Founded in 1981, iO (Formerly ImprovOlympic) is the world famous flashpoint of comic creativity that spawned an entire generation of America’s best and brightest entertainers. Over 5000 people have trained and performed at iO’s Chicago and Los Angeles theaters, including some of the most recognizable names in show business; Mike Myers, Chris Farley, David Koechner, Adam McKay, Tina Fey and many, many more.
Charna Halpern held a belief that improv was capable of more than the short games and competition-style shows that dominated the scene through the 1970s. It was then that she met legendary director and improv luminary Del Close. Their shared vision for a deeper, more robust form of improvisation based on trust and agreement would be rounded into shape and set in motion when they developed the Harold at iO (then ImprovOlympic). With Del serving as the mentor and Charna the guide, longform was born and the two would change the face of improvisational comedy.
It was Del’s belief that performers needed to have the utmost respect for one another- that if they treated each other like geniuses, poets and artists, they could become that on stage. This philosophy and the famous “yes, and!” notion that agreement is vital on stage helped iO establish itself in the community, and with that the Chicago improv scene was born. In short order iO grew from a ragtag nomadic group of comedic artists into a nationally recognized artistic institution, a destination for the world’s most talented comedians to study and experiment and work. In 1995, iO moved into its current location on Clark Street in Chicago and iO West opened in Los Angeles in 1997. Charna and Del would co-author “Truth In Comedy”, hailed by Bill Murray as “The most important group work since they built the pyramids,” and considered by many to be the bible of improvisational comedy.