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iO West Theater: Wildly Creative Comedy on Hollywood Boulevard

By Genie Davis

October 20, 2016

Once known as the Improv Olympics, iO West Theater is by any name the home of terrific, fresh comedy shows seven days a week. The original name began at iO’s first location in Chicago, when competing improv teams played theater games in friendly competition.

With a main stage and two smaller performing stages, iO West also houses a training center based on the techniques taught by co-founder Del Close and his partner and iO owner Charna Halpern.

Long form improvisastion, sketch comedy, and the improv of the theater’s Harold teams – improvisers who take on an audience suggestion and create stories and characters from this starting point – are the signatures of the theater, which has been providing laugh after laugh on the west coast for almost twenty years.


“Opening Night” the Musical, at iO West.

According to theater manager Mike Canale, “We have some of the best improv shows in LA. We have a number of flagship projects, including Opening Night, the improvised musical, and grounded long form improv teams like Cook County Social Club, and the Reckoning, all of which regularly sell out. We also have great sketch shows, including a rotating group of shows that start at 9 p.m. on Sunday evenings.”

At 8 p.m. every Sunday, the theater hosts another signature sketch show, Top Story Weekly. “That’s a news satire show that presents current news material written every week. It’s a pretty strong draw for us, a show that brings in a diverse crowd, besides ‘comedy nerds,’” he laughs.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday evening are reserved for The Harold, which is iO’s signature improv form. “Local residents, and people in the comedy community are very much drawn to Harold nights,” he explains. “Shows like Opening Night and Top Story Weekly” bring in a wide audience, including people who are finding us for the first time, as well as regulars.” Comedy shows run from 8 to 11 p.m. nightly, with new shows starting on the hour.

The theater has seen some staff turn over in the last six to eight months according to Canale, and is making plans for some line-up changes in the coming year. “We’re planning to do some more experimental comedy,” he explains.”We are looking to do some comedy that really pushes the envelope.”

iO’s main stage is a 21+ ticketed venue attached to the theater’s full bar. The two story bar includes a seating area and makes a great space to relax before or after a show. The venue’s smaller stages are free of charge and are all ages. “The smaller stages are where our student performers and some of our newest improv teams perform,” he states.

The bar at iO West.

The bar at iO West.

Holidays often allow the theater to explore one of a kind offerings: on Halloween, for example, iO is presenting a single show at 8:30 p.m., The Haunted House of Improvised Horrors, followed by a costume party and drinks specials. “Those types of shows kind of open us up to a larger community,” Canale says.

Along with its robust schedule of performances, iO offers classes designed to train performers and writers.”We have a wonderful teaching staff, we teach sketch, improv, and writing,” he explains.

Classes are based on founder Del Close’s richer, deeper long form of improv that provide students with skills to perform iO’s Harold. These classes have served as a spring board for performers on television shows ranging from Saturday Night Live to Modern Family, The Office, Key and Peele, and even The Walking Dead. After all, improv can help performers work on their interactions with zombies as well as to comedy cues.

iO West Theatre
6366 Hollywood Blvd.

On stage at iO West.

On stage at iO West.

Genie Davis is a multi-published novelist and journalist, and produced screen and television writer. Passionate about everything-Los Angeles, you can see her work in the arts on her own

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