One thing that sticks in my mind, though, is that I don't remember much Sportz during that show I saw. True, three guys wore red shirts and three others wore blue, not to mention the host who wore your typical black and white striped referee shirt, but I can't remember any mention of points or competing teams or what have you.
Just a few days ago my parents visited the city to celebrate my birthday. Our intention was to see Second City after we grabbed dinner, but unfortunately, all of their shows were sold out. We considered checking out iO instead, but none of their shows really fit in with our schedule thanks to dinner reservations. After a bit of thinking ComedySportz came to mind; I had seen their ads on the El and had walked by their location on Belmont quite a few times. I suggested it to them and they seemed up for it, though I did warn them that I'd never really seen them before.
Honestly: after having seen some great improv in this city my expectations weren't exactly high for ComedySportz. This, I think, is because I hadn't really heard anything about it. Places like Second City, iO and The Annoyance Theater are such Chicago improv institutions that they kind of gobble up all talk of ComedySportz; it doesn't help that the format that ComedySportz uses (one short form improv game after another) isn't particularly innovative - ditto with the fact that ComedySportz's new permanent location has only been open for a couple of years.
But you know what? I was pleasantly surprised. Though, true, ComedySportz's format isn't exactly the cutting edge, it's still a damn good show. The energy level was high for both the performers and the audience - and by the by, that latter part is a vital component that is occasionally disastrously neglected.
Also impressive is ComedySportz's commitment to providing clean shows. A cynic might suggest that ComedySportz does this solely to attract a larger audience, but I think there's a deeper reasoning behind it. As somebody who has tried to do improv in high school, I can tell you that it's insanely difficult to perform well without falling into so-called "blue" terrain. That being said: dirty jokes and f-bombs can only get you so far before the audience calls shenanigans. But the fact that ComedySportz manages to keep shows PG level also says boatloads about their improvisers; it takes impressive amounts of talent and restraint to keep things entertaining without delving into blue terrain. (This all being said, ComedySportz apparently offers a midnight show called The Hot Karl, which basks in blueness. I haven't seen it, but I'm curious.)
There was only one brief foray into anything that could barely be considered dirty, and that was a little game called If You Know What I Mean. If you're unfamiliar with IYKWIM: Every sentence a performer utters ends with the phrase "if you know what I mean," which basically results in everyone uttering obscure innuendos, e.g. "I've got some juicy apples, if you know what I mean." Eventually the game devolves into pure surreality ("You've gotta remove the core before you juice them, if you know what I mean." "Actually, no. No I don't.") but typically around that point the scene is hastily brought to a halt. The game is just clean enough to keep a hypothetical five year old confused, but I can totally understand why my high school improv coach (hi, Joe!) would never let us play it.
Again, I can't speak for other ComedySportz locations, but allow me to reiterate: though what ComedySportz Chicago is doing isn't exactly form pushing a la Baby Wants Candy or Improvised Shakespeare, it's still a hell of a lot of fun. It's great short-form improv at its purest, which makes it a solid pick for either improv freaks or improv virgins who've never seen a yes and outside of Whose Line.