In many ways comedy is a great equalizer—a ubiquitous and nationally beloved form of entertainment. To give us some perspective on the meteoric rise of American comedy, Sam Wasson takes the stage to discuss his book Improv Nation: How We Made A Great American Art, a richly reported, scene-driven narrative that moves fast and digs deep. Wasson tracks the origins of improv, from the experimental theater troupe Second City who set up shop in Chicago at the height of the McCarthy era, to Dan Aykroyd’s after-hours bar and home for icons like John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner.
Joining Wasson onstage is Jet City Improv Artistic Director Andrew McMasters. Together, they’ll unpack the evolution of improv comedy as an unscripted, interactive, consciousness-raising style and lead a conversation that takes us through improv’s influence on landmark productions such as The Graduate, Caddyshack, and The Colbert Report. With signature verve and nuance, Wasson and McMasters offer their thoughts on why improv deserves to be considered the great American art form of the last half-century—and the most influential one today. Join us at the start of the show for an opening performance by The Jet City Improv Company!
Sam Wasson is a social historian of cinema and comedy whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The Wall Street Journal. He’s served as a consultant for The Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA Film. He is the author of five books including Fosse (NPR’s book of the year), A Splurch in the Kisser, and the 2010 bestseller Fifth Avenue, 5 AM: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman.
Andrew McMasters founded Jet City Improv in 1992, and then incorporated as the 501c3 Wing-It Productions in 1996. He is the Artistic Director of Jet City Improv and corporate consultant for his own company ImprovMindset, as well as the executive producer of the Seattle Festival of Improv Theater.
Produced by Town Hall Seattle and Jet City Improv as part of the Arts & Culture series.