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Comedy Mavens

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Charna Halpern Called the "Comedy Mother" by former student Adam McKay, director of Anchorman and Talladega Nights, Halpern has nurtured the careers of countless comedians as the manager of I.O. (formerly ImprovOlympic), which she founded in 1981. Halpern and the late Del Close revolutionized improvisation in 1983 when they developed I.O.'s signature long-form technique. Her latest book, Art by Committee, which came out this summer, details advanced improv techniques.

Mick Napier Founder of Annoyance Productions, which has brought a dark edge to Chicago improv, Napier worked for years as a director of main stage shows at Second City, and as a director and teacher is one of the community's most influential members.

Jonathan Pitts Back in the 80s Pitts wrote and distributed what's become a legendary improv guide, An Improvised Almanac, which is chock-full of pithy maxims like "Don't deny" and "Heighten the reality." He's the cofounder and executive producer of perhaps the country's biggest improv event, the Chicago Improv Festival, which returns in April.

Brian Posen A veteran writer, director, and teacher, Posen produces the January festival Chicago SketchFest and has helped keep Chicago comedy fresh and internationally vital with his terrific programming. He's also a member of the talented Cupid Players, an all-musical group that performs Saturdays at I.O.

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