Atlas Improv – a different show every night

With a variety of sketches and audience participation, Atlas Improv keeps actors, audience alike on their toes.

Atlas Improv Sign

Nick Bargren

Atlas Improv, 609 E. Washington Ave, hosts shows Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Brighid Monahan, Staff writer

Teacher and outreach director by day and comedic genius by night, Josh Johnson and Ben Taylor, both members of Atlas Improv, took off their proverbial suit and glasses for a comedy show of superhero status.

Put the two of them on stage together and what do you get?

An outrageously funny skit that involves the killing of a deity, drinking butter, and a chance of rain.

Audience members never know what they’re going to see or hear from a performance at the Atlas Improv.

Mary Parmentier and Bryan Judkins started Atlas Improv Co. in 2004. Before moving to their current location, they performed at Electric Earth Cafe on West Washington Avenue.

Completely run by volunteers, like Josh and Ben, Atlas Improv Co. is now set in a small brick building on 609 E Washington Ave, with a black walled theater in the back and a dressing room on the side. Even though it is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Atlas has a lot to offer the community.

Taylor started taking classes at Atlas in 2007, while he was getting his undergrad in entomology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and joined the company a year later. Johnson’s day-job is serving an outreach director for the science department.

“I basically translate science lingo into regular English,” he said. Taylor is glad he has joined the company for many reasons, one of which is it has made him a better listener and heightened his storytelling skills.

Johnson auditioned in 2005 for the company and says it has not only been a great learning experience but has helped him become a better teacher.

“It really helped me understand why the things people say are funny,” said Josh Johnson, a middle school English teacher and Atlas member, “anyone can be funny but it takes skill and practice to understand why.”

According to Taylor, there are three ways to get into the company: auditions, classes through the company, and the Cut. The Cut is basically a smaller, low-key version of Last Comic Standing, it is held for six weeks starting in October, and every week one performer is let go until the final person is offered a spot in the company.

Atlas performs two shows on Friday and Saturday nights, one at 8 p.m. and one at 10 p.m. Atlas also teaches classes on improvising, public speaking and comedy.

The show at 8 p.m. is family friendly and features different 10-minute skits along the lines of “SNL” or “Who’s Line is it Anyway.” The show at 10 p.m. is more for adult crowds and features two 20- to 30-minute sections of skits that are based on improvising a plot in two different movie genres.

Admission is $5 for students and $8 for non-students for the comedy show of a lifetime.