Sketch theater – like Saturday Night Live – and improvisational comedy continue to draw both audience members to their seats and brave souls to the stage. Whichever avenue you choose, Oklahomans have plenty of choices.

OKC Improv, in the heart of the Plaza District, has shows every Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

“It’s a ton of fun; no show is ever the same, so it’s always a unique experience,” says Kendon Lacy, the group’s executive director, instructor and performer. “For those that are interested in performing, we also offer classes. We’ve had so many students call our classes the best part of their week. It’s a super supportive and empowering environment where classmates always become friends as they grow together. You’re also getting to meet new people.”

In Tulsa, Jackalope Comedy Theater is “the only dedicated sketch/improv venue in town,” says artistic director Jason Watts. Shows are every Saturday night and classes are held throughout the week. For youth and teens, there is an improv/sketch program at Clark Theater in Tulsa.

Jackalope Comedy Theater in Tulsa hosts shows every Saturday, with classes throughout the week. Photo courtesy Jackalope Theater

For those who haven’t experienced this live art form, “sketch comedy is a series of comedic scenes and vignettes put together to create a full entertaining show. Improv is creating scenes – typically comedic – completely without a script,” says Lacy. “On our stage, we have some shows that are musicals made up on the spot, and other shows that feel like plays or movies. Some shows even feel like a sitcom that was written with a script. But in the end, it was made up on the spot using the inspiration that the audience gives to the cast.”

Often, audience members get a feel for the form and get the improv bug. 

“We have classes beginning all the time,” says Watts. “We have Intro to Improv Comedy, Sketch Writing and Intro to Comedic Storytelling.  We also have free workshops, class audits and community jams for anyone to dip their toes in the water.  We also offer various workshops throughout the year, like Play Date: an improv workshop for couples.  In addition to classes for the public, we offer commissioned workshops and classes for companies or events.”

Audience Participation

Rules for audience participation at improv and sketch shows are simple.

“Number one, have fun! Have a great time, and do not judge yourself,” says Lacy. “Improv works best when you’re in a place of just accepting whatever phrase or sentence or action comes your way. To take it a step above that would be to not only accept it, but really appreciate it.”

Watts adds: “Improv performers are taught to ‘Yes, and.’ This is the formula used for creating scenes in the moment. An improv audience doesn’t have many rules outside of general courtesy. We don’t harass our audience into getting involved. We will ask, though.”

When teaching others, Lacy likes to share a quote from well-known improv coach and instructor Del Close who says: “If we treat each other as if we are geniuses, poets and artists, we have a better chance of becoming that on stage.”

Watts concludes: “Improv is a great hobby for busy adults who are displaced theater/comedy fans,” says Watts. “It is a low commitment activity that is social and helps with confidence and expression.  As entertainment, it is an affordable option, about the same price as a movie and one of the best shows for dates. Expect tons of laughs!”  

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