Consider Wisenheimer the older brother of ComedySportz, with which it shares a stage at the Establishment Theatre in downtown Rock Island.
The older brother, that is, who can get away with more, let loose with the language and is given the tougher jobs.
Wisenheimer, which debuted in December, is to ComedySportz what a marathon is to a sprint. Within its 45 minutes or so of stage time during the first act in its Wednesday night shows, its three performers come up with several different recurring characters and situations, leaving and returning to them in a nanosecond.
It all begins with the suggestion of one word by an audience member.
“Unlike Sportz, it just comes from one suggestion and we’ve got to fill 40, 45 minutes. It’s a culture shock after 17 years of getting four minutes to get your point across. You learn how to pace yourself,” said Jeff De Leon, one third of the trio and a longtime ComedySportz performer.
“ComedySportz is frenetic and it has this high energy crackling through it the entire show. You can’t rest, you’re always on the go,” he continued. “This show carries that same high energy, but it’s not as frenetic. ... It’s just kind of stretched out.”
After an intermission, the three performers emcee “The Lottery,” where Comedy-Sportz-style games are played, but without the penalty of CSz’s “Brown Bag Foul” for inappropriate language.
The night concludes with “Honest Dick,” with the three playing off a suggestion selected by an audience member from a list of graphic, profane and funny phrases.
De Leon, who has trained at Second City in Chicago, started some long-form shows in 2010 when ComedySportz was affiliated with Circa ‘21 Dinner Playhouse and used its Speakeasy venue next door.
After the two entities split, De Leon said he still wanted to keep the long-form, “Chicago-style” improv idea alive.
Shortly after CSz reopened, Leslie Mitchell moved to the Quad-Cities from Chicago. Originally from Dubuque, Iowa, and having spent her last two years of high school at Bettendorf, Mitchell was also a Second City and ImprovOlympic veteran.
“She was the sparkplug of it,” De Leon said of Wisenheimer. Three months of practice took place in Mitchell’s living room before the three went onstage.
John Hannon, a ComedySportz regular described by De Leon as “an improv sponge,” completed the trio.
“I felt like a college kid getting called up to play center field for the Yankees,” Hannon said.
After three months of rehearsal, Wisenheimer opened in December. Its audiences have been as large as 60 people and as small as 10, with a median size of about 30.
Billed as an 18-years-and-older show, the show is unfiltered for language and situations.
But, the trio points out, the profanity is not gratuitous.
“If the people you’re playing are based in reality, there’s a million things that can go on. You’re playing the scene like someone won’t edit, which is just like life,” Mitchell said.
“There’s a funny, immature side to people that makes them want to hear dirty stuff. And they’re surprised they got smart stuff along with it,” she added.