Take Notes, Watch Seinfeld, & Get Obsessed

(You never know how one really powerful note can change everything).

This post was supposed to be about how taking notes and watching improv shows makes you a better comedian. 

But it got derailed when I remembered a chance encounter I had with an amazing improv teacher named Dan Gibberman during my San Francisco improv days. 

If you read the post, you can track my thought process and notice the shift. 

Anyways, I hope you enjoy this post and get something out of it.

Fernando

Take Notes, Watch Seinfeld, & Get Obsessed

I want to keep getting better in improv. That’s why I take notes and go to shows. These two things are a way for me to get better without me having to be on stage or being involved in the scene. Here’s why you should do the same. 

1. Physically writing something down will help you retain a piece of information better than just listening.

2. You don’t have to take notes verbatim. You can write something down in a way that makes sense for you.

2a. When you do that, you’re able to understand an improv concept better because you were able to articulate it in your own words. 

2b. And if you can do that, you can break down that improv concept for others and help them understand it. 

2c. Sharing with others what you know is a great way to retain something and process it at a deeper level. 

2d. Plus, it’s nice to help others come to their own understanding on a topic. You’ll never know when they’ll do the same for you. 

3. You’ll be more attentive in improv class because you’ll constantly be on the look out for something profound to be said and then written down. 

3a. A lot of profound things are said in improv, and you’ll never know when one off hand comment may change the way you play forever. 

3b. That happened to me years ago in San Francisco.

3c. My indy Harold team, 8oz Baby was working with a guy named Dan Gibberman.

3d. Dan was an improv boss out of UCB New York who changed the way I did improv forever in a 2 hour workshop.

3e. “Every improv scene has a basic logic to it. Once you find the logic of it, just do things that serve the logic of the scene.” 

3f. I mean, Wow! For me, as an improviser 4 years in with no training from a big school, that was life changing. 

3g. If I could attribute my improv style to one thing, it’s probably always having that rule in the back of my head when I play. 

3h. I wrote that phrase down and I have carried it with me ever since. 

3i. Even though I only  worked with Dan that one time, I’m a better improviser for it.

3j. He also broke down the Harold for me by saying that any episode of Seinfeld was a perfect Harold.

3k. I then watched a lot of Seinfeld because I thought it would make me a better improviser. 

3L. It did. I was able to better recognize game, heightening, theme, and how to bring things together in the third beat of a Harold. 

3m. Once I understood the comedy science behind Seinfeld, it became more enjoyable to watch. 

3n. Seinfeld was funny before, but it became more pleasurable to watch when I realized each episode was built on games, gags, and jokes echoing a few central themes. 

3o. I loved it so much I taught the Harold to my Berkeley college group. I don’t know if I was successful. 

3p. I even coached a two man Harold team in Orange County because of how much I loved it. 

3q. For 6 months, 3 hours a week, all we did was work on Harolds. 

3r. Looking back, I had this language that I loved and I just wanted to share it with others. 

3s. The obsessive process of which I watched Seinfeld with was repeated with 30 Rock.

3t. Besides the Simpsons, no television show has informed and shaped my comedy voice as much as 30 Rock. 

3u. I love 30 Rock so much, I teared up a little writing that last part. 

3v. My dream job would be to work on a thematic sitcom like 30 Rock or Seinfeld. 

3w. This blog got derailed when I started talking about Dan Gibberman. 

3x. He gave me a language to study and understand comedy. I’ve been better for it ever since.

3y. Thank you Dan, whenever you are.

3z. Take notes, learn the comedy science of your favorite shows, get obsessed. If we’re ever going to have a philosophy become our play style we have to break it down molecule by molecule and get crazy obsessed with it.

#improv

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The Improv Life: We’re All Going To Die, So Let’s Make Stuff, Or How A Magical Sunday At The Pack Theater Validated My Life Decisions

Nothing like doing what you love in front of fellow dreamers. Thanks to Hope Richards for the Pic.

The Best Bit I Have Ever Witnessed

I’m almost died in a car accident a few years ago. 

Confronted with death, I reassessed my life and made some bold choices. 

Long story short, my long chain of decisions led me to having a super fun show Sunday night at Strawberries, a super fun mash up show at the Pack Theater. 

Every seat was filled, the audience was hot, and you could just feel the positive energy in the house. It was a great show.

Next came Speedface and Erik Wargo & Elisa N. Ellis put on one of the best bits ever, Crowd Surfer, where Elisa was crowd surfed to the back and front of the theater on a boogie board, and it was just magical. 

