15 YEARS ago, Chicago funnyman Marz Timms and some of his closest comic cohorts created a one-of-a-kind show.
Pimprov, a performance in which a cast of over-the-top pimps try out improv, offers hysterical and irreverent laughs. The troupe has earned a regular Friday night show in their hometown and plentiful praise nationwide.
We chatted with Timms about forming the Pimprov, toeing the line of political incorrectness, and his Savannah debut.
How did Pimprov begin?
I had a show I created called the Big Kids Comedy Hour, and at the end of that show, I’d always have about 20 minutes to play with before we had to get the audience out of there.
One of the guys in the original show, his father was an ex-pimp. I was thinking to myself, ‘Comedy is so character-driven, and to have great characters with costumes and music...Well, that would be pimps!” Pimps are characters among themselves. I decided Pimprov would be the name of the show...and the first show we did was us dressing in pimp costumes, we walking out onstage, and we stood there and made fun of each other for 20 minutes.
Over the years, the show has evolved. We’ve taken bits and pieces here and there from standup, sketch, long form, and short form improv. Basically, we’re characters onstage doing characters that may even play other characters. The show has been described as an onion effect.
Tell us about your character.
I’m Grand Finale. After me, ladies, there is no one else! I’m the ring leader for the show, so that’s why I took on that name. I’m the last one in line to do my intro.
What kind of comedy were you doing before Pimprov?
Well, getting into trouble being the class clown when I grew up...From that, being onstage was kind of a natural evolution. It was that or maybe jail, which...I’m too small for that! I love being onstage. I do standup as well, and tour around the country. I do a lot of voiceover work, worked on seasons one and two of the Netflix original Easy, do voices for videogames, stuff like that. I have a nice outlet for all the crazy voices in my head.
You’re from Chicago. What was it like coming up in that legendary comedy scene?
Chicago, Westside! I love Chicago. I get to New York and L.A. enough to do things, but I love being home in Chicago, and it’s a family feeling, especially in the improv community. I have teachers and mentors who are like big brothers and big sisters, and younger people I deal with now, putting in shows and moving along the next stage of their career. There’s a lot of help around Chicago if you’re looking to be in this industry. It’s not as cutthroat as some other places might be.
What do you look for in your range of troupe members?
When look for people to do the show, I usually look for how they fit. It’s like a puzzle. Every major show kind of has a blueprint of what they want you to do. You have the big guy, you have your straight man, you have your goofy guy.
I look for those pieces that fit in as well as people that are going to get along with each other. Even when we’re screaming at each other, in the end, we’re all brothers. I love those guys and would do anything for them.
What can people expect going in to see Pimprov for the first time?
We are outlandish. We’ll say whatever want, no matter where we are. It doesn’t matter who you are—when you come to Pimprov, you are going to get the best possible show. We are going to toe that line of political incorrectness because that’s where, I feel, good comedy comes from. If you’re not making people think, if people aren’t saying, “I can’t believe they said that!”—then I don’t feel it’s fun comedy! If you want something safe, go to the zoo and watch animals behind bars. But if you want to have a fun time and enjoy yourself and be on the edge of your seat, go on a safari. We are a safari!
For years, we’ve gotten flak, because people see the name and think, “Pimps are disgusting people, they’re horrible, this show must be filled with horrible people.” That’s not the case. Sure, we might be horrible people! But this show does a lot of great things. For years, we’ve taken donations at all the show we do in Chicago for different domestic abuse shelters and for whatever city we’re performing in.
We have food drives for needy families, a Toys for Tots program. We try to do a lot of good with the show. When people see the name and don’t immediately want to be a part of it, we want people to tell them, “Come check out this show, it’s something you don’t want to miss.”