Improv Theater Boom Chicago Thrives in Amsterdam

How an Amsterdam improv theater, Boom Chicago, went from a goofy lark to serious business
Founders Jon “Pep” Rosenfeld (left) and Andrew Moskos launch into “Greece: the Musical” ... and sing your favorite crisis-related hits, like “Hopelessly Indebted to EU!” Photograph by Markus Burke for Bloomberg Businessweek

Boom Chicago started as a joke. In 1992, Andrew Moskos and Jon “Pep” Rosenfeld, two aimless Northwestern University grads who’d been in their college improv troupe, Mee-Ow—well, Rosenfeld was a member, Moskos was a superfan—were on vacation in Amsterdam when they had what Moskos now refers to as the “best stoner idea” ever. During the trip, they’d noticed how many people in Amsterdam spoke English. Why not open an improv theater in the city? Six months later, the two had quit their jobs at educational nonprofits in Illinois and were running Boom Chicago out of a dilapidated piano bar in the Leidseplein, a sketchy tourist district. Last month, Boom finally moved into a classy theater in Jordaan, a quiet residential neighborhood, solidifying its spot alongside Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, Second City in Chicago, and the Groundlings in Los Angeles as one of the world’s preeminent improv institutions. And it only took 20 years.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.