CSzUK has been putting the world into CSz Worldwide since 2001. Since then our players have performed all over the UK and the US, entertaining audiences of all ages. We have also taught regular workshops and courses for all ages and abilitities, delivered workshops for schools and universities and several high profile corporate clients. It’s been a long journey with its fair share of ups and downs but always plenty of laughter and fun. Here you can read some of the highlights from years past!
Back in 2001 a girl had a dream, that dream was to put on a show she’d seen years before when she lived in America. She approached Dick Chudnow the creator of that show, and he said “Go forth”. That girl was Brainne Edge, we say a girl because at the mere age of 22 she started the UK’s only ComedySportz troupe!
The initial players were Brainne Edge, Rachel Wareing, Rachael Hilton, Phil Melling, Ste Martin, Tom Kirk, Paul Thompson, Emily Cookson and Katie Griffiths. They were nervous, weren’t sure if it would work. At that point this show was going to be a one off in aid of Children In Need. Who knew…? We certainly didn’t!
After the huge success of our first match in 2001, we decided in 2002 to try and make this “sports comedy”, as our mums all still call it, a regular show! Russell Ditchfield, Darryl Fishwick and Steven Catterall all joined the troupe. Darryl had been in the audience earlier in the year and was so good we put him in the show… he’s still with us!
We were visited by some Madison ComedySportz players and by the end of the year we had received a grant to put shows on in the surrounding areas which also meant we could buy some new shirts. This was also the first year that we sent a player over to the ComedySportz World Championship to represent the UK. We also played a one off version of “ComedySportz Weakest Link” for Comic Relief, a format we should try again someday…!
Finally, we said a sorrowful goodbye to Tom Kirk – who actually remained in the programme for a further 2 years as he never officially told us he was leaving… Making it impossible for audience members to collect sightings of all the players!
In 2004 our monthly shows were going great at Chorley Little Theatre, Ed ‘Pij’ Tootell joined the troupe, we went to the World Championship, we won our match there, visited our CSz friends in Dublin (sadly the Dublin team didn’t last long), Pij left the troupe and we started performing fortnightly shows at Chorley Football Club. Russell Ditchfield also began his 15 year hiatus…
This was the year that ComedySportz Chorley became ComedySportz Manchester. We played at the Frog and Buck as part of the Manchester Comedy Festival. Unfortunately, we were no longer performing regular shows at Chorley Football Club or Chorley Little Theatre. We had started to perform regularly at Chorley Community Centre until that closed down for refurbishment. It was time to move on…
We started the year without a regular performance space but we had started running regular workshops and were seeing plenty of new players join the troupe. We were saved by Salford Arts Theatre where we would soon be running monthly shows as well as semi-regular shows at the University of Salford – a collaboration that has evolved over the years.
We continued to build our audiences in Manchester and started to run weekly workshops at the Manchester Comedy Store. We also played on stage with Rowetta (of Happy Mondays fame) at the Stand-Up and be Counted 24 Hour Comedy Event in said of Comic Relief and performed at the Manchester Comedy Festival at the Comedy Store. This was also our first year at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.
By now we had been sending full teams to the ComedySportz World Championship for several years and this year saw one of our players picked (out of 150 improvisers) to perform in the All-Star Match. We continued to be visited by players from the US, some of whom even performed with us at the Manchester Comedy Festival. We were now performing monthly city-centre shows and teaching regular workshops in Improv and Stand-Up.
In 2009 it was time to say goodbye to some friends that had been with us for several years… our red and blue playing pants! We now had lovely new red and blue playing shirts and no one was sad to see those trousers go. We also celebrated our 100th show (not counting private hire events and guest appearances)!
In 2009 we also performed with London group, the Scat Pack, many of whom went on to form Mischief Theatre, producers of the Play That Goes Wrong. We dunno, we haven’t heard much about them since but we’re sure they’re doing okay…
In 2010 we hosted the first ever 1st Annual Manchester Improv Tournament which was won by the Comedy Express Veterans featuring Early Doors’ James Quinn. We also performed at the Frog and Bucket at Preston and were now performing regular monthly shows at The Comedy Store and Waterside Arts in Sale.
We continued to expand and were now performing regular shows in Chester, Preston and Manchester. We hosted the 2nd annual Manchester Improv Tournament and this time we won. In 2011 we also began our first non-ComedySportz show, Let’s See What Happens, a longform show featuring guest comedians, actors and storytellers. Over the years we would have everyone from up-and-coming acts to comedy stalwarts and legends joining us – including Allo Allo’s Arthur Bostrom, who joined us several times.
This year also marked our 10th anniversary and we celebrated at the place where it all began, Chorley Little Theatre. We were delighted to be joined by players new and old, who also jammed with us afterwards. There was also someone very special in the audience, ComedySportz founder Dick Chudnow who flew over from the US to join in with our celebrations.
We officially moved our monthly shows to Waterside Arts in 2012 but were also performing shows at Platt Chapel, Chester Music Theatre, The Royal Exchange as well as making appearances at comedy festivals across the UK. We also launched Comedy Unplugged, a new monthly show that allowed us to experiment with new formats and show ideas.
