The typical Ann Arbor summer night crowd was hard-pressed to recognize Mayor John Hieftje coasting down Main Street on his bicycle en route to a popular comedy club last Wednesday night.
Hieftje appeared as a guest on the stage of Citizen Improv, a weekly show at Improv Inferno on Main Street that features a different community citizen each week.
“Citizen Improv selects volunteer speakers to share three short real-life stories that inspire our team of improvisers,” said Citizen Improv Artistic Director Dan Izzo. “This show is a good chance for the mayor to present himself to voters in a personal, rather than political context.”
With the Ann Arbor Democratic Primary election approaching on August 8, the show was an opportunity for the mayor to fuel his re-election campaign. City Councilwoman Wendy Woods (D-Ward 5), the mayor’s challenger in the Democratic primary, will appear as the Citizen Improv guest July 26.
In his monologues, Hieftje primarily focused his stories on personal experiences such as working in real estate, camping and campaigning for his first mayoral election.
Though his narratives were mainly about his own life, the mayor did add a few remarks about the city of Ann Arbor.
“Each of the five wards here have a different personality,” he said. “The second is fairly conservative, the third is more liberal,” he said.
The University’s campus primarily falls into the first and second wards.
The Inferno’s team of improvisers then elaborated on each of Hieftje’s narratives with lighthearted humor, using the stories to loosely-base an act about the fifth ward and poking fun at Hieftje’s anti-climactic account of working in real-estate.
“He had great material, which is helpful,” said Improv team member Katie Thomas. “The more details the better.”
Mayor Hieftje added some serious commentary between acts to educate constituents about his political stance.
“We want something interesting for everyone to do in our town, an exciting place that visually inspires creative minds.”
An echo of constant laughter hummed around the small stage as the audience observed the mayor’s laid-back style.
“At first I was scared to see the mayor take on such a casual role, but I thought he was very funny and appropriate,” Ann Arbor resident Brian Martis said.