Improv Training Center
Level 1 Intensive
A two-week intensive option encompassing all of the material covered in Level 1.
Class meets seven times for 3.5 hours per class.
Level 1: Introduction to Improv
In this class you are introduced to all the fundamental skills of improvising, while improving your ability to listen and explore the power of building off of other people’s ideas. Level 1 is a survey of the entire program, exposing you to the elements of scene work and the various skills involved in creating well-acted, comedic improvisation.
Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate that their listening has improved over the course of the term and that they are willing to build off of their partners’ ideas, in addition to having gained some proficiency with the technical aspects of actually doing so on stage. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.
Level 2: Character & Game
With the basics of listening and building off of other people’s ideas under your belt, you will now go far deeper into all aspects of creating and playing characters founded in strong points of view. You will learn how to identify, create and play comedic games in your scenes, as we break down the elements of a comedic improv scene, demystifying what goes into making a scene funny and its comedic characters believable. Passing this level qualifies you to move on to Level 3 of our Improv Training program, as well as take any classes in our Industry Improv program.
Passing Criteria: Students must be able to consistently create believable characters with clear points of view, consistently identify the game of the scene and have gained proficiency in creating and playing games over the course of the scene. Attendance at 5 of 7 classes on your day, regardless of make-ups.
Level 3: You
Building off of and advancing all of the skills from Levels 1 and 2, this class will help you figure out what your own comedic point of view is, what your instincts are as a performer, and how you can continue to stretch yourself and increase your versatility. We will do this while forwarding all of your skills as an actor/improviser: listening, building ideas, creating and playing characters, creating and playing comedic games, etc.
Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate that they have improved in their ability to listen and build on others’ ideas, create and play believable characters, and identify and play games in scenes. Students must also be able to articulate aspects of their own point of view and translate it into their work on stage. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.
Level 4: Advanced Scene Work
Based on solid acting, character work and scenic game play, this level aims to vault you forward to high degrees of proficiency and consistency in all aspects of your scene work, building up the necessary skills to not just create rich comedic scenes that stand alone, but that can also serve as the main substance of a long form piece.
Passing Criteria: Demonstrate proficiency with advanced techniques for creating and playing characters and identifying and playing games in scenes. Students must be able to consistently perform scenes with believable characters, execute comedic games and focus on what is going on between the characters on stage in the moment that we are watching them. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.
Level 5: Harold
You will learn all of the elements of the long form piece iO was founded on, The Harold, including openings, beat structure, non-scenic group games, organic group work, advanced support moves, and how to use variety and texture to create a show that explores an idea that the group creates together. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages.
Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate an ability to create and execute all of the elements of a Harold: openings, beat structure, non-scenic elements, editing/pacing, and variety and texture. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups, and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.
Level 6: Advanced Harold
Armed with the ability to execute all of the elements of a Harold, you will now learn how to improvise the structure of your shows, leading to wildly inventive pieces that challenge you to express yourself to the fullest extent of your creativity, and help that creativity evolve. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages.
Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate an ability to navigate all of the elements of a Harold when those elements are not in a training wheels structure. Students must have demonstrated an ability to make choices within a show to drive it structurally using the various elements at their disposal from Level 5. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.
Level 7: Graduate Level - Creating Your Own Show
In this final level, the teacher takes on the role of director, working with you and your classmates to help you create a show based on your very own improv form. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages and all shows will be considered for longer runs upon their completion.
Passing Criteria: Attendance at 5 of 7 your scheduled classes and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.
Youth Program: Teens (13-17) (5 Days)
iO West’s Teens classes introduce the fundamental skills of improvisational comedy, the hilarious art form that sparked the success of comedians like Tina Fey, Jason Sudeikis, Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler and many more! Classes will focus on teamwork, characters, storytelling, and truthful comedy through imaginative games and scene work. Through their study of improv, students will learn valuable skills that are not only must-haves for television, film, and commercials but for performing, comedy, and life. All classes culminate in a final performance where they will have the chance to show off their improv chops on the iO West Mainstage!
Stand Up Workshop (7 weeks)
This seven-week course walks writer-performers step-by-step through the process of crafting an innovative solo show that showcases each writer-performer’s unique strengths.
