For comedian Jill Bourque, her improv shows are not about making fun of her audience members for a few "ha ha's."
The 45-year-old Castro Valley native is looking to bring uplifting laughter to local couples with her improv show "How We First Met."
"The humor comes out of the 'Aha!' moments of what it's like to fall in love," she said.
The show runs throughout the year and is often sold out in San Francisco. It will debut in on March 10.
Rather than embarrassing the participating couples, Bourque said the show "builds them up" and celebrates their love by playing out their earliest encounters, "kind of like a movie."
She interviews couples live on stage while her team of improvisors reenact those real-life romantic rendezvous into mini sketches and songs.
After doing the show more than a decade, Bourque said she never gets sick of hearing peoples' stories — each one unique. Despite how one may think she now has enough knowledge to possibly pass as a couples therapist or even professional matchmaker, Bourque said she's still clueless about love.
"After all these years, I have no idea why people fall in love," she said. "I see no pattern. It's one of the most unreasonable acts of humans."
Three couples per show are selected based on the most online votes they receive on their couple profile submissions featured on Bourque's website.
They are brought on stage, all at once, and the improvisors bounce between each couples' stories throughout the show.
The show welcomes couples of all lifestyles and backgrounds to participate — gay, straight, those married for decades and those dating for only a few weeks.
"It's kind of like couples are falling in love all over again," Bourque said.
Tragic Beginnings to Happy Endings
"How We First Met" was sparked by Bourque's wedding 12 years ago and how people kept asking how she met her huband Layne.
"We met at his roof-deck party in San Francisco when I went there with a mutual friend," she shared. "He was a new transplant from Texas. Couldn't resist his Southern charm."
Bourque was visiting New York City when the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred.
In the months following, she was searching for a way to lift peoples' spirits including her own and became inspired to introduce the show to other countries.
"It was such a traumatic time and I thought my show was a good thing for New York," Bourque said.
From Canada to Japan, Bourque reached out to a dozen improv groups around the globe to see if they wanted to recreate the show in their respective areas.
The cluster of shows debuted on Valentine's Day of 2002. It was there where Bourque met a couple at the New York show who broke up before 9/11 but quickly got back together after realizing their love was too precious to take for granted.
The show became a huge success and what was intended to be a one-time act was repeated each year by those various improv groups, including her own.
"It just struck a chord with everyone that night," Bourque said. "People were crying and laughing at the same time."
Leaving Finance For Funny
While getting her degree in finance, Bourque had a love affair with comedy after taking an improv class on a whim.
"I just loved it. It totally changed my life," she said.
Though she continued her successful career as the owner of a financial public relations firm, she also pursued comedy on the side.
That love grew stronger as she moved from improv to stand-up five years ago. Aside from "How We First Met," Bourque continues to do stand-up because of the "freeing" feeling it gives her.
"I feel like my stand-up act is my 'me time'," Bourque said.
After juggling her business, comedy shows and her two kids, she realized one had to go.
"It wasn't going to be the kids," she joked.
She left her job in finance public relations right before the economic downturn and hasn't looked back since.
For more information on Bourque and her comedy shows, visit her website at www.jillbourque.com.
For a chance to star in the March 10 show in Castro Valley, submit your story and photo here.