Endgames improv groups seeks to make spontaneous comedy more accessible, popular in San Francisco

Most people have had a relationship that they would consider “F!#&ed up,” whether it was the constant bickering, problems in bed or his obsession with “Knight Rider,” but a local improvisation group has found a way to turn the issues of the past into the future of humor.

San Francisco improv group Endgames, which teaches and performs improv throughout the city, is continuing a strong run of the show “F!#&ing Free Fridays — Your F!#&ed Up Relationship.”

The show offers quick, energetic improv scenes related to a real-life story of a messy relationship from an audience member. The show is free and quickly fills its 50-person capacity every Friday night.

The show was founded by six members of Endgames, although they have lost one of the original actors and added on two more.

Max McCal, one of the original members, said that the show was inspired by the style of the improv group Upright Citizens Brigade: fast, fun and furious. He said relationships were an easy choice to attract attention.

“It’s approachable to everyone, because everyone has had a relationship and everyone thinks their relationship was fucked up,” McCal said. “We find that most people think their relationships are more fucked up than they actually are, but we’ve had some real good ones.”

James Folta, one of the cast members who was added later in the run, started by doing lights for the show but said once he saw it he knew this was the improv in San Francisco he’d been looking for.

“It is so fun and accessible and that’s what I love about improv,” Folta said. “I hadn’t found the kind of improv I like in the city until I saw this show and I thought ‘This is it.’”

This joy and spontaneity is something Folta feels is much stronger in other cities, but Endgames is attempting to bolster SF’s improv identity.

“SF seems like the city that would have a super rad improv scene but it’s not and we’d like the scene to be robust, and so we do this,” Folta said.

McCal said the reason the show is free is because he wants to introduce improv and what Endgames can do to as many people as possible. He says that getting improv out is important because there’s a special connection improv makes with its audience.

“We’re not out to make this be ‘Oh look, a show,’ but we use it as a tool to show what improv can do,” McCal said. “People get off on discovery and they know when the audience and performers are discovering together and when they’re not.”

Newest cast member and SF State alumna Keara McCarthy said what distinguishes the show, besides it being free, is the cast.

“I think we have a good rapport with each other and have good chemistry on stage,” McCarthy said. “Improv can be awkward on stage sometimes and we do a good job of avoiding that.”

At one recent show, the crew hit the audience with a series of quick, witty and fun scenes revolving around the relationship story of Sarah Bierman, who used to date a one-time porn star and cry baby. The material was meaty and full of humor, inspiring everything from a dominatrix in a Dunkin’ Donuts to a Craigslist stamp collector meeting ladies at bus stops.

“They were really enthusiastic and positive, and that’s great improv,” Bierman said. “They were definitely on a roll.”

Brandon Knapp, another audience member, said it was something he really enjoyed watching because it was fresh and innovative.

“I loved it. It was hilarious,” Knapp said. “They’re really quick and they were all on the same page. It’s incredible stuff.”

Endgames wants to make their show as accessible as possible for anyone to show up. They do this by greeting audience members personally before the show and offering donation-suggested drinks because they believe improv is the present and the future of live comedy.

“The thing about improv that sets it apart from other live comedy is its spontaneity,” Folta said. “It may sound stupid in its obviousness, but it’s always new.”

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