Improv Training Center
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 1: Introduction to Improv (2 Week 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 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: Intro to 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 1 of the 2 shows.
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: 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 6: Forms
This class looks at other advanced types of long-form improvisation such as the Armando, the Bat, the Slacker, the Living Room and more.
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.
Sketch Writing Program
Sketch Writing Level 1 (7 Weeks)
This class teaches the basics of sketch writing. What makes the premise of your sketch funny? Learn heightening and writing efficiently in your scenes. Different types of sketches will be introduced as will rewriting sketches, and writing with others. There will be home-work assignments each week. No prerequisite to start this class
Sketch Writing Level 2 (7 Weeks)
Students will build on the skills learned in Sketch 1 to generate material for stage and television. Notes from the instructor will become more specific and focused on producing professional sketches. The final weeks of class will focus on writing for Saturday Night Live and Television Talk shows like Conan and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Sketch Writing Level 3 (7 Weeks)
Students will use sketches from level 1 and 2 and create new sketches to form an original sketch show! Students will be taken through an iO West rehearsal process while stopping to elaborate on the different elements that make up a successful stage sketch show. Writing, tech rehearsal, running order improvisation and acting will all be addressed. This class culminates in a main stage show.
Improv to Sketch (4 Week Elective)
Are you an improviser curious to try sketch comedy? Improv to Sketch will teach you how to take ideas generated from improvised scenes and turn them into sketches! IO West training center director George McAuliffe will take you through a process used with his main stage team Duke. The first two weeks, students will be led through a variety of iO West improv exercises to generate ideas and concepts for sketches. Students will have writing assignments each week and in the final 2 classes will read scripts, rewrite, re-improvise and block the scenes for a performance on Sunday, October 26 at 10:00 PM on the iO West Main Stage!
Television Writing Program
Intro to Television Comedy Writing (7 Weeks)
This class is recommended for anyone just getting started in television writing. Students will be instructed in the basics of how to write both a spec script and a pilot script, forming a strong foundation for writing half-hour television comedies. The instructor brings years of professional experience to the table in guiding students to attain a better understanding of story, character, process, structure, and pitching -- all elements critical to success in the field of television writing. The goal of this class is to get students to write either a spec script outline or a pilot pitch that they can write and workshop in Intermediate Television Comedy Writing. Class Taught by Ed Lee.
Intermediate Pilot and Spec (7 Weeks)
This second in a series of three, INTERMEDIATE PILOT & SPEC writing is recommended for graduates of the first class OR students who have a general knowledge and structure of script writing (meaning you’ve written at least one or two specs) and you’re looking to hone your abilities and learn the skills that will help you deliver a script head and tails above the rest. Taught by a seasoned sitcom veteran who has written hundreds of hours of television as well as sold over a half dozen original pilots to such networks as HBO, FOX, and DISNEY, this seven-week course focuses entirely teaching tricks of the trade to bring your skill set to a network level. With a strong emphasis in story and character, this course is designed to push writers from neophyte to professional. Whether you’re looking to start a brand new spec or punch up the one you’ve been working on forever but never managed to finish, this class will provide a “writer’s room” atmosphere to create a strong collaboration and support for your original work. Whether you’re looking to create your own original pilot or craft a spec to help you get into one of the studios various writers’ workshops or fellowships, this intermediate series is a MUST to learn what it takes to take a script from good to GREAT. The goal for every student in this INTERMEDIATE course is to deliver a workable FIRST DRAFT by the end of the seven weeks.
Advanced Pilot & Spec: Rewrite, Punch & Polish (7 Weeks)
This third in the series, the ADVANCED class is recommended for graduates of the first series or students who have a general knowledge and structure of script writing (meaning you’ve written at least one or two specs on your own), and you’re looking to take your finished product to the next level. Taught by a seasoned veteran who has written hundreds of hours of television as well as sold over a half dozen original pilots to networks including HBO, FOX, and DISNEY, this seven-week course focuses entirely on the REWRITE process with an emphasis in the punch and polish. This seven-week course provides the students a “writer’s room” atmosphere to create a strong collaboration and support for your original work. Students are given the opportunity to table their scripts with the class so they can hear their material read out loud and illuminate the writer to what works – and what doesn’t. In this advanced series, writers are given tips, suggestions and tricks to help make their material rise above the competition. Geared for student writers ready to make their mark, whether it’s to create a piece of material that will get agents and managers to take notice or to rise above the competition in studio writer’s workshops or fellowships. By the end of the seven week program, students should have a fully polished script ready to start submitting. Starting 11/4/14
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!"
