TV shows such as The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Jimmy Kimmel Live and you can occasionally hear his voice telling you to buy stuff. Douglas fell in love with improv over 15 years ago and they are still together today.


Rich Talarico

Nate Sherman
Rich Talarico is an Emmy Nominated and Peabody Award Winning writer and Co-Producer for Comedy Central’s KEY & PEELE. Rich is also a staff writer for Comedy Central’s REVIEW WITH FORREST MACNEIL.  Previously, Rich wrote for THE KEY AND PEELE SUPER-BOWL SPECIAL, MAD TV, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO. A 23-year improv veteran, Rich studied with Stephen Colbert, Charna Halpern & Del Close. Rich trained & performed at the Second City, Chicago and iO (Improv Olympic), Chicago. Rich has led his ‘The Way Of Improv’ Workshop in San Francisco, Boston, Austin, Toronto, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Chapel Hill, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles & NYC. Rich performs regularly at iO West Theater, Los Angeles and at festivals and theaters all over the US with his improv group DASARISKI.

Mark Vannier

Mark Vannier

Mark Vannier is a writer and performer in Los Angeles after getting his start in Chicago. He has written and performed at several theaters and festivals across the country including the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, Capital Fringe Festival in DC, Chicago Sketchfest, TBS Just For Laughs festival and the New York Television Festival. He taught and directed at the Second City Training Center’s Writing Program as well as the Annoyance Theater in Chicago where he wrote, performed in and directed over a dozen original shows. He also performed in several shows and harold teams at iO Chicago and iO West. Mark is a member of the comedy group Sad On Vacation which does live shows as well as video content, and they are currently developing a web series for WITv. He completed his MFA in Fiction from Southern Illinois University where he taught Composition and Creative Writing courses. His writing has been published in several literary journals and has been read on Chicago Public Radio.

Jason Shotts

Jason Shotts

Jason Shotts has been performing improv since 2003. Currently, he’s performing at the iO West Theater in the two-person improv show “Dummy.” He’s been proudly teaching improv for 8 years and received iO Chicago’s 2011 and 2013 Del Award for “Best Teacher”. In November 2014 he’ll be teaching improv in Rome, Italy and Lucerne, Switzerland. For more info, please visit “jasonshotts.com.”


Paul Vaillancourt

Paul Vaillancourt

Paul Vaillancourt is the co-founder (with Charna Halpern) of the iO West and has been teaching and performing improv for over 20 years. In that time he has appeared all over the country including such notable venues as HBO’s Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Chicago’s iO (where he studied with the immortal Del Close), New York’s UCB Theater, and the iO West here in Los Angeles. As an actor Paul has appeared on such shows as “The Drew Carey Show”, the UPN sitcom “Half & Half”, and the Oxygen Network’s stand out “Girls Behaving Badly”. Paul has also had success as a writer and producer, co-creating and serving as supervising writer for the MTV hit “The Blame Game” as well as lending his writing and producing talents to a score of other shows for MTV, VH1, USA, Oxygen, Bravo and AMC. Paul currently lives in LA with his wife Lindsey and his two children.