The Project was an independent team-based longform improv comedy show based in New York City. It ran from 2005 to 2008 at various venues. The members of the teams came from the UCB Theatre, the Magnet Theater, and The Peoples Improv Theater.
The Project was created in 2005 by Terry Jinn. After having been on Harold teams at UCB Theatre and performing improv at other venues like Parkside Lounge and The PIT, he thought it would be an interesting experiment to create a show that was centered around a theater-agnostic (not affiliated with any particular venue or improv school) team system. Another reason to start the show was that there were an abundance of improvisers he had met and performed with along the way that were always looking for new opportunities to play. Furthermore, the way theater affiliated teams were setup required them to be disbanded and recreated with a neverending influx of new students that had graduated from their improv school classes. Of course, "older" improvisers had lost neither their skill nor desire to perform but the constant turnaround at venues with schools meant that they soon found themselves with no avenue to continue.
Each team had 15-20 minutes to perform any improv form of their choice. (No stylistic criteria was imposed other than having to be longform.) Teams were, in the beginning, limited to 6 players. The "draft" format allowed 8 max players. The final, "competitive" format returned to 6 players. The shows were hosted by Terry Jinn and often (during the initial run of the show) co-hosted by a different Project player every week.
On Saturday, January 8th, 2005, the initial "season" of the Project debuted at Juvie Hall (at Gene Frankel Theater.) The teams Tuscadero, Yar's Revenge, Primal Bias, and ¡Festante! kicked off the night along with the first Big Team Skirmish (which featured two random teams of improvisers vying for the audience vote.)
In Spring 2005, The Project moved to the Magnet Theater (being one of the first shows to be staged at that venue) where it ran for over a year. During that run, The Project experimented with a "draft" format. Team captains were chosen and in an undisclosed location those captains chose players from a pool of over 80 performers in a round-by-round draft.
In Summer of 2006, the show moved to The Peoples Improv Theater and once again evolved, this time to a "competitive" format. Team captains put together teams on their own, however, at the end of each show, the audience voted on each of the 3 teams that performed that evening. At the end of 3 months, the 2 lowest scoring teams were removed from the roster and 2 new teams were added. This was added to allow new teams to enter The Project schedule every so often and for the roster to evolve in a fair manner (based solely on performance and attendance.) Because the entire show had this competitive aspect (and also to keep the show a manageable length) the Big Team Skirmish was dropped.
On March 30th, 2008, The Project had its final show at the PIT, ending its run.
Big Team Skirmish
The Big Team Skirmish was the last portion of each Project show (prior to the final season) in which two teams performed 10 minute sets of improv, the winner of which was decided by audience vote. The reason for its inclusion in the show was to give an opportunity for some stage time to those who were not on teams or those who were on teams not performing that night. (Although, people who had played earlier that evening were eligible to sign up as well.)
Entry slips were filled out throughout the course of the show and placed folded into a FreshDirect™ logo baseball cap. For the very first BTS, two random teams were drawn from that hat. (A "Red" team and a "Blue" team.) The red team did 10 minutes of improv, followed by the blue team. The audience then voted (with official ballots) and the vote was counted and winner was announced at the end. The winning team continued on the following week, challenged by a new random team. If a player from the winning team did not return, he/she was replaced by a randomly selected player.
After the two teams were picked a final slip was picked out of the hat and that person would receive a consolation candy bar.
The Big Team Skirmish once hosted the "Masked Improviser Tournament" which lasted several weeks. Two masked, costumed improvisers (whose identities were unknown and with names like "Unknown Poultry" and "Box Head") faced-off against each other (along with regular unmasked improvisers who had entered the BTS.) A tournament bracket was even created, making it seem like a huge, nationwide Masked Improviser Tournament had been taking place for a while.
The preamble that was recited before each Big Team Skirmish (underscored by the theme to the video game Halo):
Since the dawn of Man, there has been conflict...
People fighting over scraps of food...
After the Third World War, which nearly destroyed humanity,
the remaining people of the earth have abolished fighting,
and now settle their differences through improv comedy.
These are their stories.
This is Big Team Skirmish.
The team Primal Bias would be introduced in the following manner: "Please welcome to the stage the Hugo and Nebula award winning novel... Primal Bias!"
The team Dunaway would be introduced: "Please welcome to the stage an Oscar winning actress... Dunaway!"
The team Tuscadero would be introduced: "Please welcome... a new look for 2005... Tuscadero!"
Occasionally, The Project would be closed with the statement: "We know you can chose any airline, so we thank you for chosing The Project."
The Project intro music for the final, "competitive" season was "Heavy Action", also known as the Monday Night Football theme.
During the Juvie Hall run, a wireless microphone was used for hosting. A chant of "WIRELESS" was often heard from the crowd. During the Magnet run, a wired microphone was used for hosting. A chant of "WIRED" was often heard from the crowd.
For the Big Team Skirmish, audio clips from the video game "Halo" were used to signal which team was to take the stage, "5 minutes remaining" in the set, "10 seconds remaining" in the set, and the end.
Erik Tanouye was referred to as "The Anchorman" when he performed in the project in a not-too-exaggerated description of his ability to improve teams.
The name of the show was suggested by Louie Pearlman after seeing something referred to mysteriously as "The Project" in a comic book.
The improv show Uno is thought to be a precursor to The Project.
An IRC thread with rosters of past Project teams and players.
The team Death by Roo Roo was part of The Project's first season under the name "Team Roo Roo."
All the players were invited to perform in a half-hour slot as "Fat Kitchen" at the Del Close Marathon. Approximately 50 players performed in the show. At one point, almost everyone was on stage and were all dismissed in a giant tag out.
For holidays and other nights when the normal Project show could not be presented, an official replacement show called "Not The Project" would replace it. This show was hosted by Pat Baer.
When a member of "The Rebecca Factory" could not perform, their spot was taken by someone named Rebecca. These special guests included Rebekka Johnson and Rebecca Drysdale.
Pictures of the final Project show, including teams Team Fernandez, Strongers, and the reunion of Primal Bias. The show was capped off by a final Big Team Skirmish.
2005 ("The First Year"):
2006 ("The Draft Year"):
2007/2008 ("The Competition Years"):