Saturday, March 24, 2018

Improv for Nursing Homes (The Emporium)

I began a project to perform Improv comedy at nursing homes around Chicago.  I recruited my friends and other talented improvisers to join me on this endeavor. It was rewarding, really fun, and it brought a lot of people together, as well as bring laughter to the elderly and ourselves. It ran from August of 2016 to April of 2017, and then I went to Prague for a month and when I returned it did not pick back up. I'm sure I will get back to it someday, it was great fun and amazing training. Often times performing for people who did not understand us, people would roll off (in their wheel chairs) in confusion, with no regard for us. It was fantastic, most old people do not give a hoot and will leave whenever they feel like, and will yell "this is ridiculous" or whatever. I remember those moments and thinking "Keep it moving." And that goes for anything now. When you know you are doing something great, and bigger than you, keep going. Because there are always going to be people who disagree or don't like it, but there are people who love and appreciate it, and it's for them to enjoy it.

I love old people, my first job was being a lifeguard at a retirement community. And I had amazing, insightful and educational conversations with old folks. They love to give to young people who are attentive and care about them enough to listen and learn.

I loved doing these improv shows, it could be hard work, having to call everybody to make sure they showed up on time, and scheduling shows, we often did shows with low numbers (3-5 people) to small and fragmented crowds. We would pull it off, and it felt great when we did. We had some rowdy shows, some were quiet and lazy. I loved to go into the audiences and involve the residents, as did other people. The residents loved it and would riff great stuff. There were some people who did only a few shows, and some people were really committed for periods of time or the whole time we did it!

Michael Kim Lewis did one show, it was our last short form improv set, and he suggested that we try long form shows to help the residents understand us more. Because we got a note from the activity director of the nursing home that we were going to fast for them. So thanks Mike! We did not return to that place but it was important, because it allowed us to evolve and made us better. That became our style after that, doing hour long form sets.

Thanks to Adam Thornburg, Joe Gianni, Firas Alexander, Matt Plowman, Shawn Shaw, Arlo Chappelle, Helen Duffour, Jeremiah Behbin, Junie McGraw, Mitch Kessler, Nikki Mikelson... Other people who were committed for a while, thank you, sorry if I forgot anyone.

Barry Lohman, Jonah Andrews, Mark Child... Anyone else who was committed the whole way through! Thank you, and thank you to anyone who did a few shows or one or whatever! I'm glad you came to have fun with us, and it was great to meet and perform with you! And thank you to all of the nursing homes that let us perform at their venues. There were some residents who became fans and came to every show.

It feels good to look back at this time and indulge in the fun and growth that came from it. I remember some really fun rehearsals, where we made each other laugh a lot, and created great stuff to pull from. It was a great way to hang with my friends, perform, make my own opportunities to get better, dealing with scheduling, making older people laugh, talking to them and many other things. It was a great thing I started, and it's easy to look past it, and I beat myself up when it stopped happening. I did not give myself credit for doing it and having done it. I could not have done it without everyone involved, so again thank you.

It was a great thing, and can still happen in the future. I encourage anyone who wants to perform anything to go to nursing homes. It is worth it for you as a person/performer and for the residents, they are waiting there to expire and love having young people to watch.

 We witnessed and created a lot of amazing stuff from doing this. Like one show we did, an old woman was passed out, with her face on the table in front of her THE ENTIRE SHOW, not moving the whole time, she was in the front row. It was ridiculous. There were a lot of things like that that happened, and I will share what I remember in future posts. Thanks for reading and for being apart of this!


  1. That was fun, Luke! You did a great job organizing it. It was ironic that many of those old people were actually younger than me.

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