The Annoyance Theatre, a Chicago institution that’s helped school everyone from Stephen Colbert to Amy Sedaris in the art of improv, is coming to Williamsburg. We doubt anyone will be annoyed.
Since Mick Napier founded the Annoyance in Chi-town 27 years ago, comedic stalwarts like Jane Lynch, Vanessa Bayer, and Matt Walsh (founder of UCB) have all taken classes there.
Philip Markle also studied at the theater when he started doing improv after college. He loved that it encouraged performers to let their freak flags fly. “It’s not about the rules,” he told us. “It’s about what makes you powerful.”
Markle went on to become a teacher, performer, and executive director at Annoyance. A year ago, he started teaching in New York, growing a roster of around 700 students here. Now he’s signed a lease for what’s literally a brick-and-mortar location at 367 Bedford Avenue, in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge.
The small space in the basement of the Williamsburg Music Center, with its acid-wash brick walls from the 1920s, will have around 40 to 50 seats. “It has a lot of character, just like us,” says Markle.
The theater will open in December, with improv shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (among the productions Annoyance has put on in Chicago are Coed Prison Sluts and Manson: The Musical). Classes will start in January, with the option of a five-level program, individual three-hour long classes, and ones that last eight weeks for $350.
Registration starts next week for classes in comedy writing, on-camera performance, and “Musical Improv,” in which Matthew Van Colton teaches students to use elements of a song to make ’em laugh. Check the website for updates.
With the move to New York, Markle says Annoyance will be the only Chicago theater with a New York branch (take that, Second City). Since Annoyance members are like family, Markle hopes the East Coast location will help comedians who don’t want to start all over in a new place. “The truth about New York,” he says, “is that people move here to take the next step.”