After more than a decade touring the country with acclaimed comedy institutions like The Second City, Joe Anderson took a close look at what was going on in his hometown of Grand Rapids and realized there was a niche to be filled. He and fellow comedian and friend Ben Wilke did extensive demographic research and decided, just like with comedy, timing WAS everything and it was time for The Comedy Project.
Experience the Comedy Project :
The two launched a Kickstarter campaign in late 2016, raised almost $30k and about two years later, produced their first shows during Laughfest 2019.
In October 2019 the business received its Class C Liquor License and has scheduled January 31, 2020 for their official ribbon cutting.
WHAT IS THE COMEDY PROJECT?
The Comedy Project is an improv and sketch comedy theater, training center and bar. Their 5000 square foot venue is located on Leonard Street, across from Mitten Brewing Company, Long Road Distillery and right next to Two Scott’s BBQ, in the booming Westside business district.
Building on a model used similarly around the world, The Comedy Project is focused on producing great improv and sketch comedy shows, training others in the art and craft of comedy and helping businesses exploit, in a good way, the values of improv.
When asked what makes The Comedy Project unique as a venue, artistic director Joe Anderson responded, “We are first and foremost a comedy place. So, if something’s happening here, I feel like there should be a reason it’s happening here instead of just some other cool room.” He elaborated, “For example, someone asked if they could rent out the theater for a rehearsal dinner and I said probably not, unless we did a roast of the bride and groom at the end. To which the person replied, ‘Oh! That sounds awesome!’”
WHY DOES GRAND RAPIDS NEED THE COMEDY PROJECT?
Polls and lists are a dime a dozen but as many know, Grand Rapids was recently ranked as having the highest rate of depression among large U.S. metro cities. The Comedy Project feels it is poised to be more than just a place to see a funny show and grab a drink.
“Make Friends As An Adult” was the tagline for one of their recent training center ad campaigns and Anderson says that idea relates to almost everything they’re doing at The Comedy Project. “I love standup comedy.” He said. “But there are some huge differences between standup and both improv and sketch comedy. Standup comedy is generally adversarial by nature while sketch, and in particular improv, is communal by nature.” He continued, “One of my favorite audience interactions was with a retiree after a show. To be honest, I wondered if they had enjoyed themselves. This audience member called me over to their table and said, ‘Ya know what? This was fun! This was really fun! I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought comedy was just someone talking at you but this was, well, this was fun!’”
On the training center side of things, nearly 100 people have already signed up for improv, comedy writing or comedy performance classes since the first class offering in the Spring of 2019.
WHY DO BUSINESSES NEED THE COMEDY PROJECT?
Around the world, businesses have discovered the very tangible value of improv.
Improvisation has become synonymous with the “Yes, and…” way of thinking. This is the idea and behavior of accepting what another has stated and then expanding on that line of thinking.
For those hesitant to dive in, Anderson had this to say, “People put so much pressure on themselves but the truth is, you don’t have to say something fast or funny. You just have to say the next thing you would say, based on what the other person just said or did. Improv forces you to be in the moment. This is precisely why improv training can help people be better listeners and observers.”
Whether an organization is looking for an overtly fun “day away” to help increase employee retention and engagement or wants to find new ways to improve their presentation or brainstorming skills, The Comedy Project can tailor the workshop to their goals.
WHO IS THE COMEDY PROJECT?
- Stevie Sahutske, Technical Director
- Eirann Betka-Pope, Programming Manager
- Kristin Hirsch, Special Events Manager
- Amy Gascon, Training Center Director
- Ben Wilke, Marketing Director
- Joe Anderson, Artistic Director