Del Close tribute in Los Angeles on Saturday

This Saturday, September 8th 8PM, at the Fanatic Salon, Betty Thomas seeks to answer one of the enduring questions of improv: "Who was Del Close?"

Every student of Del, myself included, has their share of stories about working with one of the greatest minds in comedy. Del, a member of the Compass, director of the Committee, Second City and countless improv troupes, helped form the basis upon which modern improvisational theater stands. He was colorful, brilliant, inspired and inspiring. See the embedded video for a bit of Del describing his work and the improv form he created, called the Harold.

Accompanied by the musical genius of Fred Kaz, Thomas has gathered together an incredibly talented group of improvisors: Rob Janas, Dan Bakkedahl, Dan Antonucci, Joe Canale, Kevin Fleming, Matt Craig and Jay Leggett, Jean Villepique, Celeste Pechous, Molly Erdman, Carrie Clifford and Shulie Cowen -- all of whom have worked or trained with Del.

This insanely talented group will perform two Harolds, both formed around their own experiences and the audiences answer... "Who was Del?"


  1. It should never be forgotten that Del Close was a card carrying (literally) loosely-affiliated member of The Merry Pranksters. Close kept good company with Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs, Neal Cassidy and the rest of the crew. A good slab of Close’s comedy dealings were fired up by the comings and goings and constant stunts of the Pranksters

    In addition, Del Close was a roommate with arch poet/comic/freak Hugh Romney, soon to be WAVY GRAVY and still kicking the comedy stone down the path today

    Del Close is primarily known as one of the voices behind “HOW TO SPEAK HIP” – but I’ve found that album doesn’t hold up too well. Close is better represented by other audio examples, radio spots and stage recordings

    1. I still think HTSH is fabulous.  One of my all time favorite records.  Definitely of its time though.

  2. Is Matt Besser the narrator on this video? Did I also see Matt Walsh in the background with a late eighties afro and beard?

  3. One night the late-night radio program I co-hosted at KPFK LA did a show requiring our listeners have their radios turned on next to TV sets with the  sound turned off. We called it “Club 86 Goes To The Movies” and had advertised it for a couple weeks.

    In our broadcast studio were five improv actors: Del Close, Hugh Romney, Severn Darden, Ginger Marlowe, and our own Marshal Efron. They faced a glowing but silent TV set and ad libbed dialogue, and even sound effects, from whichever movies we randomly selected by switching back and forth between local channels.

    We were broadcasting live with no delay button, merely instructing our listeners which channel to select next, so it was all very edgy and risky. Often the actors stayed in character from one movie to the next; they switched sexes, voices, characters, and even ad libbed commercials and PSAs. It got very weird.

    Soon the board lit up with callers in various stages of distress or disbelief. Minds were blowing all over town. It was mixed media improvisation at 100,000 watts. They were really good, those improv kids. Yeah, “kids.”

    It was 1965.

  4. Bummer, I was in LA until Wednesday and then flew home to Honolulu.

    I would have stayed for the party.

    Please keep me posted on good times to be had about Del.  And Fred was there, now that is really cool.

    I was a friend of Del’s for many years and he tried arraigned for me to take of his head and prepare his skull for his post corpus role as Yorick   I even got his mother’s permission to do it so that it would be nice and legal mayhem.

    I shared his apartment  for a while behind the Earl of Old Town and engaged in numerous merry prankster adventures with Del.

    Here is a story about us with Tim Leary. Tim needed coaching for his debates  with G. Gordon Liddy.

    When out a picture of those times.   In this article.

    I was going though some stuff Del gave me and I found some of his Polaroids that he took of me up in the Tower of the International House Dormitory at the University of Chicago from the early 1980’s.  Del was into this Polaroid art.  Does anyone else have any example of this work?

    “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him,  [DEL]    Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? ”
    (Hamlet, V.i)

    Friends of Del who find there way to Honolulu  Hawaii  please look me up in Lanikai.

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