Shame!

First Time?

I felt instant improv shame earlier this week…

I’ve been reading Mick Napier’s “Improvise. Scenes from the Inside Out” (a book I feel I should have read a long time ago, and feel even more shame about having waited so long to pick it up.) In a Harold show, playing with people with whom I don’t regularly play, I pulled a rookie “This is my first time…” move to initiate a scene.

According to Napier, first day/time scenes are justifications allowing the improviser to be incompetent or uninformed in the scene. Basically, by admitting to not knowing anything, you put the onus on your partner to do all the heavy lifting.

Reading the book, I honestly didn’t think I had a problem with “first days” or too much justification. But as I entered the scene on Tuesday and those words came out of my mouth, I wanted to hit the Rewind button and swallow them back in.

I imagined Napier walking into the theatre, hearing me utter those words, roll his eyes and walk right back out.

Luckily, I had a good partner. And heavy-lifting, he did.

A nice thing about a long form set is that there’s often chances to redeem yourself.

Hit it Harder

Later in the set, I rolled around on the floor for what felt like hours (it was maybe max 15 seconds.) This is a pretty big physical offer, even for someone who doesn’t mind the occasionally large physical offer. In these moments, I felt a strong sense of “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? YOU LOOK LIKE A FOOL” — not only in my own head, but I imagined it coming from the other characters in the scene and every other improviser in the audience.

It had also been a while since I’ve felt those feelings on stage. It’s often my job to be foolish. By now, I’m pretty used to it. But it is interesting to notice that sense of the anxiety to conform still exists in my trained-to-be-silly brain.

Conversely, I also felt a sense of ridiculous joy rolling around on the floor, in the act itself, and the reaction it was garnering from my scene partners. This helped me double down on my commitment to it.

“If you feel like bailing in an improv scene hit it even harder, instead” – Mick Napier

That I did. And I even brought the rolling around back in a later beat.

All this to say that the shame I felt at the beginning of the scene did not stop me from committing. The inner judgement didn’t close me off and make me comment on the scene instead of fully engage in it. It may have even helped me play harder.

So don’t let shame, embarrassment or self-judgement shut you down. Improv needs you to be open, and it’s hard to do that if you’re worried about pleasing everybody, including a director from Chicago you’ve never even met.

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Student Realisations

I wanted to share this direct quote from a student of mine in this WONDERFUL Level A intensive I had the pleasure of leading this weekend. I think it says a lot about not limiting our own creativity and letting our own ideas shine. Here we go:

Why did I limit myself to (being) a bee? That guy was a fucking spoon!

Frig, I love teaching improv.

Improv Things

I normally think I’m pretty good at taking notes when it comes to new students. I’m teaching them how to be present in improv scenes, so I make it my goal to be super present when they’re telling me about themselves on the first day.

I went back to check the notes I took last night in class, and realized the notes I wrote for the last student were not especially helpful. I must have been in a hurry to get things started. The question I asked was: “why did you decide to sign up for an improv class?” and the note I took down for her response was: “improv things” and a squiggle.

Nice one Brie. Pretty sure everyone else signed up for “improv things” too.

 

Gallery

Chicago, my beacon

Last weekend, my longtime best bud Dina and I took a road-trip down to Chicago. I’d wanted to see The Second City’s all-women “She The People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It For Themselves” because:

  • it sounded like a cool show
  • I like the idea of an all-women cast
  • I wanted to go back to Chicago & Dina had never been to this city of wonders
  • Feminism.

The show was fantastic and the experience had everything I could ask for, including an uncomfortable middle-aged white man at my table unsure as to why his wife and daughter took him to see this particular show. (See “feminism.”)

For the record, the scene with the dinosaur suit was hundo p my favourite.

I don’t do this very often on WordPress, but I thought I’d post a few choice photos from my trip to Chi-town with Dina.

Traveling for improv is probably my favourite thing to do right now; and that I got to have this quick little trip into improv mecca (we saw a show at the iO! as well) with my Dina, (who I’ve know basically my entire life and who has recently agreed to start an improv company with me,) well that was just the icing on the cake. Or the cheese on the deep-dish, if you will.

I can’t wait to see where improv-travel will take me next. Or what all-women show I produce as a result of the burning hot lady-fire She the People lit under my ass.

 

 

It takes a village

Last night, my Niagara-based improv ensemble premiered our competitive-style “Improv Fallout” show for a standing-room-only house in downtown St. Catharines. It was, to be brief, incredible.

