When Malachi Nimmons tells people you never know what they will hear at a Chicago City Limits performance, he isn’t lying.
Nimmons, 29, and three other comedians from the popular improvisational troupe will rely on the audience to give them a topic when they take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.
The majority of the show is created on the spot. The troupe’s home base is the Broadway Comedy Club on West 53rd Street in New York City.
The group traces its roots to Chicago, where it began in 1979 as an offshoot of the famous Second City comedy group, which helped launch the careers of such notables as John Belushi, Bill Murray, John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.
But after Chicago City Limits moved to New York, Nimmons said it became a hotbed of young talent as well. Its stage has welcomed the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Paul Reiser and Jon Stewart.
Nimmons is trying his best to become a household name.
He likes to say he was born in a cultural melting pot called Dayton, Tenn., but spent the formative years of his life in Chicago.
As a child, he starred in numerous television commercials, and has loved performing and music for as long as he can remember.
Nimmons first studied improvisation in 2006 under the tutelage of Rex Knowles and Sherry Landrum at the Professional Actor Training Program at Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee, where he was a member of the Riff Raff improv comedy troupe.
He moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to find fame and fortune, and was doing pretty well until his house was destroyed by fire.
“That’s when I headed back to Tennessee and was in limbo until I landed in New York after an audition,” Nimmons said. “I sold my motorcycle to get to the New York audition and had to take a bus home.”
The improvisational show, which will feature four cast members and a piano player, is a free-for-all that takes aim at any topic.
The troupe pokes fun at everything and creates sketch comedy, musical theater and audience-inspired improvisations.
As a stand-up comic, Nimmons relies on prepared material to entertain audiences.
“This show is different because we rely on the audience to yell out a subject and we literally take off from there,” he said. “People try to stump us all the time.”
But it is rare for the performers to be baffled for a routine.
“Recently someone yelled out ‘sequester,’ ” he said. “Half of us knew what it meant and the other half just faked it, and their ad-libs produced some of the show’s funniest moments.”
Sketches are as fresh as today's headlines, taking aim at the faces, places and events of the day.
“We try to keep the material as updated as possible,” Nimmons said.
Chicago City Limits has been featured on Comedy Central, PBS, “Today,” “The McLaughlin Group,” “The Joan Rivers Show,” “The Jackie Mason Show,” “Good Day New York” and “The Reel News.”
No limits on fun
What: Chicago City Limits.
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7.
Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.
Cost: $29, $25, $21.
Tickets: Available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the box office or by calling 269-7200 or (800) 846-2787, or visiting www.upjarts.org.
Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.