‘The Big Daddies:’ Improv Lessons for Life

click to enlarge ‘The Big Daddies:’ Improv Lessons for Life
(Linda Ray/Contributor)
The Big Daddies find improv helpful in family life.

We caught up with Michael Vietinghoff and Matt Beaudry just after they wrapped their weekly Monday podcast, The Big Daddies. The pair have seven children between them, hence the name.

Vietinghoff’s four are grown and out of the house; Beaudry’s three are all under 12. Fortunately, the duo likes to laugh. Friends for years, they can’t talk 60 seconds without riffing. There’s always something funny about kids and families, even if it’s painful or awkward at the time.

Their chemistry feels like alchemy when The Big Daddies are live onstage, uncensored, at Unscrewed Theatre on the second and fourth Saturday every month. Their next show is at 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.

The Big Daddies’ rich vein of slice-of-life inspirations is augmented by the pure gold of character influences they draw from their work environments. Beaudry is a social worker with La Frontera Centers; Vietinghoff is a long-time card dealer at Casino Del Sol. Oh, the character traits they’ve borrowed!

The podcast was Beaudry’s idea. “We would talk on the phone and laugh and crack each other up,” said Vietinghoff, “and he was, like, ‘Why don’t we just record this? Because if anyone out there finds our conversations as amusing as I find our conversations, we’ll be doing the world service.’”

The kinship that drives The Big Daddies’ humor has been almost 15 years in the making. “Back in (2005), before we had the (first Unscrewed) theater,” Vietinghoff said. “I taught what is now our basic Unscrewed class curriculum for free out in the community to try to grow the troupe. Matt signed up for that. You could call it a ‘learning experience.’”

Vietinghoff had performed in plays and choirs in school but gave up the stage to be an adult head-of-household. His kids grew, time freed up, and he wanted to get back to performing. So, he signed up for “Acting 101” at a local community college. “One of my classmates was performing at a theater in Scottsdale (formerly Star Theater) and he invited me to his short form (improv) show. I watched and thought, ‘I can’t believe this exists. I want to learn how to do that.’”

Beaudry, by contrast, was practically a seasoned improviser. “I started my ‘improv journey’ here at Pima Community College in a troupe called the Peanut Gallery back in 2001.” Then he went off to see the world in LA.

“I moved back into Tucson and was working at a call center when I saw a ‘Not Burnt Out, Just Unscrewed,’ bumper sticker,” he said. “I wanted to audition but I had to go through this class.” Not long after, he became a member of the frequently performing, but at the time, itinerant, NBOJU (Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed) improv troupe.

By 2014, Unscrewed had a physical theater and The Big Daddies started performing as a duo, eventually becoming a house team. Now they’re sharing the laughs in Unscrewed Theater’s regular rotation.

Vietinghoff said he loves being a dad. It fuels his passion for improv. “I’ve been performing and teaching improv for 20 years and the reason I’m so passionate about it is that the minute I applied the lessons I learn about improv to my personal life, my whole life got easier, better, and more productive,” he said.

Tucson Comedy Arts Festival

Workshops, out-of-town guest artists, standup shows, a dozen improv teams an afterparty, free jams and lots of opportunities to socialize will pack the three days of the Tucson Comedy Arts Festival Thursday, Nov. 10, to Saturday, Nov. 12. Guest improvisers from as far away as Chicago and as close as Phoenix will take the stage throughout the weekend.

Unscrewed Theater’s premier NBOJU and Big Daddies teams will take the stage as will several teams from the host company, Tucson Improv Movement. The UA’s long-running Chomsky School of Business also is featured, along with a revival of Party Barf and a set from Phoenix’ VerizonQwest.

Dante Lauretta, who serves as the principal investigator on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is the special guest for The Soapbox. The Soapbox team will improvise funny scenes inspired by his stories.

All details, workshop reservations and ticket packages are available at tucsonimprov.com/tcaf

More comedy this week

Black Rock Brewers Comedy, 1664 S. Research Loop, Suite 200, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, Black Rock Brewers, $5 at the door. Mo Urban hosts and Ali Musa headlines a lineup including Priscilla Fernandez, Autumn Horvat, Derek McFarland, Joe Tullar and Matt Ziemak. 

Colin Quinn Live!, The Rialto Theatre, 318 Congress Street, 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, Rialto Theatre, ticketmaster.com, tickets start at $24.

Clean Comedy Marana/Vail, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, Coyote Trail Stage, 8000 N. Silverbell Road, maranalaughs.com, tickets start at $10. Also, 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, Vail Theater of the Arts, 10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way, vaillaughs.com, tickets start at $10. Tucson favorite Monte Benjamin headlines; Phoenix comics Carole Freeman and Leigh Cummings feature.

David Sedaris, Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Boulevard, 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, centhall.org, tickets start at $41. The show was sold out at press time.

Depression is No Joke! Comedy Show, Bumsted’s, 1003 N. Stone Avenue, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, ladyhahacomedy.com, $5, maximum capacity 70, featuring Allreddy Improv, Andrea Salazar, Jessie Sweeney, Kathie Hedrick, Lux’Shree, Mo Urban, Morgan Kuehn, Priscilla Fernandez and Stacy Scheff.

Laff’s Comedy Caffe, 2900 E. Broadway Boulevard. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12, laffstucson.com, $15, $20 preferred seating, Ivan Pecel is to juggling what Edward Lear was to poetry.

The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress Street, 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, screeningroomdowntown.com, free, Late Night Comedy with Chris Quinn.

Tucson Comedy Arts Festival, Tucson Improv Movement/TIM Comedy Theatre, 414 E. Ninth Street, tucsonimprov.com, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, The College Show; 8:30 p.m. Big Wet Throbbing Queer Comedy Show; 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, Improv Appetizer: Big Daddies, NBOJU and Kitten Spit; 7:30 p.m. The Soapbox with Dante Lauretta from the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory; 9 p.m. Standup Showcase, 10:30 p.m.  Late Night Jam and After Party; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, The Dating Scene, Party Barf, Unscrewed Theatre and the UA’s Chomsky School of Business; 9 p.m. Improv Feast! featuring VerizonQwest, Your Favorite Movie Improvised, Jacque & Liz, Turtle, Festival All Stars.

Unscrewed Theater, 4500 E. Speedway Boulevard, unscrewedtheatre.org, $8 live or streaming, $5 kids live, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov.11, Family-Friendly Improv; 9 p.m. Unscrewed Fridays After Dark; Saturday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m. Family-Friendly Improv; 9 p.m. Uncensored Improv featuring NBOJU, The Big Daddies with special guests, Rolland & Riches; Monday, Nov. 14, 6:30 p.m. Improv Drop-ins, free.