Bob Wieck can never have too much comedy in his life. An improviser and member of the Resident Cast at Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale, he performs almost every week and says his favorite sound in the world is laughter.
11 years ago, Wieck started Snow Day, an annual 24-hour improv marathon that takes place at Go Comedy. And while he may have originally started it for the laughs, there's more meaning to the event now.
For Snow Day's first two years, it was about stage time. Wieck and some friends wanted to take advantage of the quiet period during the holidays to perform, and Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck agreed to let him create a set list for an evening. All the performers pitched in a dollar to rent the theater and the night was a surprising success. In year two, shows were selling out. By year four, Wieck moved it to Go Comedy to accommodate the larger crowds.
But when Wieck counted up the money from ticket sales one year and realized he made a profit, it didn't feel right to pocket it—that's not why he started Snow Day. "I didn't do it to make money," Wieck says. "Before the third year, my grandfather passed away, so I donated the extra money to his hospice."
That tradition has continued. Every year, all the proceeds from ticket, raffle, and drink sales go to charity.
Four years ago, Wieck's friend and fellow improviser Tim Hayden passed away. Hayden's sister, Nancy Edwards, herself a writer, actor, and improviser now based in Los Angeles, started the Tim Hayden Scholarship Fund in his memory, which provides a stipend to a college-bound drama student from Kettering High School where Tim taught. She approached Wieck to see about donating to the fund and how they could raise even more money. That's when Snow Day became a 24-hour marathon.
This year, the proceeds will be split between three charities: The Tim Hayden Scholarship Fund, Gilda's Club of Metro Detroit, which provides support to cancer patients, and The Diana George Jacokes Endowment Fund, started this year in memory of the mother of Pj Jacokes, co-owner of Go Comedy, and resident cast member Peter Jacokes, and which support the education of young women at Mercy High School.
Of course, Wieck still wants Snow Day to be as fun as it was during those first years. He does this in part by getting as many different performers from the community to play. "With 24 hours, it gives me a lot of room to schedule newer troupes to perform in front of audiences," Wieck says.
Less experienced improvisers can also perform in an improv jam or with the 26 Hour Players, a collection of the sleep-deprived attendees who stayed up throughout the entire marathon. None of this will be at the expense of quality, Wieck promises, who schedules blocks with a mixture of seasoned and less experienced improvisers. "The intent is that no matter what time you catch a show, you'll get your money's worth."
There will also be a variety of acts and sets that people of any age or comedic persuasion can enjoy. The marathon begins with the theater's flagship show, The All-Star Showdown, an interactive game show much like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be a "family friendly block" where kids under 10 get free admission. There will be a live recording of the podcast "Transmissions From the Darkside" in which the hosts review the iconic 80s horror anthology show Tales from the Darkside. And at 8 p.m. there will be a one-time performance of a sketch show based on an audience suggestion that is written, rehearsed, and performed within 24 hours.
Snow Day has become Wieck's passion. In the future, he wants to include stand-up and other forms of comedy. His goal is to raise more money each year. And he plans on doing it as long as he can.
"Even if for some reason, I could no longer improvise, I'd still want to organize Snow Day," he says. "I'd still be involved even if someone had to roll me out there and introduce troupes."
Snow Day, a 24-hour improv marathon for charity, will take place from 8 p.m. Jan. 13 through 10 p.m. Jan. 14 at Go Comedy! Improv Theater. You can purchase tickets here.