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Laugh a Minute: Steel City Improv Theater

Steel City Improv Theater is the only space in the ‘Burgh devoted full-time to teaching and performing Improv comedy.

A while back, I was working on a story that looked into the comparative lack of an improv comedy scene in Pittsburgh. If New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., all have full-time theaters dedicated to Improv Comedy, I wondered, why didn’t Pittsburgh?

Then one of the dedicated improvisers I was chatting with clarified that there was just such a place, it just wasn’t quite open yet.

So, that answered that question.

Founded this year by NYC improv vets Kasey Daley and Justin Zell, Steel City Improv Theater is the only space in the ‘Burgh devoted full-time to teaching and performing Improv comedy. Hidden on the far end of the North Side, the new space is just right for intimate, energetic performances—and there are plenty to go around.

Two house teams (groups of improvisers that work together regularly, based at SCIT) perform every week on the aptly named Totally Free Mondays event, and Saturdays and most Fridays are stocked with shows.

This Saturday boasts a trio of shows that’ll serve as a fine introduction to the uninitiated. Things kick off at 6:30 p.m. with a free-for all “Social” open to any improviser, professional or amateur—arrive at 6 to sign up or 6:30 to watch, and its free either way.

I’m most interested in what they’re calling Impression-Prov, at 8 p.m. They give little detail, but claim the show will revolve around simultaneous impressions—a total of five performers all doing Christopher Walken, or Mel Gibson, or what-have-you. I’ve seen similar shows elsewhere, and they’re usually uproarious. If you’re unaware of the power of unscripted comedy, this will be a perfect introduction.

And while you’re there, stick around for Post-Crisis, the regular Saturday night show featuring some of Pittsburgh’s best-known improvisers. This is a long-form show (not the short, game-focused improv you may have seen on Who’s Line is it Anyway, but more theatrical improvisation), and these performers seriously know what they’re doing.

And if, somehow, you just haven’t had enough offbeat comedy Saturday night (or, I suppose, if you ignore my above recommendations), you could certainly check out John McIntire’s Dangerously Live Comedy Talk Show at the Cabaret Theater. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a member of John’s bizarre panel discussion show many times, but I’m not on this one, so I can in good conscience encourage you to attend.

After sets of stand-up by McIntire and the acclaimed Gab Bonesso, John will bring up a trio of guests to launch into a round-table discussion, somewhat similar to the format of John’s former gig as a TV and radio host. This time around, he’ll be joined by Councilman Bill Peduto, P-G advice columnist Cat Specter and nationally syndicated cartoonist Rob Rogers. They’ll be chatting about all the current signs of the apocalypse, like the tsunami, Pittsburgh’s much You-Tube’d tornado, and Charlie Sheen on tour.

McIntire’s show makes perfect use of the Cabaret Theater—get there early and order a cocktail, won’t ya? (808 B Tripoli St., Deuschtown. Info: 412/322-1000, steelcityimprov.com)

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