In praise of the path less traveled

Boom members left to right: Liz Cackowski, Andrew Moskos, Rob AndristPlourde, Seth Meyers, Ike Barinholtz, Ken Schaefle, and Jamie Wright (Via Vulture).

Last week, a Vulture article about Boom Chicago, “the greatest American comedy factory you’ve never heard of,” quickly circulated around our virtual office. Boom, an American improv show inexplicably launched in Amsterdam in 1993, holds a special place in our hearts — and not just because it helped launch the careers of Jordan Peele, Seth Meyers, Amber Ruffin and our very own Creative Director/gentle giant, Jamie Wright (pictured above).

No, we love Boom because, as Vulture notes, when other comedy theaters felt like “calcified, hierarchical institutions,” Boom risked it all to create a space where performers could get paid to perform and experiment outside of the “prying, judgmental eyes of the comedy Establishment.”

It was punk as hell. And if you haven’t heard of it, it’s about time you did.

The best (or worst) stoner idea ever

Created by unknown Northwestern grads Andrew Moskos and Jon “Pep” Rosenfeld, the concept for Boom sounded like a performer’s fever dream. Nothing about the show made sense: the cast was American, the show was in English, the audience was Dutch…

Yet somehow, from a cheap rented space in the back room of a salsa bar, using pre-internet street marketing tactics like a fake tourist guide, Amsterdam’s first English-speaking comedy show started to pull an audience. Granted, an audience of largely drunk and high Dutch tourists (and the occasional Portuguese construction crew), but an audience nontheless.

Late night at the Boom theater (via Vulture).

Naturally, the unconventional theater attracted risk-takers; 20-somethings who were willing to take an unconventional route for a chance to do what they loved. But, for those that took the leap, the risk ultimately paid off big.

Over the decades that followed, Boom alums went on to write and perform in culture-defining shows like SNL, MADtv, 30Rock, Community, Portlandia, The Office, Veep, Arrested Development, Broad City, How I Met Your Mother, Key & Peele, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Daily Show, and more.

So what’s the lesson here?

Can’t get your foot in the door? Break in through the window.

That’s the expression, right? At the end of the day, BOOM found a way to circumvent the system, not through sheer talent (though eventually, they recruited plenty of that), but by taking creative risks and creating something completely unique in the process. Sure, as a fellow improv-upstart we’re biased.

But the point stands: There are a million-and-one ways to bring your vision to life — and if the conventional route isn’t getting you there, well then, it might be time to channel the energy of an early-aughts Barinholtz, don your leather duster, and get creative…




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