I was just amazed by a bit that literally forced everyone in the community to come together and support one of our own.

It was one of the best bits/pieces of art/metaphor for what it’s like to be part of a community I have ever witnessed. 

Later that night, I drove home all the way back to Orange County just exhausted from an incredible day of LA Comedy Magic all revolving around sketch.

As I passed the 605 interchange on the 5 South— the halfway mark between LA and home— I thought about dying in a car accident. 

It was Sunday night. It was late. I was tired, and one drop of focus could mean life or death. 

And this is a thought I have frequently whenever I have to haul ass back to the OC on a late night. 

Knowing that I can die in my car in the middle of the 5 scares the shit out of me, but it’s also energizing. 

It reminds me that I have a mission on Earth that I have to carry out. What that mission is, I don’t know. I just know that I’ll find it doing what I love.

And what I love took me to the Pack Theater to witness and participate in a moment I will carry with me forever. 

And that magical night at the Pack was validation that I made the right choice when I decided to double down on comedy 9 years ago. 

Make stuff you’re passionate about with people you love because we’re all going to die. 
And you don’t know when that time will come, so make every moment count. 

#improv

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The Improv Life: How To Be A Better Improviser Off Stage

Always do your best to be a good citizen of your community and spread positive wherever you go.

Do Good, Be Good

It’s 2018, and it’s time to aspire to be better artists and performers than we currently are. If we expect more out of ourselves, we’ll have to do the things we need to do to become that person. Here are some tips on how to be a better improviser off stage.

1. Go to more shows.

2. Support the teams in your community.

3. Bring donuts or pizza to a show and give them away for free.

4. Thank someone who has helped you out on your journey by buying them food and telling them about it. 

5. Make time for the next generation. Have a beer or coffee with them and hang out.

6. Talk people up. Sing the praises of people you love. 

6a. If you really dig a performer or a team, tell the world why, and let everybody know when & where they perform.

7. Hug someone deep and hold them tight and say “Love you brother.” 

7a. Only do it if you mean it and it comes from the heart. 

8. Promo your shows with the actual intent of getting people there. 

8a. Don’t do it just for you, but to showcase the talent of your team and bring attention to your theater. 

8b. You never know what might happen? Maybe you’ll get a new long term fan or inspire someone to join the tribe. 

9. Be nice, kind, and sincere with others. 

9a. Be cool and accepting, and others will relax around you. 

10. Don’t be a shit talker.

10a. Shit talkers create a toxic environment and lower the standard of a community. 

10b. Basically, don’t judge people, always be nice and cool, and don’t spread rumours. 

11. When you buy Red Bull, buy 2 and give one to a friend. 

12. Set up big social events to bring people together. 

12a. Karaoke nights, pot lucks, the celebration of random holidays like Arbor Day.

13. Just be a good person who puts others first and contributes to their community in the best possible way they can.

These tips are about how to be a better citizen in your community. Believe me, it helps. Never forget: if we love each other off stage, we’ll love each other on stage.

Happy New Year Everybody!

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The Improv Life: 2017 Was A Breakthrough Year

This list and these images do not capture the totality of how awesome this year was. 

Leveling Up

I went next level with my improv in 2017. This was a year of maximizing my artistic potential and becoming the best performer I’ve ever been. 

When you do something you love, growth takes place without you noticing it because you’re too absorbed by what you’re doing. 

1. Jac Floyd and I did one of the best sets I’ve ever done when we improvised a two man movie at the Pack. Go Ghostlight & go Specs!

2. Frankie Estrella, Jonathan Blake, and I became Idiot Dome Champs for 1 glorious month. 

3. Big Selfie did over 20+ shows and experienced explosive growth. Thank you Improv Collective & Spectacles Improv Engine!

4. There were 4 shows in the Springtime where Big Selfie just killed it on the Specs Stage. 

4a. Teresa Zaang had a breakthrough moment as the “Church Fox.”

5. Ghostlight ended our Tuesday night run at the Pack. We did the Movie form proud. 

6. There was a scene this year between Liam O’Mahoney and I where he kept selling me crappy shoes. The audience loved it, and we were both at the top of our game. Some of the best improv I’ve ever done in front of a live audience. 

7. “We’re adults playing make believe” is one of the best things I’ve ever heard.

