Where to get your Laugh on: Improv Troupes from St. Pete to Orlando

They say laughter is the best medicine. In fact science bears out that laughing actually does relieve stress and boost your mood. And what’s a better way to tickle your funny bone than spending a night at a comedy club? Here in Florida we have some of the most talented improv troupes around.

Can you imagine being able to create a western-style musical theater production about dinosaurs and frozen vegetables on the spot? Neither can we. But these talented performers spend days, weeks, months, even years honing their craft. And by the time they are singing the first few bars of their improvised numbers, you will be doubled over in laughter, eyes streaming, without a care in the world.

Tempted? Here are a few of our favorite venues, from St. Pete to Orlando.

Hawk & Wayne — St. Petersburg

2015 Best of the Bay winners Hawk & Wayne are now in their 8th season at the acclaimed American Stage, treating audiences to their unscripted comedic romps on the first Sunday of every month. The duo specializes in long-form improv comedy, creating entire shows around a given theme during each performance. Alums of the nation’s top incubators for comic talent—Second City in Chicago and The Groundlings in LA—both men participate in comedy festivals and serious theater productions in Florida and around the country. They are also the founders and directors of American Stage Education’s Intensive Improvisation Program. Get your tickets early, because these cabaret-style shows almost always sell out.

SAK Comedy Lab — Orlando

SAK Comedy Lab is a professional improv company housed in a 250-seat theater conveniently located in downtown Orlando. The organization has operated continuously since 1991, presenting first-rate comedy performances nearly every day of the week. They also operate a year-long schedule of shows, classes, camps, and special events, including co-hosting several local improv festivals. The Lab originated their signature improv competition, “Duel of Fools,” in which two contestants battle it out to create the funniest scenes, sketches, and characters in an evening. Over the years, the organization has earned a reputation as one of the largest theaters and training grounds for improvisation in the Southeast. Notable alums include Wayne Brady, Paula Pell, and Aaron Shure.

Wit Improv — Tampa Bay

Fresh off successes performing at Busch Gardens in 2005, the founding members of Wit Improv have been making audiences laugh at their outrageous brand of humor for the past 11 years. Now comprised of six cast members, the troupe’s most recent series was held on the “Third Thunday” of every month from April to August, hosted by the urban-chic Franklin Sports Bar & Grill in the historic Franklin Street Corridor in downtown Tampa. Their name is a nod to a TV show that popularized their style of short-form improv comedy: Whose Idea was This, Anyway.

Dear Aunt Gertrude — Tampa

The brainchild of Florida University theater major Crystal F. Haralambou, Dear Aunt Gertrude was founded in 2009 and has been entertaining both adult and younger audiences with its fun-loving brand of improv comedy ever since. The 10-member team is currently in residence at The Box Theater, an intimate studio theater space in revitalized Ybor City, now the nightlife capital of Tampa. The troupe is known for both long- and short-form improv shows, and they host classes and workshops throughout the year.

FST Improv — Sarasota

Get your laugh on every Saturday at 7:30 at Florida Studio Theater, Sarasota’s premier performing arts venue. FST Improv, the company’s pro troupe has been a mainstay at FST since 2001, delighting sold-out crowds in the Browne’s Lab Theater with a variety of hilarious skits, songs, and character sketches. Comedy Lottery, for example, allows 12 lucky audience members to select a series of games for the players to perform. Whatever the show, the laughs are guaranteed. What’s more, no two shows are ever the same, so you can keep coming back for more.

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