The year started with CSzUK founder Brainne breaking her ankle quite badly (not at ComedySportz) which meant she spent a lot of the year performing on crutches. By now we had also launched our Sunday League for people who had been part of our workshops and wanted a space to perform. Meanwhile we had put together a scripted show called Wrong: The Musical, a decidedly not-family-friendly parody show which toured the local area.
We won the sort-of-Annual Manchester Improv Tournament in a closely contested match against Leeds’ group Discount Comedy Checkout (who would then go on to win the next year).
We performed our longest run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe yet and conquered the might Arthurs Seat (players having previously climbed up the wrong bit in previous years). Lots of other stuff happened this year, but if you’ve ever climbed up Arthurs Seat after two weeks of deep-fried fringe food you’ll understand why we regard this as such a big achievement!
We were joined by even more players from our CSz Worldwide and performed at several festivals with our Edinburgh shows really starting to take momentum. ComedySportz UK also started to perform regularly with Comedy Club 4 Kids, a collaboration that continues to this day.
We were also delighted to be joined by Improv legend Jill Bernard for a very special workshop!
ComedySportz received it 15th anniversary plaque from CSz Worldwide and we once again returned to Chorley Little Theatre to celebrate this momentous birthday! We continued to perform new shows in new venues as well as developing new format ideas.
This year saw the launch of four brand new shows! We launched ComedySportz 4 Tots and our Improvised Pantomimes at Waterside Arts whilst retiring Let’s See What Happens and replacing it with Improv Mullet our mixed short and longform comedy show for adults.
Our fourth show marked the beginning of a more formal collaboration with University of Salford with the New Adelphi Comedy Night which we perform regularly in the university’s brand new performance spaces. It’s a great night showcasing some of the best up-and-coming comedy talent and line-ups have featured award winning young comedians.
CSz Worldwide also accidentally awarded us a second 15th anniversary plaque by mistake, starting a tradition that continues to this day.
We had some very special guests at the Edinburgh Fringe this year as we were joined by Prince Edward and his family (and a royal entourage of security guards). This means that ComedySportz isn’t just a family friendly comedy show… it’s now a royal family friendly comedy show!
Finally, we also delivered kids comedy workshops for the Manchester Literature Festival, developing comedy skills for future generations of comics…
This is also the first year we started to perform two shows a day during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, doubling the fun for you and really burning off those deep-fried fringe food calories for us. Meanwhile we started to refocus on the shows we were already running at home and continue to develop our audiences.
We continued to collaborate with other improv groups and companies this year, delivering shows across Europe with THEY IMPROV. 2019 saw our longest Edinburgh Fringe run to date with two shows a day, plus guest slots and appearances!
Russell also ended his fifteen year hiatus and returned to the show as if he’d never been away.
We also reinvigorated our workshops with a programme of popular summer intensives and new drop-in sessions. Our eight week courses in Improv and Stand-Up continue to prove popular and we now host the longest running comedy courses in Manchester.
We also had a fantastic time at the ComedySportz World Championships. Not only were we awarded both our 18th anniversary and 15th anniversary plaques we were also picked by all the teams present to play the home team Philadelphia in the final match – a great honour!
In 2020 we launched our brand new totally improvised musical show cleverly called “The Totally Improvised Musical” and brought ComedySportz to brand new venues across Greater Manchester. We also had a fantastic time at the CSz World Championships in Houston, Texas and enjoyed our most successful Edinburgh Fringe yet… well… we would have done… if it wasn’t for that whole pandemic business.
So what did happen in 2020? We performed in international online comedy festivals, we performed over 100 online shows, continued to provide workshops online and have been able to connect with audiences and other ComedySportz teams around the world. We also launched a brand new online improvised science fiction parody show and continued our collaborations with the University of Salford for the New Adelphi Comedy Night. We also teamed up with charity MancSpirit to provide online improv comedy sessions and classes for young and adult carers in Greater Manchester.
We also welcomed Dalu Thebe and Ben Hodge to the troupe, both of whom have yet to play a live show but have been in plenty of livestream ones!
In 2020 we learned that the show will go on…line and that laughter really is the best medicine… At least until we all get vaccinated anyway.
We continued with monthly online shows throughout the year but were delighted when venues could finally re-open from May. We were delighted to be back at Waterside Arts and also took ComedySportz to the Buxton Fringe Festival though uncertainty around restrictions meant we were unable to make it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We were finally able to bring the Totally Improvised Musical to audiences and for the return of our Improvised Pantomime and face-to-face workshops.
We had to scale back our 20th anniversary plans this year but were so pleased that we were able to go ahead with a weekend of shows at Waterside Arts and Chorley Theatre in November. It was a joy to return to the venue where it all began to a wonderful crowd including the Mayor and Mayoress. Thank you to everyone who watched and continues to support our shows.
2022 and beyond…
We can’t wait to see what the year ahead has in store. Spaces on our next batch of workshops are currently available and we already have plans to return to the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe festivals. To find out more about all of the exciting shows and workshops in our future be sure to sign up to our monthly mailing list!
We’ve had a fantastic run so far and want to say a big thank you to all of the players who have been part of that journey. We also want to say a special thank you to all of the audiences that have laughed and played with us over the years. We couldn’t do these shows without you!