Alright, it’s been a hot minute minute…ok it’s been a long minute. I’m going to try to bring this back now, especially with the scene in this town growing exponentially in the past year. So that’s what this post is going to be about, the growth of improv in San Antonio, Texas since I’ve been here (2012).
I’m not going to lie, my knowledge of the history of San Antonio improv is elementary at best. I know there isn’t MUCH of a history to go on, but there is some there. I’m going to pick this up from where I came in and, hopefully in the next few days, will add some edits to this with updated information.
Summer of 2012: My wife and I relocated to San Antonio from New Braunfels, TX (about halfway between San Antonio and Austin on I-35). I had resigned my job in Austin to move closer to my wife’s job here in SATX because gas prices were killing us (I did the math and we average a little over $1000 in gas during a GOOD month). I had just graduated from the Coldtowne Theater Conservatory finishing all 6 levels of Improv training at the theatre. I was heavily involved with my Level 6 Troupe “Tevis”, was doing ad hoc shows here and there at Coldtowne, and had finished a three show/6 month run of Live TV Tuesdays at The Institution Theatre (“Dr. Horrible Live!“, “South Park Live!“, “Firefly: The Musical“). Needless to say I was very busy in Austin and was loving the people up there.
Upon finding out I was moving to San Antonio I immediately started to research the improv scene in San Antonio. Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed. At the time there were three (really two) improv troupes in San Antonio: The Oxymorons, The Denials, and ComedySportz San Antonio. All three of these troupes were short-form improv, something I had only ever done during midnight shows, half-drunk, at Coldtowne during Jam City. I’m not going to lie…I looked down on short-form. Coming up in long-form I though short form was mainly “going for the joke” and “puns”, so it wasn’t something I was interested in.
My first year living here I was still feeling the pull of improv though, so I decided to go to a couple of open Denials workshops. I didn’t really feel like I belonged there. I didn’t, at that time, notice the similarities between short and long-form and was constantly overthinking and trying to sting the joke. It did not work. I was called out on, what I now realize, was simple shit. It killed me. I stopped trying to get into the improv scene here in town. Until I just got tired of it.
ComedySportz and Sucking It Up and Fucking Doing It
About a year and a half later I decided I had had enough of “no improv”. I saw a posting for open auditions at ComedySportz. I knew it was a respective institution and had come to the realization that any improv was better than no improv. Also, after talking to friends of mine I realized that it would be in my best interest to learn the short-form style. So I went. I’m not going to lie, I pulled into the parking lot and sat there for about 10 minutes mulling over the decision to actually go in or not…but I did. I was worried that I wouldn’t have the necessary tools to pull this off (which is stupid), and I was worried that I wasn’t going to be funny enough for the “quick jokes” of short form. But I decided “fuck it, I’m tired of not doing improv” and went in. It was the best decision (aside from proposing to my wife) I’ve ever made.
Through the audition process, and the subsequent 4 week training school, I realized there is really no difference between long and short-form, aside from the full on forms of long form. Scene work is still the focus of short form, you just have a few more variables to the scene.
The Growth of the Improv Scene in San Antonio
That was in October of 2014. At that time it was still ComedySportz SA, The Oxymorons (though they hadn’t done many shows at that time), and The Denials. There was always talk about adding more shows at Studio 185 (the theater where we perform ComedySportz shows) late at night and expanding the amount of improv in San Antonio, but there wasn’t a ton of movement in that direction. We continued doing ComedySportz matches at Studio 185, some completely sold out and others with very few people (as to be expected in this town) and we had a very nice loyal following.
Times started to change about a year ago in 2016. Alamo City Improv, led by Cary Farrow, started to do shows at The Blind Tiger here in SATX. The Blind Tiger was a primarily stand up club in town but allowed ACI to start performing shows. ACI began to bring in troupes from the theaters in Austin, introducing pure long-form to San Antonio. At the same time ComedySportz was bringing in teachers from Austin( such as Asaf Ronen) to teach long-form concepts to the troupe to help build the short-form abilities of the players. The foundations of long-form, and the expansion of improv as a whole in SATX, was underway.
The San Antonio Improv Community and the First Ever San Antonio Improv Community Showcase
We started to grow slowly; CSZSA, ACI, Denials, Oxymorons. Then, the dam broke. ACI offered the first TRUE long-form improv training classes in San Antonio by partnering with Alamo City Studios. ComedySportz added the Minor League show a few times a month. Still in its infancy, but the scene started to grow.
The dam broke with the first ever San Antonio Improv Community Showcase. It features a shortened ComedySportz show, The Denials, and ACI. After that there were two shows featuring members of all 3 troupes doing long-form/montage type formats. This show oversold at Studio 185 (not including improvisors that hung out to watch) and, in my opinion, REALLY kickstarted the growth of the improv community in this city. Since then Studio 185 has hosted two more Community Nights, each added more troupes and each were completely sold out.
In the last year the improv scene in San Antonio has grown from ComedySportz/ACI/The Denials/and The Oxymorons to troupes like Holding Pattern, Kismet, Something Neutral, Sucker Punch, Bruce Banner, Talk About It, Missed Opportunity, Whine Time, and Blind Leading the Blind. Studio 185 has started “Studio 185: After Dark“, a show that includes long-form format performances from the other troupes in town and around Texas. If I can talk myself up for a second I am in the VERY early stages of putting together an Armando style show for After Dark (VERY early, as in I thought about it two days ago).
San Antonio Improv is still very much in its infancy, think Austin around ’99-2000. But the level of growth we have seen in just the last year is staggering. If the community in this city keeps expanding like this I can foresee San Antonio becoming a major hub for improv in this country. No longer will people have to travel out of town to see amazing, quality, improv shows. No longer will they only have 3 choices of show, all short-form. Now there are multiple formats and troupes performing every weekend. It has been a treat to be involved in the growth of this community, and I am extremely excited for what the future holds!