While the class is appropriate for actors who want to tell their own stories, this class is not limited to autobiographical narrative or to an abstract display of multiple characters. There are so many possibilities within the genre that are fully explored. There is an emphasis on metaphor, symbolism and other literary and theatrical devices that heighten and explore chosen themes.
The course begins the participants taking an inventory of their own skills, exploring objectives, zeroing in on themes, becoming familiar with a variety of structures and exploring and using what makes them and their show unique.
The course culminates with a showcase either on the Main Stage or in the DCT wherein every writer-performer presents either all or part of what they create.
This class is limited to ten participants. No submission or audition is necessary, but enthusiastic exploration is.
While the class is primarily geared for performers who want to write their own solo shows, the class is open to playwrights who want to craft solo pieces for others.
The cost is $350, which includes the book “How to Put on Your Own One Person Show,” personalized attention and the culminating showcase.
Stretch Your Sketch-Writing for the Stage-Level 1 (7 Weeks)
Take your sketch writing skills to the next level by brainstorming with a group, writing your sketch, re-writing after notes and punch up, group writing and writing with improvisation. Class culminates with your favorites sketches performed by the class with your own sketch show on the iO Mainstage. Pre-requisite: A writing and improv class from a recognized school and/or theater.
Intro to Sketch Writing (7 Weeks)
Do you feel like you have funny ideas but no concept how to translate them to paper? Then this is the class for you! In this 7-week class, former SNL writer Matt Craig teaches a simplified structure for writing comedic sketches. In this comprehensive class, Matt will cover all the basics of sketch writing covering form and structure to content and application. A perfect workshop for beginning students looking to take an all-encompassing introduction to scene writing or for experienced writers looking to bolster their already existing arsenal, participants will walk away with a strong understanding of how to write well-executed and consistent sketches as well as how to apply these techniques to stage projects, online videos, webisodes, spec scripts, writing packets, pilots, screenplays...just about any writing project you can imagine!
Writing an Original Pilot (14 Weeks)
Do you have an original idea for a comedic television show? Networks and the web are hungry for new content and literary agents want to see your original show! In this two term class, you will go from sharing and brainstorming your idea, to beating out and outlining your pilot episode and then writing your show from the cold open to the closing tag. Each act is read aloud in class, notes and punch up are given, with valuable feedback from the group and teacher. Time is allowed for re-writes and incorporation of notes. This class culminates with a staged reading of your show for friends, family and industry professionals.
TV Talk Show Writing (7 Weeks)
Learn the ins and outs of what it takes and what is required to write on a talk show. From what is needed to submit to a talk show, and/or literary agent, what is required from a writer at the morning meetings, practice and punch up in writing the essential elements, i.e. monologue jokes, desk bits, remote segment ideas and more.
SNL Sketch Packet (7 Weeks)
The goal of this class is an SNL sketch packet comprised of at least six separate sketches suitable for submission to literary agents, TV producers and SNL itself. In this class by former SNL writer Matt Craig, students will hit the ground running and experience what it is like to write for a weekly sketch comedy show. Curriculum will cover Weekend Update jokes, cold openings, monologues, commercial parodies, Digital Shorts, TV and Movie parodies, cast and group scenes, as well as original and existing Character sketches in a SNL-style weekly writer's room environment. Ideally, students will walk away from the class with not only a solid SNL sketch packet but a business plan to move forward in pursuit of an agent and career in the world of writing. Previous sketch writing experience is a must. Pre-requisite: A writing class from a recognized school and/or theater.
How To Jumpstart Your Career On Your Own (7 Weeks)
Ask a budding actor or writer what’s the key to success in Hollywood and they’ll say getting a good agent, right? Wrong. In today’s competitive world the idea of believing getting an agent will lead to a road paved with auditions, meetings and opportunities is the equivalent of believing in the Agent Fairy. The fact is nobody is a better salesman at selling YOU than you are. This course focuses entirely on creative ways for you to take control of your own career and stand out from the rest of the pack. Whether you have an agent or not, this course will help guide you through the steps on what you can do to get the industry to take notice rather than sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Everyone wants what they can’t have and the key to success in this town is finding the way to create the BUZZ of excitement rather than the WHINE of desperation. Think there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstance? Think again.
