ONE OF THE KEY differences between improv and stand-up comedy is that the best improv is generated spontaneously, never to be recreated, while the best stand-up is written, tested, and rewritten until it can reliably seem spontaneous.

But Curious Comedy Theater's current show, Instant Comedy, drops that distinction. Five comics get 10 suggestions from the audience, and they are sent off to write 10 brand-new jokes in one hour. While the comics are writing, Curious Comedy's in-house improv troupe performs. The Curious improv cast rotates a bit every show, which can lead to some inconsistencies, but there are always enough laugh-out-loud moments to make up for any rough spots—especially if the incredibly funny and sharp Katie Behrens and Jed Arkley are anywhere near that stage. After an intermission, the stand-up comedians come back to deliver the goods; the audience votes for the winner, who gets the coveted prize of a bag of groceries.

It's no small task to get up on stage in front of a bunch of strangers and try to make them laugh—and that's with material you've had time to practice. To do it with only an hour to prepare seems more akin to ritual sacrifice. Saturday's show (every night's lineup is different) included Anthony Lopez, Sean Jordan, Phil Schallberger, Andie Main, and Randy Mendez. Every single one of them deserved the riotous applause they received, simply for their willingness to get up there and risk totally bombing.

Some connected better than others, but each of them managed to land at least a few jokes. Lopez wrote a lot of the most fully formed material of the night and had the audience on the floor with a bit about how taxidermists really need to get more creative. Schallberger went with a Southern-fried trash character and, impressively, stayed committed to it all the way through. The night's winner was Jordan, whose easy charm was combined with a well-done bit about getting laid because of mad yo-yo skills.

It's not the most finely honed night of comedy you'll see around town, but it's one of the most fun—and that's the point. There's something compelling about watching the creative process, especially in an environment like the one Curious has created—where jokes that don't land are forgiven, and the ones that do are rewarded with laughter and thunderous applause.