The Rapidian

Pop Scholars: Relevant, intelligent improv

The professors of improvised comedy bring quick wit to Grand Rapids through long-form improv.
Introducing: The snappiest dressers in comedy.

Introducing: The snappiest dressers in comedy. /Jill DeVries

Underwriting support from:

Upcoming Shows from Pop Scholars

February 24th and 25th

8:00 PM

Dog Story Theater

7 Jefferson Ave SE



(The Pop Scholars will also be featured at Laugh Fest! Stay tuned!)

They know their stuff.

They know their stuff. /Jill DeVries

The Pop Scholars are professionals. Andy Allen, Dave Lyzenga, Mike Ryskamp and Matt Sterenberg are funny, but they are also seriously smart. They have mastered all forms of improvisational comedy, including the elusive long form, which usually sequesters itself in larger, more improv-experienced cities. If you have not seen long-form improv before, it is a series of improvised scenes, often based on a single suggestion, that come together to form a cohesive story. Think of an unscripted episode of Seinfeld, and you’re on the right track.

This review will sing the praises of these four Professors of Comedy in four acts, culminating in a conclusion you will have to see to believe.

Act 1. An Introduction:  Allen, Lyzenga, Ryskamp and Sterenberg each have a minimum of six years of improv and sketch comedy experience under their stylish belts. You may have seen one or more of them around Grand Rapids in shows like River City Improv, the Don’t We Boys, and Fishschtick. You may have also seen them on the street and asked them for directions. They likely gave you a humorous, well-informed answer. Pop Scholars formed in 2009. Its mission: to bring a top-quality combination of both short and long form improve to West Michigan. Mission accomplished.

Act 2. Maturity:  Pop Scholars move past the punch line into truly humorous and bizarre scenes reminiscent of all of our lives. Their performances show that these men are strikingly experienced, but still fresh. The shows are devoid of formulaic scenes: since it’s improv, you know you’re never seen it before, but with Pop Scholars, that is especially true. Their experience in performance lends them comfort and east on stage, making the audience feel relaxed as well. It’s a low-pressure, high-energy show for those looking for something more than a series of one-liners.

Act 3. Becoming Scholars:  The scholars have all the coveted attributes of good educators: they know what they’re doing, but they’re not bored with it. They understand the importance of pace, and listening to others (including each other). They have fantastic memories, and build upon their own well-laid foundations to develop what has already been presented. They dress well. The Pop Scholars can transform their stage into a bar room, a classroom, a court room, or a living room without being distracting in their physicality or subtle but detailed descriptions.

Act 4. Growing in Depth and Insight:  One thing most impressive about these men is that they are too smart to be raunchy. Sex and profanity are not featured in the Scholars' work, but enter naturally when appropriate. They know their stuff, and they know their audience enough not to approach controversial topics for a cheap laugh. They earn their guffaws with relevant, intelligent, well-crafted scenes that surprise you with their humor, instead of setting you up to know when to laugh.

Conclusion: You need to see it to believe it. These men are bright, talented, hilarious, and worth your time. I’m also confident, resident of Grand Rapids or the wider world, that you are worth their time as well. They’ll offer it to you for a mere $8. Their next shows are coming up on February 24th and 25th at Dog Story Theater near the corner of Jefferson and Fulton. Their extended schedule is available at  Additional information and tantalizing photography available on their facebook page,

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