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Audience awareness: The Chuckleheads

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The members of the Charlotte comedy improv troupe The Chuckleheads are giddy. The group, which started in 2007, will celebrate its two-year anniversary with a special show titled "2nd Anniversary Birthday Comedy Improv Variety Extravaganza" at Actor's Theatre of Charlotte on Oct. 24. The event will feature lots of improv, in forms that include singing, dancing, and audience participation. CL spoke with Chucklehead member and founder, Scott Pacitti. (For advance tickets to The Chuckleheads' Oct. 24 show, visit www.actorscrib.com. For more information on The Chuckleheads, visit www.thechuckleheads.com.)

Creative Loafing: When and how did The Chuckleheads get started?

Scott Pacitti: I personally have been in improv for about eight years now. I got started locally here in Charlotte, and this was actually my second group. The first group I had was back in 2004, and it was called The Pink Turtle Sketchprov Experience. I took a break from it for about a year in 2005, and then I started meeting people who shared the love of improv. Little by little, I formed this new group. We started with our first show in October of 2007. This group just came about because I met a lot of really great people who loved improv as much as I did and who were very talented.

How many people are in the group now?

Technically, if everybody showed up at the same time, which rarely ever happens, I think we have about 13 folks altogether who perform in different shows.

Tell me about the improv shows.

Basically, how I work the shows is that I'll usually come up with a list of improv games, much like you would see on shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? A lot of them we have done before, but some of them are fairly new, which really gets the improvisers excited. Beyond that, we rehearse, but it's not like we do the exact things we're going to do onstage, because that's impossible since we rely on suggestions from the audience and they're obviously going to give us different ones. So that's the exciting thing. That's what keeps everything fresh. You may have played a game tens of hundreds of times, but with the new suggestions from the audience, there are an infinite amount of possibilities.

How is the group doing within the Charlotte comedy scene?

We're doing very well. We're slightly different than a lot of groups, because instead of people having to come to us, we don't have one place we perform. We have the flexibility to go to where the audiences are. So, if there's a group of people in a specific community that asks for our services, whether it's a corporate gig -- and we've done shows as varied as children's shows all the way to senior centers -- we go. I call it the home field advantage for the audience. They can feel comfortable with a group of people they're usually around and we'll visit them.

Another thing that makes us slightly different is that we really emphasize audience participation -- and not just asking for suggestions. We love any opportunity to bring the audience up with us. It allows them to get up and perform in front of their friends, colleagues and neighbors. It also makes the audience that much more excited about the show, because they see one of their own up onstage. So at the anniversary show, we'll probably have at least half a dozen or so different games and activities that we're going to use to bring people up onstage with us. We'll be breaking down that fourth wall, where we're not just talking to the audience, we're literally bringing them into our show.

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