ImprovMANIA is doubling in size and adding some room for its growing number of students and audience members.
The downtown Chandler comedy venue on Arizona Avenue recently made a deal to take over an adjacent suite that will be transformed into a hangout spot for parents and patrons.
David Specht, the club’s founder, said the deal adds 1,700 square-feet of space that will help support their various classes and performances.
It’s a development Specht and his wife, Colleen, had not exactly imagined when they first opened their improvisational club five years ago.
When they first started putting on comedy shows every Friday night, they weren’t quite sure how the community would respond.
“We kind of came to downtown Chandler before downtown Chandler was cool,” Specht joked.
But they slowly started to build a devoted following of fans who enjoyed their mix of family-friendly and unfiltered comedy. Their shows typically consist of impromptu scenes and games that are inspired by audience suggestions.
A couple years ago, the Spechts expanded their operation by starting the Chandler Youth Theater serves the city’s young thespians. The group now regularly puts on performances throughout the year.
The youth theater has blossomed in a short amount of time, Specht said, with up to 1,000 kids being impacted by ImprovMANIA in one way or another.
They’ve staged productions of “Seussical,” “Willy Wonka Jr.,” and “Shrek the Musical” – each of which has casts of up to 40 young actors.
Specht said they will soon offer singing lessons and be putting together a show choir that will perform throughout Chandler.
They started out doing mostly Disney-themed works, Specht said, but the kids are now branching out and exploring a greater variety of music and theater.
The youthful aspect of ImprovMANIA has been beneficial for the entire Specht family, as it allows the couple’s two children to be part of the business.
When they first opened in 2014, their kids were too young to be included in the couple’s comedy act. But the addition of the Youth Theater and its classes has allowed all the Spechts to get involved.
“I’m really happy that it’s not something that we have separated from them,” Specht said about his children. “They’re very much a part of it.”
ImprovMANIA also teaches classes for adults and children in stand-up comedy, improvisation, and on-camera acting. Specht’s advice for anyone wishing to perform live comedy is to be unafraid of looking foolish in front of others.
“The quicker you’re able to look vulnerable, the better you’re gonna be at this,” he said.
Specht’s background is in business, working in the corporate world as a recruiter. He hadn’t really thought of performing until he started watching “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” the television show that has actors coming up with jokes and characters on the spot.
“I never heard of this idea of making stuff up on stage and I just thought it looked impossible,” he said.
Specht took some classes at Chicago’s Second City, the same training ground that was home to Bill Murray, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert.
He later moved to Arizona, where he met his wife while performing with a group in Scottsdale. The couple realized Chandler needed a comedy club of its own and decided to open ImprovMANIA.
The Spechts just renewed their lease for another five years and are excited about what the future holds.
“I think everybody in Chandler is going to know of us in the next 24 months,” Specht said. “That’s our big vision.”