2009 iOWest Del Close Awards Celebrate Improv Through The Ages

(L to R) Paul Vaillancourt, Craig Cackowski, and James Grace reinact the very first pattern game at the 2009 iOWest Del Close Awards (photo by Erin Leigh Photography)

Those lucky enough to find a seat amidst the standing room only audience at 2009 iOWest Del Close Awards were treated to an evening of unexpected laughs, surprisingly touching moments, and an all-star revue of Improv Through the Ages.

The evening kicked off with the always radiant Judith Shelton who, channeling Liz Taylor, interviewed the arriving iOWest community on the (patch of) red carpet before the ceremony. As the house lights dimmed, the roar of the packed house interrupted the neighboring danceclub Vice for once.

Following a reenactment of of the first pattern game and edit in the history of improv set to the tune of Thus Sprach Zarathustra from 2001 by loincloth-clad iOWest Artistic Director James Grace and teachers Paul Vaillancout and Craig Cackowski, host Josh Dubose took the stage and welcomed all, including new improvisers at the theater. “For newcomers and old-timers, the Dels are a very very special event,” Dubose said. “It’s the one time a year we come together as a community and everybody stokes each other – as opposed to how it normally happens: with each team individually in the green room stroking one another after a particularly good show.”
The Rule of Threes was prevalent in this year’s ceremony as bartender Jon Crowley won his third consecutive Excellence Bartending Award, along with Nick Armstrong’s third win for Sexiest Player, and Craig Cackowski for Best Teacher. All three awards will henceforth be renamed in honor of their triple-crown winners.

Crowley, unable to accept his honor in person, sent proxy Apul Patel in remembrance of Marlon Brando’s 1972 Oscar protest over the treatment of Native Americans. “I immediately tried to clear up Mr. Crowley’s cultural and geographical confusion,” said the “dot-not-feather” Patel.

Josh Dubose hosts the 2009 iOWest Del Close Awards (photo by Erin Leigh Photography)

Best Teacher winner Cackowski eschewed comedy in his acceptance speech, instead reflecting warmly on his 20 years in improv and role as a teacher. “There is always amazing new blood and new performers coming to this theater all the time and I’m always honored to initiate anybody into this artform that I love and that I’ve devoted my whole life to.”

Sexiest Player Nick Armstrong, know for his cheeky stripteases in years past, apologized to the male portion of the audience. “For all you guys out there, I’ve got a treat for you,” he said before presenting performers Canon Wing and Liz Lytle, who stripped down to sexy lingerie before a jealous Armstrong pushed them aside and once again revealed his trademarked yellow and red stars undies, which will soon be framed at the iO bar.
Two of the more touching moments of the ceremony came with the Most Supportive Audience Member and James Grace Awards. Herb Koss, second-time recipient of the Most Supportive Audience Member Award, was greeted to a standing ovation, noting, “The only thing I’m nervous about is another old man walking through these doors.” Later, a tearful and near-speechless Irene White accepted her James Grace Award for her dedication to the theater, stating, “I am leaving, but one of the reasons why I stayed so long was because of iOWest.” “I don’t know how I’ll replace this in my life,” she added.
Between awards, iOWest performers presented Improv Throughout the Ages – an (arguably) accurate depiction of long-form improv milestones through the years. Jesus and his Apostles (played by Harold team DHT) made a guest appearance, introducing the “Everyone Get In Here Game” to the world, while a 1940’s newsreel featuring the Dollhouse examined women in improv. Harold Team Gypsy Lou assumed the role of Civil War improvisers as they introduced the letter writing split scene, while host Josh Dubose took the show thought the 50’s Red Scare and 60’s Civil Rights Movement alongside an incredulous Thomas Fowler. Brian Shortall and company brought back the 80’s complete with cocaine-fueled edits and golden Delorians, and Zabeth Russell and Ryan Gowland foretold a future of improv as populated by the children of today’s performers. Finally, the cast of Rigor Tortoise introduced the audience to the history of beloved Musical Director Andrew Melton in the video “Meltdown Through the Years.”
Video highlights, along with exclusive photos, will be posted here in the coming weeks. Be sure to check back often to relive your favorite memories as we all look forward to what has become iOWest’s biggest night of the year – The Annual iOWest Del Close Awards.
2009 List of Winners:

  • Excellence in Bartending : Jon Crowley
  • Best Waitstaff : Rebecca Stevens
  • Hardest Working Intern : Tommy Bechtold
  • Most Supportive Audience Member : Herb Koss
  • Best ADT Team : Kitty Porn
  • Sexiest Player : Nick Armstrong 
  • Best Portrayal of an Object : Jill Alexander – Dancing Donut Sign (Trophy Wife)
  • Best Improvised Non-Harold Show : Dasariski
  • Best Scripted Show : Top Story! Weekly
  • Best Line : Who’s gonna buy these ladies some fish tacos? – Ric Rosario (The List)
  • Coach of the Year : Brian O’Connell
  • Teacher of the Year : Craig Cackowski
  • Best Harold Team : USS Rock N Roll
  • James Grace Award : Irene White and Eric Hunicutt