Improv comedy, the old saying goes, “is like a bunch of people falling down the steps at the same time and trying to land on their feet. And when you do, you feel amazed.”
Usually attributed to improv legend Charna Halpern, it’s an analogy that Spitfire Comedy House’s improv troupe heartly endorses. “That’s why it’s so fun,” says artistic director Nick Rigs. “Because when you do pull it off, everyone in the room feels that sense too.”
The intimate stage at 1920 1st Avenue South is alive with sketch comedy, standup comedy – and improv – nearly every night of the week.
Rigs is also a member of the cast of Spitfire’s newest show, An Improvised Remix of Friends, opening Saturday.
Audiences will enter a “TV studio,” in which the inaugural season of the classic 1990s sitcom Friends is being filmed.
These shows are not slavish re-creations of the old scripts. The six actors portraying those beloved characters are taking them on riffing journeys, using Friends as a starting point.
And when it goes well, they’ll all be falling down the steps together.
“They won’t be the same stories, but they will be remixed ideas of those same stories,” reports Rigs, who’s playing Chandler. “Probably mixed in with our complete lack of understanding of the early ‘90s. Because I’m the oldest one in the room.
“I’ve watched all 24 episodes from Season One and written down what I perceived as actionable things – what will lead to actions in the show. And topics of dialogue that they deal with. And also, rough storylines – beginnings, not endings.”
Not endings, because as Friends-ophiles know, the series went on for 10 seasons.
Sticking to the first year, says Hannah Prince (Monica), was key, “because their relationships throughout the entire run of the show change. Monica and Chandler get married. So we were like, is everything possible?”
“We are going to play the Ross/Rachel, because it’s so pivotal, that relationship,” adds Rigs.
“Season One gives us a lot of potential to go in any direction,” explains Amadeus Dameron (Joey). “It also casts a wider net, for people who aren’t big fans of the show, and know what’s canon, to enjoy it. It’s not just for diehard fans. So we can really do whatever’s fun.”
In improv, fun is more important than “walking a straight storyline.”
Offers Stephen Buhrman, who plays Ross: “With any improv show, we ask the audience to have an imagination with us. And this is no different, even though there is a set theme to it. We’re asking them to go on this journey with us.”
An Improvised Remix of Friends will run Saturdays through mid-December, with the cast “doing” two episodes per evening.
Zach Mouriz plays the “TV director” for each episode. “At the beginning,” he says, “I’m going to come out and ‘fluff’ the audience, like we do at every improv show. Give them an idea of what they’ve walked into.
“We want to stay true to the essence of Friends, while re-creating the feeling of what Friends might be like if they were in a third-story apartment in downtown St. Pete on Central Avenue.”
Cast and audience will be making discoveries – and having fun – literally at the same time.
And yes, all six cast members are … friends.
“I think the magic of this cast and this set is that we’re really living in the truth of these characters,” explains Nina Shand (Rachel). “Even our relationships, we’ve come to really bond as the characters – and then, are able to live in the truth of the moment in the show.”
Info and tickets here.