ComedySportz (often abbreviated CSz) is an international improv comedy organization founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1984. It is a competitive, short form show comprised of two teams of improvisers competing in improv "matches." ComedySportz is managed by the World Comedy League, which licenses the show's format and games out to regional companies in the United States and Western Europe. Some founding members include Dick Chudnow, Bob Orvis, and Brian Green.
ComedySportz shows consist of two teams of 3-5 improvisers, commonly a red team and a blue team, and one referee. The ref serves as the compere of the entire show, explaining the rules of the game, the structure of the performance, and generally MC-ing the match. Each match has two halves, each about an hour long.
Each team selects one captain. The match commonly begins with calling both captains off their team's bench with a rousing "Captains to the playing field!" The ref then instigates a concise, 1-2 minute game between the captains. This game determines which team gets to pick the first proper game, a head-to-head shortform game played between both teams involving all the performers. Common choices are Expert Challenge, What Are You Doing?, and I Can Do It Better.
Each of these head-to-head games inherently produces a winning and losing team (something most ComedySportz games do not do), and the winning team is awarded five points.
The ref will then go to one of the teams for a 5 minute shortform game to be played on their own. Games played during this part of the show include Good, Bad, Worst, Dimestore Novel, Tagteam Monologue, and New Choice. As is common with most shortform improv companies, ComedySportz performs many games or variations of games seen on Whose Line is it Anyway?.
After the second team has performed their 5 minute game, the "winner" of this round is determined by the audience. The ref usually asks the crowd to "applaud for both teams, but applaud more loudly for the team you wish to receive the next five points." Whichever team receives more applause receives the points. This structure is repeated, giving each team two games per half.
The second half's format mirrors that of the first half, and, at the end, the winning team is announced.
High School League
Many ComedySportz companies curate an improv training program for high schools surrounding their theater. The schools are invited to form their own teams, usually managed by 1-2 students, and these teams receive training from the theater, often from its main company improvisers. The teams can then compete against each other in matches hosted by a ComedySportz ref. 11 ComedySportz locations currently host high school league programs: Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Twin Cities, New York (in development), Philadelphia, Utah, Richmond (with several other levels of education-based leagues) and San Jose.
Like most improv theaters, almost all of the regional ComedySportz locations offer general improv classes. Some teach the specific ComedySportz format as well.
Some regional ComedySportz groups have theaters of their own, and therefore can offer their own classes, variations on the original form, and non-ComedySportz shows. Others are smaller scale operations, and simply perform the traditional shortform match on a regular basis.
Current locations include:
- Berlin, Germany
- Buffalo, New York
- Chicago, Illinois
- Houston, Texas
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Los Angeles, California
- Manchester, England, UK
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota
- New Orleans, Lousiana
- New York, New York
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Portland, Oregon
- Provo, Utah
- Quad Cities - Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; Bettendorf, Iowa; East Moline, Illinois
- Richmond, Virginia
- Sacramento, California
- San Antonio, Texas
- San Jose, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Washington, D.C.