Keith Huang studied improvisation at The People’s Improv Theater and trained at New York City’s other two primary theatrical homes for improv comedy in the 21st century: The UCB and The Magnet. Huang later became an instructor at The PIT, house team performer there, and since 2012, served as The PIT’s Artistic Director. Until this week, when he got an airplane and moved back to Texas for a new life and career adventure.
For these past eight years, though, Huang also took thousands of photographs of performers, improv teams and shows across NYC and beyond on his site, improv is good for you.
In a fond farewell, but not goodbye, to New York City comedy, Huang wrote:
“Before I get on a plane and fly away home, I wanted to publish The Mug Shot Journal Redux, a photo project three years in the making (read: procrastination). Like my photoblog, this is a love letter to The PIT, my improv high school and home-away-from-home for nearly a decade. I shot my first Mug Shot Journal five years ago (shout-out to original mug-shooter Jeff Scherer). And just like then, I wasn’t able to snap everyone, so I apologize if I missed you. But if you scroll through the page, I think you’ll still see what I had hoped to capture with this project — individual faces and names of artists, poets, dreamers, and geniuses; but more importantly, a portrait of a community that has given me, and many others, endless amounts of love, support and joy.”
The collected snapshots not only represent a roguish gallery of fun-loving young adults, but also now a who’s who of who’s in the improv game today, from The PIT’s founder Ali Farahnakian all the way down to the newest house team improvisers.
Whom do you already recognize? Who among these folks will someday become comedy stars? Who already should have been?
You’ve seen Matt Oberg on your TV in plenty of national ad campaigns, as well as The Onion‘s parody series, and soon he’ll be co-starring on FX’s The Comedians with Billy Crystal. Natasha Rothwell recently auditioned for Saturday Night Live, and already has performed on Wild ‘N Out with Nick Cannon.
After scanning all of those shots, jump back five years to Huang’s first Mug Shot Journal collection he posted in 2009. Now it’s Throwback Thursday. Check out Kurt Braunohler (top)!
Look through them all to find your favorite performers of the recent past.
It’s a very fun rabbit hole to leap into.
Especially when you then click over to Huang’s inspiration for the project, Jeff Scherer. He reposted his photo collections from 2003-2006 in two parts on Facebook, and wrote: “When I first started performing improv in New York, I was having trouble keeping everyone’s names straight, so I started taking pictures of everyone holding whiteboards with their name on it, and posting the pictures on the Improv Resource Center message boards. These are some of the pictures. Keith Huang has recently revived the Mug Shot Journal. I’m very happy someone else is doing it, especially such a good photographer.” Part two of Scherer’s collection.
A decade ago, you might have had more difficulty telling everyone apart because so many improv people had the same look. Now, there still may be a look or a way that improvisers carry themselves, but there’s just so many of them and from all over the place, converging not just here in NYC but in cities around the world.
Plenty of performers who posed for Scherer have gone on to TV and movies, such as Bobby Moynihan (SNL) and Zach Woods (The Office, Silicon Valley).
Here are a few of the other fresh faces from almost a decade ago…
Where are they now? Better question: Where will they all be five years from now? You can say you saw them when.