It is not everyday that you meet an improv troupe that combines comedy with Comic Book Heroes but The Revengers in Southern California bring to life comedy with a superhero twist! The Revengers have two shows coming up – one at the San Diego Improv Festival on the 18th of February and a show on the 24th at the Improv Space in Westwood California. I spoke to the guys to find out more about this really interesting concept for a show.

Hello! Tell us about The Revengers who you all are and a little bit about  yourselves?
Robert Long – The Revengers is an improv troupe out of Southern California that’s been in existence for almost 3 years. We started in Bakersfield, and moved our base of operations to Los Angeles a little over a year ago. We do an improvised comic book, complete with all the tropes you might expect from the genre. Every show we’ve ever done contributes to the overall canon of the Revengerverse, so any character we’ve ever improvised is still in play. It’s one of the most exciting shows I’ve ever done.
Roberto Lewis – We are all improvisers with prominent silly streaks, as well as fervent comic book fans.  I am repeatedly impressed by the depth of my teammates’ knowledge of comic book lore and the speed and talent they display onstage.

How did you come up with the name of you troupe?
Robert – I’ve loved comics since I was a kid reading Spider-Man, and, after being inspired by a couple things, had been thinking about doing an improvised comic book for awhile… another member of my company told me he had a name, but didn’t know what to put it to… and when he said The Revengers, it matched up to what I wanted to build. Seemed like a sign.Since we’ve been doing it, we’ve seen a couple other references to the name, most famously Thor claims that’s what his team was called in Ragnarok, but we came up with ours in isolation from other sources, and well before Thor tried to brown nose his way into the group. I liked the name because it seems like a parody of Avengers, so you stand a good chance to immediately know what kind of improv we do.

In character, the name of the group was adopted at the end of issue #1. The team was of the impression that the villain Pneumothorax (audience suggestion, scientist who turns into gases of his choosing) had killed J.K. Rowling. One of the original members was a big fan of Harry Potter, so he vowed revenge on Pneumothorax… and that’s where they picked the name. Haven’t caught Pneumothorax yet though, much less achieved Revenge. We’ve since learned Rowling is still alive though, and actually practices magic.

Tell us about the type of improv you perform and how it came about?

Robert – I learned The Movie form from Paul Vaillancourt, who does a solo Movie show at iO called “Man vs. Movie.” I know there are videos on the internet of that show if you want to check it out. I also have several friends in “The Resistance,” who do an improvised action movie, but break the mold on your expected improv show by using crash pads that essentially become giant tinkertoys to build set pieces onstage.

All those guys have a passion for action movies, and it shows onstage. With these two inspirations, I started thinking about building a show that follows your passions, as well as what tools you’d need to make that happen. The Revengers is essentially a modified Movie format that uses the structure of comics to substitute for the camera angles of The Movie. We scene paint comics panels rather than camera shots. The four original members of the group workshopped those tools until we had a form we were happy with presenting… then we started with a limited series where we created our recurring heroes for the group. There’s a lot of crossover between a movie script and a comics script, so it was an easy, natural fit. Our opening is painting the cover of the book we’re performing.

So tell us about the characters that you end up playing in The Revengers?

Robert: Each member of the troupe has a hero character the show can be about. Those are specially built through origin story issues on stage, like our original four issue limited series. I play Hazard, a traffic cop who’s like Doctor Manhattan but not as bright, as well as Timestream, a time travelling do gooder trying to keep entire timelines from becoming corrupted and needing to be ended. Justin Heidelberger plays Incognito, a DoD special ops officer who can turn invisible when you’re not looking at him. Josh Jones plays Zinger, who was at the Roswell landing in the 50s…
human kid with alien tech that uses his sense of humor and the laughs he gets to a variety of effects… Roberto plays Covert Guy (I call him Flashbang), a solider who took on Inspector Gadget-like qualities when experimented on by enemy forces… We still have to do heroes for Steve and for Michael Spellacy. Icarus, Star Thresher, Rockets Red Glare, Slagma, Recharge, Raven Bat Claw, Shutter… all heroes we’ve created for troupe members.

The villains are a pool. Our heroes are characters only the originator plays, but the villains are fair game. We’ve created a bunch of villains over the last few years. I’m partial to Mr. Evens and Mr. Odds, Cutthroat, Darkroom, Doctor Father, Garrison, Luck, Baron Samedi, General Eldrytch, Korrupzak… see, I could go on. We’ve created a lot of characters I really love, both to play and in concept.

Roberto – I love to play villains, preferably with helmets and minions.  My recurring Revenger character is Covert Guy, a charming and well-dressed ex-soldier with extendable metal tentacle arms that double as whips.

Are they usually parodies of characters in the Marvel Universe or are they
new and improvised characters or is it a mix of both?

Robert – We try to avoid parody of existing characters. As much as possible, we try to create brand new, original characters through improv… but a lot of our characters are built on archetypes, so you’ll see similarities you can connect to. Oddly enough, Hazard wasn’t built on Doctor Manhattan’s archetype… the audience gave us the Crimson Wrench, from the movie “Super,” which they defined as “having no sense of the consequences of his actions.” Hazard was entirely built from that.

Tell us a little bit about the shows you are performing at the San Diego Improv Festival on the 18th of February and the show on the 24th at the Improv Space in Westwood California?

