Despite Chicago being the improv capital of the world there are people in this city that still haven't seen an improv show. Please, do yourself a favor and go see one now. It'll be way better than anything on TV that night, unless you're watching Night of the Museum 2 on TBS. Ben Stiller really brings down the house (or should I say the MUSEUM) in that flick.
If you do decide to check out an improv show just make sure to keep a few things in mind.
1. Only participate when instructed
Most improv in the city is long form style. This means that the improvisors will get a suggestion from the audience and then take it from there. Sometimes audience members become apart of the show, but that's only when they are invited to be by a performer. Most of the time your job as an audience member is to sit back, drink a beer, and enjoy the show.
SIDE NOTE: This rule even applies to you Craig. I know you're the funniest guy in the office and you can quote every Chris Farley movie, but this isn't the time or place. Don't embarrass yourself in front of Julia because then you'll never have a chance with her.
2. Don't worry about the suggestion
So if your suggestion of "Railroad Station" was only used for the start of the show, don't be upset. The suggestion is only used as a starting point for the performers and sometimes the whole show can revolve around it, but sometimes new discoveries are made. If you're at a show and the performers ask for a suggestion you don't need to come up with the funniest thing in the world. Don't yell out "DILDO!" or "GRANDMA SEX!" because you were trying to be funny. Yell something that you would really want to see an improv show start out with.
SIDE NOTE: I know what you're thinking Craig, you want to see a show about dildo grandmas having sex. A lot of us would, but do you really want Julia to think you're into that kind of stuff? She wants a guy who's more mature, kinda like Pete from sales. God, I hate Pete from sales.
3. Have an open mind
Improv isn't a parlor trick or an illusion. It's people on stage trying to make art on the spot. Sometimes it works out and other times not so much. Several times I've had two shows in one night go opposite directions. My first show would be horrible and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but then later in the night I would have one of the best shows of my life. It's impossible to predict/force/try to have a good show.
SIDE NOTE: If you want to see a good show you should follow me on twitter. I tweet whenever I have a sketch or improv show coming up and you never come Craig. Otherwise you could go see TJ & Dave over at iO, I guess they're okay or something.
4. Support independent theaters
Second City, iO, and Annoyance are awesome big name theaters, but this city has a lot of great improv at smaller theaters. Get a big group of friends to go out and have fun at Playground, pH, Studio BE, Upstairs Gallery, Stage 773, Chemically Imbalanced, or just google improv Chicago.
SIDE NOTE: This is the perfect date idea for you and Julia. Invite her and say that you invited more people, but don't. It'll finally give you a chance to hang...OH DANG IT! She just walked through the door holding hands with Pete from sales. God, I hate Pete from sales.
5. Feel free to talk to the performers afterward
Improvisors are a lot like Tinker Bell from Peter Pan. If no one believes in us, we die. I've never heard an improvisor say, "God, I wish people would just leave me alone after the show and stop telling me how awesome I am." When improv works it's the best feeling in the world and I love talking about it. Don't be afraid to come up and talk to us because we're no different than any of you. During the week most of us serve you coffee or process your Groupon complaints. We love to hear what the audience thought of the show and we love meeting new people. Most of us just hang out with other improvisors and stroke our own egos.
SIDE NOTE: I'm guilty of stroking my own ego and even writing a blog to stroke my ego... god I'm awesome. Remember when I had that really funny "Craig" character going? It really is nice to meet people outside of improv/work/okcupid and see their side of things.