Noah Gregoropoulos, an influential actor and teacher who helped build the skills of generations of Chicago improvisers, has died of cancer at 63 at his Lakeview home.
Over more than three decades, Gregoropoulos instructed, directed and performed with hundreds of aspiring improvisers, including such future stars as Adam McKay, Rachel Dratch, David Koechner and Tim Meadows. He was a principled teacher who focused on the artistry of long-form improv, rather than the humor, and was often remembered for pushing his students to strive for a thoughtful approach beyond the easy laugh, not just going for the joke.
Gregoropoulos demonstrated his convictions in a 2000 Sun-Times story about improv suggestions, addressing some performers’ complaints about audience members yelling out would-be funny ideas like “proctologist.” “If you’re irritated by the suggestion because you’ve gotten it too much, you’re a lazy improviser and you’re probably an idiot,” he said. “What you should be doing is getting a book about proctology and — before the next time you get the suggestion proctology — knowing more about proctology than anyone in the room, and playing the most knowledgeable, incredibly competent proctologist anyone ever saw. Then you’re doing your job.”
A New England native who graduated from Northwestern University, Gregoropoulos fell in with improv during its formative years in the mid-1980s. At Second City he directed the theater’s first long-form improv show, “Lois Kaz,” in 1994 and a 1998 revue at the e.t.c. theater called “If The White House Is A-Rockin’, Don’t Come A-Knockin’.” As a performer, Gregoropoulos brought his droll intelligence to hundreds of Chicago shows, as a member of the iO team Carl and the Passions, as a regular at its “Armando Diaz Experience” shows and in the cast of the groundbreaking 1990s show “Jazz Freddy.”
While his focus was always on Chicago work, Noah worked in TV as well, writing for the ABC sitcom “Dharma and Greg”, TBS’ “My Boys” and FX’s “Fargo”.
Noah also taught improv at DePaul University’s Theatre School as an adjunct faculty member from 2012 to 2020.
Survivors include Gregoropoulos’ wife, Linda Orr, a fellow improv performer, as well as his brother Steven Gregoropoulos of Los Angeles and sister Vilma Gregoropoulos of North Stonington, Connecticut.