Forget Comedy Central: Hampton Roads Is A Place For Comedy
The Pushers Comedy Troupe Is Set To Open This Summer In Norfolk
Improv comedy is a cocktail of talent and chemistry. It’s about energy and wit, the unpredictable and the irreverent. Moving fast and thinking faster. Connecting with your audience. Saying yes.
These are the things you learn when you spend time with local improv favorites The Pushers.
For more than nine years, The Pushers—Ed Carden, Sean Devereux, Brad McMurran and Alba Woolard—have been teaching and performing improvisational and sketch comedy at a variety of locations. Now, with the opening of The Push Comedy Theater, a 90-seat venue set to become the destination for what’s funny in Coastal Virginia, they will have a home to call their own.
The Push is scheduled to open this summer in the heart of Norfolk’s Arts District. Inspiration for the comedy theater—the first of its kind in the area—came by way of Theater 99 in Charleston, S.C. “We’ve always admired the supportive, inclusive community they’ve developed,” says Devereux. “We want everyone who walks through the door to feel welcome and part of the fun.”
Fun is, of course, the name of the game. But the idea of community is one the group comes back to again and again. “We want people to feel like the theater is just as much theirs as it is ours,” says Devereux.
The Push will boast a schedule of live entertainment to satisfy even the most ardent comedy fans. Weekly improv and sketch comedy shows are planned as well as original comedic one-acts and plays. Special events, like the upcoming Norfolk Comedy festival, will feature talent from Norfolk and beyond. “A lot of really great acts and groups from as far away as Canada have expressed interest in coming to Norfolk and performing with us this year,” says Carden.
While their performances are generally not family-friendly, The Pushers take great care to give audiences something memorable. “I think we offer the unexpected. The four of us have distinct voices and styles of humor,” says Devereux, “so we can bounce from outrageous, to racy, to thought-provoking, to sweet, and back again. There’s something for everyone in our shows.”
“There isn’t a lot of pretense with our humor,” adds Woolard, “so audiences can kind of kick back and just enjoy it.”
Connecting with their audiences is both a pleasure and a priority. “We want everyone to be in on our jokes,” says Carden. “I think people appreciate that.”
Judging by the support The Pushers have received from friends and fans, it’s clear people do appreciate them. Major investment in The Push came from Jim and Mary Veverka, and a Kickstarter fundraising campaign garnered pledges from hundreds of supporters in mere weeks. Everyone, it seems, wants to be part of The Push.
For some, being involved includes going back to school.
The Pushers, trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York, have taught improv and sketch classes at The Muse Writers Center for several years. Classes at The Push will include everything from improv, sketch and stand-up comedy to film production, all taught by dedicated professionals.
The group takes pride in fostering new improvisers. “I love seeing the looks on their faces when they walk offstage after their first show,” says Carden. “I love seeing people get that rush that comes with performing in these two styles.”
Their sketch and improv classes, geared toward teens and adults, routinely fill with students of all ages and backgrounds. And though they may begin as strangers, the students often end up as close friends. “Getting on stage can be very intimidating,” says Devereux. “Watching people break out of their shells and trust themselves and their fellow improvisers is very rewarding.”
Building the local comedy scene is something The Pushers take seriously. “We love introducing the art we love to a whole new generation of people,” says McMurran.
That’s another thing you’ll learn from The Pushers: they love what they do. They’re passionate about comedy, their students and audiences, and their community. And they’re throwing that passion behind The Push.
“I like bringing people happiness,” says Woolard, “even if it’s only briefly.”