Improvisers tend to be oddballs, artists, and nerds. So it’s not surprising most teams tend to dress like college students – or worse.

Even if you do improv strictly for fun, you’re putting on a show for an audience. How you present yourselves is an opportunity to stand out from the dozens (maybe hundreds?) of other teams in the city. Some of the longest-running and best-loved ensembles have a look that’s instantly identifiable…so why not yours?

Jeans and t-shirts are fine, but crazy patterns, big logos, and funny slogans can distract from your character and even “vampire” the whole scene. If you stick to solid colours, you’ll create a unified look without looking stuffy.

And take it from one who learned the hard way: do the “bend over” test in your jeans beforehand. You don’t want your ass crack to be what people remember about your set. (Same goes for the cleav, ladies.)

Some teams kick it up a notch, which – if you can manage it on an improviser’s budget – is a nice touch.

Todd Stashwick’s team, Burn Manhattan, wore Reservoir Dogs-style suits and skinny ties back in the day. And Toronto’s Surprise Romance Elixir dons wedding attire (suits for the guys, dresses for the girls) in keeping with their wedding-themed show.

The best teams manage to look cohesive and comfortable. Their clothes are simple and non-descript enough that they don’t detract from whatever the scene is about.

Here are some of our faves:

Photo © Sharilyn Johnson

Photo © Sharilyn Johnson

TJ and Dave’s standard attire of plain shirts, khakis or dress pants, and sneakers or suede shoes, allows them to play a plethora of characters, from the mundane to the ridiculous.

Photo © Adrianne Gagnon

Photo © Adrianne Gagnon

Mantown’s v-necks or checked shirts, jeans, and omnipresent beers are a staple sight for fans of the improvised frat party.


Chicago’s Improvised Shakespeare favours Elizabethan clothing (on stage, anyway).

Pop, Don’t Float

Whatever you choose to wear, remember that people want to see you. You can be doing something crazy physical, but if your clothes don’t “pop” against the background, most of what you’re doing will be lost.

If the curtain or backdrop is black, brown, burgundy, or some other dark or dominant hue, avoid wearing those colours, or you’ll suffer from what Larry Sanders called the “floating head” syndrome. (Think of Zach Braff in Garden State.)

Lastly, you don’t all have to dress the same, but common colours, garments, or other elements will help unify the team visually.

Bottom line? Look like you’re worth paying to see perform.

Photo © Ryan Ward Thompson

Photo © Ryan Ward Thompson

Cook County Social Club rocks nerd chic for the camera.


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