The healing power of laughter 

As CSz changes leadership, Mia Lee Roberts reflects on its positive impact on her chronic illness.

click to enlarge Mia Lee Roberts
  • Mia Lee Roberts

It was 24 years ago that former ComedySportz (CSz) owner Mia Lee Roberts was told her improv group wouldn't make the cut.

"When we started ComedySportz, we started practicing in 1992, I was the one going around to theaters begging someone to let us perform in their theater," says Roberts. "I had one woman who I remember saying, 'We can't have that here. This won't last six months.' I love to think about that now almost 24 years later. We lasted way more than six months."

And though the theater recently changed ownership (from co-owners Mia Lee Roberts and Lynn Burger, to contracted players Todd Kenworthy and Rick Randjelovic, along with Jessica Kenworthy) they don't see that growth slowing anytime soon.

According to a press release sent out by CSz, one of the current co-owners, Edward Trout, will stay on as artistic director. Randjelovic, a 15-year player, also noted in the release that he is "honored to now be a part of the new ownership team. I am looking forward to continuing to provide award-winning comedy for all ages and helping to grow the improv community in Indianapolis."

For Roberts, the choice to sell was one that may have been later than it should.

"Well, they are two very different reasons [why myself and Burger decided to sell]," says Roberts. "I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about 12 and half years ago ... I have survived two cancers since 2013 and 14. I had kidney cancer and thyroid cancer and three surgeries in a 12 month period. And I just couldn't be present anymore. I was no help to the company. I stayed probably a little too long because of my love for it. It's such a part of my identity. I have been president of the company since I was 24 years old. It probably took me a little longer than it should have to decide to go. But when I did decide, Lynn decided that for her own reasons she would sell with me. Lynn has always had another full time job. She has worked for the Indiana Sports Corp for, I think 26 or 27 years. She used to handle all of the finances for us over the years. As the theater has grown, it has turned into a full time job. So Lynn has had two full time jobs for years. It wears on you.

"[But] I am really at peace with it and very happy about it," says Roberts.

Both she and Burger will remain ComedySportz players. Roberts noted that her health has prevented her from performing in over a year.

"I will be there as much as I can," says Roberts. "Lynn and I will still be around a lot. We just won't be the boss, which in my opinion is fantastic."

It was on a Tuesday afternoon that they signed all of the official paperwork in the theater.

click to enlarge Mia Lee Roberts
  • Mia Lee Roberts

"I thought, 'This is going to be sad,'" says Roberts. "But it was such as positive vibe in our theater ... It was just so great to see how excited they are. And they are really smart. Ed is super smart, and they are just as smart as he is."

Roberts added that the all-ages format, and the closeness of the former owners, has been a recipe for success.

"We have been business partners probably last," says Roberts. "We have been best friends and family first."

It has been that family who have helped Roberts through her roller coaster of illnesses over the years.

"It's one of the most positive things you can do when you're sick, be around a bunch of laughter, be around a bunch of funny people, make other people laugh," says Roberts. "It's huge. It's been huge in dealing with a chronic illness and in my recovery from cancer. We're very positive. It's all about 'yes, and' with comedy and ComedySportz. And I have 50 people at that theater who have my back, who have been encouraging and who would do anything for me ... Aside from family and friends, it's been the most positive thing in my life." 

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Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor

Emily is the arts editor at NUVO, where she covers everything from visual art to comedy. In fact she is probably at a theater production right now. Before joining the ranks here, she worked for Indianapolis Monthly and Gannett. You can find her thoughts about Indy scattered throughout the NUVO arts section and... more

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