A Closer Look: Josh and Stephanie Chamberlin
Owners of The Last Laugh Comedy Theater and Anything Improv LLC
Friday, May 23, 2014 6:00 AM
Josh Chamberlin has always considered himself a funny guy, and his sense of humor has helped him and his wife, Stephanie, carve a niche in the Des Moines business community.
Hometown: Olathe, Kan.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in theater arts, Emporia State University.
Family: Sons James, 4, and Henry, 22 months.
Hometown: Des Moines
Education: Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance, University of Northern Colorado; Master of Fine Arts course work at University
of Illinois at Chicago.
Contact Josh and Stephanie:
The Chamberlins, who have called Des Moines home since 2012, operate Anything Improv LLC and recently opened The Last Laugh Comedy Theater, a Chicago-style comedy club at 1701 25th St. in West Des Moines. On the heels of a successful run of shows with the Des Moines Social Club as the Revolver Comedy Revue and two years of offering on-demand comedy classes through Anything Improv, the Chamberlins raised more than $10,000 through a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to open The Last Laugh, a venue for local comedians and comedy fans. The club
officially opened in April.
Josh is the creative force behind both The Last Laugh and Anything Improv. Stephanie, who also works as a national account executive at West Des Moines-based Businessolver Inc., takes care of the business side. The theater features all local improv, stand-up and sketch comedy, as well as comedy classes. It’s not about teaching people to be funny, Josh said, but teaching them how to say yes to ideas and how to get out of their own way when trying new things.
Josh, how did you get your start in comedy? Was it something you always wanted to do?
JC: I’ve always had an affinity for comedy. I went to college for theater, and after I was hired by a professional theater company, I traveled through Chicago. A buddy took me to see improv there and it clicked that I wanted to figure out how to do that. After my tour was over, I moved to Chicago and started taking classes at Second City. After a few years, I was hired to work at Second City Communications and eventually started teaching at Second City.
How did Stephanie become involved, aside from marrying into it?
JC: She has much more of a head for business than I do. I’m afraid of numbers. Coming from an artistic background (as a classical singer), though, she understands the culture.
Anything Improv offers on-demand comedy classes, but you also go into companies to provide employee training and workshops. How does that work?
JC: We teach people how to communicate better, work better as teams and how to lead groups. It’s a different experience with us because we do it through comedy games. You learn concrete skills ... but it’s a fun experience where you can take what you learn back to the office.
Anything Improv started in Des Moines before you even moved back here. How did that work?
JC: At the time, I was working for Second City, writing sketch comedy for companies for entertainment and training. That was the germ of where Anything Improv started. We knew there was nothing like that in Des Moines, so in 2010, we started making contacts here. We ran it long-distance for two years before we moved back here. I mostly hired Chicago talent, but when we started making connections here, I started hiring Des Moines talent.
When did you decide to move to Des Moines?
SC: We knew what we were doing wasn’t sustainable and it wasn’t where we wanted to be. We talked about Los Angeles and New York, but what we really wanted to do was come back to Des Moines. We wanted to start a family here. I’m also a big believer in how deep the talent pool is in Des Moines. It is full of people who might enjoy getting up on stage, but they’re not going to move to Chicago or LA to do it.
When did the idea for The Last Laugh start to form?
JC: Our business model has always been a three-pronged approach, and it all feeds into the one beast. We have the corporate work that people seek us out to do because they’ve seen a show we’ve done and then they want to take classes with us. It all needs a physical location. We’ve had great success without a theater, but if we really wanted to take it to the next level, this is what we needed.
What can people expect when they come to The Last Laugh?
SC: It’s definitely a comedy club, not a stodgy theater. We have table service with a full bar.
JC: A standard show here is completely improvised. Guests are seeing everything for the first and last time. It’s all made up on the spot with the help of audience suggestions. We have four people performing per night, and anywhere between 16 to 20 people overall.
What’s been the most rewarding thing about a career like this?
JC: For me, it’s just being here in Des Moines and seeing not only the community grow, but seeing people who have never been on stage before going on to be great on stage. They learn how to command a room, how to talk to an audience and be funny while they do it.
SC: There’s magic to improv I see from an outsider’s perspective. It has elements that are really special. You can’t do it alone, and it’s all about creating something with others. It’s such a dynamic art form -- I’m totally in love with it.
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