Improv Comedy Master Class Workshops

NCCAF offers public workshops during Improv Week that focus on both advanced improv technique and diagnostics and push comedy writing and acting skills.

NOTE: Festival participants who elected to register for the Saturday Workshop Package receive a "student" discount on Master Class Workshops. Details about the included Saturday Workshops* will be sent the week of the Festival.

Saturday Workshop* Faculty include: Greg Tavares (Theatre 99), Kevin Mullaney (IRC, Chicago Improv Festival), Megan Gray (Junior Varsity), Jamie Rivera (Junior Varsity), Shawn Wickens (Junior Varsity), Rick Andrews (Magnet TourCo), Chet Siegel (Magnet TourCo), Alan Fessenden (Magnet TourCo), Russ Armstrong (Magnet TourCo), Kevin Thom (Toronto), Rene Duquesnoy (BEATBOX, ComedySportz Chicago), and other incredible coaches and teachers.


Joy Joy with Susan Messing

Is your work getting stale or feel uninspired? Are you blaming your friends for your onstage misfortunes? Do you feel like your work needs a touch up? This class is for the improviser who has fallen off the Joy Ride. By organically accessing more character, environment, and observational and listening skills, you'll be able to play with anyone, anytime. These are quick and easy fixes that will reignite your inspiration and get your friends to like you more.

Susan Messing has been an improviser and comedian for over twenty four years. A graduate of the Theatre School at Northwestern University, Susan Messing is an alumna of the iO, Second City Mainstage, and a founding member of Chicago's infamous Annoyance Theatre. Susan continues to teach and perform improvisational comedy at iO, The Annoyance Theatre, and Second City. She is also an adjunct instructor for DePaul University, where he teaches improv. Recipient of the CIF 2010 "Improviser Of The Year," Chicago Reader named her "Best Improviser" and she has been dubbed the "Funniest Woman In Chicago" by Chicago Magazine.

Limited to 18 students per workshop.

  • Friday FEB 15, 2pm-430pm $75 (SOLD OUT)
  • Saturday FEB 16, 130pm-4pm $75 (SOLD OUT)
  • Group Pretty with Susan Messing

    Improvisation is an active art, not a bunch of people standing around arguing with each other. This workshop is designed to make your team look visually stunning. Stage Picture, flying safety, and elements of Story Theatre and symmetry will have you off the back wall and make you and your friends look awesome.

    Limited to 18 students per workshop.

  • Saturday FEB 16, 10am-1230pm $75 (Register online)
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: WORKSHOP AVAILABLE FOR INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED IMPROVISERS. If you have a question about eligibility for this workshop please contact ASAP as spaces are likely to SELL OUT.


    The Initiation with Rachael Mason

    The Initiation: Explore three ways to start a scene... then attack the game.

    Rachael Mason began her career in improvisation at Skidmore College, home of the National College Comedy Festival, with the Ad-Liberal Artists. After graduating with a degree in English Literature, concentrating on Shakespearean Studies, she moved to Chicago to study improv comedy with Del Close. She trained at The Second City, The Annoyance, and iO. Her credits include an almost 4 year stint with The Second City National Touring Company, " All Over My Face", "Big Trouble at Hairy Gulch", "Donkey Improv", and "Screw Puppies" at the Annoyance. At iO she has played with the "Armando Diaz Theatrical Experience and Hootenanny", Monster Island, Jane, Preponderate, Genealogy, The Lindbergh Babies, The Deltones, and iO's former Resident Company Baby Wants Candy, the iO Road Show Touring Company, Children of a Lesser God, and was Director of the iO Training Center for 5 years. She pops up occasionally in ComedySportz's The Hot Karl, Second City's Jewsical the Musical, and The Second City Norwegian Cruise Cast. Currently she performs with The Second City Improv Allstars, The Playboys, and JimmyRachaelJohnnie and is Head of Advanced Improvisation at The Second City. She is most happy when she is teaching improv.

    Limited to 18 students per workshop.

  • Friday FEB 15, 2pm-430pm $75 (Register online)
  • Saturday FEB 16, 130pm-4pm $75 (Register online)
  • The Deconstruction with Rachael Mason

    The Deconstruction: Learn the improv form that eats information alive.

    Limited to 18 students per workshop.

  • Saturday FEB 16, 10am-1230pm $75 (Register online)
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: WORKSHOP AVAILABLE FOR INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED IMPROVISERS. If you have a question about eligibility for this workshop please contact ASAP as spaces are likely to SELL OUT.


    Storytelling & Personal Essays with Jane Borden

    Everyone has a funny or crazy true story, and anyone can be a storyteller: It's all in the way you frame it. This workshop will give you the tools necessary to craft stories as entertainment for larger audiences. Those already writing or performing will gain a fresh perspective.

    Jane's first book, a memoir in essays, titled "I Totally Meant to Do That", was published year. Vanity Fair called it “affectionate” and New York Magazine deemed it “lowbrow-brilliant.” The Brooklyn Paper announced Borden as “the new ‘It’ girl.” As a comedian, Jane has appeared on Comedy Central and VH1; her humorous writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Modern Bride, in two anthologies, and on Saturday Night Live.

