No One Expects…

…Well, some of you know that I coach Illinois State University’s Improv Mafia on an irregular basis. Although I often get more out of it than they do, none of them will forget Saturday’s workshop.

It all started a couple of days before. I learned that my good friend and Baron’s Barracuda Brother Joel Murray would be in the area. In addition to acting in loads of TV shows (including one called Mad Men), directing, and improvising out of the iO West nowadays, Joel also tours with Whose Live Is It Anyway?, the live-on-stage version of the long-running improvisational TV series.

So, I made a quick trip to the theatre where they were appearing, and Joel introduced me to the rest of the cast, including the spectacularly talented Ryan Styles, Greg Proops, and Jeff Davis. As I was leaving, Joel happened to mention that they would be performing Who’s Live in Bloomington, Illinois on Saturday night. I happened to mention that I would be running an improv workshop in Bloomington that very afternoon. The wheels began to turn…

Cut to Saturday afternoon. The group was in the middle of some longform improvisation, when Joel and Ryan Styles walked in.

WhoseMafiaRyanback WhoseMafiaRyan2

Consider that many of these students first learned about improvisation watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? and you should have a clue as to how amazing it was for them. You could compare it to a group of music students going to a guitar lesson in rural Illinois and having Eric Clapton walk in.

They sat watching, asking questions, making some valuable suggestions, until they had to get back to their hotel. (Joel told me later that if he hadn’t dragged Ryan away, he never would have left.) Of course, they happily posed for pictures with the class before leaving.


And this is the great thing about most of the improvisers that I know. They are generous with their time, and happy to pass along what they have learned to the next generation. The last thing Ryan and Joel needed to do on a beautiful fall afternoon was to sit down and watch a group of college students passionate about learning the things they learned about many years before. But that’s just what they did. Thanks so much guys.

#whoseliveanyway @improvmafia @joelmurray9of9 @iochicago