THE PILOT, ImprovOlympic, and BRICK: PERTONIFY, Brick Productions, ImprovOlympic. People don’t go into improv because they love theater. They go into it because they want to be on TV. It can work, too: consider the current cast of Saturday Night Live, many of whom cut their teeth at ImprovOlympic or Second City.

In The Pilot, one set of improvisers plays a team of entertainment executives who flesh out a premise for a TV pilot–taking a title from the audience–including setting, characters, and a detailed backstory. This team also includes a guest celebrity–Sun-Times TV critic Phil Rosenthal on the night I saw the show. He turned in a decent performance, thanks in part to a little help from his onstage partner, ImprovOlympic teacher Peter Gwynn. After the brainstorming, another team creates a fully improvised half-hour pilot, complete with commercials.

Having a strong ensemble is essential to this kind of improv, and directors Brad Morris and Charlie McCrackin have put together a great one–likable, energetic, inventive, and, most important, capable of playing well together. When I saw the show, they came up with a very eccentric but amusing half sitcom, half tragicomedy, “Wildfire,” about a dysfunctional family in which the father is a fire chief and the lovable Beaver Cleaver-ish son is a pyromaniac. Carrie Barrett and Jim Toth in particular were very funny as the pesky adolescent sister and the kooky neighbor with a scary past. Kate Hawley also deserves kudos for her hypnotic impersonation of fire.

Every ambitious improv troupe with some talent eventually puts on a sketch-comedy revue like Brick’s Pertonify. Such shows, usually filled with young, eager, but still green performers, often contain flashes of brilliance; in Pertonify, a young man’s ladylove keeps correcting his idealized, mildly annoying view of her. Such shows also usually have plenty of flaws–overwritten scenes, uneven performances, long blackouts. Pertonify is no exception, unlikely to be consistently entertaining except to family and friends.