SPONSORED: According to science, summer started on Monday, June 20. However, for me, summer in Orlando doesn’t begin until the first night of Sak Comedy Lab’s Brawl for All. Which means this year, the season starts 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 22. For those of you unfamiliar with the Brawl, here’s a little rundown of how it works:

Twelve teams, consisting of  some of Orlando’s most-talented improvisers, duke it out to win the coveted “Brawl Belt.” In a double-elimination-style tournament with two bouts each night, host Mike Carr puts the teams through some traditional (and some brand-new) improv challenges.

At the end of the night’s comedy-fight, the audience votes for their favorite teams, and two advance to the winner’s circle. The two losers? They get dumped into the losing bracket (or out of the ring if it is a second loss)..

At the end of twelve weeks, the Ultimate Brawler will be crowned.

While it’s true that you can see improv at Sak Comedy Lab almost every day of the week, the Brawl is special. During the Brawl, these teams aren’t just improvising their little hearts out, they’re also doing it in character. Each team is highly themed. Previous teams included a trio of wayward superheroes, a trio of 1992-era rappers, and last year’s winners, a trio (sometimes a duo) of drunk Judy Garlands.  A previous winning team featured a couple of “Your Moms” that were just having fun “doing the make-em ups”.

Here’s an exclusive look at this year’s teams (with some author speculation as to what their themes mean … seriously… just speculation):

MIDNIGHT NOIR: Sean Rice, Devan Seaman, Jess Gasparillo, Greg Coleman. Sam Spade is on the case of the improvised murder, of your funny bone.

THE OLYMPIANS: Josh Hurtado, Max Hilend  as a 1996 USA Olympic Gymnastics Team … or is it Zeus and Poseidon showing us what Greek Tragedy is all about?)

PIXEL PALS: Tom Farrell, Kaitin Bellamy, Stephanie Forhan as Atari games come to life.

THE BRUDEN LACHEN: Darren Veirday, Mark Lainer, Cody Bush (Rumspringa, baybee!)

HELLFIRE & BRIMSTONE: Justin Aldrige, Drew DeStefano, Cody Howard. The Devil is in the details and coincidentally, on stage.

IT’S JUST MEME: Richard Paul (One guy + the entire Internet = hilarity)

THE DOYLE FAMILY: Jim Doyle, Nicole Joy, and their dog.

SUMMER W/GRANDMA AND GRANDPA: Dylan Miller, Katelyn Stephenson, Mack Stine. The winners of the Rookie Rumble take on roles as a spoiled kid who gets to run rampant through the house, and his grandparents.

DOPE! THE MUSICAL: Leo Ukahame, Samantha Ivey, Andrew Ramos celebrating the ’90s, Hip Hop style.

VAMPROVISERS: Chris Dinger, Brett Waldon, Joel Warren, Adam Scharf. Be sure to bring garlic and stakes, the bloodletting is about to begin.

MARIO BROS: Andy Dunscombe, Stevie Todd, Eric Novella. The princess is almost-always going to be in another castle.

SCIENTOTALLY: Joe Llorens, Charlie Griffin, Kaylyn Varnum, Sabrina Lichtenstein as Tom Cruise and Kirstie Allie taking a break from being so damn serious all the time. 

As a hardcore Brawl groupie myself, this year’s lineup is super-satisfying, with a good mix of veterans and newcomers. I’m most looking forward to seeing what the always-hysterical Leo Ukahame brings to “Dope! The Musical” and some of last year’s strongest performers (and one of my favorite teams from last year as “The Tough Guys”), Josh Hurtado and Max Hilend as “The Olympians.”  

Catch the whole thing live at Sak Comedy Lab, 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 22 (and the next twelve weeks). Tickets are $10. 

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