Here Comes the Fighting Improv Smackdown Tournament!

Time for Madness! WIT’s 9th Annual Fighting Improv Smackdown Tournament (FIST) is now open for submissions. What is FIST? A ton of fun and creative talent launched through a cannon of audience frenzy. Need more details than that? See the full description below, complete with this year’s rules of engagement.

The sign-up deadline for FIST 2015 has passed. It was Sunday, Feb. 8 11:59PM.

See you at the shows!

FIST 2015 – Washington Improv Theater’s 9th Annual

Fighting Improv Smackdown Tournament

Background & Rules

runci-bubbleWhat is FIST?
The Fighting Improv Smackdown Tournament (FIST) is a bracketed tournament in which teams of improvisers fight their way up the brackets toward championship glory. Like college basketball’s March Madness, but with even more madness. Teams advance or are eliminated based on anonymous audience voting. One team will become the FIST Champions, emerging to cheers, validation, and of course, glory.

What is at stake?
Did we mention Glory? The pure, unadulterated glory of victory. A kick-ass trophy or other ostentatious bauble of some kind. Some other tasty prizes, but not a mountain of cash. Also: preferential consideration for scheduling in WIT runs for the following year.

Who can be a team?
Almost anyone, as long as they’re here to do longform improv. Each team may have up to three players, of any experience level. One- and two-person teams are also legal, if that’s your thing. Each player may play on only one team – substitutions included. A musical accompanist counts as a player. An audience member counts as a player if s/he is brought on stage and performs.

Who can NOT be a team?
A cast that has already competed as a FIST team together. A team in which all players currently perform together in a WIT company ensemble. These rules are to promote player cross-pollination, a main objective of the tournament.

Performance Rules
All FIST performances must be longform improvisation. There may be some devised or planned framing elements, including some connection to short-form game work, but shows that are not majority longform improvisation are not admissible and will be subject to elimination from the tournament. If you have any doubt whether your idea is enough longform improvisation, ask us at for a consult before you cement your format. Prohibited from all performances: any actual smacking down, breaking of bottles, use of fire/smoke or any manner of explosive device, any actions placing players or audience members in physical risk. Breaking these rules will result in disqualification of the team in question.



FIST begins on THU, March 12 and ends with the Championship Match and subsequent victory celebration on SAT, April 11. Matches will primarily be on THU, FRI, and SAT nights, likely at 8PM and 10PM. But depending on how wide the field of teams is, we may need to schedule matches on other nights and times. All possible dates/times are included in the sign-up query.

Please indicate any conflicts when you sign up. Should other conflicts arise, we will try to accommodate but we can make no guarantees. Once the tournament is underway, rescheduling is extremely difficult. Please contact with any questions.

One single substitution is allowed to each team, only in the beginning rounds and only in extenuating circumstances. If you do need to substitute, you must get prior approval from FIST commissioners. Following the substitution, the absentee member must return for the duration of the tournament. The substitute must not already be a FIST competitor, eliminated or not. No inanimate objects (mannequins, blow up dolls or whatever your sick minds may dream up) can be a substitute player. No substitutions will be allowed past the sweet sixteen round (you will simply compete with fewer players).


The Bracket & Voting

How the Bracket Works
While the final bracket and schedule cannot be completed until all teams are submitted, this is what we expect: Teams in beginning rounds 1-3 will get 12 minutes each to perform for the audience. Beginning in round 4 (the Elite 8), teams will get 15 minutes each. Some rounds will likely include Grand Slam matches, where 4 or more teams compete and 2 advance. At some point, the matches will shift to two-team matches where one team is eliminated.

There are typically no “play-in” matches or “byes” in FIST 2015.

Team Seeding
The tournament seeding (deciding which teams are in which brackets, and which teams oppose one another) is essentially random, though an attempt to balance out the brackets is made. Your self-reported years of performance experience and a subjective review by a few commissioners will help determine your “seed.” Schedule considerations also play a part in which bracket quartile you are placed in.


After all teams finish, the audience votes using paper ballots. Audience members are encouraged to vote their conscience to promote the improv meritocracy we all want to live in. They also take a brief intermission before settling in for one of WIT’s ensembles or guest troupes to further wow them with longform improv. Votes are tabulated confidentially during that performance and announced by the night’s commissioner or emcee.

January 23, 2015