GARY SCHWARTZ-Improv Coach/Author

Gary Schwartz is an award-winning TV and film actor, director, comedian and a master improvisational acting coach whose 30 years as a performer and improv teacher has helped transform the lives of thousands of people, both on- and off-screen. He studied and worked with Viola Spolin,the mother of modern improv, and is the only master teacher to have ever earned an endorsement from both Viola Spolin and her son, Paul Sills, the co-founder and director of The Second City. His website Spolin Games Online is a wealth of resources for improvisers, with videos and explanations of Spolin games.In this episode Gary Schwartz speaks openly about his early childhood and youth and how that led him to write his first novel The King of Average. Named one of Kirkus Reviews best books of 2016, this heartfelt, hilarious, pun-filled middle grade novel tells of an eleven-year old’s quest for love and self-acceptance in a land where psychological states are actual places.
Listen as Gary reads an excerpt from this lovely book, that is not just for children but teachers, psychologists, parents, coaches and anyone who’s ever struggled with self-love.


Part 2 of Improv Interviews with Bernie De Koven – the master of play! Visit his website where you’ll find wonderful articles and videos about his career in play. While you’re at it, go to and get the copy of his newest book, A Playful Path.


Over 40 years ago I attended New Games Foundation training and became a Certified New Games Referee. Imagine my delight and honor to meet the man who was pivotal in the New Games movement.Bernie is an amazing person whose energy and love of play have helped thousands of folks realize that play is as important for adults as it is for kids! Bernie De Koven is a “founding father of play studies,” creating the Games Preserve, the first centre for the exploration of games and play for adults, Bernie continues to this day to explore the theory of fun and playfulness and how it can affect every aspect of personal and interpersonal, community and institutional health.
In this episode Bernie shares his journey on the playful path. Just last month the Indianapolis Parks Foundation, Friends of Ellenberger Park, and Indy Parks & Recreation dedicated Bernie’s Swings Ellenberger Park, a playground in Indianapolis.
In 2014 he teamed with the improv organization ComedySportz Indianapolis to stage his interactive show Play’s the Thing
A Playful Path, his most recent work,  A Playful Path (over 640,000 downloads), and a CD Recess for the Soul. is a collection of essays from his popular blog deepFUN.
Called the “Shaman of Play,” Bernie a leading fun theorist who has shown over the course of his 45 year career how fun and playfulness lead to some of the most important trends in games today, from large scale community games to casual game apps. He is the author of The Well-Played Game (originally published by Doubleday in 1978 and reissued in 2013 by MIT Press), A Playful Path (over 640,000 downloads), and a CD Recess for the Soul. He continues to make his work publicly available through his seminars and websites: this site and A Playful Path.

Jimmy Carrane – Improviser/Teacher

In this episode Jimmy Carrane speaks about his history in improv comedy, how he developed his groundbreaking improv intensive workshop, “Art of Slow Comedy,” and how he dealt with his own personal challenges.

Jimmy Carrane is the host of the popular improv podcast “Improv Nerd,” co-author of Improvising Better and author of Improv Therapy and the Inner Game of Improv. He was an original member of The Annoyance Theater and Armando at iO Chicago, and has performed in Jazz Freddy and Naked with MAD TV’s Stephanie Weir. His one-man shows include the hits I’m 27, I Still Live at Home and Sell Office Supplies and Living in a Dwarf’s House. Jimmy has taught improv for more than 25 years at The Second City, iO Chicago, and The Annoyance and his Art of Slow Comedy Classes. Jimmy is offering his award-winning Art of Slow Comedy Weekend Intensives in Chicago this summer. For more information, visit

Will Luera – Director of the Sarasota Improv Festival

Will Luera is an improv legend and has been the director of the FST Improv Festival in Sarasota, Florida since 2014. He has a stellar cast lined up for this year’s festival in July.

Hear how Will began his improv career with ImprovBoston. Some of his numerous credits include Director of Big Bang Improv, the Artistic Director Emeritus of ImprovBoston, Artistic Director of the Pilsen Improv Festival, Artistic Associate of the Chicago Improv Festival, and Artistic Advisor to the Women in Comedy Festival.

He’s studied improvisation with ImprovOlympic, The Second City, The Annoyance Theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade, and Keith Johnstone.

He tours globally as an improv and theater actor, director and instructor. He performs and teaches regularly all across North America, South America, Europe and Asia. He is also an extremely kind and generous person. Despite the hectic schedule of the festival he always has time to chat and be helpful. Somehow he stays very calm as well!

I love this interview, especially as Will was generous enough to do a 2-prov scene with me! I’m hoping you enjoy this podcast with the talented and humble Will Luera.

Be sure to check out the 9th Annual Sarasota Improv Festival July 13 to 15, with  top improvisers from around the country performing and teaching: FST Improv Festival 2017.

Check out the great improv classes at FST at

See Will in the 2016 FST Improv Festival with Big Bang:

Rachael Mason & Susan Messing – Improvisers

Join us in this laugh-filled podcast with the dynamic duo, Rachael Mason and Susan Messing. During this episode they share their experiences in improv comedy. They also give great notes on getting out of the judging mind and how to have fun and play on stage.

