Curriculum, Training Methods and History of a Competitive Improvisational Comedy Company: Comedy Sports

Author: Bradshaw, Kevin
ComedySportz, the Milwaukee-based competitive improvisational company, was the examination model used in this study which examines the history of the company, analyzes their beginner workshop curriculum and details their training methods. Two research questions were applied: What is the history of ComedySportz? What are the teaching methods used by ComedySportz in their beginner-level workshops? Research was based on personal interviews, company archives, questionnaires, and observations. Dick Chudnow, the company’s founder, was interviewed in order to provide a foundation for the study. Research subjects for the field investigation were selected from the instructional and artistic staff of ComedySportz and were termed “experts.” The project was descriptive in nature, relying on personal interviews, electronic mail, telephone conversations and personal observations of the ComedySportz show and workshops. The resulting investigation has revealed a rich and varied history of a company dedicated to competitive performance improvisation. The analysis of the beginner level workshop training methods of the Milwaukee, New York and San Jose ComedySportz clubs indicates a high-level of teaching expertise, a wide variety of training methods and the formation of a solid background in improvisation skills. The study provides historical documentation for a leading company and offers a model for researchers interested in pursuing similar ventures.


“Kevin Bradshaw’s impressive study … offers a clear, systematic examination of ComedySportz that will prove an invaluable resource for others in the field. Because this particular theatre company is not limited geographically to its Milwaukee origins but has expanded to more than twenty branch companies around the United States, constituting the Comedy League of America, and hundreds of high school programs, its influence is far reaching. The value in tracing specific origins and structure at a time when such a study is still manageable can provide a strong base for any future investigations into ComedySportz itself and serve as a model for other studies of other companies. Bradshaw brings to this comprehensive study not just the skills of a researcher, but experience as a veteran participant as well. While some research might suffer from an involved investigator, in this case such exposure is essential since the researcher must speak the language of participants and must understand enough about the organization’s infrastructure to know how to shape the overall inquiry and design specific questions. Some of the interview subjects are not readily articulate or analytical, so Bradshaw skillfully and respectfully guides their participation, with both humility and authority … While the results of this study would assist students of improvisation performance and potential company founders, Bradshaw also offers a close, systematic examination of the educational components that would transfer effectively to a wide range of training contexts. This beautifully realized piece of work could provide a basis to others directly related it, such as an examination of all the member companies in the Comedy League or to other ComedySportz training models, such as intermediate and advanced workshops. More importantly, it provides invaluable access to research models for the much wider field of improvisation as a whole.” – (From the Commendatory Preface) Professor Robert Barton, University of Oregon

Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgments
Research Methods and Procedures
History of ComedySportz
Workshop Analysis