ComedySportz still serving up the laughs

You've no doubt heard about ComedySportz, Milwaukee's homegrown improv comedy troupe. You've probably stumbled past them at Summerfest, where they've performed regularly for almost 13 years.

But when was the last time you took in a show? The group, founded in 1984 by Dick Chudnow, performs at their Third Ward location seven times each week. And according to nine-year veteran Al Oldham, ComedySportz is funnier than ever.

Oldham, who joined ComedySportz the day they moved to their current location at 126 N. Jefferson St., is one of about 35 regular comedians in the improv troupe. Chudnow, a veteran of the Kentucky Fried Theater with the legendary Zucker brothers, moved ComedySportz from its original location at the old Kalt's on Oakland Ave. in 1992.

In its 17-year history, ComedySportz has grown to include 26 theaters around the country, but Milwaukee remains the company's base and largest group. Oldham says Chudnow developed the concept from TheaterSportz, a similar style of comedic improv.

And though the basic format is the same as it was back in the '80s -- two teams compete in a sports setting, complete with a referee and "brown bag" and "waffling" fouls -- the pace of the comedy has picked up in recent years.

"It's faster," says Oldham. "The games have changed immensely. The wit and attitude has gotten sharper."

Oldham says the group does invent some of the games, but many are based on traditional improv exercises. Says Oldham, "We open our mind up and say, 'yes, and?'"

That's why you'll never see the same show twice, says Oldham. Certain audience suggestions come up again and again, and "there are only so many items you're going to get. And that's why you may have heard a joke before. But we don't touch jokes about Monica Lewinsky or O.J. Simpson."

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