At the start of 2007, the theater began producing one week of programming each month at the now closed Shubin Theatre. In 2008 the theater created PHIT-trained and supported ensembles, and became a major presence in the Philly Fringe Festival (by programming three weeks of non-stop improv and sketch comedy on the Adrienne Theatre’s Mainstage). In 2009, we branched into regular showcases of sketch comedy and stand-up comedy and expanded our performance calendar as well – hosting two weeks of shows each month.
Since its opening in 2005, Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) has been the heart of Philadelphia’s nationally recognized comedy scene. PHIT produces over 1,000 performances annually, from fully improvised comedies, to brand-new sketch shows, and whatever else we come up with. Beyond Philadelphia, Philly Improv Theater’s performers tour regularly, making appearances at the most prestigious comedy venues across North America.
Dedicated to developing talent locally, the PHIT Training Center teaches over 1,000 adults, kids and teens how to improvise, write sketch comedy, and perform stand-up each year. Alumni and performers seen on PHIT’s stages have worked on Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, 30 Rock, The Late Show, Two and Half Men, Raising Hope, Key & Peele, Kroll Show, The State, Girl Code, Guy Code, Orange is the New Black, and The Kids in the Hall.
WE’VE COME A LONG WAY
Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) originally started in November 2005 as a training center for improv comedy. Our first classes and workshops were offered in January 2006. Since that time, we have continuously offered small classes with the top improv teachers in the city, while growing over the course of more than a decade to encompass training in improv comedy, sketch comedy, stand-up comedy, musical comedy, and comedy acting. Throughout our first year, Philly Improv Theater had occasional improv nights at Fergie’s Pub (1214 Sansom Street) in their second floor private bar.
By 2010, PHIT was rapidly outgrowing the Shubin Theatre and began the lengthy process of searching for a permanent home that could bring all of our programs under one roof. After raising more $15,000 dollars on an original $10,000 goal (the largest amount ever raised by a Philadelphia Kickstarter at that time) we set to work locating what we envisioned as “a home for alternative comedy” in the city.
January 2014 saw the opening of PHIT’s permanent home for comedy on the Second Stage of the Adrienne Theatre in the heart of Philly’s Center City neighborhood of Rittenhouse Square. From its new home, PHIT began offering comedy shows 52 weeks a year and welcomed an audience of over 30,000 fans in its first year of full-time producing. In 2014, PHIT also expanded the reach of our education program by creating the PHIT Kids & Teens program, offering classes in improvisation for children in grades K-12 in fall and spring sessions.
In 2016, PHIT expanded again – taking over additional space for an expanded Training Center inside The Adrienne Theatre and opening an additional performance venue on the Adrienne Theatre Mainstage (with seating for 100 patrons). In 2018, the theater expanded its ability to offer performance space further by converting one of our rehearsal halls into a mixed use space capable of putting on shows. The Cabaret at the Adrienne seats 40 and offers performances primarily on Fridays and Saturdays.
PHIT’s Training Center now rivals major theater institutions in Philadelphia like the Walnut Street Theatre School in the size and scope of its offerings, with 5 sessions of classes offering each year, more than 100 courses offering annually, and 350-400 students enrolled at any given point during the year. Alumni of our Training Center have gone on work in comedy and the entertainment industry in major cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles and overseas in the United Kingdom.
Over the years we have developed an extensive set of contacts, allowing us to host master classes with people like Matt Besser (Upright Citizens Brigade), Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Kevin McDonald (Kids in the Hall), Kevin Allison (The State, RISK!), Ali Faranakian (SNL), Christine Nangle (SNL, The Kroll Show), Rich Talarico (SNL, Key & Peel, The Tonight Show), Christina Gausas (Girls, Difficult People), Luke Giordano (Two and a Half Men), Keith Johnstone (author of Impro) and countless others.
Since its founding, PHIT has taken the lessons of improv into workplaces through the PHIT Corporate program. Our clients have ranged from small businesses to regional brands, like Wawa, to Fortune 500 companies, like Bank of America, Comcast, and General Electric.