My Creative Outlet

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 07:30 AM with 1 comments

Blue Shampoo logoThis Wednesday, March 21 starts the second, 4-week run of performances for my improv comedy troupe, Blue Shampoo. If you are in Chicago, come see some Blue Shampoo Presents: Spring Break 2K7 at the Gorilla Tango Theatre. We are performing long-form inprov, in a form called “The Mirror.” More information on us, our director and our dates are available on our Web site,

How this came to be is a story about balancing my life. Throughout my day I think analytically. From solving business problems to writing code to the tasks of running Dunkirk Systems, my thinking is methodical, with a mix of troubleshooting. Some of my results may be considered creative, but in a business way. About a year ago I realized that I did not have a creative outlet. Where I was a DJ back in Boston, I did not have my own equipment, so I went on a quest to find an outlet here.

Improvisational comedy, or simply improv, is what I found. With no preconceived illusions (delusions?) of grandeur, I enrolled in the beginning improv program at the Second City Training Center here in Chicago. Second City is where many actors, improvisers and TV and movie writers got their start. It is a year long program broken into five courses. You can just take one class or all 5 over the course of a year. I decided to take it one step at a time, not knowing where it would lead me.

The program starts with the “building blocks” which boils down to the basics – in the first few classes of level A, we didn’t speak! From the basics we moved onto improv games similar to what you have seen on the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Following levels C through E, we staged a performance on the Second City main stage... on weekend mornings, where friends and family paid a couple of dollars to see us.

It was an amazing experience. Improv is not stand-up comedy, and it’s not about cracking jokes. The comedy comes from your interactions with other actors. Common terms in improv include “yes, and” and “build and heighten” – if someone says you are holding an alligator egg in your hand, you don’t deny it, you respond that it is a rare Egyptian egg and it is about to give birth! I was lucky to get into a group of amazing actors, and as we neared the end of the program the idea of putting on our performances on came to light, and we all “yes, and-ed” it.

For as much fun as it has been, improv has also been a tremendous learning experience. I have learned to let go, trust in others with common goals and create an amazing product. It goes without saying that this has carried over to my business.

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