CHICAGO – Joshua Munch of Downer’s Grove said that he was going to do something “really special this year” for his parents, Allan and Judy Munch, to help them celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. “We actually got quite excited,” said Judy, “he really built it up for us.”
Joshua, 32, had been telling his parents for months that he “already took care of everything” for their anniversary, when in fact he had not been planning anything. Joshua has been unemployed for the last two months after quitting his job as a barista for the Caribou Coffee Company and didn’t have and money with which to make preparations. He had, however, been spending two nights a week practicing with the Southside Chicago-based improv troop “Needs Improvment.”
On the night of their anniversary, Joshua gave his parents directions to Arturo’s, a restaurant in Chicago. “I thought he was taking us to somewhere fancy or elegant in the big city,” recalled Mrs. Munch. ”Arturo’s was a pizza place.” Her husband added, “ They had cleared out the tables and chairs from one of the back corners, and there were 10, 15 people sitting down, like maybe they were going to watch a show or something. Some of them might have just been there to eat dinner though.”
Jared Sullivan manages Arturo’s Pizza and Deli and was on duty that night, and he recalls that when the Munchs entered the restaurant, “They looked confused. They were standing just inside the doors, for like, five ten minutes, mumbling to each other, like “Is this what he meant?’ and “Should we go?” but then the show started.” Jared tries to get his friends and employees to call him Sully, but they all still call him Jared. All of them.
The five members of Needs Improvment – Munch, Mike Sellers, 38, Cindy Friedrich-Garcia, 43, Matt Paste, 18, and Richard Oglethorpe, 67, then burst from the kitchen’s double doors and struck a series of zany tableaus, the last of which the group held as Joshua, in a voice too loud for the room, yelled: “Hello Arturo’s! We are “Needs IMPROV-ment! Ladies and gentlemen, will you help me congratulate my parents, Allan and Judy Munch – there in the back – on their 35th wedding anniversary!” The frozen tableau then came to life, exhorting the dozen or so attendees to give a tepid, obligatory round of applause to the confused couple, who gingerly took the pair of seats nearest the exit.
“Mother, Father,” Joshua then exclaimed with forced energy, “To celebrate the occasion of your anniversary, I give you the gift of: IMPROV!… Now can we have a one word suggestion from the audience?”
The five troupe members then proceeded to do a twenty-minute performance involving a few short-form games, a series of long-form scenes, and a game of Freeze Tag with the audience that no audience members participated in. The Munchs left before Joshua and the group were done congratulating each other back in the kitchen.
“Joshua’s always been very creative,” said his mother about the performance, “and I’m thinking it’s about time that he cut that shit out.”
Reporting by David Sharp, senior Parenting and Restaurants Critic
Editor’s Note: No further Needs Improvment performances have been scheduled as of the date of this publication, but continue to check the Whiskey Journal Arts & Entertainment calendar for future dates.