Anthony Francis (right)EXPAND
Anthony Francis (right)
Photo by Marisa Cutaia

Improv U Offers Opportunity for Everyone

Who doesn't like to laugh? Possibly the only thing better than laughing is making someone else laugh; unfortunately, the former is much easier to do than the latter. Some people are just born with comedic juices running through their bodies, while others need to work a little harder on their sense of humor. Whichever of these two groups you fall into, there is a school where you can hone your skills. Yes, a school for comedy — man, our high-school guidance counselors let us down.

Boca Raton's Improv U is that comedic institution, and Anthony Francis is its respected professor. Improv U teaches the art of improvisational theater and improv comedy to South Floridians looking to blow off a little steam while sharpening their comedy skills. The school holds shows at 3333 S. Federal Hwy. in Boca Raton often and offers classes every week for those who want to learn the art of improvisation.

According to Francis, the idea to start Improv U was a long time coming. He wanted to make improv something everyone could try their hand at, no matter the circumstance.

"We had our first class October 6, 2014, in a small room at a community center in downtown Delray. I wanted to create a space that gave everyone a chance to try this art form without having to spend a lot of money," Francis says.

"By removing the wage gap, you get all sorts of amazing people and not just those who can afford expensive classes. That makes for a great group of diverse players mixing it up onstage in a beautiful way."

You might be thinking that taking an improv class seems interesting, but you're afraid to dive right in. Francis says not to worry; the drop-in classes are anxiety-free and right up your alley.

"Anyone can take our improv classes — no experience necessary. You just have to say yes. We have psychiatrists, college students, seniors, CEOs, lawyers, all in the same class, doing scenes together and connecting," Francis says.

"You don't have to be funny or clever. The comedy comes from the discovery. I tell my students they are delivering a process, not a product. The laughter is a byproduct of watching the process of agreement and discovery. Take the pressure off yourself to be funny, and the funny will come."   

Besides making others smile, Francis says that teaching class at Improv U has not only brought some joy into others' lives but also changed his life.

"I can say everyone leaves happy after class, and I have received a few phone calls and emails from students who have told me that these classes have helped them through hard times," he says.

"I didn't expect this part, but improv has brought me to my tribe. It changed me on a molecular level and has brought me more happiness and friends than I thought I was allowed to have."

Though Francis and his Improv U students are bringing the art of improv to Broward strong, he says it still has a long way to go before it meets the levels of art growth he sees down south.

"Miami is becoming an improv machine with improv shows multiple nights a week. Miami is, in my opinion, one of the biggest and fastest-growing improv communities in the country."

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