Plan to attend the unplanned: Live Improv with the Tongue in Chief Players |

Plan to attend the unplanned: Live Improv with the Tongue in Chief Players

Members of Tongue In Chief Players in 2019, from left, Katie Carroll, Drew Mcelheny, Mike Denova, Avery Cavendar, Joe Haines and Kyle Noblett. Not pictured: Keith Early, Cannon Hyche, Chad McGown, Calder Young.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s the show you can watch four times in a row and never see the same thing twice: the ever-evolving, constantly-content-creating live improv troupe, the Tongue in Chief Players.

The troupe will present live improv every Thursday in February at the Chief Theater.

The Players formed to improve their improv in 2017, featuring Katie Carroll, Calder Young, Kristen Cronin and Scott Parker. The group was self-directed until this year, when Carroll stepped out of the spotlight and into the director’s chair.

“It’s great that she’s doing this,” said Parker, who’s also executive director of the Chief. “It’s hard when you don’t have a clear leader.”

The Players have traditionally focused on short-form improv — fast-paced, three- or four-minute games or pieces in which the comedians are constantly asking the audience for suggestions, such as “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” which features someone from the audience asking a question, seeking advice from the players. One of the three players offers good advice; another, bad advice; the third, predictably, ugly advice.

But Carroll is also bringing something new to the table.

“We’re introducing long-form improv to Steamboat audiences,” she said. “It’s going to be a hybrid show for the first time.”

If you go

What: Live Improv with the Tongue In Chief Players
When: Doors, bar open at 6:30 p.m., show begins at 7 p.m., every Thursday in February
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Admission: Free, with donations accepted

In long-form, one idea from the audience is spun into a much longer and more complex story. An example is the game “Montage,” in which the comedians turn a suggestion from the audience into several edited scenes. 

“We’re 100%, over-the-top committed to something so different from everyday life,” Carroll said. “I think that’s where the most joy is.”

While February is the Players’ biggest month on stage, work goes into their show all year, rehearsing as often as twice per week.

“People think, ‘Why do you rehearse for improv?’” Parker said. “You don’t rehearse the scenes — you get used to performing with the same people and the nuances of improv.”

“We’re all committed to bringing or improv to the next level,” Carroll said.

The Players’ first improv show of the February series is Thursday, Feb. 6. Doors and bar open at 6:30 p.m.; the show kicks off at 7 p.m. Admission to the shows are free, but donations support the Players’ work, including their annual trip to improv workshops in Denver.

Each show lasts about an hour. The Tongue in Chief Players warn their content may contain adult humor, so audience members should use caution when considering bringing children to the show.

Several of the most practiced Players will exercise their funny bones even further on Feb. 21, when Chicago’s legendary troupe, Second City Improv, performs at the Chief, with several Players joining the troupe for an encore set. Second City has been operating since 1959 and is widely credited with starting a comedy revolution in its approach to and teaching of improvisation. Greats such as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray began their careers at Second City. 

“(The comedians of Second City) are the improv all-stars,” Parker said. 

Tickets to the Second City show at the Chief are available for $50 at

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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