Our mission is to provide a more valuable training experience in the art of improvised theater by giving teams long-term, predictable performance schedules with a consistent cast under the guidance of experienced teachers. Read more about our improv theory, The Expansion Tree.
Mike is not just the owner of The Comedy Clubhouse in Chicago but the founder of One Group Mind, the architect of the Improvisers Guild and the Artistic Director of The Titanic Players. Mike was an iO coach, an understudy for Keegan Michael-Key at Second City, and a member of Second City's Outreach and Diversity Company. Many of his students have continued successful careers in The Office, Community, Arrested Development, Saturday Night Live, Reno 911!, the Jimmy Kimmel Show, Cougartown, The Mindy Project, Man Seeking Woman, Last Man on Earth, Key and Peele, Parks and Recreation, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and the Ellen Degeneres show, to name just a few! In addition to 25 years of improvisational experience, Mike graduated from Northwestern University with a double major in Economics and Communications. He was an experienced Financial Adviser at Merrill Lynch, a Consultant in many major banks and a Senior Business Analyst and Information Technology Solutions Analyst for a Fortune 300 company.
The Expansion Tree
All of our teachers draw from one consistent theory, the Expansion Tree, which can be seen as the "string theory" to all long form improvisation. Discovered in 2005, the Expansion Tree arms the improviser and group with techniques that can be used to react to any and every situation. The process stresses truly reacting to the dynamic of the piece as the events unfold, rather than using a defined structure that may be predictable to the audience. The presentation usually involves a more cohesive performance that stays ahead of audience expectations while allowing the artists to collaborate together using the same language.
Team and Time
We teach exercises and activities meant to develop team over time based on our Improviser Code of Willingness, Agreement, Commitment, Patience, Effort, and freedom from Judgment.
We teach the flat, linear, exponential, and umbrella patterns as the building blocks of our long form improvisation.
Character and Behavior
We teach how to establish a character and develop its filter using personal patterns, gravity, truth, and the gifts of emotion, physicality, and history. Most importantly, we teach how to develop a character's behavior - the consistent pattern of reactions they have to the outside world.
we believe the scene's foundation is in the relationship - the pattern of how the character's behaviors affect each other.
Multiple Person Scene Techniques
We teach the techniques of 3 weights, 4 weights, cloning, ghosting, grouping, walk-ons, call-ons, power spots, and more!
We teach how to process a scene for its patterns, relationships, locations, people, places, gravity, themes, commentaries, tangents, and direct and indirect inspirations.
We teach how to recognize the impact of a scene to the audience, a composition of gravity, pace, intensity, length, and content.
We teach the how, the when and the why of sweeps, tagouts, swinging doors, split scenes, painting, transformations, slides, zooms, pans, maximizing, minimizing and every imagineable way to go from scene to scene!
We teach that the impact of your piece on an audience, also known as the piece dynamic, is a composition of crescendos and decrescendos that serve to stay ahead of audience expectations.
We teach that every piece has a source, whose only relationship is to the suggestion, and the goal of that source is to produce inspirations for more scenes.
We teach that the source produces expansion ideas, both direct and indirect. How the form expands, or grows, is the Expansion Tree!
We teach the types of closure we seek at the ends of our pieces include resolution, satisfying wants, identifying perfect matches, turning tables, and rewards and punishments!
From Formula to Form
We use the Expansion Tree to view common and uncommon forms that exist in the industry today, including the Harold, Deconstruction, Movie, Armando Diaz, the Bat, JTS Brown, Soupy, Single Location, Big Bang, Out and Back, Trio, Quartet, Close Quarters, Octet, Zumpf, and Python. They all have value in their structure, or formula, as training wheels. But they also have their sometimes unrecognizeable form that is expressed more freely when the student becomes an artist.