Renegade Improv: creating laughter out of nothing
Renegade Improv is a lively, interactive comedy show that takes place at the Teatro Zuccone in downtown Duluth every Friday and Saturday night at 10:30 p.m.
During the show, a red and blue team of two to three performers play games and compete for points and laughter from the audience. The Renegade crew agrees that the latter is much more important to them.
Performer Cory Anderson explained the deception behind the point system:
“Everyone assumes that we’re really connected to the points, which we do play up sometimes,” Anderson said. “But none of us really care as long as we put on a good show.”
“I don’t think the points matter,” performer Jody Kujawa said. “I couldn’t tell you what the point totals were the next day.”
Not only does the audience determine the winning team, but they also choose what the scenes within each game will be based around.
One game the improv team frequently plays is called Hesitation. The performers get a suggestion from the audience and start a scene based on that, and throughout the scene they will make a gesture directed at the audience when they want something to say. Every time the audience makes a suggestion, the scene can take a complete turn from what it was before, but it’s the performers’ jobs to somehow make it come together.
According to Renegade performer Evan Kelly, the spontaneity of the show is part of its appeal.
“Basically, we come in, create the structure of the show, and rely on the audience to give us suggestions throughout the night,” Kelly said. “We take those suggestions and either work with them or run away from them and do something completely different. But we have some people come in every week because it’s always different.”
The performers at Renegade Improv are very experienced in this form of comedy. This particular group has been performing on stage together for about seven years, and have performed improv comedy previously with other groups.
Jody Kujawa has been involved with Renegade Improv since its first show in January of 1997 when they performed at the NorShor Theatre.
Back then, according to Kujawa, there would be as many as six shows per weekend. The show has switched locations several times, and at one point didn’t have a home until this new group formed in 2009 at Teatro Zuccone.
Cast members said that since they have this much experience, they don’t get very nervous while performing.
“I almost wish I did get more nervous so I would be more on edge,” Kelly said.
Performer Amber Burns said that she doesn’t get nervous anymore but does realize the vulnerability that exists while on stage.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s the most risk-taking job you’ll put yourself in because you’re out there and literally don’t know what you’re doing,” Burns said. “It’s a vulnerable position and can be scary.”
After Burns said this, performer Jonathan Manchester joked, “We’re basically more important than firefighters.”
After one show, audience feedback was very positive. First time audience member Joey Kaiser had only nice things to say afterward.
“It was hilarious,” Kaiser said. “There’s a lot of audience involvement, so they really determine how the show will play out.”
Andy Miller, who has attended the show multiple times, felt the same way.
“I enjoyed it,” Miller said. “The show was super spontaneous, but the performers were very quick on their feet.”
The theater that Renegade performs in seats around 130 people. It sells out frequently, so the crew suggests showing up forty-five minutes early to make sure a spot is guaranteed. Tickets for the show cost $6 or can be purchased online ahead of time for $10. Drinks can also be purchased before the show or during intermission at the ticket booth. Due to language content from the performers and audience, the show is not appropriate for children.
One piece of advice from the performers: do not suggest Harambe as a topic, because it will be ignored.