Article by Lisa Valentine
Photography by Provided
Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle
They say that laughter is the best medicine and with the heaviness of our current world, we could use more laughter in our lives. Husband and wife duo Chris Guerra and Kelsey Cooke are bringing a little bit of comic relief—as well as confidence and getting people outside of their shell—to Franklin through their non-profit Oddity Improv.
Like true Los Angeles natives, the couple—who in addition to improv have a history in film, TV, acting, and producing—met in acting school in L.A. After completing their education in New York City and kickstarting their careers, they returned to L.A. where they continued to develop their craft. Kelsey focused on becoming experienced in improv as she trained at notable places including Second City, while Chris worked as an artistic director at a famous Hollywood theater.
During the pandemic, they decided they wanted a different environment for raising their two children and to bring their expertise to a new community and made the move to middle Tennessee approximately two years ago.
“We were primarily actors and directors,” says Guerra of their time in L.A. “And now that we’ve come out here, we are bringing our knowledge and skillset to help build something like that.” The couple recognized that there was a lot of talent in the area and wanted to connect those interested in improv and create a hub for them.
Their non-profit Oddity Improv offers both youth and adult classes, and shows for the community.
“We wanted to meet other comedy people, that’s why we started Oddity Improv,” says Guerra. “Especially as a non-profit because we just think improv is such a powerful tool for building people’s confidence. It’s something I wish I had when I was a lot younger just to get out of my skin. It [even] helps with board meetings and work.”
They have seen the power of improv in their own family as it has helped their nine-year-old daughter with handling her anxiety and building confidence. They’ve even shared the story of a student who almost left Nashville because they weren’t finding connection, found the sense of community they were seeking through the improv class and remained in the area.
“We want to create a place where families can watch comedy together,” says Guerra of what they call their “cleanish comedy” with subject matter entertaining to preteens, teenagers, and adults. “Because you can’t ever really predict what is going to come out of your mouth,” says Cooke with a laugh.
Every Monday evening, audiences can attend the 90-minute, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” inspired shows, which feature a different guest star each week.
They want to make improv classes accessible for everyone by offering one-day classes for those who would like to give improv a try. From there they have different paths and intensives for people who want to pursue it professionally, or multi-week classes for those passionate about just doing it for fun.
Classes are currently available at a few different studio locations in the area, but the non-profit will be making its permanent home for both classes and shows later in 2024 at The Factory. In addition to classes, they also partner with schools, do corporate training, and even come to holiday parties.
“Just have fun and be silly; Be a little odd,” says Guerra about both the organization’s name and mindset. “We really love what we do. We see it—it sounds cheesy—really changing people’s lives. We see people getting out of their shells. It’s okay to be a little weird, it’s okay to be silly, and we’re fostering that.” OddityImprov.com