Romance between improvisers isn’t always a laughing matter.
By Jason A. Heidemann|
The improv world is filled with rumors of the lascivious, like the guy who walked in on his girlfriend giving some dude head at the iO holiday party or a circle jerk featuring members from one of the city’s most notable improv teams. There are also the romances with happy endings: George Wendt and his wife, Bernadette Birkett, met at Second City, as did Tina Fey and husband Jeff Richmond; e.t.c. alum and SNL cast member Aidy Bryant is in a long-term relationship with sketch comedian Conner O’Malley. Why do Chicago comedians mostly sleep with their own? We penetrate the scene via one anonymous bachelor to find out why.
It helps to have a quick dictionary lesson first. “A lot of improvisers refer to non-improvisers as Muggles,” our source says, at least in his circle. (Yes, that’s a Harry Potter reference.) According to him, when anybody within the community is seeing someone new, the first question asked is whether that person is an improviser or a Muggle. “If the person says [Muggle], everybody cheers,” he says—the social circles are so incestuous, it’s almost a miracle to snag someone outside of the community. “If the person says [improviser], they immediately want to know who it is.”
Hookups with Muggles (another common nickname is “normals”), according to our source, are rare. For starters, improv is an immersive experience. Not only does the art form encourage bonds of trust between improvisers, but serious practitioners are encouraged to attend shows constantly. “It’s the number-one social outlet I have,” says our source. “I don’t think I can name a single time in the last year when I’ve hung out with somebody that I didn’t meet through improv.” Plus, Muggles often don’t relate to the improviser’s performance- and drinking-based lifestyle: “You’re basically a full-grown adult who wants to leave every single night of the week either to play pretend with your friends or watch people play pretend with their friends.”
It doesn’t help that the improv pool is incredibly small. Sure, the city cranks out wanna-be stars by the thousands via classes at Second City, iO and the Annoyance, but when you get down to who’s performing regularly on a team and who’s being paid attention to by the press, it’s a truncated circle. “You’re really looking at a maximum of 500 people,” says our source, who notes that most of those improvisers fall within the typically single (and horny) age range of 18–32.
Things do get out of hand. Our source tells us stories of aging legends who make unwanted advances on the “young bloods,” predatory coaches who openly hit on team members and creepos who don’t know when to let go. He recounts a harrowing tale of a broken romance between two people on the same improv team at iO that turned into a stalking nightmare including unhinged e-mails and text messages.
Our source prefers dating Muggles, but also admits to having slept with two or three improvisers and having been drawn to several more. “You become attracted to somebody,” he says, “and there’s no greater aphrodisiac than seeing somebody crushing it onstage.”