    Limited to 12 students per workshop.

  • Friday FEB 15, 10am-1230pm $60 (Register online)


    The Viewpoints in Improv with Steppenwolf West Faculty Member Eric Hunicutt

    Our job onstage is to listen, to respond, to say "yes"... and in the process, to remain present, to support our partners, to heighten and explore, to use the space, to play the Game - this juggling act can become overwhelming and trap us in our heads. Often, we spend way too much time and energy analyzing our own scenes, trying to decide what the "right" choice is. In many ways, we say "no" to our impulses, our inspiration, or we ignore what's right in front of us. This workshop offers actors a chance to experience their scenes in a whole new way, physically as well as emotionally, through the use of Viewpoints.

    About Viewpoints: The Viewpoints are a vocabulary and a practice that examines what happens onstage (and in our everyday lives). By exploring the individual Viewpoints, performers can better understand components of space, time, and movement in their work - can become more responsive, more intuitive, more present in the scene itself. Viewpoints is a practice, not a methodology. It supplements what each actor already brings, it doesn't seek to replace anything, but does offer a clear view of individuals' process and habits (helpful and harmful alike). Viewpoints expands the actor's ability to receive, to listen, to act on instinct; it offers a glimpse of more possibilities in every character, relationship, and scene.

    This workshop offers an introduction to the vocabulary of Viewpoints and utilizes Viewpoints-based exercises as a process for developing character, discovering relationship, and exploring physical space in improv. This is a great class for any performer at any level - from the experienced improviser who is growing bored with their work, to the beginner who feels overwhelmed by all the responsibility in their scenes.

    Eric Hunicutt is a working actor, director, writer, acting coach, and teacher currently living in Los Angeles. A professional actor for 20 years, Eric's work has ranged from Shakespeare at Lincoln Center to sketch comedy in dive bars, as well as work in television, film, theatre, and hundreds of improv shows - including over ten years as a member of the acclaimed improv ensemble the Reckoning. He has trained and worked at iO Chicago, iO West, UCB, Second City, Comedy Sportz, Steppenwolf West, and many others. Directing credits include webisodes, short films, commercials, and productions at Katselas Theatre Company, Casa 0101, The Second City (LA & Chicago), Spoleto Fringe (Charleston, SC), Comedy Central Stage (LA), Upright Citizens’ Brigade Theaters (NYC & LA), and two productions as a Guest Director at the University of California at San Diego, where he taught undergraduate acting as a Guest Faculty member in the Department of Theatre & Dance. Eric currently teaches in Los Angeles at Steppenwolf Classes WestWarner Loughlin StudiosThe Art of Acting StudioCalifornia State University's Summer Arts intensive, iO West, and is a private acting & audition coach. He is a proud alumnus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a native tarheel. Currently, Eric performs weekly at the iO West Theater in Los Angeles.

    Limited to 16 students; There will be a break for lunch.

  • Friday FEB 15, 1030am-430pm $95 (Register online) ONE SPOT LEFT!


    Musical Improv with Mike Descoteaux

    Musical Improv introduces students to the fundamentals of how to improvise songs that sound as if they had been written. Explore rhyming (and effective alternatives to rhyming), common song structures that lend themselves to improvising, creating memorable hooks, and how to convincingly get into songs from an improvised scene. Discover the many connections between traditional improv and "singprov," allowing students to heighten emotion, strengthen relationships, and access new characters instantaneously. By the end of the day, students will be singing off the cuff with confidence and joy. Take this workshop to add one of the most challenging and rewarding skills to your improv arsenal! 

    No previous singing experience required.

    Mike Descoteaux is the Artistic Director of ImprovBoston. Mike has served as head of the Music Program at The Second City Training Center and music director of the Second City ETC stage in Chicago. He has had the privilege of working with Tony Award-winning artists such as Jason Robert Brown, William Finn, Mark Hollmann and James LaPine. He has “composed” and “conducted” over 1,000 completely improvised musicals with Musical! The Musical, Baby Wants Candy, I Eat Pandas and many others. Mike, a Northwestern grad, has received a Jeff Award and was named one of the top young songwriters in the country by the Johnny Mercer/AMTP association.

    Limited to 14 students per workshop.

  • Friday FEB 15, 10am-1230pm $60 (Register online)
  • Saturday FEB 16, 130pm-4pm $60 (Register online)


    Freestyle Rapping + Beatboxing + Improv = Minds Blown! with North Coast

    Have you always wanted to learn to freestyle rap and beatbox but always felt embarrassed to try? Or maybe you've always wanted to learn how to beatbox? Or perhaps you have gotten pimped into rapping in an improv scene and froze? Or perhaps you have seen a North Coast show and wonder how we do what we do? No matter what your reason may be, come to these workshops and we will teach you how to spit with the best of them, beatbox like a champion, and how to weave it all together with the fun and "rules" of improv. At a core level improv and hip-hop go hand in hand. Whether you are dropping a beat into a mic or initiating an improv scene, the same principles apply!

    Limited to 14 students per workshop.

  • Friday FEB 15, 1pm-4pm $60 (SOLD OUT)