Robert – We’ve got the Sunday at 8 slot on 2/18… Revengers played that festival back in 2016… did a cool story about a bomb on a train and alien technology that wound up with a fight scene in the audience – the audience ended up playing a train car full of soldiers, and the hero, Recharge if I remember right, had to fight his way through and back to get to the car that had the bomb on it. Fun scene.

We played the Improv Space in January… this one’s a 6 pm time slot… last time Zinger had to stop an alien overlord on planet Vegge… Turnip, I think it was… the name of the overlord, not the veg.

Roberto – The main thing about those two shows is that they will be part of a continuing storyline.  You won’t need to see both shows to enjoy them, but if you do, you will have triple the amount of fun.

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What have been the highlights of the shows that you have performed previously?

Robert: Oh, every time we create somebody new I get fascinated with what that character is. I’m fascinated with Shutter, even though we’ve only seen him once… we just created Merit in Utah, a former scoutmaster who absorbs the powers of those he kills, like Sylar from first season of Heroes, except their powers become merit badges that he can activate at will. I also love when we involve the audience in the show.

We did one where the Game of Thrones shoot was destroyed by the self-replicating Extra (and leader Featured Extra), and the audience got into that one… they were copies of Extra, and when Featured Extra spoke, they’d echo him. Then they misunderstood their own echo and got into a massive fight among themselves which was the resolution to the issue. That was lots of fun. Oh, and George R.R. Martin is a character named Deadline, who’s immortal as long as there’s a book out there he’s signed. He showed up at the end, collected Featured Extra and the Mother of Dragons and took off to attack HBO.

Roberto:

1. Performing a Mortal Kombat-style Scorpion Punch onstage with Justin Heidelberger.
2. Watching Michael Spellacy (in character as Dr. Father, mad scientist) effortlessly improvise the answers to random and complicated acronyms thrown at him (e.g., “Dr. Father, what does F.A.M.I.L.Y. stand for?).
3. Having an over-the-top death scene is always a highlight for me.
Have you or do you have any plans to perform your improv show at events like Comic Con? 
Roberto: None I’m aware of, but that is The Dream!


You are based in Los Angeles – what’s the improv scene like?

Robert: In LA? There are tons of choices: iO West, Second City, UCB, Nerdist, LA Connection, Groundlings… there are a lot of players in the LA improv scene.

Roberto: It’s a big city and a small town, all at once.  There are a million places to play, but you run into the same folks. There is also a real pull towards friendliness and empathy. The scene definitely changes you, and for the better.

If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?

@RevengersImprov on both Instagram and Twitter.

Facebook is www.facebook.com/RevengersImprov … then our website is
www.RevengersImprov.com, where eventually you’ll be able to go for all things improv, including back issues, merchandise, and our Wikipedia cataloging the Revengerverse.

Is there any other improv group you would love to collaborate with?

Robert: The Resistance is always on my radar – they’re sooooo good. We have folks guest with us pretty regularly – since Paul Vaillancourt helped inspire the form, I’d love to get him to sit in. I know lots of people I’d like to play with. We also love travelling to festivals and having a local sit in with us. When we played Red Rocks Improv Festival, we created Korrupzak with Ryan McLean… I’d love to bring that character back.

Roberto: I am a huge fan of the groups Bear Supply andDasariski.  A comic story with any of them would be beyond epic.

What do you think 2018 holds for the world of improv – what would you like to see happen in the next 12 months?

Robert: I’d like to see the world of improv evolve into a circuit, so teams can spend time touring, like bands or standups do, earning some money to offset costs. I know there are a number of improvisers in different regions that are trying to grow such an enterprise, and I’d like to see those efforts link up into regional and even national touring. Heck, sky’s the limit… international tour, why not?
I’d like to see improv get the same kind of respect other art forms do, so when you hear teams are coming to your city, you go, “Hey, I’ve heard of them!” or “I’ve seen them before!” and it makes you want to go catch them again. I’d like to see more and more performance venues opening up to solid improv shows.

 

I’ve always wanted improvisers to have a portfolio of work – for their shows to become assets on which future engagements can be built. Improv for Humans, and other podcasts like it are working in that direction, and there are folks out there who are trying to crack the “improv to video” puzzle. Improv works really well live, but that vibe and energy of discovery is often lost when the show gets put on video. I think somebody’s going to get there with a show or an ethic that translates well to video.

The great thing about the art form is that people are constantly exploring and discovering in all different directions, most of which I never thought of and never would have… so yeah, more of that.

QUICK FIRE ROUND – SUPER HERO SPECIAL
Favourite comic book hero?
Robert – Daredevil, Spider-Man, Batman.
Roberto – Jesse Custer (Preacher)
If you had to marry, kill and kiss a superhero which ones would they be?
Robert –Marry Shadowcat, wouldn’t kill anyone -that’s against code, kiss – my wife, Shadowcat. Had a thing for Kitty Pryde since we were both 15.
Roberto: Marry – Doctor Aphra (Star Wars) /Kiss – Victoria Hand (Dark Avengers) / Kill – Beast (X-Men)
If you were a super hero what would your super power be?
Robert –Electrical generation and control.
Roberto- Accelerated learning
You have to live in one television / film / computer game world/city for ever – which would it be?
Robert –Probably the Marvel Universe.
Roberto: Doctor Who
The film you are looking forward to the most this year?
Robert –Avengers: Infinity War
Roberto – The Predator
The name of your autobiography?
Robert –Does This Make Sense?
Roberto Come and Get Me, You Bastards