What’s on stage: Countdown Improv Festival, comics Michael Coylar and Alonzo Bodden

Published August 15 2018
Updated August 15 2018


Since its debut in Tampa last year, the 3-2-1 Improv Festival has grown in size and scope, adding acts and changing its name. Now the Countdown Improv Festival, this three-day celebration of spontaneity brings 39 groups from across the country. Here are a few.

Improv4Lawyers, the creation of Tampa attorney Jennifer Strouf, "represents" a random audience member who starts by confessing to a crime or crimes. The closing argument Strouf develops "combines her legal and improv backgrounds in a hilarious show that we’re really excited about," said Justin Peters, who founded the festival with Kelly Buttermore.

In I Am the Show, Chicago actor and comedian Chris George watches part of a Netflix movie suggested by the crowd. There’s only one requirement: He didn’t see the film. As it plays silently on a screen, George supplies dialogue, music and sound effects.

"It’s a really fun, clever and crowd-pleasing show," Peters said. Five workshops cover character development; developing good habits, favoring originality, silencing the inner critic and more. Starts at 7 p.m. Thursday and runs through Saturday at Hillsborough Community College’s studio theater, Ybor City campus, corner of E Palm Avenue and N 14th Street (Avenida Republica de Cuba), Tampa. $25 per night; three-night pass $40. Early bird 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday block of shows, $15. countdownimprovfestival.com.


Just last year, Michael Coylar debuted a one-man play, Momma, about his childhood in the Chicago projects and the mother he credits with saving his life. Now 61, the comedian, actor and writer is showing no sign of slowing down. Nor does he mind mixing some inspiration in with the harder edges of his story, including nine years as a crack addict before recovery. Coylar has a long film and television resume, including three years as Mr. Whitaker on Martin Lawrence’s ’90s sitcom, Martin. He is also the author of a 2012 book, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, I Knocked on the Door and a Brother Answered. Friday and Saturday at Tampa Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. $15. (813) 864-4000. For showtimes, go to improvtampa.com.


Alonzo Bodden, who won NBC’s Last Comic Standing 14 years ago, has only reaped bigger rewards since with his comedy. Two Showtime specials later, he brings an unsparing, ruthlessly funny style back to Side Splitters. Not bad for a guy who started out moonlighting as a doorman at Los Angeles’ Laugh Factory while training aircraft mechanics for Lockheed Martin. Bodden, 56, also appeared as a panelist in 2016 for a Tampa taping of NPR’s quiz show, Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! Thursday through Sunday at Side Splitters Comedy Club, 12938 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. $16 to $18. (813) 960-1197. For showtimes, go to sidesplitterscomedy.com.