Sunday, 29 July 2018 22:32

Unplanned: How a local comedy troupe is planting roots in Grand Rapids

Written by  Kayla Sosa
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In 2015, Dog Story Theater’s Comedy Outlet Monday brought together a group of four funny guys who might not have crossed paths otherwise.

Today, they are local improv group Plant Parenthood. Whether you’ve seen them perform at Dog Story or laughed at one of their many Grand Rapids-related memes on Facebook or Instagram, you know they’re making their way into the local comedy scene.

Andy Cach, Sean Maginity, Josh Heller and Thom Hunt make up Plant Parenthood. In any conversation, they bounce off each other with their dry humor, making almost anything a comedy bit.

Cach started his comedy career at Detroit’s Go Comedy! Improv Theater.

“Growing up, I was always the funny kid in school,” Cach said. “My brother’s the one who kind of pushed me to start doing improv and shaping that goofiness and random energy, give it a direction. And improv really helped to do that for me.”

Besides being naturally funny, Cach said he continued to do comedy because of the community.

“It’s a really good space,” he said. “You can be super different but everyone is just really supportive.”

Similarly, Maginity grew up in a funny family and even moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to pursue anything comedy-related. In a job as a dog walker for a magician, he got hired to write jokes and become a personal assistant to said magician, then at the famous Magic Castle club. He even starred as an extra in an episode of Mad Men.

“When I moved back here in 2014 or so, I joined a hard rock band,” Maginity said. “That band broke up, then my relationship ended, and I one day was getting some food from the restaurant on the corner of Jefferson and Fulton … it was a summer night, I was bummed out. I get (the food), I’m walking to go home and eat my feelings, and there’s a sign outside of Dog Story Theater that says ‘improv, jam session afterwards’ and I’m like, ‘Never going to that.’”

But in truth, he went the next week and was linked up with the other members of Plant Parenthood.

Hunt had a little bit of a different journey before joining the improv troupe, but his passion for comedy is no less. With a goofy dad, sarcastic mom and having to move a lot as a kid, he found he had to be funny to fit in. As an adult, Hunt and his girlfriend moved to China to teach English at a private school, and there he found that his sense of humor could help him communicate to kids who didn’t speak the same language as he did.

“Making them laugh was awesome to me — I’ve never had more fun,” Hunt said. “You have to adapt, to making a preschooler laugh, to making a middle schooler laugh … a lot of physical comedy.”

When Hunt returned to the States after a year of teaching, he got in touch with Heller and joined Plant Parenthood. Now, one of his many talents is making the music for the group’s online comedy videos.

Meanwhile, Heller said he always loved comedy growing up. He used to play guitar in a band that opened for Shaggy and won a Jammie Award. When that dissolved, the opportunity to do comedy fell into place.

“I like having creative things to do, and this scratches that itch,” Heller said.

Comedy means something to each of the guys, but they all appreciate it for its power to bring happiness when there isn’t always something to smile about.

“Comedy is escapism,” Heller said. “Comedy is a way of maintaining order, of having control. If you’re laughing, you’re not crying. And no one can deny that.”

What brings this group together is their chemistry as a troupe, and a real friendship that’s developed through a passion for comedy.

“With a group of four, we’ve got this tight connection and we each have an equal voice in (deciding) what we should do for our next video (or performance),” Hunt said.

For the future, the members just want to keep doing what they’re doing.

“We want to be a thing in Grand Rapids that makes a certain type of person feel good about living in Grand Rapids,” Heller said.

Plant Parenthood will be performing this month from 7-8 p.m. on Aug. 6 and 27 at Dog Story Theater for Comedy Outlet Mondays. The group also will be in Detroit on Aug. 8 for the Detroit Improv Festival.

Find Plant Parenthood on YouTube as PlantParenthood and Instagram as @plantparenthoodimprov.

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