When: 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday, June 29, 2017, Championship Matches
When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 30, 2017, Championship Matches
When: 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 1, 2017, Semi-Final Matches; 9:30 p.m. Final Championship Match, followed by awards ceremony, including presentation of the "Meaningless Cup" and closing party
Where: Hammer Theater, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose
Tickets: $10 to $20; All Access Pass available for $90; call 408-924-8501 or visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/971732
make us laugh
Wednesday at San Jose's Hammer Theatre
Sports can often be funny, but can comedy itself be a sport? The folks at San Jose’s ComedySportz think so, and so did Dick Chudnow, who created the concept in Milwaukee in 1984. The basic premise is a competition between two teams competing for laughs and for points by making up scenes based on audience suggestions. There are penalties, there are fouls, there’s a uniformed referee. They describe it as “Serious funny business,” as well as being family friendly, relatively foolproof and “pretty much guaranteed to be goofy.”
As well as putting on shows weekly in San Jose for the last 30 years — the longest-running show in Silicon Valley in fact — ComedySportz puts on an annual World Championships, which this year is being held in San Jose. And worldwide it is. There are 27 teams in the franchise, of which 25 are spread across the United States and two are in Europe — Manchester, England, and Berlin, Germany.
This year 22 teams, including one from England, will compete at the Hammer Theater in San Jose for the coveted “Meaningless Cup.” I talked with Jeff Kramer, who runs the San Jose chapter.
“ComedySportz is the longest-running show in Silicon Valley, and we’ve put on over 6,000 shows in 30 years,” he told me. “The competition is between two teams to see which team is cleverer or funnier, and votes are cast by the referee and the audience.”
Who decides what the topic is for each competition?
“The audience makes suggestions for topics,” said Kramer, “but if either the audience or the competitors say anything inappropriate, either for suggestions or during the competition, they are punished with a “brown bag foul,” the bag going over the offender’s head. And this applies to the audience as well.” Apparently it’s usually the audience.
Kramer discovered ComedySportz while at graduate school for theater in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1984, just as Chudnow was creating the concept down the road in Milwaukee. He auditioned and became part of the original team in Madison. Then, in 1987, he got a job in San Jose and started a chapter there.
The Championships have been held every year in a different city for the last 30 years, much like the Super Bowl, and although Milwaukee won the first three, the winners have been pretty evenly spread since then. The last time the Championships were held in San Jose was in 2006.
The format of the competition is 3 or 4 players per team, plus the referee. The usual shows are an hour to an hour and 40 minutes, but this is pared down for the championships to 45-50 minutes. The championships are a knockout format with competitions running this week from Wednesday through Saturday nights with the semi-final and final on Saturday night.
Are there any recurring comedic topics that came up, no matter which city or team? “Not really,” he said, “it depends on the audience, but we try to stay away from politics. Our demographic is enormous, ranging from 8-year-olds to seniors, so we make sure there’s something for everyone. And of course the teams have to make adjustments depending on where they’re playing. The team from Manchester, England, can’t use the same jokes and references when they’re playing in Provo, Utah.”
The championships have been a year in the planning and run every night from Wednesday, June 28, 2017, through Saturday, July 1, 2017, at the Hammer Theater, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. Fun, fast-paced, family-friendly improvisational comedy played as a sport. Seriously funny.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org