July 31, 2014 at 1:00 am

Detroit Improv Festival is funny on the fly

Actor Keegan-Michael Key performs as part of the improv troupe The 313 at the upcoming Detroit Improv Festival. (Detroit Improv Festival)

From legends to local talent, the Detroit Improv Festival gathers together comedic actors of all stripes for its fourth annual jamboree of unscripted, off-the-cuff hijinks.

This year the event has expanded to a full week of improvisational shows in cities around Metro Detroit. In all, 250 actors are invited to participate in performances, workshops and special events like Sunday’s kick-off with Fred Willard at the Redford Theatre.

Willard will perform with his improv group MoHo, followed by a screening of Christopher Guest’s improvisational comedy film “Best in Show.” Willard will also meet with fans.

Another highlight of the festival is Aug. 9 at the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale. Rachel Dratch, Tim Robinson and Mike O’Brien of “Saturday Night Live” fame, along with former Conan O’Brien collaborator Kevin Dorff, will perform as the comedy troupe D.R.O.D.

O’Brien and Robinson, who have worked behind the scenes and in front of the camera on “SNL,” are Detroit natives.

“We’re all from the Chicago improv scene,” O’Brien says. “We’ll do a long-form piece from one suggestion (from the audience) in the beginning of the show, and we perform steadily until time runs out.”

Festival producer Chris Moody, president of the Detroit Improv Collective, says attending improvisational comedy shows can be “addictive” because the same show is never performed twice, and the audience gets a chance to participate.

“The audience appreciates improv because they feel they’re a part of the process,” Moody says. “They walk into a theater, nothing has been established, but by the end there’s a lot of empathy between the audience and the team members because everybody wants everything to succeed.”

Partial proceeds of the Detroit Improv Festival benefit local charities such as Gilda’s Club of Metro Detroit. Mooney says the Detroit Improv Collective regularly works with nonprofits and school children to help them succeed using improvisational comedy tactics.

“For students, it helps with goal-setting, breaking out of their shell, learning how to listen, how to work together as a team ... all goals that will help them down the line with finding a job, being able to interview,” Moody says.

In addition to O’Brien and Robinson, some other comedians who got their start in Detroit will return home for the festival. The 313 troupe includes Keegan-Michael Key from Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele,” and former Second City Detroit players Maribeth Monroe and Jamie Moyers. The 313 performs Wednesday at the Boll Family YMCA and Aug. 9 at the Rust Belt.

Detroit Improv Festival

Sunday-Aug. 9

“Best in Show” screening and performance by Fred Willard and the MoHos at Redford Theatre, 7 p.m. Sun. $6. 17360 Lahser, Detroit

Afterglow with Fred Willard & the MoHos at Motor City Java House, 9:30 p.m. Sun. $15. 17339 Lahser, Detroit

Planet Ant Home Team at Planet Ant,

8 p.m. Mon. $10. 2357 Caniff, Hamtramck. (313) 365-4948

Improv troupes Shambles and the

Neutrino Project at Boll Family YMCA,

8 p.m. Tues. $10. 1401 Broadway, Detroit

Detroit Creativity Project, Celebrity

Soapbox and the 313 at Boll Family YMCA, 7 p.m. Wed. $10. 1401 Broadway, Detroit

Missed Connections and Go Labs: Beta Testing at Go Comedy!, 8 p.m. Wed. $10.

261 E. Nine Mile, Ferndale

The Leviathan and Wheel of Improv at Go Comedy!, 10 p.m. Wed. $10. 261 E. Nine Mile, Ferndale

Visit www.detroitimprovfestival.org

for full schedule

Ticket packages available, $50-$125


Former 'Saturday Night Live' cast member Rachel Dratch performs Aug. 9 at ... (Mary Ellen Matthews)
'Saturday Night Live' cast member Mike O'Brien performs Aug. 9 at the Rust ... (Detroit Improv Festival)