Dog Story Theater home to Comedy Outlet Mondays

By Kate Branum | 2/19/17 10:17pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Zach Johnson "Comedy Outlet Mondays"

by Zach Johnson / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Looking for a good laugh? Find the funny at Dog Story Theater in downtown Grand Rapids.

Dog Story, a small, volunteer-based performance venue, hosts Comedy Outlet Mondays (COM), each Monday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

COM, created and facilitated by the West Michigan improvisation troupe No Outlet Improv, exposes audiences to a wide variety of experimental comedy. New and returning local artists from around Grand Rapids gather at Dog Story each week to showcase their talents through stand-up comedy acts and long and short-form improv sketches.

No Outlet Improv, well-known in the Grand Rapids theater community, also hosts regular shows at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, LaughFest and The Lake Effect Fringe Festival. In 2014, No Outlet planned and hosted the first ever Grand Rapids Improv Festival.

Each week, COM opens with a News Flash segment, featuring two Dog Story volunteer performers who present current events and international news stories using witty jokes and funny responses. The stage is then turned over to the groups scheduled to perform until 8 p.m. Immediately following the scheduled acts, COM offers a chance for newcomers to put their comedy or improv skills to practice with an open-mic segment until 9 p.m.

Typically, Dog Story houses three or four improv troupes or comedians per week. Some of the groups who frequent COM include: Funny Girls, Plant Parenthood and Grand Valley State University improv troupe, Pseudo Improv.

Most people group improvisation and stand-up comedy together, however, improvisation doesn’t necessarily translate to intentional comedy. Improv is the act of creating responding to unforeseen circumstances and situations without pre-planning. While the improv groups that perform at COM generate endless laughs from audience members, their main goal is to keep the dialogue flowing, encourage audience participation and show support for each other.

“I think improv makes me a much more open individual,” said Funny Girls performer Amy Gascan. “I think I can go with the flow a lot more and think on my feet. I’m accepting to different ideas, I’m a better presenter and I’m more dynamic than I was before improv. I’ve more friends, too–it’s fun to just hang out and play. 

"When you’re an adult, there’s not a lot of opportunities to play, and I think improv is one of the few spaces that you can do that.”

No Outlet Improv and Dog Story volunteer staff members emphasize the importance of community support and exploration of new ideas and performances.

“My favorite thing about [Dog Story] is the breadth of types of performances being put on here,” said Sean Francis, eight-year Dog Story volunteer. “It’s not just one thing, we have all sorts of different groups that come here. We have plays, musicals, Shakespeare and comedy. Any given month it’s going to be different, so it’s great to have a very affordable space for artists to come and put on work that they may not get to do so elsewhere.”

The next set of Comedy Outlet performances will be held Monday, Feb. 20. Tickets are sold for $5 per person.

For more information, check out No Outlet Improv’s website at www.nooutletimprov.com/comedy-outlet-mondays.

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