History of DSI

September 1993: Zach Ward founds Chapel Hill High Improv as a student-run organization (CHHS improv continues to be the nation's premiere high school ensemble); Zach begins studying and performing with ComedySportz® Chapel Hill, where he would spend most of his creative energy for the next 7 years.


January 1996: Zach founds CHiPs with fellow UNC student Megan Grano; drives the early development of improv comedy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Zach would direct CHiPs for over 4 years and mentor the college team after graduation. Zach would also be tapped by the Order of the Golden Fleece for his contribution to the Arts at Carolina.


June 2000: Zach leaves ComedySportz® and moves to Chicago, studies with ImprovOlympic and Annoyance. Goal: To treat Chicago like a graduate program in improvisation. To become submerged in the local improv scene, studying both the artform and the community. To work the administration of mulitple improv theaters, earning both respect from and a place among the institutions which support the improv community.

August 2000: ComedySportz® Chapel Hill closes its doors. Sister club ComedySportz® Raleigh cuts official ties with the World Comedy League to become ComedyWorx (an independent club with a similar show format). Zach maintains open communication with World Comedy League and ComedySportz® Chicago.


March 2001: DSIF 1 – Zach produces the first annual Dirty South Improv Festival at UNC-Chapel Hill, featuring 3 improv groups and 27 improvisers over 2 shows. Goal: To educate both the festival improv groups and the North Carolina audience.

September 2001: DUAL EXHAUST (Named by the Chicago Tribune as one of the "Top 10 Most Influential Comedy Duos of the Past Decade") inducted to Cagematch Hall of Fame at ImprovOlympic.


March 2002: DSIF 2 – DSI produces the second annual Dirty South Improv Festival at UNC-Chapel Hill, features 8 improv groups and 85 improvisers over 3 shows. Goal: To educate and to begin laying the foundation for North Carolina as a recognized center for the study and performance of improvisation.

July 2002: DSI Company Members appear at the fourth annual Del Close Marathon, presented by the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC. This event would become an annual tradition for the DSI Company.

September 2002: 24LIVE 1 – DSI produces a 24-hour marathon of improv comedy to benefit the Inter-Faith Council Community Shelter. Supporting the local community would continue to be a major focus for DSI during all stages of its growth.


February 2003: DSIF 3 – DSI produces the third annual Dirty South Improv Festival at UNC-Chapel Hill, features 16 improv groups and 150 improvisers over 5 shows. The Independent Weekly recognizes the third annual comedy event as a Best Bet in Arts & Entertainment.

February 2003: DSI Comedy Training Center begins offering a 3 level program of improv study, course curriculums designed by Zach in Chicago and taught in North Carolina by old friend Ross White.

April 2003: DUAL EXHAUST (awarded Critic's Choice by the Chicago Reader) wins Super CageMatch World Championship, defeating New Zealand's Improv Bandits.

May 2003: DSI begins performing weekly shows at the Inside Scoop.

August 2003: DSI opens 1-room Training Center in Carrboro.

August 2003: DSI Company Members appear at the fifth annual Del Close Marathon.

September 2003: 24LIVE 2 – DSI produces a second 24-hour marathon of improv comedy to benefit the Women’s Center of Chapel Hill.


February 2004: DSIF 4 – DSI produces the fourth annual Dirty South Improv Festival at UNC-Chapel Hill, features 27 improv groups and 225 improvisers over 7 shows.

February 2004: DSI begins performing 2 nights per week at the Inside Scoop.

April 2004: DUAL EXHAUST repeats as Super CageMatch World Champion, defeating Weaslicious.

June 2004: Zach moves back to North Carolina permanently; begins looking for dedicated theater space.

July 2004: DSI begins performing weekly at Kings Barcade.

August 2004: MISTER DIPLOMAT appears at sixth annual Del Close Marathon.

August 2004: DSI begins performing every Tuesday at Skylight Exchange.

September 2004: 24LIVE 3 – DSI produces the third annual 24-hour marathon of improv comedy to benefit WCOM 103.5 Carrboro’s Community-powered Radio Station. Two years later DSI would produce a weekly Comedy Hour on the local station they worked to help open.

September 2004: Inside Scoop closes, forcing INSIDE IMPROV to end its run of almost 100 shows.

December 2004: DSI Training Center moves to larger 3-room suite.

December 2004: DSI holds first annual Holiday Jam at Local 506 for its company and fans.


February 2005: DSIF 5 – DSI produces the fifth annual Dirty South Improv Festival in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, features 36 improv groups and 345 improvisers over 10 shows.

March 2005: COMMUNITY BIKE appears at the inaugural DC Comedy Festival; they would return in 2006.

April 2005: BEATBOX (awarded Critic's Choice by the Chicago Reader, Best Bet by the Chicago Tribune, and Best Improvised Show by the St. Louis Fringe Festival) plays the Chicago Improv Festival Mainstage with MADtv alum Mo Collins.

April 2005: DSI closes shows at Kings to focus on Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

July 2005: Zach Ward signs lease on Carr Mill Mall space.

July 2005: DSI closes shows at Skylight Exchange, gives performing ensemble time to refocus.

August 2005: BEATBOX, COMMUNITY BIKE, and TAKE THE BOX appear at seventh annual Del Close Marathon.

August 2005: DSI signs ComedySportz® license agreement for the rights to produce shw in North Carolina. DSI includes the licensed format as two of the initial 7 weekly shows at the DSI Comedy Theater opening Fall 2005.

August 2005: Theater Buildout – DSI would like to thank Mack Howell and M3 Construction for working around-the-clock 7 days a week to help build North Carolina's premiere home for improvisation and sketch comedy. Proud to boast the nicest Theater for improvisation in the state and comparable to leading Theaters in New York and Chicago.

August 2005: Beatbox headlines Toronto Improv Festival.

September 2005: 24LIVE 4 – DSI produces the fourth annual 24-hour marathon of improv comedy to benefit the NC Children’s Hospital, holds event at The ArtsCenter.

October 7, 2005: DSI Comedy Theater opens in Carrboro, NC.


2006 to 2025: Details coming soon...