The Improv Mafia was created in 1998 by Mikel Matthews, and has since established themselves as a comedy powerhouse in Central Illinois. In the heart of Illinois State's campus in Normal, IL, they provide improv shows every Tuesday night.
The group has evolved over the years from performing mainly short form games to providing a unique hybrid of short form, long form, and other experimental forms in their weekly one hour shows. Aside from their Tuesday shows, they have expanded their outreach by performing for conferences, fundraisers, elementary schools, and Illinois High School Theatre Festival where they also conducted several workshops.
As the Improv Mafia continues into their tenth year, they are still constantly evolving and changing. This past year, the group has been focusing on musical improv and the integration of singing and musical accompaniment into scene work. The Mafia also took third place in the National College Comedy Competition held in Chicago. As the 2008 school year closed out, the Mafia marked their ten year of existence by premiering an entirely improvised sitcom in the Illinois State University Freestage Festival.
The Improv Mafia holds auditions every fall semester to replace those seniors who have graduated. But like the real mafia they maintain the mantra "When you are in the mafia, You are in for life," this proved to be true with their 5th anniversary show in 2003 when Mafia alums mixed with current cast members. Another tradition is to enact the passing of the senior members with the Funeral Party at the end of their last show before they graduate.
Many Mafia alums live and perform improv in Chicago. Others have enjoyed success in Los Angeles and New York. At one point, the Mafia had a professional troupe of Alumni who performed in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, but unfortunately parted ways due to career changes.