Rachel and Susan can be seen with The Boys at the Second City Training Centers the last Friday of every month at, a must-see show! Rachael will be teaching at the First Annual Improv and Psychology Conference ( There is still room in their Long Form Immersion class at Second City in July (

Rachael Mason moved to Chicago after college to study improv comedy with Del Close. She is now the head of Advanced Improvisation for The Second City where she created the Scenic Improv and Dramatic Improv programs, and The History of Satire Series for The Second City Training Center.  She has performed musical improv with Baby Wants Candy at The Edinburg Fringe Festival, directed and performed at The Annoyance, played with The Hot Karl at ComedySportz, and had almost every job at iO (where she was Training Center Director for 8 years), done The Spoletto Festival with The Second City National Touring Company, and is currently in the cast of The Second City Improv All-Stars at The Up Comedy Club as well as with Second City’s first resident improv show “The Boys,” the last Friday of every month at 9 pm. 

Susan Messing, a NJ native, has been an improviser and comedian for over twenty-five years.  She is an alumna of the iO Theatre, Second City’s Mainstage, and a founding member of Chicago’s infamous Annoyance Theatre.  Susan created and teaches her curriculum at iO Chicago, iO West in Hollywood,  The Annoyance Theatre, The Second City, and around the country. Susan is an adjunct instructor for DePaul University and teaches for The School at Steppenwolf, and The University of Chicago.  Her standup act with her puppet, Jolly, was featured at the HBO/US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and NBC’s Late Fridays, and her most impressive bit movie role was as a bad stripper in a halo brace in Let’s Go to Prison! You can see her play every Tuesday night at the iO in “Molly,” every Thursday night in her critically acclaimed show “Messing with a Friend,” now in its 10th year at The Annoyance Theatre, and the last Friday of every month at The Second City with “The Boys.”



Last summer I met Amy in a workshop and fell in love with her immediately! . Her enthusiasm and love of improv is contagious. Amy Burge is an improviser, public school teacher and a mother of two very active teenage boys. Currently, she is a very involved in the Minneapolis improv community as a performer, a committee member (Tiny Funny Women Fest and FairPlay) and teacher.  She is most excited about being able to teach improv at an adolescent chemical treatment center and would like to further he work in the area of mental health.. For more about Amy please visit these sites! Anxiety, the Musical

The summer intensive at Huge.



Eric Fisher

Meet Eric Fisher, a mindful improviser! Though Eric’s younger years were heavily involved improv and the arts, his career has been in design and technology. After studying computer graphics and psychology at UPenn, he spent over a decade designing apps and online communities in addition to working at Facebook, Apple and Google in Silicon Valley.

After his own successful experience with therapy, he dove back into participating in casual improv groups, quickly realizing how his own mindfulness training made all the difference. Not only was he a far better improvisor, but more importantly he became so much more aware of its core values in life and the various difficulties people face with it.

For the last few years, he’s been trying to bring about more mainstream education in the space by hosting improv workshops or giving talks based on his own social design-oriented background and therapy experience. His organization, TruePlace, provides MindfulImprov, an online community for practitioners of improv with mental health and self improvement in mind.


Rick Thomas

Learn about the history of improv with Rick Thomas. Listen to Rick’s unique point of view on his experiences in the art of improvisational comedy. He’s an Alumnus Chicago Main stage Second City Resident Company; studied Improv with Second City Founders including the  great Paul Sills and David Shepherd; acted with Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and other luminaries, and for Woody Allen and Mike Nichols; performs one-man show “The Rick Blog Live on Stage”; writes popular “The Rick Blog”; is Clinical Assistant Professor at UIC Business School; is national speaker on Case Analysis and Presentation Skills; interested in relationship between imagination and reason in execution of professional tasks in arts and business; actively looking for venues to share “Rick Blog Live on Stage Show,” a one-hour show, longer two-act version with audience participation, and shorter presentations in standing comedy/variety shows.

Check out his blog at:

And if you’re in Chicago, be sure and catch his Rick Blog Live on Stage!

Lisa Kays, LICSW, LCSW-C

Lisa Kays holds an MSW from Catholic University and has been practicing psychotherapy with individuals, couples and groups since 2013. She holds an LICSW in Washington, D.C. and an LCSW-C in Maryland, and has acquired additional training from the Washington School of Psychotherapy’s ISTDP First Year Program and from Rehearsals for Growth! She has studied and performed as an improvisor for more than five years and was on the faculty of Washington Improv Theater from 2008-2016. In addition, she has integrated improvisation into her work in a women’s prison, given workshops using improvisational techniques for individuals in recovery, and been a trainer in Washington Improv Theater’s WIT @ Work professional development and team building trainings. Over the past year, she has developed Washington Improv Theater’s first Improv for Mental Health Professionals class, which has received press on NBC4 and in The Washington Post.

Find out more about Lisa Kays: