Art of improv gets a boost from ‘Finest City’ founders


By David L. Coddon

Amy Lisewski “fell in love” with improv after training with the Second City conservatory in Hollywood, and now she wants everyone else to love it, too.

That’s where Finest City Improv comes in.

It’s a business just launched by Lisewski, a longtime actress and performer, that’s dedicated to furthering the art of improvisation in San Diego through classes for both adults and teens, and live showcases in Ocean Beach. Why O.B.? For one, it’s where Lisewski lives and where the Ocean Beach Playhouse (bet you didn’t know such a place existed) is located.

For another, “We all know how crazy and different O.B. is,” said Lisewski.

Long-form improv, which involves performing full-on scenes, is different from the short-form improv you generally see in comedy theater, and it’s a lot different from standup comedy. “(This) improv is about relationships and seeing relationships develop on the stage,” Lisewski said. “There’s a riskiness. The moments are heightened.”

Classes being offered by Finest City Improv, taught by improvisation veterans, cater to beginners and advanced students alike, and serve either adults or teen-age participants. Lisewski doesn’t expect everyone who enrolls to have expectations of stardom.

“There are a lot of people who are just looking for an outlet where they can get up on their feet and use their bodies to express themselves,” she said.

But Lisewski does anticipate serious students will enroll, too. “It’s great for actors, but also writers, and that’s what Second City was about – using improv to create sketch comedy. It’s really great for writers to take improv because it helps them see the different choices that can be made in a scene and know how to heighten a scene.”

Finest City Improv courses offered ( cost up to $100 for five- or six-week sessions. A couple of showcases, which will feature improv performers from both Los Angeles and San Diego (and possibly beyond) are set — the first on Oct. 11, and another on Dec. 6.

As time goes on, Lisewski hopes to offer “a major showcase at least every other month.”

For now, it’s all about getting Finest City Improv off the ground, then adding more classes as time goes on. “One of my big goals is to have an improv festival,” said Lisewski, looking to the future. “All the major cities have one, and some of the smaller cities, too. We don’t have one here.”

We do have a major comedy club, the Comedy Store in La Jolla. Sandi Shore, part of the Shore family that has owned the Comedy Store locations (currently Hollywood and La Jolla) from the beginning, doesn’t think that Lisewski’s improv classes or showcases will impact the La Jolla club in any way. “Does improv cause competition for standup? Not at all,” Shore said. But she added that the art of improvisation is “really important to standup because you’re working live.

“I think anything in the performing arts is valuable because it helps you think on your feet, which might be great for job interviews or feeling better about yourself.”