Last June, Claire Wilcher of Indianapolis started a trip that most people only talk about taking.
She quit her job, packed up her stuff and hopped into a renovated RV for a 23-city romp that is taking her to major cities across the country. She's not stopping in each city to find the perfect slice of diner pie or fill the RV with fragile keepsakes that may not survive the ride back home. She's performing a self-styled comedy tour.
“I thought it would be great to travel the country and tie it to improv somehow and live a life out of the ordinary for awhile,” Wilcher says from her phone as she's driving to Odessa, Texas.
Wilcher is a member of ComedySportz, a national chain of short-form improv comedy troupes with teams based in 23 cities including ComedySportz Dallas, which became an official team when Locked Out Comedy joined the league in August of 2014. She's been driving cross-country in the 1995 Ford Shasta (yes, Ford named a vehicle after a third-tier soft drink) with plans to play a show in every single city that has an official ComedySportz team as part of her ComedySportz World Tour.
This weekend, she'll get to cross the Dallas troupe off of her list when she takes the stage with them at at 7 p.m. Saturday at Life Central Church's The Factory stage on Premiere Drive in Plano.
"I've always wanted to live in an RV and travel extensively in one, and this was a great way to do that because there are ComedySportz cities all over the country," Wilcher says. "So it was kind of a good reason to do that."
Since 2004, Wilcher has been performing with the troupe in Indianapolis, where she also worked as an assistant artistic director and marketing manager at a theater. She bid both jobs goodbye to take her dream trip.
“It was very scary," Wilcher says. "It’s a scary thing to pull the trigger on something like that and say I’m going to leave my job and my apartment because I always wanted to do this and I didn’t [want to] waste anymore time and try and do something different. It’s scary, yes, but it's been great to have a great support system.”
Wilcher got the money for her trip by launching an IndieGoGo campaign back in January that raked in over $31,000 in donations in just three months. She's not only been visiting with the other troupes in each city, she's also filmed some of the shows and her experiences for ComedySportz's Worldwide YouTube page.
The money she raised covered her basic traveling expenses and also helped her buy a used RV for her trip. The Class C motorhome that she calls "Large Marge" is covered in CSz stickers and decals and came from a seller on Craigslist.
"Large Marge has been in the shop a couple of times with general upkeep and maintenance," she says.
Wilcher also had a bit of a scare in the middle of the tour, while visiting Yellowstone National Park, when she broke her ankle.
"I spent the last month hobbling around on a scooter and crutches," she says. "It's much better now, but it was pretty bad there for awhile, right in the middle of the trip, when I broke an ankle ... It's not a cool story. I tried to tell people that I was running from a bison but it wasn't true. I was walking in a parking lot and I just rolled my ankle and broke it."
Fortunately, she's received tons of support from fellow players riding along with her and from the teams she joins for shows along the route.
"Portland made me feel really special," Wilcher says. "They had me be a guest player where I played in every single game and this was post-injury. I sat on the stage in a big leather chair for the entire match and they treated me like a queen and made me feel really special."
Wilcher says that attitude is common among ComedySportz teams, no matter what city you're in.
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"ComedySportz is a family," she says. "It's a big, huge organization that is full of family members. I wanted everyone to feel more connected and I certainly feel more connected to the team. I felt connected to my own home team, but I thought it would be really cool to show the world that we really are all one family across the country and across the globe, really."
Wilcher says she's sure that even if she wasn't on a cross-country tour and just found herself in another city with a ComedySportz team, that they'd not only let her on the stage but they'd play with her as if she'd been an original member all along.
"We make each other look good and I don't get nervous because I know that the team is going to have my back."
Wilcher will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, September 12, at Life Central Church, 2301 Premier Drive, Plano. Tickets available at the door or at ComedySportzDallas.com.