Nothing Builds Community Like Comedy

ComedySportz players Jason Stockdale, Olivia Ciacci, Julia Frey and Matt Lydon competing for the Red Team.

— by David Dritsas

It may be cliché to say that laughter brings people together but if the cliché fits, well, I say you might as well wear it and wear it proudly.

When I was recently asked to write a an article for The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, I struggled a bit with what to say that didn’t seem to be too much of a pitch for ComedySportz Philadelphia, the local improv comedy company I worked at for 12 years. But then I thought, “Talk about the community. That’s a nice hook.”

After all, the Jewish community has been a strong supporter of ComedySportz throughout its 20-year history, something for which both our Jewish and non-Jewish cast members and staff have been extremely grateful.

More after the jump.

Philadelphia hosted the ComedySportz Championship in 2010.

In addition to hosting Jewish groups at our regular shows in Center City Philadelphia, we’ve performed for countless Jewish community centers, temples and more bar and bat mitzvahs than I can remember. Just this past March we performed at a fundraiser for the Klein JCC in Philadelphia. What can I say? The Jewish community loves comedy. And we love them for it.

But ComedySportz is so much more than that. We’ve become as equally involved in other communities, as well, from annual shows a local Catholic schools to non-religious summer camps to multicultural college groups. We’re often asked by local universities to run team-building workshops for international student groups a we’ve even been hired several a national corporations to help teach their regional sales representatives to communicate better and form a better working community.

Referee Dave Jadico calls a “groaner foul” on Noah Herman.

Why us? Why would all of these important groups and billion dollar companies trust a small improv company that revels in being silly on stage, has a trunk of bad wigs and enjoys a good pun more than any sensible person should? Community.

It took me a long time to realize it, but it is clear to me now that the format of our show is perhaps one of the best community building events one could have in the entertainment business. Our “gimmick” is a sporting match-two teams play for audience laughs with a referee acting as the moderator and show host. Unlike a stand-up comic, who is alone on stage and protective of his or her jokes, our comic improvisers share in the humor-setting each other up for laughs and working together to make everyone, even the occasional audience volunteer, look good.

And then there’s the clean aspect of our show. Like a good first date, we avoid major political, religious or overtly sexual topics, and if a curse word accidentally slips, someone is wearing a brown paper bag on his or her head.

Now, some misinterpret this to mean that we are a show just for kids. That is absolutely false. If there is any proof, it’s the fact that our 10:00 show on Saturday is all adults, and yet the content is marginally different from our earlier, more family populated 7:30 show.

I’ve always been proud to say that we are a show that plays to the top of our intelligence, something that both kids and adults enjoy. There are very few live shows in this world that can make both adults and kids laugh at the same time. For some reason the entertainment world seems to have forgotten how to do that. Then again, yours truly grew up laughing with my Mom and Dad at The Carol Burnett Show, so maybe that’s why I get it.

All of this combined builds a strong sense of community in the audience. On any given night we might have several different groups of different backgrounds and ages sitting next to each other and laughing together at jokes that work on many levels. And after the show, we often hear, “This was perfect for our group.” Funny, how that works.

We once had a tag line for our show that read, “Every Saturday, Everybody laughs.” I will probably never be rich from doing improv, but I find myself much better off in life because I truly know and have experienced what that means.

David Dritsas is an Executive Director Emeritus of ComedySportz Philadelphia and was a member of the company for 12 years. He now resides in Chicago, performing improv and sketch comedy. ComedySportz Philadelphia performs every Saturday at 7:30 and 10:00. Show information can be found at