Scriptwriting: The Punch-Up Process (7 Weeks)
In today's competitive world of half-hour comedy writing, 'good enough' simply isn't enough. If an agent or current executive isn't audibly laughing by page five, more than likely your script will be tossed aside. Course will concentrate exclusively on the "punch up" process by getting you to think outside the box and come up with alternative jokes, use "the room" as an audience as well as your own personal "writer's room" to help take your half-hour from good to great - from funny to brilliant -- and from... okay, you get the idea. Find all the tricks to get in touch with your inner funny so you can bring up the bar to industry standards. Writers are welcome to bring in their specs so by the end of the course you'll get every word to sing on key.
How to Pitch to Networks and Studios (7 Weeks)
Think you've got an idea for the next great series? That's only half of it. In order for executives to take notice, you need a pitch that will get execs EXCITED… not sighing, checking their watch or worse yet, yawning. Lean how to get network and studio executives excited with a tight, taut, pithy sellable pitch. Learn how to craft a lean, mean, series pitch - and figure out answers to every executive question before they're asked. Course will take writers during the whole process from idea/notion to character/premise breakdown and episodic ideas to crafting the final product into a sellable PITCH.
Crafting the Perfect Story For Your Spec or Pilot (7 Weeks)
Staffing season is but a few months away and half hour comedy specs stay fresh about as long as bread. Don't sit back and wait for last year’s MODERN FAMILY spec to get you meetings... it’s time craft a GREAT SPEC that will get agents/current executives and show runners noticed. But every great spec starts with the story—it’s where writers coined the term “it writes itself”. Learn how to break a terrific story, including A, B, and sometimes C story into a workable outline that will have you saying "the script wrote itself" because it was that good!
Stretch Your Sketch-Writing for the Stage-Level 2 (7 Weeks)
Take your sketch writing skills to the next level by brainstorming with a group, writing your sketch, re-writing after notes and punch up, group writing and writing with improvisation. Class culminates with your favorites sketches performed by the class with your own sketch show on the iO Mainstage. Pre-requisite: Stretch Your Sketch - Level 1
Outlining Your Screenplay (7 Weeks)
Write a compelling script that’s impossible to stop reading, vividly cinematic, properly formatted, and realistically produce-able? Mitch can help guide you in creating characters, building plots, shaping scenes, sharpening dialogue. Whether you seek to write big Hollywood movies or low-budget indies, this is the class you want.
Create Your Own Web Series (7 Weeks)
Many comedy writers/performers are finding a lucrative way of supplementing their income while doing what they LOVE by creating Youtube and Funnyordie video shorts. 90 percent of these videos can be shot and edited for next to no money--and can immediately start generating revenue with advertisers like Googleadsense. The key is creating something funny, outrageous, memorable and creative... it's all about the hits your video gets. Once you create something that goes VIRAL, the money will quickly start to generate. Next, you build a subscribership of an audience who can't wait to see your next bit. But the KEY all starts with the FUNNY. Aside from generating income, the web is a sure fire way to get noticed by industry execs, agents, managers, not to mention the folks back home. Don't wait for Hollywood to tap you on the shoulder--take your career in your OWN hands and learn how to create funny sketches, characters and bits that will get you noticed. Bring the funny and the money will follow...
Here's the Story: Crafting the Perfect Story for Your Spec or Pilot (7 weeks)
Storytelling (4 weeks)
Learn how to use your untapped humanity and embarrassing moments in a way that can reach a wide audience. You will finish this class able to fill in the blank, \\\"----------- is the story of my life.\\\"
Each student leaves class with a six-ten minute showcase-able set of autobiographical material. The first three classes are filled with fun exercises to derive all the life experience that already lies within you. From that hilarious material, you will find your final piece. The last classclass focuses on polishing and perfecting your story, which will stand alone but can also be a part of a bigger solo work. Learn to dig inside your own life to find humorous, relateable, material, which unifies an audience by making them laugh at their own experiences through your brave performance. Additional focus is on getting through the fear of being judged for our honesty, and true life experiences. In the past, many students have gone on to produce autobiographical one person shows, or perform on the storytelling circuit, or complete their memoir.
