Thought Chapel Hill comedy was dead? Think again!
Ever since DSI Comedy Theater closed due to allegations of sexual misconduct against its owner, Chapel Hill residents have not had a site dedicated to teaching and performing comedy.
UNC graduate, Ali Farahnakian, has returned to Chapel Hill to re-establish a comedy presence on Franklin Street.
Farahnakian hopes to fill the hole DSI left with The Peoples Improv Theater (The PIT).
His resume includes experience with nationally recognized names.
After graduating from UNC in 1990, Farahnakian moved out to Chicago, where he became more involved in improv comedy. He started out performing for well-established theaters, such as Second City and ImprovOlympic.
He was a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, along with other comedians like Amy Poehler and Matt Besser.
Then he moved on to write for "Saturday Night Live" for nine years. After being let go, he founded the first incarnation of the PIT in New York City in honor of his and many other comedians’ personal mentor, Del Close.
On Monday, he set up 12 chairs and invited the community to come voice their questions and concerns about the new theater. He was delighted to welcome in over 40 residents, eager to learn about the new space.
The PIT is named after the beloved speaking area on campus of the same name. Farahnakian described his walk through campus earlier that day as “a river of memories.”
In his improv workshops, he said he teaches performers to say, “yes, and” until they must say, “no, thank you.”
Addressing the crowd, Farahnakian said, “This was going to be an office space,” recounting when he heard about the vacant building.
“It was very hard not to say ‘yes, and’ to this,” he said.
He quickly got past “the elephant in the room,” by assuring the attendees that he has zero tolerance towards employee misconduct.
“Community is possibly the most integral part of it, because from the community comes the craft,” Farahnakian said, in response to the overwhelming attendance to his event.
The turnout assured him that he will not have to start from scratch, but he is excited to breathe new life into the existing comedy scene in Chapel Hill.
Will Purpura, who will be in charge of the space when Farahnakian returns to New York, said improv has had a positive effect in his life.
“I do believe that the simple things we learn in improv are so essential to life, just in terms of saying yes to other people’s ideas and having a positive attitude to things,” Purpura said.
Some attendees such as Drew Vollmer, a member of the UNC comedy troupe False Profits, spoke their minds about the potential to integrate students into the local comedy scene.
“With the opening of the new theater, this is a great opportunity to improve on the relationship between the town and campus,” Vollmer said.
Farahnakian and Purpura hope to have the theater up and running by late October.