The ComedySportz star explains the unpredictable job of making people laugh on the fly
By Patricia Hall
Chicago is known for many things, and a deeply rooted comedy scene is one of them. Tim Ryder, a member of the ComedySportz ensemble, discovered that about Chicago at a young age. At ComedySportz, where two teams compete against each other in a variety of games that require audienceparticipation, you’ll witness improv comedy at its creative best. Ryder caught the improv “bug” in high school, and it was during an internship at ComedySportz in college when he realized it would eventually be more than just a hobby.
Q: What kinds of things do you do to prepare for a show?
A: It’s hard to say because, in a way, improvisers have been preparing for the show their entire lives, which sounds a little pretentious, but I think it’s true in the sense that everything that you’ve ever heard or learned or known might come into play at some point in a show. Especially with things like style and genre work. So if someone suggests the style of Quentin Tarantino or David Mamet or Longfellow, you’re going to have to at least be able to fake it well enough to convince the audience that you know what you’re talking about.
Q: How many different games are there at ComedySportz?
A: We have a binder with all of the games, and they probably number well over a hundred, maybe 140, 150. Probably about half of those are frequently played. About a quarter of those are rarely, if ever, played.
Q: Do you know them all?
A: We’re supposed to. Sometimes we get thrown a curve ball by (a referee) who picks a game where we’re like, “What was that?” Then they have to explain it to us in the course of five seconds so we can play it. I remember once I was playing (Sideline Karaoke) and I got “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through The Goal Post Of Life.” Which I guess is a country song from somewhere, and I had never heard that title before, and they literally had to go through each word and phrase to try to get me to say the whole thing. I finally got close enough that they let me go on, but I was just like, “Who said this and what is their life like?”
Q: It’s improv, but do you have any go-to characters that can get laughs out of people.
A: I know we shouldn’t, because it’s improv, but everybody has kind of their go-to or maybe their crutch. Even more than that, I think that we have go-to games. We know if they aren’t going to laugh at Blind Line, then we are done for. If you play that game right, it should always hit with anyone. We have the classic or greatest hits games that we will stick to if it may be a tricky audience.
Q: Are there certain comedians who inspire you?
A: I think a lot of people in the Chicago scenelook up to other people in Chicago. I rememberwhen I first came here and I watched the peopleon the ComedySportz stage and iO and SecondCity, and I said, “Oh, I wanna be like that guy.”And that guy was just a guy who’d been takingclasses and performing for a few years longer thanI had. Everyone has their favorite people that theylook up to in the mainstream. I like certain stand-upslike Patton Oswalt and Dimitri Martin andZack Galifianakis and comic actors like StephenColbert and Steve Carell and a lot of those guys.
Q: Do you think about going anywhere else to do improv?
A: Maybe. Big picture: If you want to do film and TV, eventually you’re gonna have to strike out for one of the coasts. While I do think about it sometimes, it’s with a little bit of reluctance. Yeah, I maybe one day want to move out to L.A. just to give it a shot. Just to say that I gave it a shot. But the thing out there is that there’s so little market for people watching improv that it wouldn’t be anywhere near as satisfying. As far as the scene goes, you can’t really beat it. You can’t really beat Chicago.
ComedySportz is located at 929 W. Belmont. Call 773-549-8080 or visit www.ComedySportzChicago.com for show and ticket information.