Sketch for Stage (7 weeks)
Alternative Comedy Writing (7 weeks)
This class will explore the idea of what constitutes "alternative" comedy by looking at comedy writing across different media (TV, film, sketch, improv, Twitter, advertising, etc.). The class will discuss some basic theories of comedy toward the end of students developing their own theories and modes of analysis with the ultimate goal of providing students with greater confidence as writers and audience members as well as arming them with a stronger ability to articulate why something works or doesn't work, comedy-wise. The class will follow a workshop style with student work being the primary source material so students can learn from each other's ideas. Some topics the class will discuss include context, incongruity, situational reality, reference level, audience expectations, entropy, drama, and "tragedy" in comedy.
Instructor: Mark Vannier
Comedy Writer's Room (7 weeks)
Before trying to write a comedy spec script on your own, learn the fundamentals of the craft -- character, structure, tone, form, content, joke-writing, etc. -- in a group setting from a working professional. The instructor, Ed Lee, has spent over a decade working in professional sitcom writers' rooms, and has intimate knowledge of every stage of the process that goes into making a sitcom script work. By emulating this process in class, students will leave armed with an education in how the pros get it done. At the end of the session, the entire class will have taken part in writing one polished, punched-up script of an existing show, and each student will develop the skills necessary to thrive in a writers’ room and continue writing better scripts on his or her own.
After dissecting and analyzing episodes of an existing show, students will experience the writing of a new script through every phase: pitching, outlining, writing, rewriting, and punch-up. The instructor will provide the class with production drafts of the show being written, oversee the writers’ room, and give individualized attention to each student. In addition, other professional working writers will be asked for notes on the material and will be invited to sit in on classes. Students will also be invited to table reads of shows currently on the air. Whether you’ve never written a comedy spec script before or you’ve written many, this class will give you the tools to become a better writer.
Recent students have gone on to win paid writing fellowships and have procured representation based on spec scripts written after taking this class, using the education this class provided them.
What past students have said about Comedy Writers' Room:
"It gave me a methodical, pragmatic, step-by-step structure and approach to writing a spec script."
"This class demystified writing a comedy."
"The collaborative process was invaluable; quite a learning experience!"
Musical Improv - Level 1 (6 Weeks)
Basics of musical improv - song structure, rhyme scheme, theme and point of view, intro to various styles and musical performance games. Neither
musical ability nor vocal performance experience are required, but openness and a sense of play are critical. Each class is 3 hours long.
Beginning Musical Improv Workshop
This four-week class will cover the basics of musical improv - song structure, rhyme scheme, theme and point of view, intro to various styles and musical performance games. Neither musical ability nor vocal performance experience are required, but openness and a sense of play are critical.
Taught by Shulie Cowen, Director of Opening Night: The Improvised Musical!®
Intro to Getting into Characters (3 Weeks)
Do you wish your improv characters were more consistent and vivid? Do you feel like you just slip into the same stale types of characters in every scene? Or maybe you don't really play characters at all and you don't know where to start? Start here! Through this 3 week workshop, Dave Hill ("King Ten", "Hill Jones") will introduce the fundamentals of creating characters that are consistent, vivid and fun to play! Open to all students that have completed Level 1 at the iO West (or equivalent training elsewhere. Talk to the iO West office to confirm).
Personal Feedback Workshop - "Tough Love"
Want personal feedback? This workshop is designed for performers who are craving more direct notes. This workshop we will take a look at personal strengths and weaknesses in both scenic and long-form play. Everyone will get one-on-one attention and have a few solid notes to grow and learn from.
Ongoing Musical Workshop
Advanced Scene Work Master Class
You've got a good grip on the fundamentals and are ready to move beyond the basics, to work on your craft. This class exists so experienced, ambitious improvisers can work together on characters & scenes that take more risks, exist outside the "rules", and focus on quality. This class lets you slow down, dig in, building strong, believable characters, and applying your skills in 2, 3, and 4 person scenes and long forms.
Students enrolling in this class must be graduates of the iO West or iO Chicago Training Center. (Others with equivalent experience may be admitted with instructor's approval.)
Physical Improv (4 weeks)
Students will gain better control and awareness of their physical presence onstage and learn how to utilize movement, gesture, and silence to enhance improv acting. This class explores clowning, slapstick comedy, Commedia dell’Arte, and the work of everyone from Viola Spolin and Jacques Lecoq to Charlie Chaplin and Looney Tunes. Move away from the dreaded "talking head improv," and get pushed from your physical comfort zone in this playful class.
Instructor: Mike Funt