Improv stays alive at SAK Comedy Lab
Published: Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 16:02
The entertaining art of Improv is alive and well every night at the SAK Comedy Lab in Downtown Orlando.
Comedy fans of all ages are welcome to enjoy the improvisational shows held at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. in the SAK Theatre. SAK also offers an "early show" at 11:30 p.m. for patrons who enjoy laughing well into the morning.
The shows usually consist of two improv teams with a host leading the acts. The performers will ask the audience for suggestions or ideas for their next sketch. By the audience interacting with the performers, it ensures that none of the material has been rehearsed or planned.
SAK Entertainment was established in 1977 and has been at its current location for just more than a year. SAK is not an acronym; it refers to the early days of the theater when all the show's props could fit in a sack. The theater now seats 201 people snugly in a second-story building in the heart of Downtown Orlando.
"SAK Entertainment originally started out as a kind of renaissance troop traveling to all parts of the country," said Box office manager and online marketing consultant Denna Eramo. "They eventually decided to settle in Orlando and have been here ever since."
SAK is owned by its performers and employees.
Those involved emphasis that SAK is like being a part of a large family. The family aspects are apparent with how well the performers interact on stage.
The theater offers improv classes for aspiring comedians through a program called SAK University. SAK University offers eight-week courses for $215. The classes are two hours long and the instructors guide the students through a complicated four-level process. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays the graduated students, called "Lab Rats," get to perform in front of a live audience.
Thursday nights are called Skooled and Served Nights, where students get in for $5 with a student I.D.
"Most of our students come from UCF, Full Sail and Rollins College" Eramo said. "It's a great place for students to come when they need a night away from the books."
SAK also prides itself in offering family friendly shows. During the show, if one of the performers says or does something explicit their team is immediately penalized.
"SAK is definitely kid friendly. Some of the humor may be a little adult but overall, feel free to bring the entire family." said SAK regular Hope Keimach.
Even though it has a family-friendly atmosphere, adults can still buy beer or wine at the concession stand. SAK still gives the feel of a traditional comedy club. It just leaves behind some of the trashiness that one would expect from a typical comedy club.
MADtv and True Blood guest actress Lauren Pritchard started her improv career at SAK under the watchful eye of improv great Wayne Brady.
"I still enjoy coming back to perform at SAK because I love the people there and the atmosphere is awesome," Pritchard said.
Brady is the most famous entertainer to come out of SAK. He has been the host of numerous talk and game shows, including Whose Line Is It Anyway? Brady and other alumni still come back every year for shows.
Improv has helped many actors and actresses go further in an already competitive field.
"Having experience in improv helped me immensely with my MADtv and True Blood auditions," Pritchard said. "Improv is all about making people happy. I enjoy it more than standup because the audience is more forgiving."
SAK Entertainment has helped springboard the careers of Karey Kirkpatrick, Joel McCrary and Aaron Shure. Kirkpatrick wrote more than two dozen films, including Chicken Run. McCrary has acted in The Princess Diaries and Mystery Men. Shure produced Everybody Loves Raymond.
"One of the secrets to our longevity is that our comedy here is for everyone," Eramo said. "Anybody can come out and have a good time."