Friday Nite Improvs is turning 20. You can be damn-well sure that we’ll make a fuss about that, and with good reason. But until we slap you in the face with the cold, wet facts please feel free to enjoy this other, lower number. Turn the clock back to 2007 and remember a kinder, more innocent time. A time when a young Christina Aguilera taught us how to love, and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” taught us how to cry. It was also the year FNI turned 18. Here now, for your edification, our musings on that birthday past.

FNI @ 18

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Liz Labacz
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John Feightner

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From Louis:

Former Host, Elder Statesman

Eighteen years. Wow, when you say it that way….

I gotta be honest with you… I’ve been putting this off, longer than I should. And by this, I mean writing about FNI turning 18. Just so we’re clear, it’s not because “I’m so overwhelmed I just can find the words….” No, it’s nothing like that. Truth is, I’ve been procrastinating for the simple reason that no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to sum up, encapsulate if you will, eighteen god dammed years into some snappy sound bite.

Just for the record, and despite what you may think, I haven’t been around for all of ‘em. Only sixteen. So my physiological defense is that my personal history with the show is still driving on a learners permit. Make of that what you will.

But still I keep trying to quantify what it means for FNI to be pivoting on this seemingly august number. Perhaps it’s some special form of human weakness, that need to put shoes in boxes or eggs in tidy cartons. Probably the same reason we build suburbs. Well, at any rate, here are the facts

We’ve performed more than 600 shows, have had ten of thousands of people walk through our doors, hosted 5 Improv-A-Thons, spawned at least a half dozen improv groups, and donated thousands of dollars to charity. It’s that last one I’m particularly fond of… if for no other reason than most of it came from collage kids that could barely scrape together beer money. Oh, and the hard drive of my computer holds 6742 photos of the show spanning eight years and taking up 9.48 gigs.

We’ve had people who’ve performed on our stage go on to careers in theatre, film and television. The TV one for me always seems to leads to a weird type of home invasion; one when your sitting on the couch in your underwear and suddenly that guy you performed that scene with about disgruntled anger management health care workers suddenly pops up on your television. It’s never easy.

And people come, stay for a time, and leave. Funny thing is, they come back. Even funnier thing is sometimes that in between period is just a week, sometimes it’s years. Rarely is it forever. And kids who used to attend the show have gone on to have kids of their own. Stare at that for a while.

And we’ve had amazing nights and awful ones too. Sometimes we tell stories, even though we were there the first time. Every so often, about once a year or so, a group of us will be talking and inevitably the question comes up about why we keep doing this. The best answer was given by my friend Ben. He said that sometimes he imagines that kid in the audience, the one who just had the worst week ever, who’s friends dragged him to the show and who’s sitting there brooding in some introspective hell. If something happens that gives that kid one chuckle, one single moment of relief or pulls him back just one step from the edge… then it’s worth it. Put another way by Jeff DeVincent, the first host of FNI, “Two hours of failure is worth a picosecond of brilliance.”

And now the show is older than most of the people that are attending it. I’m still not sure what that really means (beyond the obvious fact that I should probably cut back on my Allman Brothers references). It’s nearly impossible to describe just how much FNI has changed my life. Then again, I’m the worst kind of person; I’m a true believer. But it’s my fervent hope that FNI will change yours too; if even a just little and hopefully for the better. But even if it doesn’t - that, like failure, is Ok. Friday Nite Improvs has been here for 18 years, and it’s not leaving any time soon.