Monday, June 18 , 2018, 11:09 am | Fair 65º


Two Nights of Comedy to be Unleashed at Santa Barbara Zoo

Animal experts share stories, then improv comedians take over

(Santa Barbara Zoo)

Stories recounted by prominent animal experts are the fodder for improv comedy skits created on-the-spot by members of L.A.’s Impro Theatre Company at two “IMPROVology” (formerly known as “Zoos Line is it Anyway?”) shows next week, presented by the Santa Barbara Zoo in the Discovery Pavilion.

These family-friendly events combine animal science with comedy in a unique way. Musical accompaniment is provided by Konrad Kono. The Zoo’s Dean Noble is the emcee.

On Thursday, Nov. 3 is “My Life with Gorillas” with special guest Dr. Terry Maple, and on Saturday, Nov. 5 is “Channel Island Foxes vs. Jaguars” with animal experts Tim Coonan (Channel Island Fox) and Dr. Anthony Giordano (Jaguars).

The doors open at 7 p.m. for 7:30 p.m. performances. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for Santa Barbara Zoo members. Purchase at the door or online at For more information, call 962-5339. Seating is first-come, first-served; early arrival suggested.

Food, drinks, beer and wine are available for purchase.

Thursday, Nov. 3 - “My Life with Gorillas” with Dr. Terry Maple.

The format on Thursday, Nov. 3 is like an improvisational version of “This is Your Life,” with just one guest scientist, Dr. Maple, recounting highlights of his research into gorilla behavior, in the wild and in captivity.

The Impro Theatre comedians take their cues from Dr. Maple’s talk, and may ask for volunteers from the audience.

Dr. Maple is former president and CEO of Zoo Atlanta, where he is credited with revitalizing and rebranding the once struggling facility. He also ran the Palm Beach Zoo, and has served on the faculties of Georgia Tech, Emory University and Florida Atlantic University.

He is the founding editor of “Zoo Biology,” and one of the founding members of the American Society of Primatologists. He has written several books on primate behaviors, as well as “Zoo Man,” “Ethics on the Ark,” “Saving the Giant Panda,” and “Professor in the Zoo.”

Saturday, Nov. 5:  “Channel Island Foxes vs. Jaguars” with animal experts Tim Coonan (Channel Island Fox) and Dr. Anthony Giordano (Jaguars)

The two animal experts are each paired with a comedian from LA’s Impro Theatre and “compete” against each other for points. The experts each give a brief TED-style talk, which is the jumping off point for the improv, created in the moment.

Audience participation is encouraged. Local celebrity judges award points to each team.    

Coonan is a biologist for the U.S. National Park Service at Channel Islands National Park.

He has studied and managed island foxes since 1992, and directed the park’s Channel Island fox recovery program from 1999 until recently when the species was removed from the list of federally endangered species, the fastest recovery of any mammal in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

Dr. Giordano is a conservation biologist and wildlife ecologist with more than 20 years of experience working in as many countries around the world.

Currently, he is managing or co-managing 14 projects involving cats in 10 countries as director of S.P.E.C.I.E.S., including a fishing cat conservation effort in Bangladesh, a survey of Sri Lanka leopards, the first ocelot project on Trinidad, and several investigations of jaguarondi ecology.

The zoo is open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; general admission is $17 for adults, $10 for seniors aged 65+, $10 for children 2-12, children under age 2 are free. Parking is $7.

— Julia McHugh for Santa Barbara Zoo.


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