By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics

Laughter For A Change

"For improv it's 'yes, and' it is not competition, it is support...It is allowing people to take risks and supporting them when they do."
-Kat Primeau, improviser and core member of Laughter For Change, Spreading Your Story webinar


Laughter For A Change is a non-profit improvisational theater organization. They use improv games as a tool for learning, healing, and community building. The group draws on the rich technical history of improv comedy games and safe-space creation as well as the genre's rich history of social engagement. Experienced actors and comedians act as Comedy Mentors who lead workshops in communities both local to Los Angeles and around the world. In addition, the group's website hosts videos demonstrating a variety of improv games for aspiring actors, mentors, and workshop leaders alike.

Ed Greenberg, a director of Chicago's The Second City, founded Laughter For A Change in 2007 after working in Rwanda with genocide survivors through Eric Kabera, founder of Kwetu Film Institute, and the U.S. State department. Laughter For A Change continues to partner with community and non-profit groups interested in using improv to enhance their work. They also partnered with the PLAY! participatory learning project at USC to assess the educational benefits of improv comedy techniques.

Individual and community self-confidence and inter-connection is key to Laughter For A Change.

Founder Ed Greenberg explains their work as helping people to find laughter and positive emotional states from which they can build change in their lives.  They emphasize the way laughing and playing together can help people build community, rather than conflict, with others around them.

Defining success in a way that is meaningful to participants and also to outside funders and supporters can be a challenge for many groups.  Laugher For A Change partnered with Ph.D. student Laurel Felt and the PLAY! participatory learning project at USC to conduct research on the educational benefits of improv comedy.  For them, teaching media skills is not only about possible professional development for people who want to go on and work in theater, it is about the individual transformations participants and communities have through making laughter together.  Ed Greenberg and Laurel Felt co-authored an academic paper that documented how a Laughter For A Change after-school program at an urban Los Angeles high school "provided youths with a safe space to build trust, explore identity, learn along with peers and adults, develop theatrical skills, and grow as individuals and citizens," all in the context of play.

Laughter For A Change improv workshops create a safe space, where participants are free to act out anxieties and to make mistakes without judgement.  Being able to play and move both others and yourself to laughter helps people who are constantly marginalized to build their self-confidence.  The workshops also give space for story-telling across groups, be they of age, gender, ethnicity, and so forth, highlighting stories and experiences that are shared.

If you're interested in learning more about Laughter For A Change, please contact Ed at

Contributed by Samantha Close on 5/10/14

Laughter for A Change Media 

Laughter for A Change Story 
Laughter For A Change Workshop @ Koreatown Youth and Community Center

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