Mainly, I wanted to point out what else went behind the production, because it was one of the first times in my career as a comedy producer that I had a team of individuals around me, supporting a project so enthusiastically that ALL these things happened:

  • First of all, they actually invited people to come friggin’ see them perform, so we packed the house ’til it was, as mentioned standing-room-only.
  • When given the rehearsal schedule, some performers requested additional rehearsal time to ensure their performance would be up to snuff.
  • They showed up for rehearsal like, AN HOUR before their call to help set up without being asked.
  • They created an art wall for the show JUST FOR FUN.

Screenshot 2018-03-25 23.20.42

  • One of the performer’s partners agreed to work the Box Office.
  • One of the performer’s partners took really great photos during the show.
  • A performer who WASN’T EVEN ON THE SHOW agreed to collect email addresses so we could continue to spread the word about our group and ran back and forth to help make sure the show ran smoothly again, without being asked.
  • One of the performers fearlessly approached people asking for suggestions before the show started.
  • One of the performers hand-crafted voting circles with one colour on one side, and the other on the other side, which was challenging she admitted, but worth it because they looked so good!
  • Some of our performers took to social media before, during and after the show to share the experience with others.
  • Some of our performers learned how to use social media for the show.
  • One of the performers went to Fabricland for the first time in her life to actually buy fabric to be used to discern the different teams on stage.
  • Our tech created a special playlist for the show to get the audience feelin’ funky.
  • One of the performers risked his neck to drape the curtains in such a way as to make the space look a bit more ascetically pleasing.
  • One of the performers drove a long long way to come to the show even though she’d worked all day and had to go right back immediately after the performance.
  • One of the performers refused payment until it was physically forced onto him. (That’s right, the performers were paid.)
  • All of the performers were super supportive of one another on stage as well as off stage and, even after being “voted off” the show stayed intensely engaged with participating in the show with members of the audience and online.
  • I’m probably forgetting a million more things…

 

It’s INCREDIBLE to know that this wonderful collaboration is what it can feel like to create live comedy.

My Creative Metadata

Again, reading along with Ben Noble’s weekly newsletter, he brought up the concept of Creative Metadata. Quick, read that article. Go on. I’ll be here.

OK good, you came back.

I thought it’d be cool from time to time to talk a bit about the creative metadata I produce as a producer of comedy shows (and an improv teacher / writer / podcaster / comedy performer/ etc.)

For example, here’s some metadata for today. Enjoy!

I bought a chalk-board to keep score for next week’s Improv Fallout show at Michael’s. It was not an essential purchase, but I thought it’d be fun / cute.

Updated bujo & trello boards. Doesn’t seem like English, but it helps keep me on my game.

I wrote up the structure for the games and the order of the games we’ll be playing at next weekend’s show. This is first show of Improv Niagara’s 2nd year in existence. In rehearsal, I had most of the cast try out the structure of the games. It’ll work better with an audience. Right now it feels less flowy than our regular rehearsals, but I think it’ll be a really great show. Slight hiccup with a thing I don’t want to go into too much detail about, but hiccup was had and water was consumed (this is a metaphor.) I switched up one of the games last minute because I realized it’d be more fun than the original one I’d written down. Nobody shines in Movie in a Minute. It’s just mass chaos.

Before rehearsal, I began editing a new podcast my brother and I recorded a few weeks ago. It’s a long one, but an interesting one. Tried to make sure to post a new quote from our last guest’s episode and to make the design interesting enough that people will be drawn to it. Update at the end of the day = no tweet likes. Stupid Twitter.

Realizing being home in Niagara is giving me tonnes of stand-up material I should be writing down. Operative note, should. This is why I stopped doing stand-up. Improv requires less pockets for tiny joke books. 

The official *data* of this will be an awesome improv show next Saturday and a great new edition of The Constant Struggle Podcast and MAYBE a new stand-up routine in the near future? <— (and normally that’s all people get to see, none of this nifty behind-the-scenes metadata.)

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention one last important piece of metadata:

ALL TIME on the crapper is spent promoting shows and liking posts on social media.

ALL TIME.

2 Quick Improv Tips for Performers & Producers

In my experience as an improviser, improv instructor and improv producer, there are two things that have just come to my mind; little tidbits of experience I would like to impart onto anyone who might stumble upon this blog seeking profound insight:

  1. It’s probably not a good idea to try to sell drugs at an improv audition. (Like actually, not just in a scene.)
  2. If want a clean show, you should probably let the cast know before they start playing “Sex with Me.” Definitely before they engage in a slo-mo sex scene.

Yours truly.

What is happening rn?