Comedy Imagination Retreat
August 19-21, 2017
Born in Nigeria, raised in Canada and now making her home in Los Angeles as a comedian, actor and host, Aisha Alfa has come a long way after a career as a soccer player. Her most recent accomplishments have been recording her first comedy album You See Me Now (available on iTunes), being a finalist for NBC’s Stand Up Comedy Showcase in LA, receiving the Bob Curry Fellowship from Second City Toronto, winning the Pitch Competition at Just For Laughs with her web series Open Engagement, and doing a TEDx Manitoba talk on embracing failure.
Aisha’s acting career has flourished with roles in the Canadian classic TV show Degrassi (The Next Generation & The Next Class), The Second City Project, Odd Squad, Opie’s Home, Too Much Information, The Beaverton, and her starring role as a cast member of the Air Farce New Year’s Eve sketch show.
Her comedy career has taken her across North America and beyond performing in clubs, festivals, and colleges. Most notable are her appearances at the largest comedy festival in the world Just For Laughs in Montreal, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, the SheDot Fest, the Halifax Comedy Festival, and the SLO Comedy Festival in San Luis Obispo, CA. She was the winner of Winnipeg’s Funniest Person with a Day Job, nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award, and won a Diversity Scholarship from The Groundlings Improv School in Los Angeles. This December Alfa will be performing again at the Cape Town Comedy Club in South Africa.
Aisha’s hosting career includes online hosting of the lifestyle channel the Winnipeg Free Press TV, hosting for TV on Video On Trial, and CBC’s art show Canada In The Frame, as well as live hosting for events such as The Winnipeg Folk Fest, TEDx Manitoba, and TEDx Winnipeg.
Cindy Caponera, a native Chicagoan, has built an impressive career as an actress and writer. She started at the Second City Theater in Chicago where she performed in the National Touring Company, The E.T.C. and Main Stage. As well as many other local plays including, the critically acclaimed performances in Eugene O'Neil's Before Breakfast/Hughie at the Royal George Theater, and Maria Irene Fornes’ Mud at the Chicago Actors’ Project.
Her first solo show, Against the Grain, debuted in Chicago to rave reviews. Followed by the critically acclaimed The Debutante Ball which played in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen, and was produced for Oxygen Network’s Life Out Loud series. Cookies and Booze, her third solo show, has been seen at the HBO Workshop Stage and the Comedy Central Stage in Los Angeles.
Her many television writing/producing credits shows include NBC’s Saturday Night Live and Showtime’s Shameless and Nurse Jackie. She is currently working on another Showtime show, I'm Dying Up Here, about the Los Angeles comedy scene in the 1970's.
Other writing credits include Comedy Central’s Exit 57, starring Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris, Strangers with Candy (guest writer), ABC’s Norm, TBS’s My Boys, and Lifetime’s Sherri. Cindy has also developed comedies and dramas for HBO, FOX, Showtime, and CBS.
Her television acting credits include Sherri, Thick and Thin, Curb Your Enthusiasm, That 70’s Show, SNL, and Exit 57.
Fans can find her at popular LA locales like UnCabaret, Say The Word, Skirball and Sit and Spin performing stories from her first book of essays titled I Triggered Her Bully, a series of tiny memoirs that span her childhood growing up on the south side of Chicago, and writing and performing in New York and Hollywood.
Scott Dikkers is a #1 New York Times bestselling author who founded the world's first humor website, theonion.com. He’s served as The Onion's co-owner and editor-in-chief for much of its history. He’s also a cartoonist whose daily comic strip Jim’s Journal ran in newspapers nationwide for ten years; an accomplished filmmaker who wrote and directed two successful independent features, Bad Meat and Spaceman; and a voice actor who’s been featured on numerous commercials and cartoons, including Saturday Night Live’s TV Funhouse. He developed and currently heads the Writing with The Onion program at The Second City in Chicago. His work has won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, a Peabody, and over 30 Webby Awards. Some of his best-selling books include The Onion’s Our Dumb Century, the self-help parody You Are Worthless, the Jim’s Journal Collections, Trump’s America: The Complete Loser’s Guide, and How To Write Funny.
MARIE FORGEARD is the Lead Scientific Consultant for the Imagination Institute, as well as a post-doctoral fellow at McLean Hospital’s Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Program and Behavioral Health Partial Clinical Research Program. Her research focuses on understanding when and how creative thinking styles and behavior may enhance well-being. To that end, she has investigated the role of motivational styles, personality, psychological flexibility, and self- efficacy, among other constructs. Her past studies have examined this topic in a variety of samples, including professional/aspiring artists and scientists, individuals experiencing highly stressful life events, as well as individuals suffering from psychopathology. Dr. Forgeard was the 2013 recipient of the Frank X. Barron Award from Division 10 of the American Psychological Association (the Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts). Her research has also been funded by grants from the John Templeton Foundation.
