Matthew Reddin

Improv duo Funny, Son of Story brings chemistry on stage

Jazmine Volmar and Mike Walker, longform improv veterans, will perform their first Milwaukee show Friday night.

By - Jan 11th, 2013 04:00 am
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Current and former (respectively) Homegrown Electric Circus members Mike Walker and Jazmine Volmar have formed Funny, Son of Story, a two-man improv group.

Every improv comedy group needs its own unique rhythm to survive, but it’s not often a group’s name will remind you of that as succinctly as “Funny, Son of Story” does. It’s a name that doesn’t make sense unless you’re saying it just right – but once you do understand it, you can quickly cut to the core of what its comma-friendly members, Jazmin Volmar and Mike Walker, are trying to accomplish.

Yes, that’s just two names there. While both Volmar and Walker have been in more traditionally sized improv groups – most notably, five-man group Homegrown Electric Circus, where they performed together for two years – they decided to start Funny, Son of Story as an opportunity to work with each other directly. Being the only two-man group in the city also gives them a unique angle, the duo teamed up for reasons less tied to marketing purposes: they’re close friends, and thought the added challenge of two-man improv would help them develop faster than in a larger team.

“It was easy to not push yourself in a scene [with Homegrown] because you could rely on your partners. … But if you weren’t going somewhere in a scene, someone could tag you out or sweep the scene or add themselves to the scene,” Volmar said. With just two people improvising, there’s no escape.

It’s a scary proposition, but it also provides a lot of opportunities.  “When you have a big group, the negative is listening,” Volmar said. “It’s so, so hard to listen with a lot of people, and I think listening is one of the biggest facets of both acting and improv. That’s something that you can really do with a two-man team.”

That came easier to Volmar and Walker than either even expected. Their first Milwaukee show is this Friday at the Arcade Theater, but they performed twice in Eau Claire a month ago and quickly discovered their personal chemistry extended onto the stage better than they could have hoped. The crowd was very receptive to their shows, and Walker said they got three separate offers to perform shows later in the year.

“A lot of people that get together to do improv, they don’t know each other as well as we know each other,” Walker said. “We’re able to use that onstage – I know exactly where she’s going when she does this, or I can see what she’s trying to do based on her facial reactions.”

Walker and Volmar will perform longform improv – the alternative to the “game”-driven, audience-propelled shortform improv ComedySportz has the market largely cornered on – as Funny, Son of Story, but from a totally different angle than they did in Homegrown Electric Circus. Volmar says their intent can be discerned from their name, meant to indicate their emphasis is on story first, and funny as a result. “We came from a group that was so focused on the funny, while we’re all about the stories and the relationships,” Volmar said. “We think that it’s so much better to watch a story, and to have the funny come from the story, as opposed to forcing the funny on the audience.”

They’ll tell two stories Friday night, each lasting 20 to 30 minutes – as long as it takes for them to get through the narrative arc. It’s their first full-length show, and Volmar said they’re eager to show off what they can do to a Milwaukee audience: “I feel like a two-man team can really expand the scope of what improv is here, and introduce a new type of improv to Milwaukee. … There’s something really special about watching what just two people can create.”

Funny, Son of Story goes onstage at the Underground Collaborative’s Arcade Theater at 8 p.m. Jan. 11. Tickets are $5, and the event is BYOB. They’ll also be there the following week, Friday, Jan. 18, for Retro Comedy Night with several other Milwaukee comics of the improv, stand-up and sketch varieties.; tickets for that show are $10.

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