Tournament Season at iO West

We’re in the middle of a period I’ve decided to call “tournament season” at iO West, with two major improv tournaments, both leading up to the LA Improv Comedy Festival in June (which has a number of improv and sketch tournaments of its own). Competitive improv isn’t really my cup of tea — it can get uncomfortable and bring out a few negative qualities in performers — but I like the idea of a playoff-style tournament, with no incumbency advantage and a clear, definite end. Tournaments can be a great way to boost excitement in the community, bring in a new audience, and encourage interaction between people who don’t normally perform together. They’re also fun to speculate over.

One of the two tournaments is the (second annual) United States of Improv Tournament, in which improvisers compete on teams defined by their states of origin. The winning team receives a limited run on the mainstage and bragging rights. Last year, one-man musical improv team Tom Christensen of North Dakota swept the whole thing (knocking my Team Florida out in the first round), and this year, with heavyweights New York, Texas, California and Ohio seeing early defeats, it really could be anyone’s game. It’s a great idea for a tournament — you get to see top improvisers at the theater play on teams with new faces, and everyone gets really excited about it. Tonight at 11:30, Team Florida kicks off the second round, competing against New Jersey’s team for a spot in the semifinals.

The other big tournament is the annual iO West Harold Tournament, in which iO’s house teams compete against each other for bragging rights, a performance slot representing the theater in the festival’s tournament, and a rumored “protected status” from the Harold team chopping block. All of the Harold teams will compete, except previous winners (Local 132, King Ten, USS Rock N Roll, and Bandit), and most mainstage teams are “top seeded,” which means they get a bye week. This will be my first year in the tournament, and I’m on The Cartel, which will face off against either Riggins or Medium Cool on May 23 at 7:30.

I’d love to weigh in on various teams and make predictions, but when the audience decides the winner (or partially decides, in the case of the Harold tournament), these things are damn impossible to predict. So I’ll just say my money’s on Florida and The Cartel. If both of my teams don’t win it all, may lighting strike me dea–

About eavoss
Erik Voss is a writer, actor and improv comedian in Los Angeles. Please subscribe!

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