By Janis Fontaine
Boca Raton’s Carl Crispin usually sees the funny side of things.
“I don’t remember being the class clown, but I joked around,” he says. “I was a character. I wasn’t afraid to get up and talk in front of people.”
Comedy was a natural avenue for the gregarious Crispin. He tried a little stand-up, but it wasn’t a good fit. All that moody introspection just wasn’t him. What he liked was thinking on his feet, coming up with a witty retort to something someone said. Improv was his major carpet ride to a national career in comedy that brings him back to Boca at the end of the month.
On Feb. 21, Crispin, the founder of 321 Improv, and his partners Mike Domeny and Jeremy Schofield will perform at a fundraiser benefiting Boca Raton Christian School’s student activities.
Crispin grew up in Michigan but moved to Boca Raton with his family in 2003. He formed his first comedy group, CPR Improv, in 1992 and toured with that group until he started 321 Improv in 2004.
For the past 16 years, Crispin and his band of brothers have been touring the United States performing “clean comedy” before groups ranging from fewer than 500 to more than 5,000 in 47 of 50 states. College campuses, corporate events, churches and civic groups are all interested in offering entertainment that doesn’t have to offend to be funny.
Crispin describes 321 Improv as “clean comedy for ministry purposes.” The trio is very conservative about the language and the message. “We don’t want to offend anyone. If we do, we’ve pushed it too far,” Crispin said.
For some comics, offending people is the goal. The comedy that dominates the entertainment landscape is designed to push the envelope, ride the razor’s edge of what’s tasteful and culturally acceptable and what’s not. It’s comedy that seeks to startle people.
Then you see 321 on stage, and it’s not much different from hanging out watching football with three funny, friendly guys. “It’s who we are,” Crispin says. “And it’s what God called us to do.”
The interactive element of improv draws audiences into the show. Using suggestions called out from guests, the group performs spontaneous antics that are funny on several levels and appeal to boomers and millennials alike.
“The best thing is to get both a 17- and 70-year-old laughing at the same joke,” Crispin said.
Improv is not easy. You cannot just phone it in. “There are no scripts, and we like that we’re engaged in every show,” Crispin said. “That’s why we don’t get bored.”
Another factor Crispin likes: The shows bring people to church who normally wouldn’t come. “You can invite someone to church a dozen times and they’ll say no, but you can invite them to a comedy show and they’ll come.”
That opens the door for 321 to show skeptics another side of Christianity, a side that doesn’t make them uncomfortable.
Crispin says comedy makes people happy, but that happiness is not the same as joy. Happiness is fleeting, ephemeral. Joy is deeply fulfilling, permanent, timeless.
Crispin and his comedy brothers say that true joy comes from having a personal relationship with God.
“We always point them back to Jesus,” he says.
If You Go
What: 321 Improv Comedy Night
When: 7-8:30 p.m. Feb. 21
Where: Boca Raton Community Church, 470 NW Fourth Ave.
Tickets: $25 and up at www.eventbrite.com/e/321-improv-comedy-night-tickets-88851965621
Info: 561-395-2400; www.321improv.com
Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and events. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.