Quad Cities improv comedy troupe celebrates 10 years with special Saturday show in Moline

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The improv comedy troupe Wisenheimer consists of Leslie Mitchell, left, Jeff De Leon and Jen Kuhle.

Funny story, literally — The Black Box Theatre of the Quad Cities and The Late Nite Shows are presenting Wisenheimer: 10-Year Anniversary Show on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Black Box, 1623 5th Ave., Moline.

The improv comedy show will be hosted by Dan Logan, and feature an opening act, Chowdown Improv, from Des Moines.

Wisenheimer – the comedy troupe comprised of Leslie Mitchell, Jeff De Leon, and Jen Kuhle – is celebrating a decade of performing uncensored shows after having performed at a variety of festivals across the country over the years, as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, U.K. The evening will feature a brief retrospective, an opening act improv performance, announcements on future plans, and maybe a surprise or two.

Since 2019, The Black Box Theatre has been home to The Late Nite Shows, and co-owner Lora Adams could not be happier with the arrangement.

Lora Adams is co-founder and co-owner of The Black Box Theatre.

“The ability to both expand our unique offerings as a theatre, as well as give this well-known and established comedy entity a home has been wonderful,” she said Monday. “The Late Nite Shows were routinely selling out pre-pandemic, and audiences have been steadily returning since relaunching in May. Both that inaugural show and the relaunch were headlined by Wisenheimer to packed houses.”

In addition to festivals and their run at The Black Box, Wisenheimer found another home in 2021 at TeeHee’s Comedy Club, at 1433 Walnut St., Des Moines. Upon hearing good things about the troupe, owner Sid Juwarker offered a guest spot to them back in March, as his club began to re-open during the pandemic.

Juwarker then offered them regular monthly shows in effort to help grow improv in the burgeoning Des Moines comedy community.

A troupe from that very same Des Moines improv scene, Chowdown Improv, will be the opening act for the anniversary show at The Black Box.

Born at Rock Island’s Establishment

Wisenheimer started their 10-year run back at The Establishment Theatre in The District of Rock Island.

“I still remember Leslie, Jeff, and John [Hannon, a founding member of Wisenheimer] approaching me about the possibility of doing a long-form uncensored show on Wednesday nights,” said Patrick Adamson, former co-owner of The Establishment. “We agreed on a plan and they did one show every week for an entire year — and their growth, as well as the audience they began to draw, was noticeable.”

“What they started eventually became The Late Nite Studio Series which then morphed into The Late Nite Shows as we know them today,” he added. “I’m so happy to have been there at the beginning, help them launch, and see how far they’ve come.”

The Wisenheimer 10th anniversary show is Saturday, Dec. 4 at The Black Box Theatre in downtown Moline.

The troupe has seen their cast shift members five times over 10 years, with co-founders Mitchell and De Leon having been there from the start and planning to keep things going for the foreseeable future.

“We promised each other as long as we’re having fun, shows are consistent, it stays creatively fulfilling, and we’re getting the best improv out of each other – then we would keep it going,” said Mitchell. “It’s been a blast for 10 years… and it still is.”

Former members of the troupe include John Hannon, Nate Klaus, and Brent Tubbs — and almost all are confirmed to be in attendance at the anniversary show.

“Leslie and I were discussing recently how it’s genuinely mind-boggling we’ve been fortunate enough to do something we’re both so passionate about for so long,” De Leon said Monday. “In comedy — and especially in improv — it’s incredibly rare to have a show run consistently the past five years, so this is a wonderful anomaly of sorts.

“These incredibly supportive people keep showing up and entertaining them (and each other) is something we have fun with yet also take seriously, so I hope we’re doing something right,” he said by email.

Leslie Mitchell, Jeff De Leon and Jen Kuhle love making people laugh.

One of De Leon’s favorite memories is getting chosen for and performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland – “as that had been a dream of mine since I first heard about it when I was 12,” he said. “That entire week was an incredible and lucky experience.”

Finding a new home at The Black Box has felt “for lack of a better word, natural,” De Leon said. “The space is perfect for improv, the audiences have been consistently supportive, and the staff have been an absolute dream to work with. The Late Nite Shows are lucky to have forged such a great partnership.”

The 60-seat Black Box has a lively, eclectic lineup of plays and musicals, and the space welcomes local artists as well. Visit them at TheBlackBoxTheatre.com.

The Late Nite Shows are uncensored comedy performances featuring improv, sketch, and stand up on select Saturday nights at The Black Box, produced by G.I.T. Improv. Find out more information on shows and schedules at LateNiteShows.com.

Wisenheimer reached out to QC comedy stalwart and long-time friend of the troupe, Dan Logan (also a member of Chowdown Improv) to host the anniversary show.

“To see where this gang has come from 2011 to now is just so impressive — and what is remarkable is how consistently good they are,” said Logan. “For them to have this long of a run and still put on a solid, hysterical evening of entertainment after 10 years is to be commended — and I’m honored to be a part of their anniversary show.”

Admission to the show is $10. Tickets are available by calling The Black Box Theatre Box Office at 563-284-2350 or purchasing online at TheBlackBoxTheatre.com.

For more information on Wisenheimer, as well as episodes of their podcast, visit WeAreWisenheimer.com.

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