History of Buffalo ComedySportz
ComedySportz (CSz), the family-friendly interactive improv experience, founded in Milwaukee in 1984 by Dick Chudnow, has spread like a disease (the most awesome disease ever) to more than twenty cities worldwide. Here's the story of its time in Buffalo:
In 1992, Randy Reese – a young police officer from Western New York – was given an assignment as an undercover operative at a warehouse in Milwaukee. So he packed his belongings into a U-Haul, made the 11-hour trip to Milwaukee, and quickly found himself in an unfamiliar place with no friends, and no idea what to do with himself (when he wasn't doing super-spy work in warehouses).
One day, while reading the newspaper (this was back in the day when newspapers still existed) he saw an ad for an improv comedy show called ComedySportz. Randy, having seen the British show (this was back in the day when British shows still existed) Whose Line Is It Anyway?, thought he'd give it a shot, and was immediately hooked. He returned to CSz the following day, and then the following weekend, and then the weekend after that, and the one after that, and then the one after that, and then he missed one because he had a bad cold, and then the one after that. He knew that this was what he wanted to do.
Randy took improv classes in Milwaukee, quit his job (turns out super-spy work was scary), and obtained a license to bring a ComedySportz to Buffalo.
There was one problem – at this point, before Drew Carey made improv a household word – no one in Buffalo really knew what it was. So Randy advertised $1 improv classes to encourage people to audition, and managed to scrounge together enough folks for a team. On November 6, 1993, Buffalo ComedySportz played its first match at the Holiday Inn on Dingens Street in Buffalo.
While Buffalo CSz remains forever grateful to the folks at the Holiday Inn for giving them their start, a hotel is no place for a permanent improv show, and CSz bounced around to numerous bars and restaurants over the next several years, including The Bradford Grill, Impaxx, The Coliseum, and The Keystone Grill.
Eventually, Randy got tired of moving his show around and said to himself, “Self, I'm going to buy a comedy club.” And he did. For seven years, CSz performed at Comix Café in Tonawanda, until worsening economic conditions forced the club to close in 2007.
For two years, Buffalo CSz played in the beautiful, 1,100 seat Riviera Theatre, where they played their fifteenth anniversary show (which drew hundreds of fans to a show that featured local celebrities and ended with a giant check handed off to their friends at Gilda's Club), as well as their first two 29½-hour improvathons.
During this time, Buffalo CSz formed a Board of Directors, whose sole purpose was to make Buffalo ComedySportz awesomer.
And that they did.
Since the board was formed in 2008, Buffalo CSz has opened its own ComedySportz Arena, built a successful improv training program, tripled the number of weekly shows it performs, started an adult improv show (IMF), expanded its Improvathon to an annual 49½-hour event, and landed the 2013 World Comedy League Championship, which will see players from all of the CSz cities come together for one giant improv spectacle.
Life has forced Randy away from Buffalo CSz – his #1 jersey was retired on September 3, 2011 – but his spirit and passion for the art lives on in the rest of us.
We've played nearly 1,500 matches for more than 100,000 fans – for crowds ranging in size from 3 to 1,500. We've played for babies that were less than a month old, and for a couple that had been married over 60 years. We've opened for Davy Jones of the Monkees, and played bachelorette, birthday, and divorce parties. We've received notes from fans dealing with incredibly difficult situations, thanking us for putting a smile at the end of their horrible week, and from a nine-year-old-kid, sad that he would miss us this week, because he had to go to a sleepover at his friend's house.
We've been making you laugh for 18 years, Buffalo. Thank you for giving us the opportunity.
Here's to the next 18...