Naturally Improvable says there’s more to comedy than just the jest

Naturally Improvable says there’s more to comedy than just the jest

“Improv is addicting. Once you get that one big laugh, you’re hooked.” — Stephen Doyle Martin

As cliche as it sounds, the members/owners of Naturally Improvable Inc. take the funny stuff seriously.

“Improv is more than comedy,” says member Stephen Doyle Martin. “Improv consists of daily skills that we all use and may not realize it. From the cashier at the drive-through window to the child finding the words to stand up to the class bully to the nurse dealing with a belligerent patient, these all involve skills that we want to help others build and see them succeed the same way we’ve been able to do.”

To that end, Naturally Improvable is teaching a series of improv workshops, with the next two Aug. 13 and Aug. 27 at the Bakery District in Fort Smith. Cost is $15 for one session or $20 for both.

“The passion of teaching has always been inside me,” says member Ian Scott Miller. “And when you get the opportunity to teach something like improv, knowing what learning the craft really means and can do for someone in everyday life, that feeling can’t be explained.”

Most of the core five members grew up in the River Valley and performed in high school and on the Fort Smith Little Theatre stage. Member Wesley Fox moved to Washington, D.C., in 2014 and started coaching inprov teams and playing accompaniment for musical improv. Member Luke Perkinson studied improv at Second City in Chicago and then furthered his education by taking a class from Matt Besser, who helped create The Upright Citizens Brigade. Member Rham Cunningham says with his experience in radio and theater, “improv was a natural fit.”

“Because I’m very comfortable behind a mic and in front of crowds, I thought there might be something I could pass along to those with ‘stage fright’ to help,” Cunningham says. “It gets down to confidence, and just taking a chance! (Very much like life!)

“Timing is everything in comedy,” he continues. “Delivery, tone, pace, overall stage presence, all are key elements, but actually when to deliver the right line at the right time is critical for the laugh. I don’t know that it can be taught, but if surrounded by it enough, it can possibly be mimicked.”

“Active listening, positivity, and being a team player are all incredibly crucial! Improv comedy is a team sport,” adds Martin. “If you’re in a scene and trying your hardest to be funny but are ignoring the scene prompts, your scene partner’s suggestions, or trying to be the ‘main character,’ then you’re going to bomb more often than not. Eventually people are going to notice and stop laughing with you and instead will laugh at you.

“We can teach active listening, and we can help with comic timing, but if you aren’t willing to share the spotlight or take a small role in a scene, then you won’t make it long in the improv world.”

“It takes commitment and passion,” puts in Perkinson. “Everything else can be taught.”

Naturally Improvable was created to “be the new ‘it’ thing in Fort Smith,” Miller adds. “Comedy in this area was lacking, and we wanted to give our residents more options for things to do on the weekend!”

Going forward, Martin says, River Valley audiences will see Naturally Improvable not only offering more workshops geared towards specific clients — public speakers, corporate training, K-12 improv, general improv workshops for beginners and advanced improvisers, Martin says — but also holding sketch and stand-up writing sessions with touring comedians.

But perhaps their most exciting news is that Sunday Night Live is returning to Fort Smith starting Sept. 10.

“Whippoorwills on Garrison has graciously offered to open on Sunday evenings specifically to help us bring back local comedy with local talent,” Martin says. “And those that attend at least two of our three workshops leading up to our first Whippoorwills show will have a chance to perform onstage with Naturally Improvable!”


Naturally Improvable


WHEN — 6-8 p.m. Aug. 13 (Starting a Scene) and 6-8 p.m. Aug. 27 (Ending a Scene)

WHERE — The Bakery District in Fort Smith

COST — $15 for one workshop or $20 for both

INFO — Register on the troupe’s Facebook page and check there for future shows

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