Jazz Freddy

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A longform improv show that ran at the Live Bait Theatre in Chicago, first in the Summer/Fall of 1992 and then again in the Spring of '93. The group was comprised partly of ImprovOlympic veterans and partly of performers that had worked in the one or both runs of Ed, a highly influential longform show directed by Jim Dennen. Performer/director Pete Zahradnick a.k.a. Pete Gardner had worked with both Ed and ImprovOlympic, and put the Jazz Freddy group together, originally just to do workshops, which later led to the first run of the show. The second run of the show was directed by Jim Dennen.

"Jazz Freddy was much more about content than form...mostly just two-person scenes, though there was a structure that you could learn if you wanted to. It was comprised of both IO and Ed alums, Pete Gardner being the link between the two groups. The sheer talent of the group was phenomenal (Dorff, Stack, Dratch, Koechner, Noah, Pete, Miriam Tolan, Carlos Jacott, Chris Reed, Pat Finn, Jimmy Carrane, among others) and the scenework was patient and attentive to detail. The IO people seemed to bring a sense of playfulness and ensemble, the Ed people were just flat-out great actors and listeners who made everything seem real. And perhaps the most important thing was performing the show in an actual theater (the Live Bait) rather than in a bar, which gave longform some legitimacy as theater (Dels dream!). They got raves from the Chicago critics and national coverage from American Theater magazine (a great article, probably from 93, on the Chicago improv scene, thats worth digging up if anyone has the resources). I saw it probably a dozen times over its two runs. A young Peter Gwinn, incidentally, did lights." - Craig Cackowski [1]


Innovations and Influence

  • Perhaps the first use of tag out edits within long forms as they since been used in Harold and related forms.
  • Firmly established that long form improv worked well within a theatre setting, rather than just a comedy club setting, after which, many improvisors preferred doing long form in a theatre.

Notes About Format

  • A multi act format with an intermission
  • Characters and scenes which could be called back from first act to the second.

There was a basic “jumping off point” for each half of the show called “2 back/1 forward.” Two actors would start the first scene after getting some simple suggestion like a location or a proverb, and that scene would be allowed to progress for a while. Then an actor would come in and “tag out” one of the actors in the first scene and take the remaining actor “back in time.” It could be “thirty seconds” back in time, “20 years” back, or whatever. For example, if the first scene involved a dad talking to his son, the next scene might involve the dad as a kid himself talking to his own dad, or the dad earlier that day at his job with a co-worker. The next scene would involve a “tag out” of one of the second scene’s actors and the remaining actor would somehow be taken back in time. The third scene would also involve a “tag-out” and a jump “forward” in time. After that, the scenes were wide open. The second half after the intermission would start the same "2 back/1 forward" way as the first, and ideally some connections would form between characters or themes in the first and second halves. Not all the scenes were 2-person scenes, though. Many of the scenes turned out to involve big groups.

Cast

Jimmy Carrane, Rachel Dratch, James Grace, Dave Koechner, Noah Gregoropoulos, Miriam Tolan, Susan McLaughlin, Carlos Jacott, Kevin Dorff, Pat Finn, Brian Stack, Chris Reed, Stephanie Howard, Molly Allen, Theresa Mulligan, Pete Zahradnick, and Meredith Zinner Guest Performers included: Dave Pasquesi, Brian Blondell, Brian McCann, Evan Gore, Lauren Katz, and Chris Hogan

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