Today, Funny Bones Improv celebrates 8 years of monthly shows in hospitals for children. It has been an incredible journey filled with laughter, love and hope. Get to know us a little bit better by reading this interview with Funny Bones Improv founder, Jolene Fehler. And if you have a story to share about us, please do! We’d love to hear from you. Happy Birthday to us!!
Where was the first Funny Bones Improv hospital show? Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago
What do you remember most about that first show? That same feeling as every show, truly, which is the high from seeing someone start out looking so sad and getting to see them laugh. Also, from that first show, that every performer as soon as the show was over, already couldn’t wait to get back.
How long did it take from conception to first performance and were there any steps along the way that made you refocus or change your first ideas of the show? We reached out the hospital in February 2008 and they said they’d be open to something like this. It took another few weeks to get performers together and we held 2 rehearsals before our first show. We didn’t have a wheel back then – we actually wrote a set list of games to play prior to the show. That concept lasted only a few performances when we realized that it would be more fun and interactive if they could pick the games themselves and gave them that control.
How did you put together the first team? I was taking classes at Second City so I wrote to everyone in my classes and asked if anyone would be interested in trying to do this with me. Everyone loved the idea and we started rehearsing.
Are there any players still volunteering that have been involved since the beginning? Just me 🙂 But if we had FBI where Laurel George and Sarah Hanover live, there’s no question they would still be doing it!
Describe the moment that made you feel like Funny Bones Improv was something you wanted to keep fostering. I’ve shared this story at events before but it is when FBI became real, bigger than me. We were at a memorial for one of the kids we had seen at a number of shows. She was a 10 year old girl who was very sassy – she always had something to say about our scenes, some kind of commentary if she liked or didn’t, but she kept coming. When she passed away, we were invited to a memorial that the hospital held for her, where we found out that she would talk about us for days after our shows. That she would share the games and scenes from our show with kids who couldn’t be there, and that she had nicknames for us. It was at that memorial that I realized that Funny Bones Improv was much more than a 45 minute performance, it was much more than any of us as improvisers realized and that it became bigger than us.
If you could say something to an improvisor that has thought about volunteering but is on the fence, what would you say? These shows will change your life like no other improv show. It will give you perspective on your day instantly and no matter how hard a day you have had, this will make it better. To know that you’ve given the gift of laughter to a child who really needs it is not only insanely rewarding, but humbling and will draw you in after just one show.
What do you think is the biggest difference between performing for children as opposed to adults? The silly factor 🙂 We get to be outrageously silly for children, and the sillier we are, and the more fun we have, the more they enjoy it.
What would you like to see for the future of Funny Bones Improv? I would love to see FBI be in 20 cities across the US, and then branch into Canada. I would love to keep training people who want to play and be a part of what we do but who don’t have previous improv experience. I would love to see us speaking at conferences on the impact our shows and our craft makes in hospital settings. I would love to give our alumni in various cities the chance to get back involved and keep playing because who we are, and what makes us special, are our performers.
Thanks Jolene – for sharing your vision and seeing it through!
Funny Bones Improv Volunteer Highlight – Eight Years Later!
Sarah Solon-Hanover was a part of the very first Funny Bones Improv volunteer team – in fact, the group wasn’t even called Funny Bones Improv when she started. Her association began when she met Jolene in a Second City improv class. When Jolene shared her vision and asked Sarah if she wanted to help, Sarah jumped at the opportunity. The experience helped her realize that she has the power to do something good with her life, like help children. After relocating to Washington DC she began searching for other volunteer opportunities, eventually volunteering with a tutoring program. At the beginning of the school year she was paired with a student and they met every Saturday for the next year. She quickly realized that she was incorporating her improv training during the tutoring sessions – it was a natural fit for her and opened the doors to explore new options for her future. She credits Jolene’s determination and focus for her confidence to create her new life plan. She is now enrolled at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where she will be working towards an MSPH (Master of Science in Public Health) in Health Education and Health Communication and who knows…maybe some day we’ll have a Funny Bones Improv at John Hopkins! Fingers crossed.
We asked Sarah to share a memory with you and here it is!
My favorite Funny Bones memory is all of us original members going as a group (so 7 or 8 people) to this shop in Chicago called Strange Cargo. Strange Cargo is just up the street from Wrigley Field and is known for vintage clothes and cool (what might now be considered “hipster” t-shirts). They also did t-shirt customization, so they had plenty of plain t-shirts in all types of colors and styles. We all decided as a group that the green ringers would look the best on us. I don’t think we actually had the shop iron on the FB design (I think Laurel George did that at home for everyone). Once we got those shirts with the logo, everything started to feel really real… like we were actually going to do this thing! It was all very exciting.
Thanks for being a part of Funny Bones Improv Sarah and we look forward to hearing all about your next chapter!