Screenplay (6 Weeks)
Intended for students new to the screenwriting process, this course grounds you in the crucial elements of story structure, plot, scene development, character, theme, genre, and dialogue, and shows you how they work together to create a compelling film experience. You learn how to create and evaluate loglines and story ideas; explore how characters' inner wants and immediate goals shape and drive a screenplay's action; see what constitutes compelling plots and subplots; and learn how to construct a scene. Throughout the course, you complete a series of exercises which serve as the basis for your script outline, a prose description of your screenplay. The course goal is to create a 4-5 page outline which clearly delineates your script's beginning, middle, and end. The ability to write an effective outline is a critical skill for the professional screenwriter, serves as the basis for most pitches, and is crucial part of the screenwriting process.
Character Showcase Class (1 Day - 3 Hours)
Don't be caught off-guard next time you're called on to do a character showcase. In this one-day workshop, taught by Megan Grano, we will explore the unique characters and celebrity impersonations that are best suited just for you. Come with ideas... or come with nothing. Either way, you will leave looking forward to the next time you get to showcase yourself. (10 students max).
Megan has been coaching, teaching and directing for over 10 years. She has worked with a wide variety of comics and comedians, as well as doing one-one-one coaching for many clients including Ashton Kutcher and Sheryl Sandberg.
Storytelling (4 Weeks)
Instructor: Margot Leitman -- 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 half of the class is 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 two weeks of the class focuses on polishing and perfecting your story, which will stand alone in the class show, 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, win at the Moth Storyslams, perform on the storytelling circuit, or complete their memoir.
Understanding Comedy: The Rules (1 Day - 3 hours)
David Misch (Mork and Mindy, Saturday Night Live, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Funny: The Book / Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Comedy) presents a one-day seminar aimed at show business professionals – actors, writers, directors, producers, grips, best boys, great girls, terrific transgenders; whether just starting out or with years in the business, specializing in comedy or drama… in fact, anyone who wants to learn how comedy works.
Please note: This class comes with an ironclad guarantee that it will impart no usable skills.
Okay, that could be an exaggeration, but “The Rules” is part of “Practical Foundations of Comedy”, a course with the same guarantee which David’s taught at USC, UCLA, Columbia University, Oxford University (where he is known as “Lord Misch”) and elsewhere. The class involves no direct instruction but rather presents a critical, and serious (though funny), exploration of comedy as an art form, the idea being that understanding it will help you do it better.
Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Topics covered include the Rule of 3 (Why are things funnier in threes? Really, why? I mean, why?); the relationship between Comedy and Logic (hint: they’re bitter enemies); the calculations involved in timing; comedy cues, and why withholding them is sometimes the best way to get a laugh; why your body is hilarious; the evil of punchlines; comedy “placebos”; and how the mechanics of jokes – tension and resolution, pattern recognition, misdirection, and surprise – provide a template for all humor.
As for practical applications, the presentation includes copious clips from TV and movies which show how these principles of comedy translate into actual laughter. So forget all that stuff about no usable skills.
How To Get A Literary Agent (3 Hours)
Instructor: Michael McCarthy -- Michael McCarthy is an older version of you—and in three hours he will basically tell you what
he wishes somebody had told him regarding the murky world of TV literary representation--how
to get noticed, how to get read, and how to get them to work for you in under three hours (NOTE:
Three hours is the length of the workshop…the other stuff might take longer). 1) How to prepare
the best, most relevant portfolio possible, based on your professional goals, and your emerging
brand; 2) How to develop the biggest narcissistic, pyro-technique, display of your wares; 3) How
to focus on the right representation; 4) How to get them to read you; 5) How to get them to help
you, help them, help you, etc… Michael has done all these things, and in the process has written
for SNL, “Sesame Street,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Mike and Molly,” and many Comedy
Central projects. Along with creating the writing programs at The iO West, The iO Chicago and
The Second City—he created a series for Channel Four in London, a comedy festival in Ireland
and a morning radio show in Chicago.
Extreme Talk Show - One Day
Michael McCarthy (Second City, SNL, Sesame Street, Comedy Central, and more), is
coming to the Brave New Workshop to conduct what he’s calling an Extreme Talk
Show Portfolio Workshop, where he distills into three hours, what he normally teaches
over the course of eight weeks—most notably all the elements that go into a four-page
Talk Show Portfolio suitable for submission to literary agents, TV producers, and
network executives. The student learns how to write jokes based on the news; expand
those jokes into both character and commentary monologues; create and craft pitches
for desk pieces, remote ideas and various recurring segment ideas for a speciﬁc talk
show; and ﬁnally to critique, assess and rewrite a rough version of his or her portfolio
into a ﬁnal draft!!
Michael McCarthy Discount Combo
Take Both Michael's classes:
How To Get a Literary Agent - October 5 @12 PM
Extreme Talk Show @3:30 PM for only $100