Tar Heel Bred: Ali Farahnakian

Tar Heel Bred: Ali Farahnakian

Meet Ali Farahnakian. He's a Tar Heel who's performed in improv comedy theatres all over the country. Now, he's opening his own in Chapel Hill.

Above: Ali Farahnakian. Photo by Austin Goins.

Behind every pair of eyes that wander across the Pit, every heart that pumps in time with the Bell Tower chimes and every ear that harks the sound of Tar Heel voices, there’s a story. Each human being in Chapel Hill is made up of little moments, big and small, that brought them to wherever they may be. Tar Heel Bred is a weekly project that sheds light on those moments through a photograph and a quote. Each week, a new Chapel Hillian will be featured with a story, quoted straight from them, about the moments that make up their lives. Here’s to them.

Ali Farahnakian, owner of The Peoples Improv Theatre

From: Esfahan, Iran

In Chapel Hill: attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, owner of the The PIT-Chapel Hill

Farahnakian graduated from UNC-CH in 1990, and his journey included things like Second City, the Upright Citizens Brigade, Saturday Night Live and opening the Peoples Improv Theatre in New York City in 2002. The naming of the PIT was no coincidence. His time at Chapel Hill had a lot to do with it.

“I wanted to have improv in the title and theatre in the title, and we just visited China to visit [my friend] Chris where he was working, and there’s the People’s Republic of China. So all of a sudden the Peoples Improv Theatre came out, and then we realized the acronym was the PIT, which was where we spent a lot of time in Chapel Hill — the original Pit — so it kind of solidified things.”

After Farahnakian and his wife saw a building in Chapel Hill was up for grabs, they saw it as an opportunity.

“I’m an alumnus of UNC — I’m a Tar Heel. When we found out the space at 462 West Franklin was going to be abandoned as a comedy theatre and a community space, we got in touch with the landlord, and the landlord and I were kindred spirits in a way. And we said, let’s see if we could put a community space — a comedy theatre — in the location. Otherwise, it was going to be turned into office space. Hopefully we’ll bring a small performance arts space that will be for anywhere from 30 to 90 people to come and watch other people do performance arts — whether it’s comedy or whether it’s poetry or whether it’s bluegrass or whether it’s a TED talk. Hopefully it’ll be a space at West Franklin that people can come to to get away and hopefully laugh and think.”

Photo by Austin Goins.

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