Three Mad Rituals

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Improvised show directed by Del Close in the early 90s that featured The Family, the house team at ImprovOlympic at the time. The show consisted of three forms, Harold, the Deconstruction and the Movie. It would be about 90 minutes long, and the only break between each form was the lights going down and then immedaitly coming up to signal the start of the next form. Del often hosted the show and would ask for a line of poetry to inspire the show and the players used that suggestion for all three forms.

The show was performed upstairs at the Wrigleyside bar, just south of where the current iO Theater is in Chicago. That was one of the many homes of iO over the years before they moved into their current theatre on Clark Street. The show was consistently good and always sold out, which allowed iO to move to a more permanent space.


Matt Besser, Ali Faranakian, Neil Flynn, Adam McKay, Ian Roberts, Miles Stroth

Brief history

Craig Cackowski recollected on the team in an IRC thread:

Three Mad Rituals was the Familys first show that was separate from the regular Harold shows at IO. Charna produced it, and Del directed. It was upstairs at The Wrigleyside(now Abners Yard), where IO performed at the time. The Family was Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Ali Fahrahnakian, Miles Stroth, Neil Flynn, and Adam McKay, and the three rituals were The Deconstruction, The Movie, and The Harold, in that order, all inspired by the same suggestion, a line of poetry. The Deconstruction and The Movie had been kicking around Dels classes for a while but The Family perfected them into the forms we know (or dont know) today. The Harold was done after an intermission, and sometimes brought back elements from the previous two forms. It was done on Saturday nights in lieu of a Harold show (we had two teams on Thurs., two on Fri., The Family on Sat.), and every IO performer or student who was serious about improv was there to watch. Jazz Freddy may have been the greatest collection of improv talent that Ive ever seen, but the Family was the greatest team, in every sense of the word. The support was unbelievable, each of them had a defined role on the team that only that person could fulfill, and they seemed to read each others minds (you can still see it today when you see ASSSSCAT, or any combination of two or more of them). Jeff Richmond played piano, and was particularly impressive during The Movie, when he improvised an original score every night (not a typical accompanist just diddling along with the scenes, I mean a fucking SCORE). Although it was in a bar, I think it helped give longform, and specifically IO, some legitimacy and deserved attention. I, incidentally, got to understudy Ian on the night they were reviewed, and Larry Bommer confused me with Miles and vice versa.

Those happen to be the two shows that influenced me the most, mostly because they were the shit in my first two years in town. And I wouldnt puport to say what shows have contributed the most to what were doing now, but I think for every improvisor as an individual, the most influential shows are whatever the best shows are when theyre starting out, because theyll never see improv with that much reverance and awe again, with students eyes. Ive been lucky enough to have people credit shows Ive been involved with as influencing them, and though I first I want to say, "Youve got to be kidding...Jazz Freddy, now that was a SHOW!", I realize theyre seeing my show with the eyes I saw those shows with, and thats kinda cool.