Scott Pacitti knows humor can prepare you for life's bumps in the road. As founder of The Chuckleheads improv troupe, he delights audiences of all ages with funny, spontaneous games. He takes suggestions from spectators and even makes them part of the show. The Chuckleheads perform after Pacitti's scripted turn in "Almost, Maine" on Feb. 11, 18 and 25 at Ballantyne Performing Arts Center.
Q. How did you get into improv? I saw a newspaper article in the Fort Mill Times in 2001 about Keli Semelsberger. She had classes and put on shows (at the Charlotte Comedy Theatre). I got in the classes and soon after that I was part of the group. After several years, I started my first group called the Pink Turtle Sketchprov Experience. We did that for a couple of years and started The Chuckleheads in 2007.
Q. Tell me about The Chuckleheads. We are a wandering nomad of improv performers. We perform not only at bars and theaters, but senior citizen communities, housing complexes and just about any place we can find room. We love to get people onstage with us. As long as we tell them we're there to laugh with them, not at them, the audience usually reacts very well.
Q. How do you tailor your shows to different audiences? I make a special effort to know what group we are performing in front of. What's interesting about our art form is we ask for suggestions from the audience. As MC of our shows, I have a sixth sense of what can lead down the wrong road to get more adult than we want. Adult language doesn't offend me as a human being, but it offends me as a comedian. There's a phrase in improv to play at the top of your intelligence. I want my people to be more clever than just profane.
Q. Why is there rehearsal in improv? I remind them (the performers) what to keep in mind, go over new games. A game that a lot of people know from "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" is called party quirks. The premise is there are three party guests with a quirk of some sort. The audience gives quirks to the party members. The host comes back (from offstage) and the guests give clues. We practice that, but you wouldn't get the same suggestions (from the audience).
Q. What has improv done for you? Improv has lessened my fear factor in life. That's what improv is all about. It's about stepping off the proverbial cliff. I hope I'm doing it in some form or another for the rest of my life.