Thanks for being interested in our story. We feel very fortunate that we have experienced continued growth since our humble beginnings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2007. Today, Fish Sticks Comedy has over 25 improv comedians in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and Milwaukee – but that didn’t come together in one fell swoop. There were several swoops that had to fall.
The first occurred in 2015. In that year, the Sticks in Milwaukee had the idea to put on a conference to focus on furthering the craft of improv and connect with those who have an “other-centered” purpose behind what they do. In other words, we weren’t looking for comedians who are in it for the attention or just for themselves. Rather, we wanted to support and nurture comedians who were funny and wanted to be funnier and more effective because that would have a benefit on those participating in their events.
Two members from HIMprov in Dallas came to that conference. And even in the lead up, it was becoming clear that there was a connection between their approach and experience and the approach and experience of the Milwaukee-based, Fish Sticks. Fast forward a few months, and the idea of joining up to become one team came up and just made sense. So, on May 20, 2016, at the second annual conference sponsored by Fish Sticks — this time in Dallas — 15 of the Sticks took to the stage to celebrate this new venture.
So what’s the back story of the local teams ? You can see more of that below, but what is consistent between the two is a background in the club comedy scene — with many performing for years at top comedy clubs in Milwaukee, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta and elsewhere, a commitment to excellence, and a focus on serving others.
Fish Sticks Comedy began in Milwaukee, where three of the regular pro players at the original ComedySportz location put their heads together to do more than entertain with their improv comedy. So one cold November morning in 2006, Whit, John and Dave met for breakfast and decided to put something together. We do not, unfortunately, remember what we ordered.
Over the next few months, the three Sticks decided to focus their energies on doing short-form improv shows for churches, schools, charities for outreach, fellowship and fundraising. Their commitment to doing squeaky-clean improv has been a constant, too — and this “never-cross-the-line,” all age appropriate, high energy, improvisational approach has led them to broaden their base to corporate workshops, events, clubs, and much more.
The Sticks’ first show was on February 10, 2007, and, with the help of media coverage, the first show sold out and a second one added that night nearly did, too. We’ve come a long way since that first show. But even with the hundreds of shows we’ve done since, the energy and support right at the beginning is something that we cherish to this day.
In July, 2007, Nancy joined Fish Sticks as the first chick Stick (to use her words). That definitely classed the thing up. Andy joined in 2008, as did Joe and Jodi a bit later that year. In 2015, Rebecca was added to the mix, getting the Milwaukee troupe up to eight members. Each Stick brought a little something different to the table, and the blend has been pretty cool to see develop.
Starting out from their home territory from their base in Milwaukee, south to Chicagoland, west to Madison, and north to Green Bay and the Fox Valley, the Sticks have traveled coast-to-coast performing before thousands and thousands in a wide variety of venues.
The Dallas Fish Sticks trace their roots even further back to 2001, when a couple of comedians who for the prior 10 years were performing at places like ComedySportz Dallas and in schools with the group, Kidprov, began doing monthly shows at a church in the area – a run that continues to this day! So along with Jay and Craig and three others, including some guy named Tim Hawkins who now does stand up comedy, HIMprov was born.
In the 15 years that followed that start, the group grew — in part due to the regular 6-week long improv workshops focused on performance aspects and applications to life generally. In fact, Don, Jason, and Steve all graduated from those workshops to the stage with HIMprov and now with Fish Sticks. HIMprov always stuck to the “clean enough for a church” standard while striving for excellence in improv regardless of setting.
The Atlanta troupe was the first troupe that was birthed out of a desire to serve additional parts of the country well. In 2019, the Sticks organized and put on an intensive casting and training initiative with about 12 participants. Coming from different backgrounds and improv experiences, we sought to cast a local team in Atlanta that could not only serve the Southeast US, but also become vibrant members of our national team. At the end of that experience, Fish Sticks Atlanta was formed with Cory, Drew, Jessica and Rick as the initial members.
Shortly after completing the Atlanta launch, we started a similar process in Denver. Again, we had wonderful people participate in our training and casting process – ultimately starting with five new Sticks. That was in February, 2020. Great timing to start a live, performance troupe, don’t you think? Although the pandemic deferred live Fish Sticks performances in Denver, the new Sticks were instrumental in pushing us to do online improv. Although reluctant at first, it became an important part of our growth into the national team that we now are. In addition, as we have come back to the stage, we have added three new members to Fish Sticks Denver and are enjoying the building of our presence there.
The Pandemic and Fish Sticks In Home Delivery
As mentioned above, the new Denver Sticks were instrumental in getting us to even consider going online. And we’re so glad that they did. Although it was very difficult to translate what we do to the Zoom screen, we pushed through. This was a period of growing connection among the comedians in different parts of the country. We needed each other and became so much closer during this time. And there was commercial success as well. In fact, we are amazed at the fact that we had tens of thousands of viewers for our online shows from over 50 countries on 6 continents. We attribute much of this to our decision to focus on our mission of connecting people to each other through improv. By focusing on connection over content, we became a comfortable presence in people’s lives in addition to our own growth as a national troupe.
During this time, we had our first performers from Chicago join us and others as well. While online improv is not as active as it was during 2020 – 2022, it continues to be a part of our offerings and an experience that grew us together.
Thankfully, the story of Fish Sticks is still being written. We have expanded our offerings to include not only short-form improv comedy, but longer form, genre-based shows, corporate training, game show structures, and more. With literally unlimited material to draw from, and a unique, other-centered improv foundation to what we do, we know that the future is bright. We love what we do, care about each other and who we perform for, and can’t wait to have the chance to share time with you at an upcoming show or workshop!
Thanks for showing the interest in how we got into this thing, where we’ve been and where we’re headed. We’re excited and would love for you to contact us to learn more about how we might partner together to do great things.