Dedicated to funny in Phoenix

Improv: NCT Phoenix

The NCT Phoenix Team

Is it possible to be funny every week? Yes.  After six months of hanging around the National Comedy Theater Phoenix I find myself laughing harder and harder every single week.

The Director

Obviously the need for the drug called laughter is never ending for the director of NCT Phoenix, Dorian Lenz.

Lenz has been an improviser for almost 20 years.  He has performed in Germany, the Netherlands, England, and France as well as places all over the country.

The Original NCT

In 1999, Gary Kramer founded the National Comedy Theater in San Diego.  Four years later Kramer decided to open a NCT branch in New York City.  Kramer asked Lenz if he would direct the theater in San Diego after he left.

In 2008 Lenz and his wife, Krissy, wanted to return to their home and start a National Comedy Theater in Phoenix.

“We felt like Phoenix needed good solid improv roots,” Lenz said.

Krissy and Dorian both operate the theater on a daily basis while raising two kids and maintaining other jobs, even though the amount of work they put into the theater is enough to be a full time job alone.

NCT Phoenix

NCT Phoenix performs every Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and 9:45 p.m at their theater in Mesa. The show consists of “Competitive Improv” and consists of a referee, players, Mr. Voice, a half time and of course YOU! (The audience)

The “origin” of competitive improv dates back to 1977 when a director in Alberta, Canada by the name of Keith Johnston came up with some warm-ups for his squad.

NCT Phoenix has about 50 games in their repertoire and audience members are usually amazed by the sheer volume of options.

Movie Mash-Ups

Once a month NCT Phoenix puts on a show called “Movie Mashterpiece” at the MADCAP Theater on Mill Ave. in Tempe.

The performers put on a poorly made movie then dub over the top of it completely improvised.

Andrea Beesley-Brown co-founded the idea with Lenz for the Mash-Ups.  Beesley-Brown runs a program called the Midnight Movie Mamacita that shows old B-list movies.

“We were brainstorming one night and came up with the idea of doing voices over the top,” Lenz said. “Mystery Science Theater 3000 already existed and she wanted us to come up with something different and that’s what we came up with.”

These Mash-Ups take place on the last Thursday of every monthat 7 p.m. and cost nine dollars admission.  The movie for September 2010: Turkish Star Wars.

Midnight Shows

When you go see a show at NCT Phoenix you will discover that it is a family friendly show.  There is even a “Brown Bag Foul” which punishes any rude, crude or inappropriate behavior or comments from players and audience members.

Once a month the “Brown Bag Foul” is thrown out the window at midnight for a different (uncensored) type of improv.

The style is called long form and not many people are used to seeing it.  In fact if somebody is not familiar with long form or does not understand the style then they will most likely be extremely confused for most of the show.

“Our midnight shows are more story based than game based and we do our best to create a 30 to 45 minute one-act,” Lenz said with a very big grin.

High School League

NCT Phoenix is not only dedicated to entertaining their own audiences.  The theater runs a High School League throughout the school year at schools across the state.

“We teach our style to help them create their own improv teams, set up intramural shows and raise money,” Lenz said.

This year NCT Phoenix will be teaching 10 high schools throughout the state the art of improvisation.  At the end of every year the schools all have a giant tournament at the theater in Mesa.


NCT doesn’t only teach the young guns they can teach anybody.  The theater runs workshops throughout the year for different skills essential for improvisation.

The people who take the workshops have many varying motives.  Some people take them for fun while others take them to improve their performance at job interviews.

The theater runs all sorts of workshops that are tailored to different skill and experience levels.

Corporate Shows

NCT Phoenix performs a “fully mobile” show.  The theater will transport their show to perform for companies,conferences, etc.  There are different prices for different shows but all of them are reasonable.


NCT Phoenix holds auditions roughly once every six months.  The next auditions are October 2, 2010 at 1 p.m.


NCT Phoenix is a great family show and no two shows are every the same.  You will never be disappointed by visiting NCT.

The theater is located at 1111 S. Longmore in Mesa.


One response

  1. Good stuff!

    Dorian is one of the hardest working people I know. How he manages to juggle a regular job, a family, and heading up NCT is a mystery to me. It’s been really awesome to see NCT to become a comedy destination, not only for folks seeking out a good show, but for really talented performers.

    The best part of the Arizona Republic / AZ Central article that came out last Sunday was not only focusing on how there is so much activity around town, but on the roots of the people who’ve been giving improv a home in Phoenix and the entire valley. In particular, I was really happy that the article clearly established Dorian’s roots here in town. I think it’s important for people to realize that there are a lot of talented people in our city who have been doing this for years.

    As far as longform, I actually don’t find that people are necessarily less familiar with longform improv than they are with improv in general. In my experience (about nine years of studying longform and performing, teaching, and watching it in festivals and theaters across the country), the people who are unfamiliar with improv (longform or otherwise) and watch it seem to understand it and enjoy it just fine.

    Really, there’s nothing inherently confusing about longform. In fact, I do a longform show, ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ, in which I take an audience volunteer whose never done any kind of improv before to perform a 25-30 minute, two-person longform show. Every single person that’s volunteered has kept up, made great choices, and was part of a fun show.

    I think the general public understands and enjoys improv of any strain as long as it’s done well and presented as such. We’ve had NCT do great shows at Space 55 where most of our audience has mostly experienced longform. We’ve had the pleasure of having Torch Theatre teams perform in the Midnight Show and have had a great time there.

    I think the problem is when people don’t understand what they’re getting or when they don’t know what to expect. When people go to improv expecting stand up comedy (and I think pretty much everyone in town doing improv has dealt with that either in person or over the phone), I think there’s gonna be some confusion, if not some dissatisfaction, regardless of what kind of show it is.

    When people come to the Torch expecting shortform improv, we let them know what they’re getting into ahead of time and invite them to enjoy our approach. But, we also let them know about NCT and Jester’Z, two great places in town that focus exactly on what they’re looking for. We’re the fifth-largest city in the nation, so there are enough audience members out there for everyone. That’s why we’re not shy on giving props and shoutouts to everyone doing good work in town.

    Having a blog like Dry Heat Humor is great, too, because there is actually plenty to catch for those looking to get their comedy fix. It just takes a little bit of searching and people being adventurous and taking a chance on local artists and performers.

    I think our improv scene is growing up pretty well and has been over the past few years. Also, local stand ups are collaborating a bit more and branching out. There have been a few local comics here and there that have put together their own tours independently, DIY/band style.

    Sketch, too, is starting to rise up. There has been sketch comedy in Phoenix for some time (as evidenced by the pioneers of Phoenix comedy article that came out alongside the improv one in the Republic), but this is probably the biggest sketch boom we’ve had since Dry Heat (the sketch comedy group put together by Jeff Moriarty, now of Improv AZ): Sic Sense was doing their thing for a while, Bully Mammoth has been having successful monthly shows at Space 55 in downtown for the past year, and The Firehouse’s First Friday Night Live just hit the ground running.

    There are a lot of talented folks in the valley and it’s a good time to be here for comedy. Hope to see you around! Feel free to drop us a note if you’d like to see a show!

    September 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm

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