ELIZABETH HYDE (Research Specialist, Imagination Institute, Penn) is a 2014 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania currently working as a research coordinator for the Imagination Institute. Also, referred to as the Institute’s “Chief Curiosity Rover,” Elizabeth loves learning about openness to experience and creativity through the lens of positive psychology.
Kelly Leonard has served in a variety of leadership positions at The Second City for nearly 30 years. He has produced shows with such talent as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Keegan Michael Key, Steve Carell, Adam McKay, and more. He has led collaborations with Lyric Opera Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance, The Kennedy Center, Yoshimoto Kogyo, and Vienna’s English Speaking Theatre. His book, Yes, And, was published by Harper Collins in 2015. He hosts the podcast Getting to Yes, And on WGN Plus. He has spoken and lectured at The Wharton School of Business, The Stanford Graduate School of Business, Aspen Ideas Festival, TEDxBroadway, TEDxZumbroRiver, and Chicago Ideas Week.
Scott Barry Kaufman
SCOTT BARRY KAUFMAN (Scientific Director, The Imagination Institute) is the scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he investigates the measurement and development of intelligence, imagination, and creativity. Kaufman has authored/edited seven books, including Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (with Carolyn Gregoire), Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice, and The Philosophy of Creativity (with Elliot Samuel Paul). Kaufman is also co-founder of The Creativity Post, host of The Psychology Podcast, and he writes the blog Beautiful Minds for Scientific American. Kaufman completed his doctorate in cognitive psychology from Yale University in 2009 and received his masters degree in experimental psychology from Cambridge University in 2005, where he was a Gates Cambridge Scholar.
Anne Libera is the Director of Comedy Studies and coordinator for the B.A. degree in Comedy Writing and Performance at Columbia College Chicago, a unique collaboration with The Second City and the first degree of its kind in the United States. She has worked with The Second City since 1986 and served as the Executive Artistic Director of The Second City Training Centers from 2001 to 2009. Her book, The Second City Almanac of Improvisation is published by Northwestern University Press. For The Second City, she directed The Madness of Curious George, Computer Chips and Salsa, and The Second City Goes to War as well as productions across the United States, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Vienna, Austria, and at sea with NCL. Other directing credits include Stephen Colbert's one-man show Describing a Circle. She has been an artistic consultant to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and reviewed theater for WGN radio.
A cartoonist and the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, Bob Mankoff is one of the nation’s leading commentators on the role of humor in American business, politics, and life.
A successful entrepreneur, he created The Cartoon Bank (now a New Yorker Magazine company), the world’s largest and most influential cartoon licensing businesses.
Bob edited The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, the best-selling coffee table book for holiday edited dozens of other cartoon books and published four of his own. He appears frequently on network talk shows, cable TV networks, and syndicated radio programs.
MARTIN SELIGMAN (Director of the Positive Psychology Center; Executive Director of the Imagination Institute) is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he focuses on positive psychology, learned helplessness, depression, ethno-political conflict, and optimism. He is a best-selling author of several books including, most recently, Flourish. He received the American Psychological Society’s William James Fellow Award for basic science and Cattell Award for the application of science and two Distinguished Scientific Contribution awards from the American Psychological Association. In 1996, Seligman was elected president of the American Psychological Association by the largest vote in modern history. His current mission is the attempt to transform social science to work on the best things in life—virtue, positive emotion, good relationships, and positive institutions—and not just on healing pathology.
Eric Spitznagel is an Executive Writer at Men's Health Magazine, and a frequent contributor to magazines like Playboy, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Maxim, Billboard, Details, The Believer, and the New York Times Magazine, among many others. He’s the author of seven books, most recently Old Records Never Die, published in April by Plume Books, which is a memoir about his year-long quest to find all the vinyl records he gave away in the 90s. (You can read all about it at www.recordsneverdie.com.) He’s also edited several humor anthologies, most recently Care To Make Love In That Gross Little Space Between Cars?, which features questionable life advice from people like
Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis, and Amy Sedaris. He lives in Chicago with his wife and son, the latter of whom wants to be a "mad scientist" when he grows up. (That's now in print, so the author intends to hold him to it.)
Lawrence Wood is the Director of the Housing Practice Group at LAF, the Midwest’s largest provider of free civil legal services to the poor. He also teaches a poverty law seminar at the University of Chicago Law School. In a 2008 speech to the Chicago chapter of the Federalist Society, Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed this seminar as a “waste of time.”
Lawrence has won The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest a record seven times. His article on how to win the contest was featured in The New Yorker’s annual cartoon issue, and Roz Chast drew a caricature of him for the magazine’s contributors’ page. In a Chicago Sun Times article announcing his own victory in the contest, the film critic, Roger Ebert, wrote, “I’m coming for you, Wood.”
Lawrence provided the caption for a cartoon that won second prize and $5,000 in The United Nations’ 2012 Ranan Lurie Political Cartoon Contest, which was judged by noted humorists Secretary General Ban ki-Moon and Elie Wiesel.