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Scene In Detroit: Improv At Its Best…or Worst?

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(Photo: Amelia Kanan) Planet Ant in Hamtramck is carrying on with improv theater.

(Photo: Amelia Kanan) Planet Ant in Hamtramck is carrying on with improv theater.

By Amelia Kanan, CBS Detroit Blogger

The improv comedy scene within Detroit city limits is non-existent. When Second City closed, the orphaned performers were split between foster theaters, leaving Go Comedy! in Ferndale as the suburban version of Second City. That means there’s lots of space, out-dated updated decor, a full bar and so-so comedy.

Then there’s Planet Ant in Hamtramck where the rest of the Second City orphans moved in. The theater itself makes you question everything. When your GPS alerts you of your arrival, you’re tempted to double check the address. However, the marquee and giant ant head pained on the side of what appears to be a house confirms your arrival.

The nervousness of the unknown sets in when you park. “Is this open to the public?”, “Is this even a comedy club?” and “Maybe we should just grab some Polish food instead.” Just remind yourself of the Planet Ant’s website, with its professional look and updated schedule and get out of your car.

You might find yourself still second guessing as you hand them your money and find your way to a seat in the makeshift risers because even though you stay on the first level, you still ask yourself “Am I in someone’s basement?”

Monday night is their $5 improv show. It begins at 8 p.m. with a guest team that consists of typically two people running short scenes inspired by audience suggested prompts. However, this 30-40 minute slot is open to any comedian, performer to troupe to request a booking. It can be hit or miss. After an intermission, the audience comes back for the second half. This is when the home team “The Colony” performs. The large member troupe plays for an hour with audience suggestions. Again, it can be hit or miss.

However, this is what I love about Planet Ant: they don’t pretend to be anything they aren’t. They’re not Second City. They’re not trying to be a hot comedy club on Saturday night. They are raw, unconventional and unexpected and all those things are reflected in the space and location. It can be a diamond in the rough or just a rock in the rough.

After the improv show at 10 p.m. the Ant Jam occurs. This is where, anyone and everyone has the opportunity to play some improv games, hosted by a team member of The Colony. You could never have been on a stage in your life or you could be a regular in the theater scene and for the next 40 minutes you have the golden opportunity to perform, observe, learn, laugh and sometimes, cringe.

Planet Ant isn’t just good for improv and Monday night entertainment. They always have some sort of play or show running. To Save A City: A Tale of Two Emergency Managers just wrapped and a funny and enchanting play called Love Song will take the stage September. Also, The Ant Farm, currently on hiatus for summer, is a platform for screenwriters to hold stage readings and gain some feedback.

Biggest bonus of all, it’s a BYOB theater!

Amelia Kanan is freelance writer/photographer and a returning native of Detroit. A graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, she wrote for an Emmy nominated sketch comedy show and pursued her passion for documentary filmmaking in Los Angeles. An incomplete list of her loves: books, human rights, improv, the smell of new shoes, talking to strangers, libraries, France, yoga, furniture, music, sociology and pushing the limits.

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