Press Archives | Monkey Business Institute

Parents’ Opinions Vindicated
We asked and you delivered, Madison (and surrounding area – especially you, Blooming Grove). Thanks for voting us as Madison’s Favorite Improv Group in The Isthmus’ Annual Manual! Click here to check it out! (It’s an extensive list, so here’s a tip: using your browser’s search function, enter ‘nimble-minded’ to jump to the writeup on MBI.)

Would-Be Improv Comedian Tries Out For Monkey Business Institute

The idea of the game is as simple as it is terrifying. In front of a room full of strangers, I’m presented with a key word and a musical style. Instrumental accompaniment will begin and, within seconds, I’m to improvise a song.

“Your theme is burglary,” says Sarah Rogers, one of the owners of Monkey Business Institute. “And the style is swing.”

She clicks something on her laptop and a short intro begins, during which I decide snapping my fingers like Dean Martin will set the proper mood and might open a creative crack, a tiny window of brilliance through which I will spot something that will allow me to craft a song on the spot. But my total lack of musical talent has been joined by an accompanying, but now significantly more urgent, lack of ideas for lyrics to a song about burglary set to a swing beat.

For the women behind Madison’s Monkey Business Institute, improv isn’t just one more thing on their busy schedules, it’s a way of life

By night, Jennifer Salas, Linda Hedenband, Vanessa Tortolano, Sarah Rogers and Sheila Robertson play a vital part in the success of the Monkey Business empire, which not only puts on weekly shows at Glass Nickel, but offers regular improv lessons and specialty workshops for businesses. By day, they’re busy heading their own careers, being mothers all the while. I quickly learned that among them, they have eight children (and another on the way!). One heads a blended family, another has a child with special needs, and yet another became a mom at 47 with just three days’ notice, taking legal guardianship of an 8-year-old relative.

Known for its improv shows and adult classes, Monkey Business Institute is now extending the benefits of the comedy form to children.

Brad Knight, a founder and owner of the Madison group, recently taught improv to a group of 15 youths ages eight to 13. It’s a direction Monkey Business hopes to continue through more classes and a summer camp.

“The biggest thing you can get out of improv is how to work with other people,” said Knight, who was assisted by Mary Conroy, an adult student of his. “With kids, it can build self confidence.”

Those seeking out unpredictable weekend entertainment should look no further than the Glass Nickel Pizza Co. on 2916 Atwood Ave. The establishment is typically known for its gourmet variety of pizzas but on Friday nights, it’s known for something else, as well: improv comedy.

The restaurant is home to weekly performances from Best of Madison bronze winner Monkey Business Institute, an improv troupe that boasts members with over one hundred years of combined experience and backgrounds that are as diverse as the performances themselves.

Improv isn’t about sketching out jokes or crafting funny scripts. In fact, it is all about “accepting other people’s ideas at face value and adding to them,” explains Brad Knight, co-owner and performer, Monkey Business Institute. This acceptance comes in the form of the powerful improvisational tool known as “Yes and” where ideas are welcomed and built upon.