The Black and Funny Improv Fest takes over Uptown’s HUGE Theater this week, Wednesday through Sunday. The five-day festival is full of performances by Black improv performers and workshops for seasoned improvisers and the improv curious.

Improv theater is where comedians like Amy Pohler, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell, to stick with the famous Second City improv theater in Chicago, got their start. And then there was the improv TV show, “Whose Line is it Anyway,” which included Black improviser, Wayne Brady.

The fact that I only have one popular Black improviser to reference is why we’re here.

"It’s very important we have this fest," co-founder of the Black and Funny Improv Fest John Gebretatose said from Rhode Island last week.

“We are taking an art form that is predominately white," Gebretatose continued, “and brought it to a spot where it never was. Until Black and Funny.”

Gebretatose was in Rhode Island last week, working with The Contemporary Theater Company which hosts its own Black and Funny Improv Fest, thanks to the work of Gebretatose and festival co-founder Alsa Bruno.

The five-day festival, now in its seventh year, is a mix of nighttime performances and weekend workshops.

As a sampling, on Wednesday, “Based on a True Story” will take true stories from the audience and retell them on stage. On Thursday and Saturday, “Wakanda vs. Everybody” journeys from Wakanda to Miami (Southwest Voices notes the Black and Funny performances in our weekly calendar, too). Workshops on Saturday and Sunday include Intro to Sketch Writing, Making A Sauce: How to Perform as a Team, and Strengthening Stage Presence.

This year, Jada Pulley and Gebretatose are directing the festival that showcases Black improv artists from the Twin Cities, Toronto, Wakanda, Austin, Baltimore, Miami, New York City, and Atlanta.

Black and Funny Festival Directors Jada Pulley and John Gebretatose

For Pulley, the festival is important because it uplifts Black improvisers that are overshadowed by whitewashing. “It creates an audience for them,” Pulley said over our multi-state Zoom interview.

Pulley got into improv through a POC improv jam that Gebretatose put on at HUGE Theater.

“I never stopped going,” Pulley said. "It changed my life for the better."

Gebretatose described improv as “a really lovely place" that is open and encouraging to newcomers.

The shows and workshops are open to people of all ethnicities but the focus of the festival is by and for Black people.

“We are not performing for white people,” Pulley said. “We are performing for each other. We're just doing our thing."

Pulley stressed the festival seeks to eliminate as many barriers as possible for people wanting to access the Black and Funny Festival. The festival offers financial assistance for people of color. Email

Tickets for shows are $15, which you can buy on the Black and Funny website. The Ultra Pass, a full-week performance pass is $99. Workshops are $50 which you can register for here. Tickets for shows that are not sold out can be purchased at the door at HUGE Theater, 3037 Lyndale Ave. S.