For $9, you can travel to a foreign country, visit outer space or swim to the bottom of the ocean.
Ad-Libs Improvisational Comedy Troupe will take you anywhere you request.
This 12-member group, made up almost entirely of neighborhood residents, performs 100-percent improvisational skits based upon audience suggestions using no props, except for an occasional wig or jacket.
Needless to say, each performance is unique.
“We can be in a kitchen, a bedroom or underwater, but all we have to work with is our stage, our minds, maybe a chair and our imaginations,” says Ad-Libs comedian Joel Zeff.
Ad-Libs performs in what used to be a warehouse located at 2613 Ross in the Arts District. The club is a small, dark and intimate playground that sometimes attracts a rowdy crowd.
Shows are done in a competitive format with two teams of comedians performing against each other. An Ad-Libs member referees the competition to keep it from getting dull or obscene.
Off stage, the Ad-Libs gang has the camaraderie of fellow pranksters.
Almost all of them live on Lower Greenville, and they often socialize with each other, which helps with communication on the stage, says Ad-Libs comedian Dan Glaser.
The members are close in age, with most in their 20s, and many have a background in stand-up comedy. The majority have day jobs, from Frank Ford, a product engineer for Texas Instruments, to Kevin Small, a salesman, but most hope to pursue careers in the entertainment business.
Phil Larsson, who founded the troupe in 1986, holds improve workshops to find talent.
Larsson says he looks for risk-takers, both men and women.
“We have a group of guys all going for the same goal,” Larsson says. “That goal is to put on a good show. In the past, we’ve had people trying to hog the limelight. Now, it’s more give and take.”
Under Larsson’s direction, Ad-Libs performed its first show in January 1987 in the back of an El Chico Mexican Restaurant once located in Medallion Shopping Center.
Larsson bought the Ross Avenue club in 1990 using credit cards because he couldn’t get a loan.
The members of the troupe cleaned the warehouse themselves, built the stage, and did the wiring and plumbing.
“There were some lean times,” says Ad-Libs comedian David Wilk. “It’s just been recently that we have been enjoying sell-out crowds. We’ve had a very loyal following, and they’ve kept us in business all these years.”
Today, Ad-Libs performs an average of 250 shows each year at the Ross Avenue location and travels throughout the country to perform for colleges, businesses and special events.
Show times are Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
“We have people who are addicted to us, who come week after week after week,” Zeff says. “I think people come back because a very electrifying energy is created here. They want to see what we’re going to do next.”
For reservations, call 754-7050.
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