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Have fun with geography at Austin’s ‘International Improv Experience’

Cate Blouke
Roy Janik is the host of “The International Improv Experience” at the Hideout Theatre.

You may not have heard, but Austin’s improvised comedy scene is kind of a big deal.

With events like the 46-hour improv marathon hosted at the Hideout Theatre each June and the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival at the end of August, Austin’s talented improvisers have been steadily building an international reputation for awesomeness.

And now, the creative team at the Hideout is capitalizing on those global connections, collaborating with improv troupes all over the world to bring us “The International Improv Experience,” playing Saturday nights through Aug. 23.

In this highly ambitious and hilarious project, a local improv team tackles video challenges from dozens of friendly foreign improv groups residing as far afield as Melbourne, Australia; Tampere, Finland; and Osaka, Japan.

Even more than typical improv shows, this one keeps the performers on their toes, throwing new kinds of games and scene starters their way. Since their first exposure to the video challenges comes during the show, no one quite knows what to expect — generally with delightful results.

Each night the improvisers attempt to traverse as many miles as possible, jumping from location to location by random computer selection.

Opening weekend, they made it across 29,841 miles, completing challenges that ranged from scene starters based on the challenger’s local landscape (Japan’s ubiquitous vending machines), to stories spawned from cultural mythology (Ireland’s feisty fairies), to highly entertaining accent and vocabulary training (speaking with a Finnish accent or incorporating Canadian vernacular into a scene).

As the show progresses, the team will have to beat their previous mileage in the hopes of earning a much coveted pizza party.

Of course, it wouldn’t be improv if the audience wasn’t part of the show, and director (or, perhaps “master of ceremonies” might be more apt) Roy Janik is sure to keep everyone engaged.

Drawing on the aesthetics of television game shows and sci-fi film “Tron,” the set offers high-tech simulations with a giant red button, huge lever, sophisticated mileage tracker, and epic sound effects.

“The International Improv Experience” invites a delightful array of surprises onto the stage, and the two-hour show is a great way brush up on your geography while laughing yourself silly.

“The International Improv Experience: A World-Wide Collaboration”