IO West

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The iO West (formerly ImprovOlympic West) is the Los Angeles branch of the iO Chicago. The theater is located at 6366 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, CA. iO and iO West were founded by Del Close and Charna Halpern. Today, iO West is managed by Artistic Director James Grace.

Contact Info


Founded in 1981, iO is the world-famous flashpoint of comic creativity that spawned a generation of America’s best and brightest entertainers, including Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Adam McKay, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, David Koechner and many more. More than 5,000 people have trained and performed at iO and iO West.

In the 1970s, co-founder Charna Halpern held a belief that improv was capable of more than the short games and competition-style shows that were dominating the scene. It was then that she met legendary director and improv luminary Del Close. Their shared vision for a deeper, more robust form of improvisation — one based on trust and agreement — would be rounded into shape and set in motion when they developed the Harold at iO (then ImprovOlympic.) With Del serving as mentor and Charna as guide, longform improv was born and the two changed the face of improvisation.

It was Del’s belief that performers needed to have the utmost respect for one another — that if they treated each other like geniuses, poets and artists they could become that on stage. This philosophy and the famous “Yes, and…” principle that agreement is vital on stage helped iO establish itself. With that, the Chicago improv scene was born.

iO quickly grew from a ragtag nomadic group of comedic artists into a nationally recognized institution — a destination for the world’s most talented comedians to study, experiment and work. In 1995, iO moved into its current location on Clark Street in Chicago. In 1997, iO West in Los Angeles opened. Del and Charna would co-author “The Truth in Comedy,” hailed by Bill Murray as “the most important group work since they built the pyramids.”

Emphysema claimed Del Close’s life in 1999. His last words to Charna were: “Tell them we succeeded where others have failed. We created theater of the heart —a theater where people cherish each other to succeed onstage.” Charna and the dedicated faculty of iO have spent their lives spreading this message and fostering the further development of improvisation as both an art form and a philosophy. Their success resonates far beyond the realm of entertainment: The American embassy in Cyprus hired Charna to teach her lessons in agreement to the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, helping them raise the borders and live as one people. The particle physicists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider brought Charna to Swizerland to help a disparate group of physicists from all over the world work together. It was the lessons of improvisation that helped avoid disaster, as the Collider was turned on without causing a planet-swallowing black hole. Having conquered the worlds of global politics and particle physics, Charna turned her attention to MTV’s The Real World, serving as an on-air coach to season XX’s cast of show-biz dreamers. This, it goes without saying, is considered iO’s greatest achievement.

A second book, “Art By Committee,” was published in 2006 as iO celebrated its 25th Anniversary. iO’s Training Center spreads Del’s vision to 500 new students every year, and iO alumni continue to thrive in the entertainment industry and all walks of life. The stars of tomorrow are learning the secrets of the Harold in our Training Center, while the sharpest minds in comedy are pushing the envelope, continually experimenting with the form and delighting audiences seven nights a week at our theaters. This is the fruit of Del and Charna’s labor, and that of the over 5000 people who have called iO home. Improvisation is an art form in and of itself, and iO is its home.


In addition to presenting improv and sketch comedy shows every night, iO West has improv training classes and is the home of the Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival and the LA Scripted Comedy Festival. iO West recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and has been performing in its Hollywood location since October 2001.

Mainstage Improv Teams

Del Close Theater Improv Teams

Headliner Sketch Teams

Featured Sketch Teams


LA Improv Festival

Applications for the 2013 LA Improv Comedy Festival.

11th Annual Festival: June 2nd-8th, 2013

Early application deadline – Before Feb. 1st Regular deadline – May 3rd, 2013

Click here to register your group!:

(link to the past 10 Improv Fest Galleries)

LA Scripted Comedy Festival

Coming this March is a new, exciting comedy festival with the best in sketch, stand up, storytelling, podcasts and much, much more!

The best news is we want you!

Looking for Sketch Groups, Solo, Variety, Storytelling, Stand-Up, Podcast and Video Short submissions!

Battle it out in our 24 Hour Sketch Show or Sketch Cage Match.

Go head to head in storytelling and stand up competitions.

Enter your video in the shorts contest. It will be a fight to the funny.

The greatest celebrity headliners! The greatest workshops! The greatest scripted festival!

A percentage of all Festival proceeds go to The Chris Farley House. The Chris Farley House is a state-certified residential treatment program for recovering men and women. Sober, structured living, as well as case management and counseling, are available to assist with the transition to productive independent living and employment.

To Register Your Act Go To:


The goal of iO West’s improv training program is to teach you how to improvise, whether its on stage or on camera, understanding all of the mechanics of listening and building off of other people’s ideas to create absolutely anything. iO West also offers sketch and TV writing classes, as well as a wide range of other comedy-related electives.

Improv Classes

(7 weeks, classes are 3 1/2 hours)

Level 1: Introduction to Improv

$50 dollars off Level 1 Improv for new students. Email: for full details on using this offer.

