“The most famous person in comedy that nobody knows.” -Amy Poehler
The life of Del Close is virtually a history of American improvisation.
You may not recognize his name, but Del was at least partly responsible for a large percentage of what you probably think is insightful and funny, and was considered by many to be one of the most influential minds in American Comedy.
Del started his comedy career with Mike Nichols and Elaine May in The Compass Players in St, Louis during the 1950’s. Moving on to Chicago’s Second City and eventually to San Francisco as creator and director of the legendary radical political satire comedy troupe The Committee. Del returned to Second City in 1973 and remained for twelve years as its highly successful director.
During his stay at Second City, Del co-created the highly popular TV show, SCTV, with Andrew Alexander and became “House Metaphysician” for the cast of Saturday Night Live for three seasons.
From there, Del eventually moved on to his permanent home at Chicago’s “ImprovOlympic Theater” (now known as “The iO Theater”), which he co-founded with his friend, Charna Halpern.
Del is credited with honing the comedic talents of legendary and current performers such as John Belushi, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, Harold Ramis, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, Betty Thomas, Tim Meadows, John Candy, Mike Myers, and many, many others.
In fact, there are very few successful improvisers who have not worked with or been influenced by Del’s work.
Considered by many to be a Guru in the art of improvisation, along with Viola Spolin and Paul Sills, Close was one of three titans of improvisational theatre who put it on the map, refined it, and turned it into the fixture of comedic and acting technique which it has become.
Although Del Close had worked on stage and screen throughout the years, he had been teaching or directing improv almost continuously since the 1950’s up to literally days before his final breath in 1999.
As a teacher, Del taught militant, unflinching honesty, believing that audiences would recognize their own frailties and fears and react accordingly — with a laughter every bit as deep and honest as the performance itself.
Del Close past away quietly on March 4, 1999 surrounded by his closest friends.
By inspiring and influencing the minds and work of many of our past and current generation of performers, Del Close has left -and continues to leave- his signature on today’s comedic world of entertainment.