Williamsburg gets laugh factory

Williamsburg gets laugh factory
The Annoyance Theater

Brooklyn is bringing up a bumper crop of comedians, but the vast majority have honed their craft in Manhattan — until now.

This month, Chicago’s legendary improv theater The Annoyance will start offering comedy classes at Williamsburg’s UnionDocs, making it the first laugh academy in the borough.

“There was no established school with a curriculum behind it in Brooklyn,” said Philip Markle, the new school’s class administrator. “There was a real demand for our type of training.”

Manhattan is home to several improv schools, including the Upright Citizens Brigade, the Magnet, and the People’s Improv Theater, which specialize in a longform style of on-the-fly jokes that makes them a training ground for sketch comedy shows.

Second City: Kristen Studard does her best Boy Scout in “Small Victories” at Chicago’s Annoyance Theater.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth McQuern

The Annoyance brings an entirely different approach to Brooklyn from the Windy City, focusing on the relationships between characters rather than the “game” — taking a premise and running with it — that is the focus of the popular Upright Citizens Brigade.

“We believe there is no right way to do this,” Markle said. “What we’re saying is that this is one way you could improvise that will make you strong and fearless.”

The Annoyance may represent the first real challenge to the prevailing definition of what New York improv is, and Markle hopes to one day open a theater location in Brooklyn, but first he has to get people signed up for lessons.

“[Starting a theater] would be a dream for everyone,” Markle said. “But right now our plan is to fill out the classes until we have a graduating class.”

Annoy-vey: Noah Gregoropolous, Ellen Stoneking, and Jennifer Estlin perform in “40 Whacks” at The Annoyance Theatre in Chicago.
Courtesy of Guy F. Wicke

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.