Improvisational Comedy for All

Photo by Andrew Leavitt – Six regular players of Off the Cuff Comedy, posing after a Friday night show.

With an audience nestled in comfy, faux-movie theater seating, Off the Cuff Theatre’s in-house improv players sat in a green room around the corner of the stage, a room decorated with Sharpied quotes on the walls and a bathroom for the audience.

A walk to the bathroom leads past the night’s players, whose names are barely recognized as they call them out in rapid succession under flashing colored lights: “I’m TJ!” “Bald Nate!” “Rev!” “Dave!” “Wendy!”

Off the Cuff Comedy has been playing in Cedar City for 13 years. “14 in January,” TJ Penrod says, an SUU alumnus who, with his wife Wendy Penrod and some friends, founded OTC in college.

As part of the improv comedy club, SUU Improv, the Penrods found themselves doing weekly improv shows with their friends, referred to only as “Dave, Mary and Richie T.” After a bout of shows for SUU’s Presidential Ambassadors, and one show in particular that went rather well, the crew decided to see if they could make a job out of it.

“We turned to each other and just kind of said, ‘Let’s do this,’” Wendy Penrod said. So after auditioning a few other people and securing a nightly show at the newly-opened coffee shop The Grind, Off the Cuff Comedy was born.

Photo by Andrew Leavitt – Rev Mclean and TJ Penrod act on stage, seemingly peering over an imaginary wall at an Friday night Off the Cuff show.

Over a decade later, their show has moved from the stage of The Grind to their own theater, the Off the Cuff Comedy Theater located at 913 S. Main Street, in the corner of the shopping center with IFA and T.J. Maxx.

OTC offers a brand new show every Friday at 10 p.m., and the lure of improv is that each and every show will be different.

“In Cedar City it can be a daunting task to find what there is to do in town, right?” Rev Mclean said, one of the five players of the evening and marketing manager for OTC. “We offer a show that is not only fun, but it’s different every week… You can come consistently 50 weeks in a row and you will never see the same show twice.”

In addition to a new show each week, OTC often offers themed nights. A popular night, their Halloween show, features a costume contest and “some sort of zombie dance.” But again, Mrs. Penrod stressed that although the themed nights can be enticing, every single week has a show that is fresh, fun and new.

“So you could come to the Halloween show and have a really great time,” Mrs. Penrod said, “and you could come the next week, and have it be the best improv show we’ve done all semester.”

With a new show every week, it’s certainly doubtful I will ever hear Bald Nate scream “Sky!” or “It’s old man McGillicutty!” again, but it also probably won’t be the strangest thing heard in an Off the Cuff comedy show.

In addition to ranting about ketchup or telling the tales from the projectionist’s booth, all of the performers also serve as instructors, teaching improv classes to the community through their theater. Classes include “Point of View,” “Relationships,” “Emotion” and “Presentation,” with other offerings in addition.

The next set of classes will begin Oct. 2, and signups are available on their website, www.otccomedy.com.

Photo by Andrew Leavitt – The players of Off the Cuff. Rev Mclean and Wendy Penrod can be seen laughing behind TJ Penrod. Bald Nate is in between them.

One of their biggest events is coming up at the end of this week: the Red Rocks Improv Festival. The festival spans three days from Sept. 21 to 23, with shows lasting each night from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. with the same regular price of $5.

Workshops are offered at the festival as well, with a class on both Friday and Saturday for $20. Friday’s class is an improv puppeteering workshop, taught by Stacy Gordon, a Sesame Street puppeteer.

Saturday’s class is taught by Joey Shope, an improvisor and friend of the Penrods from Orange County, entitled “Improvising the Lazy Way.”

While classes and festivals tend to be the best way to interact with the players and get a foot in the door for participating in future shows, the Penrods also say that coming up and talking to them directly is a way to let them know if you want to be involved.

“We have room and time for people to play,” Mrs. Penrod says.

To get in contact with OTC or to learn more about shows and classes, please visit their website, www.otccomedy.com, their Twitter, @otccomedy, their Instagram of the same name, or their Facebook page, Off the Cuff Comedy Improvisation.

Despite the links, there is not quite a better way to get to know OTC than spending $5 and seeing their show, never before seen, every Friday night at 10 p.m. The shows are open to audiences of all ages.

Story by
Andrew Leavitt
life@suunews.com

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