Puppies perform improv for PAWS Chicago benefit show

By Matthew Reiss
Community Contributor

I have performed sketch and improvisational comedy for over 25 years, but one show last August was a first for me. In front of a large crowd at Second City’s Donny’s Skybox Theater, 1608 N. Wells St., I performed a comedy scene with a puppy.

My comedy group, The Stuntmen, put on a benefit show to support PAWS Chicago, but rather than simply raising money, we wanted to use the show to encourage pet adoptions. What better way than to bring the puppies on stage?

PAWS selected a trio of puppies for the event—Malcolm, Luca and Jodie—each with a backstage handler. All three of the puppies, along with a number of their peers, were adopted the very next day.

During our improv scene, Malcom felt so comfortable on stage that he decided to take a nap on my feet. It became a fun element for the audience because, in my efforts not to disturb Malcolm’s slumber, I was forced to limit my movements and speak with a soft voice. It changed the direction of the scene in a very sweet and unexpected way.

The three puppies did remarkably well in the moment. Luca was a little nervous, but then, who isn’t when in front of the lights?

The show was such a success, that a second benefit show has been scheduled for April 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the same location.

In addition to encouraging the adoption of a new cast of puppy performers, PAWS hopes to use the proceeds to purchase a treadmill for the dogs at the shelter. There is an unofficial rule in live theater that states, “Never work with animals,” but this partnership of PAWS and the Stuntmen is proving that rules were made to be broken.

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