Q&A: Voodoo Comedy Playhouse Owner Steve Wilder Talks Improv, Sketch Writing

voodoo-comedy-class

Students at a Voodoo Comedy class. Courtesy Voodoo Comedy Playhouse

Ever watch “Saturday Night Live,” “In Living Color,” “SCTV” or other sketch comedy shows, and think, “I bet I could do that?” Learn from the pros at LoDo’s Voodoo Comedy Playhouse.

Known for its improv classes, Voodoo is now offering sketch writing classes that focus on writing, producing and performing original sketches. We talked with Steve Wilder, owner and artistic director of the playhouse, and an improviser since 2004, about his space. “I wanted an environment that was closer to the kind of clubs that I cut my teeth on in L.A.,” he says.” It’s not just a place where you perform, it’s a place where you perform and then hang out with the performers afterward in the bar and shoot the breeze with the audience members.” An edited version of the interview follows.

How did you get started in improv?

“I was an actor for many years. I floundered around for a little while and didn’t really get much headway. Somebody said I should take an improv class, and I’d never taken a class, so I got started at a couple of theaters in Hollywood. I just liked improv so much that I stopped acting. I love what improvisation teaches, and the ‘rules’ it lays out for you. Improv works because of the concept of ‘yes.’ Basically, it says any idea that you have, or that I have or that anybody else on the team has, all of those ideas are correct. We have the responsibility to accept those ideas enthusiastically, and to build on them with our own also correct ideas.”

How do the sketch writing classes work?

“Jeff, the guy who’s teaching our sketch writing class, will go through different avenues and aspects of how to write a sketch using improe and using a sweat box writer’s room kind of thing. Then he’ll take people through not only the writing process but also the rehearsal process, the casting and getting props, how to direct and how to produce a sketch show. At the end of the three-level program, we will eventually be taking the creations our students have made and putting them onstage in a sketch show that will feature their work and will also continue and build like an in house sketch show.”

So you do stand up, improv and sketch. But it mostly leans toward improv?

“That is my first love, and that is what we’ll continue to stay focused on unless something major happens, which I doubt. We do improv six nights a week, and we have a stand-up open mic Wednesday nights at 10. Other than that, we do stand up here and there, it’s sprinkled into some shows. A sketch is sprinkled in here and there. Eventually, we will be doing a lot more sketch, so it’s going to be improv, sketch comedy and stand up. We may eventually be starting a stand-up class. That’s way in the future, but we want people to come here and learn how to do comedy, whatever type of comedy they’re interested in, and learn how to make it good, snappy and professional.”

—Reporting by Andrew Weaver

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