In this class you are introduced to all the fundamental skills of improvising, while improving your ability to listen and explore the power of building off of other people’s ideas. Level 1 is a survey of the entire program, exposing you to the elements of scene work and the various skills involved in creating well-acted, comedic improvisation. Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate that their listening has improved over the course of the term and that they are willing to build off of their partners’ ideas, in addition to having gained some proficiency with the technical aspects of actually doing so on stage. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.

Level 1 classes are open to all students – no audition is required.

Introduction to Improv (7 weeks)

INTENSIVE (2 weeks) Complete the entire 7-week Level 1 class in just 7 days, over 2 weeks, for 3.5 hours per class.

Level 2: Character & Game

With the basics of listening and building off of other people’s ideas under your belt, you will now go far deeper into all aspects of creating and playing characters founded in strong points of view. You will learn how to identify, create and play comedic games in your scenes, as we break down the elements of a comedic improv scene, demystifying what goes into making a scene funny and its comedic characters believable. Passing this level qualifies you to move on to Level 3 of our Improv Training program, as well as take any classes in our Industry Improv program. Passing Criteria: Students must be able to consistently create believable characters with clear points of view, consistently identify the game of the scene and have gained proficiency in creating and playing games over the course of the scene. Attendance at 5 of 7 classes on your day, regardless of make-ups.

Level 3: You

Building off of and advancing all of the skills from Levels 1 and 2, this class will help you figure out what your own comedic point of view is, what your instincts are as a performer, and how you can continue to stretch yourself and increase your versatility. We will do this while forwarding all of your skills as an actor/improviser: listening, building ideas, creating and playing characters, creating and playing comedic games, etc. Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate that they have improved in their ability to listen and build on others’ ideas, create and play believable characters, and identify and play games in scenes. Students must also be able to articulate aspects of their own point of view and translate it into their work on stage. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.

Level 4: Advanced Scene Work

Based on solid acting, character work and scenic game play, this level aims to vault you forward to high degrees of proficiency and consistency in all aspects of your scene work, building up the necessary skills to not just create rich comedic scenes that stand alone, but that can also serve as the main substance of a long form piece. Passing Criteria: Demonstrate proficiency with advanced techniques for creating and playing characters and identifying and playing games in scenes. Students must be able to consistently perform scenes with believable characters, execute comedic games and focus on what is going on between the characters on stage in the moment that we are watching them. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.

Level 5: Harold

You will learn all of the elements of the long form piece iO was founded on, The Harold, including openings, beat structure, non-scenic group games, organic group work, advanced support moves, and how to use variety and texture to create a show that explores an idea that the group creates together. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages. Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate an ability to create and execute all of the elements of a Harold: openings, beat structure, non-scenic elements, editing/pacing, and variety and texture. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups, and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.

Level 6: Advanced Harold

Armed with the ability to execute all of the elements of a Harold, you will now learn how to improvise the structure of your shows, leading to wildly inventive pieces that challenge you to express yourself to the fullest extent of your creativity, and help that creativity evolve. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages. Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate an ability to navigate all of the elements of a Harold when those elements are not in a training wheels structure. Students must have demonstrated an ability to make choices within a show to drive it structurally using the various elements at their disposal from Level 5. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.

Level 7: Graduate Level - Creating Your Own Show

In this final level, the teacher takes on the role of director, working with you and your classmates to help you create a show based on your very own improv form. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages and all shows will be considered for longer runs upon their completion. Passing Criteria: Attendance at 5 of 7 your scheduled classes and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.

Writing Classes

Sketch Writing Level 1

This class teaches the basics of sketch writing. What makes the premise of your sketch funny? Learn heightening and writing efficiently in your scenes. Different types of sketches will be introduced as will rewriting sketches, and writing with others. There will be home-work assignments each week. No prerequisite to start this class (Level 1 Improv is recommended).

Solo Performance

(7 Weeks) This seven-week course walks writer-performers step-by-step through the process of crafting an innovative solo show that showcases each writer-performer’s unique strengths. While the class is appropriate for actors who want to tell their own stories, this class is not limited to autobiographical narrative or to an abstract display of multiple characters. There are so many possibilities within the genre that are fully explored. There is an emphasis on metaphor, symbolism and other literary and theatrical devices that heighten and explore chosen themes. The course begins the participants taking an inventory of their own skills, exploring objectives, zeroing in on themes, becoming familiar with a variety of structures and exploring and using what makes them and their show unique. The course culminates with a showcase either on the Main Stage or in the DCT wherein every writer-performer presents either all or part of what they create. This class is limited to ten participants. No submission or audition is necessary, but enthusiastic exploration is. While the class is primarily geared for performers who want to write their own solo shows, the class is open to playwrights who want to craft solo pieces for others. The cost is $350, which includes the book “How to Put on Your Own One Person Show,” personalized attention and the culminating showcase.

