Ventura’s Comedy Improv Institution Celebrates 20th Birthday with Labor Day Festival

Ventura County Star, August 31, 2009
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A full year of celebrations and comedy improv shows have commemorated the 20th year of Ventura Improv Company (VIC). The festivities will culminate in ImproJam, the annual improv competition and festival over Labor Day weekend, 2009.

No one thought the ragtag group of actors who came together in 1989 in Ventura would become the nucleus of what is now the Ventura Improv Company, an institution in historic downtown Ventura. After VIC founders Tom Mueller and Gary Best attended a workshop taught by actor Barbara Scott (of Bay Area TheatreSports fame,) they were intrigued. “It looked like fun, and like nothing we had seen before,” Mueller says. “The idea of creating a full scene on a spot, with no costumes, props or scripts, seemed like the ultimate creative challenge.”

tom mueller
Tom Mueller, one of the founders of Ventura Improv Company.

The group grew, and thrived. They started performing regularly in 1990, and finally had a permanent stage in 1999. After a couple name changes, the group found its stride and is still going strong, with Mueller and Best (with the addition Judy Gottlieb) at the helm to this day.

ImproJam, the latest incarnation of VIC’s yearly Labor Day festival, will feature performances by improv groups from all over the West, including the award-winning New 19 from Los Angeles. On Sunday, VIC will also host a 3-hour ImproJam among all the visitors — a nod to the format of festivals past.

ventura improv company
Members of the Ventura Improv Company, ready to make you laugh over Labor Day weekend.

ImproJam takes place Friday-Sunday, September 4-6, 2009. Reservations are recommended. More information can be found at or by calling (805) 643-5701×2. VIC is located at 34 North Palm Street in historic downtown Ventura.