The 43 Hour Improv Marathon

Comedy worth losing sleep over

After they hit the 30-hour mark, human sacrifice typically comes into play: The Hideout's first Improv Marathon in 2009
After they hit the 30-hour mark, human sacrifice typically comes into play: The Hideout's first Improv Marathon in 2009 (Courtesy of Michael Yew)

Well, sure, running a marathon demands a lot from you, but at least no one expects you to be funny while you do it. A Hideout Theatre marathon, on the other hand ...

Three years ago, the home for improv on the Avenue was looking to raise some cash to keep its doors open and decided to attempt the improvisational equivalent of the 26-mile run by having eight players perform for 40 hours straight. You might have figured that anyone's synapses would've fried after a full night and day of making shit up, but those audacious marathoners not only survived the stunt, they literally kept their wits about them through the final hour, staying fresh, focused, and incredibly funny ("Hideout Theatre Marathon," July 3, 2009). And thus a new comedy tradition was born. The Hideout has repeated the marathon annually since then, albeit with the endurance factor amped up by one hour each successive year. That means the 2012 marathon will last 43 hours, from 5pm Friday, June 1, to noon Sunday, June 3.

Like runners who don't know when to quit, players from all corners of the Austin improv scene sign on to test their stamina in the marathon. This year's octet includes the Glamping Trip's John Ratliff; Improv for Evil's Eric Heiberg; Emma Holder of Big Beautiful Warlock and the Seven Eight Sevens; Halyn Erickson of Spirited and Rock: The Improvised Rock Opera; Jon Bolden of the Dukes of Bedside Manor; Minneapolis improviser and regular visitor to Austin Jill Bernard; and two gentlemen who ought to know better as they both "ran" the marathon two years ago: Roy Janik of Parallelogramophonograph and Marc Majcher of Improv for Evil.

The possibility of mental meltdowns will always be something of a draw, certainly as the crew turns the corner into the wee hours of Sunday morning, but honestly, the real fun of the Hideout's improv marathon is the mix of formats and guests. Each hour is a different show, and like the marathoners themselves, the guest troupes and players span the entire improv community. Sitting in at various times over the course of the weekend will be ColdTowne house troupe Tears But Joy, Gnap! Theatre Projects house troupe the Seven Eight Sevens, New Movement house troupe Spirit Desire, Confidence Men, Girls Girls Girls, Available Cupholders, and Midnight Society – improvising everything from musicals to rock operas, seances to dreamscapes, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries to Charles Dickens novels, Star Trek to Baywatch, David Mamet to Tennessee Williams performed by robots! The full lineup is available at, where you can also buy advance tickets – $5 per show or $75 for an all-access pass. The money still benefits a worthy cause, but now it's the Hideout's Youth Scholarship fund. In 2011, the marathon raked in more than $2,000 so kids who couldn't otherwise afford to take improv classes and camps could learn to make instant theatre. Do you need any more reasons to stay up all night with a bunch of sleep-deprived improvisers?

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The 43-Hour Improv Marathon, Hideout Theatre, John Ratliff, Eric Heiberg, Emma Holder, Halyn Erickson, Jill Bernard, Jon Bolden, Marc Majcher, Roy Janik

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