Stretch Your Sketch-Writing for the Stage

(7 Weeks) Take your sketch writing skills to the next level by brainstorming with a group, writing your sketch, re-writing after notes and punch up, group writing and writing with improvisation. Class culminates with your favorites sketches performed by the class with your own sketch show on the iO Mainstage. Pre-requisite: A writing and improv class from a recognized school and/or theater.

Intro to Comedic Sketch Writing

(7 Weeks) Do you feel like you have funny ideas but no concept how to translate them to paper? Then this is the class for you! In this 7-week class, former SNL writer Matt Craig teaches a simplified structure for writing comedic sketches. In this comprehensive class, Matt will cover all the basics of sketch writing covering form and structure to content and application. A perfect workshop for beginning students looking to take an all-encompassing introduction to scene writing or for experienced writers looking to bolster their already existing arsenal, participants will walk away with a strong understanding of how to write well-executed and consistent sketches as well as how to apply these techniques to stage projects, online videos, webisodes, spec scripts, writing packets, pilots, screenplays...just about any writing project you can imagine!

Writing an Original Pilot

(14 Weeks) Do you have an original idea for a comedic television show? Networks and the web are hungry for new content and literary agents want to see your original show! In this two term class, you will go from sharing and brainstorming your idea, to beating out and outlining your pilot episode and then writing your show from the cold open to the closing tag. Each act is read aloud in class, notes and punch up are given, with valuable feedback from the group and teacher. Time is allowed for re-writes and incorporation of notes. This class culminates with a staged reading of your show for friends, family and industry professionals.

TV Talk Show Writing

(7 Weeks) Learn the ins and outs of what it takes and what is required to write on a talk show. From what is needed to submit to a talk show, and/or literary agent, what is required from a writer at the morning meetings, practice and punch up in writing the essential elements, i.e. monologue jokes, desk bits, remote segment ideas and more.

SNL Sketch Packet

(7 Weeks) The goal of this class is an SNL sketch packet comprised of at least six separate sketches suitable for submission to literary agents, TV producers and SNL itself. In this class by former SNL writer Matt Craig, students will hit the ground running and experience what it is like to write for a weekly sketch comedy show. Curriculum will cover Weekend Update jokes, cold openings, monologues, commercial parodies, Digital Shorts, TV and Movie parodies, cast and group scenes, as well as original and existing Character sketches in a SNL-style weekly writer's room environment. Ideally, students will walk away from the class with not only a solid SNL sketch packet but a business plan to move forward in pursuit of an agent and career in the world of writing. Previous sketch writing experience is a must. Pre-requisite: A writing class from a recognized school and/or theater.

How To Jumpstart Your Career On Your Own

(7 Weeks) Ask a budding actor or writer what’s the key to success in Hollywood and they’ll say getting a good agent, right? Wrong. In today’s competitive world the idea of believing getting an agent will lead to a road paved with auditions, meetings and opportunities is the equivalent of believing in the Agent Fairy. The fact is nobody is a better salesman at selling YOU than you are. This course focuses entirely on creative ways for you to take control of your own career and stand out from the rest of the pack. Whether you have an agent or not, this course will help guide you through the steps on what you can do to get the industry to take notice rather than sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Everyone wants what they can’t have and the key to success in this town is finding the way to create the BUZZ of excitement rather than the WHINE of desperation. Think there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstance? Think again.

Scriptwriting: The Punch-Up Process

(7 Weeks) In today's competitive world of half-hour comedy writing, 'good enough' simply isn't enough. If an agent or current executive isn't audibly laughing by page five, more than likely your script will be tossed aside. Course will concentrate exclusively on the "punch up" process by getting you to think outside the box and come up with alternative jokes, use "the room" as an audience as well as your own personal "writer's room" to help take your half-hour from good to great - from funny to brilliant -- and from... okay, you get the idea. Find all the tricks to get in touch with your inner funny so you can bring up the bar to industry standards. Writers are welcome to bring in their specs so by the end of the course you'll get every word to sing on key.

How to Pitch to Networks and Studios

(7 Weeks) Think you've got an idea for the next great series? That's only half of it. In order for executives to take notice, you need a pitch that will get execs EXCITED… not sighing, checking their watch or worse yet, yawning. Lean how to get network and studio executives excited with a tight, taut, pithy sellable pitch. Learn how to craft a lean, mean, series pitch - and figure out answers to every executive question before they're asked. Course will take writers during the whole process from idea/notion to character/premise breakdown and episodic ideas to crafting the final product into a sellable PITCH.

Crafting the Perfect Story For Your Spec or Pilot

(7 Weeks) Staffing season is but a few months away and half hour comedy specs stay fresh about as long as bread. Don't sit back and wait for last year’s MODERN FAMILY spec to get you meetings... it’s time craft a GREAT SPEC that will get agents/current executives and show runners noticed. But every great spec starts with the story—it’s where writers coined the term “it writes itself”. Learn how to break a terrific story, including A, B, and sometimes C story into a workable outline that will have you saying "the script wrote itself" because it was that good!