8. Sang a lot of Morrisey. 

9. Left Improvinitus after 2 and a half years back with them. Good times, brothers. 

10. American Buffalo did some of the best work we’ve ever done with a piece at the OC Improv Fest called “Truth Cave.” 

11. I guested with All Party No DJ a few times and it was amazing; they are a great team.

12. Finished the Pack Sketch Program & joined a house sketch team, Nightchurch. 

13. Took Idiot 1 at Wet The Hippo and discovered the power of stupid. 

14. I learned to relax more, but still need to chill out more. 

15. Ladies & Gentlemen came to an end, but I learned tons about producing a show. Thank you David Escobedo.

16. The Fullerton Americans brought fun improv to IFL and proved that brown people are Americans too.

16a. We had a rough start, but the Fullerton Americans worked hard & persevered to become a team.

16b. Brittany Brown & I shared a great moment on stage where a fly in the air was used as a metaphor for our relationship in the scene

17. I literally did some of the best improv I’ve ever done with Leo Martinez as Sarcasm & Sincerity, an improv team born from a random facebook post. We’re 9x OC Cagematch Champs and may even break the record in 2018. Love you brother.

18. Joined Snack City, a Pack House Improv Team, after an amazing audition in front of a full audience.

19. I joined the writing staff of Top Story Weekly and had some of my sketches brought to life by some rockstar talent. 

20. Learned a lot about sketch writing from Mike Hughes. 

21. Got to bond a lot with my OC brother, Erik Wargo. 

22. Teresa Zaang allowed me to stay connected with the Improv Collective by casting me in the Murder Mystery Show a whole bunch this year.

23. I got to rub my bare and sweaty teets on Austen Floyd for a show and it was amazing. 

24. Filmed a script I wrote for Pack Digital 1. Stay tuned for it in 2018.

25. Did more shows than I’ve ever done. I’m blessed because I love nothing more than to be on stage having fun and killing it in front of an audience. 

And I’m also blessed to be part of Spectacles Improv Engine, The Improv Collective, & The Pack Theater — thank you for all the opportunity!

Thank you to all my teams, theaters, and communities that made 2017 one of the best years ever. I can’t wait for 2018! Happy New Year everybody!

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The Improv Life: Why 9 Years Of Improv Helped Me Kick Ass With Sketch

My new sketch brother, Curt Gavin, pours fake blood on me. Picture from Erica Fortes

9 Years Of Failures

Nightchurch 2.0 debuted to a 100+ audience a few weeks ago, and I’m still high from that rush.

It’s nice to have some success with Nightchurch, my new house sketch team at the Pack Theater.  

I got super lucky to be put on this team of committed writers and performers who want to put on the best show possible. 

As an OC dude, I feel like a Brazilian playing in a European Soccer League. Meaning, it’s nice to kick ass in LA and have fun shows & performances.

It took me a long time to get here.

Although I experimented with sketch comedy a few years ago, my comedy chops come from 9 years of improv.

I’ve done hundreds of shows by now, performances in the OC, the Bay Area, LA, and even a handful of shows in Brazil.

In that time, I have failed over and over on stage. I have experienced spectacular humiliation, the kind that would drive weaker men away forever.

I have literally been spit on and even been made fun of because of my race—both at the same show in front of a sold out crowd.

I’ve had shows so bad I get a headache afterwards — and I never get headaches. 

I’ve had shows where I can feel the audience’s disgust descend upon me, causing me to shrink and do everything I can to not cry.

Ladies and gentlemen, in 9 years of doing improv, I have sucked. Millions of times in fact.

9 Years of Triumph

But you know what? I’ve also had successes in those 9 years. 

I’ve killed it in front of packed houses up and down the state, and I’ve killed it in front of strangers.

If you can make a stranger laugh, you know you got something because strangers have no obligation to like you or not.

I’ve had amazing shows where the adrenaline doesn’t go away, so you spend the whole night at a 24 Hour Diner trying to come down. 

I’ve had people come up to me and want to shake my hand for how I made them feel during a set. Those are the best by the way — it’s one of the best forms of validation there is.

I’m not trying to brag. I’m just saying that all my hard earned stage experience made it easier to transition to sketch comedy and have success there. 

After nine years, I’ve earned my stage chops and I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished, and I look forward to the journey ahead.

I still fail and I still suck; it’s just not as often anymore. 

Anyways, check out Nightchurch the 3rd Sunday of the Month with Bedlam at the Pack Theater.

Also, check out their sketch program because it’s amazing — https://www.packtheater.com/classes/sketch/

PS: nothing wrong with ego. If you can’t believe in yourself, how can you get others to do so?

Also, if you dig this post, would you mind hitting one of the share buttons below? I’d appreciate it! 

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