X-Men & Improv

I think I joined
An improv team
Because it was the closest
I could ever get
To being on the X-Men

The X-Men are outcasts
Banding together
To serve a world
That hates and fears them

The work is hard
And the rewards are meager
But the bonds
That are formed
In the struggle
Are what make
Every single battle worth it

Same goes for an improv team
Bad shows in front of cold audiences
“Do you get paid” questions
From relatives who want you to sell out
Enough money for gas or food
But not both
Normies confusing improv for stand up
“Tell me a joke” they always ask
Explaining your life choices
To adult friends
With zero sense of humor
Always peppering in
“It’s like whose line”
To explain to someone
Who has no f****** clue
What improv is

This is all made bearable
By people who understand the struggle
People who just get it
Because they got to deal
With the same shit

To find people
Who understand your pain
Embrace your peculiarities
And just love your weird
That they want more of it
That’s what it feels like to
Be on a good improv team

And that’s probably
What it feels like
To be an X-Man



Happy Birthday, Josh Heimendinger 

Poem 65

I think the

Measure of a man

Is how much

He is willing

To give of himself

To the world
And you

Josh Heimendinger

Have given yourself

To the world
You’re a family man

Who loves his wife and daughter

Whose also a big brother

To an improv community

That loves and holds you dear
When so many others

Have chosen to coast

On the efforts of others

You have chosen

To get out and push
You have chosen

To do the

Hard and necessary work

To keep

The Specs Community alive
You have chosen service

Over being a bystander

You have chosen building

Over criticizing

You have chosen others

Over your self
You have given

So much of yourself

That the rest of us

Have an excellent model

To follow
You’re my brother

And I love you

Not because I

Say that to be nice
I say that

Because we’ve been

In the trenches together

Giving our life force

To this great art form

And this great community

That has given our lives

Purpose and joy
Happy Birthday, brother


Why Empathy Is An Improviser’s Super Power 

Why Empathy Is An Improviser’s Super Power

By Fernando A. Funes

Knowing how to read people’s emotions is amazing, and it’s what separates okay improvisers from the greats.

Being able to read my scene partner’s emotional state allows me to respond appropriately.

Unless my partner tells me what he wants me to do in a scene, or there was some type of premise generator (like a monologue) for us to have a shared bank of ideas to pull from, all I have is my ability to emotionally read my scene partner.

And this ability transfers over to real life too.

The other day I was at Target looking for heat pads for my low back pain. 
I saw the store manager right at the entrance. 

As I approached him, I saw him barking orders to two big security guards as they monitored the front registers of the store.

Obviously this wasn’t a good time to ask him for help. Maybe he was looking for a thief, or something had triggered him to that high level alertness.

Another cashier was in the area with a look of concern on her face.

Whatever was going on, the vibe he was giving out was for all the employees to be alert.

I don’t know if this is true; this is just the feeling I got from the situation, and it was all in a matter of seconds.

Not that anybody else could not read his agitated state. For me, it was just instant — there was no question that I had no business asking this guy for help.

It’s weird having this ability to read people’s emotions so quickly.

It’s almost like Spider-Man’s Spidey Sense. Spidey-Sense is Spider-Man’s warning system. It alerts him when danger is imminent and that he has to take immediate action if he’s going to avoid danger.

Spider-Man can sense when a car is being thrown at him by Dr. Octopus or whomever. His Spidey-Sense kicks in and he takes immediate action.

Although it begins automatic and unconscious, once he starts doing the action — dodging a car — he becomes conscious and aware of what’s going on, and he continues to avoid danger.

For improvisers, maybe our ability to read people’s emotions is our Spidey Sense — we’re able to read people’s current emotional states and we then know how to treat them.

We can read facial gestures, posture, and other physical cues to surmise how a person is feeling — and we can do it relatively fast (maybe even faster than the non-improviser?) and that’s what makes us above average in emotional intelligence.

I’m not saying other people can’t do this (empathy is easier for some than others); I’m just saying that improvisers have this trait honed and developed more than your average person.

And like Spider-Man, it’s not like an improviser can turn off their empathy. It’s active at all times of the day. Whether I’m at work, the grocery, or wherever, I can read people’s emotional states.

And if someone needs some empathy, and I can give it to them, I’ll do my best. 

Sometimes someone is going through a shitty day and they just need someone to vent to. I’m down with that.

Sometimes, though, I can’t give the empathy they need because I’m in a rush, I have somewhere to be. 

Or sometimes, I lack the patience to listen and not judge and just accept. Plus, I’m not a therapist.

But hey, when I can, I listen and I empathize. I don’t know if a lot of improvisers are this way.

Conclusion: empathy is a super power that improvisers have because of the demand of their art form. 

It allows us to emotionally connect and understand what others are going through (to a certain extent), and because of that heightened ability, it’s one of the things that improvisers have that your non-improviser doesn’t have. It’s always nice to give empathy, but you can’t always give it. 

Therefore, if you’re in a position where you can give it, do it because you’ll probably be helping someone out.

If you dug this post, would you mind liking it and sharing or pressing one of the share buttons below? Thanks

Fernando A. Funes


How The Macho Man Taught Me To Commit

(Pic courtesy of Jonathan Blake)


Dear Macho Man Randy Savage

Thank you for teaching me

How to commit
An emotion must be seized

And the force behind it

Must persist
Do this always

And all doubt

Will cease and desist
The audience 

Will only believe

As much as you believe

You have to learn

To give energy

The more you give 

The more you receive
And the air will fill

With positive energy

For you to breathe
To not commit

Is to lose the match

Before the bell has been rung
To go to a big party

And not have any fun
To quit on yourself 

And the audience

Before the show is done
So commit

Commit like

A man on fire

Looking for a bucket of water
Commit like a mom in a barn

Giving birth

To her 1st born baby daughter
Commit like

Two competitive fat guys

Playing on a teeter totter
Commit, commit, commit

Double down on choices

Doubt nothing

To silence the chorus

Of critics’ voices
Choose to commit

Every time you do a show

Hell, show or no show

Choose to commit

Every moment of your daily life

Because the Macho Man would


The Improv Life: The (1) Thing I Will Take Away From My Pack Level 1 Improv Clas


(Whether sketch or improv, I love the Pack Stage)

Respect Your Scene Partner’s Initiations

So many scenes die before they are born because of initiations.

It could be that an initiation is never clear, or that someone disregards what has been offered because they think they have a better idea.

I definitely fall in that camp.

I play fast, which is not always a good thing.

Playing fast is fun for both me and the audience, but that means that sometimes I don’t fully comprehend what my scene partner is asking of me.

Basically, someone comes out with an initiation of some kind, my brain sees something interesting in that initiation and then I just take off with the idea.

Although it’s fun to play that way, it’s not always respectful of my scene partner’s choice. In fact, it’s a dick move on my part, and I just realized that.

This problem is only made worse by the fact that “Yes-And” culture of improv means that once an idea morphs into some thing, it’s up to everybody involved to make that idea come to life

I didn’t know this was a problem until I started to work with Brian James O’Connell of the Pack Theater in his Level 1 Class.

Brian has a whole science of how to approach initiations — it’s pretty deep, profound, and practical — so hit him up if you want the whole breakdown (or better yet take Level 1 with him at the Pack!). 

Brian really drilled into me to always support the initiation of my partner.

If you’re partner comes out with an idea, it’s your job to support that idea no matter what and to the best of your ability.

Whether their initiation is a fully baked premise, or it’s not yet even clear to them, it’s on you to build on their choice, because their choice is the first choice of the scene, therefore, it’s the most important choice of the scene.

What happens from there is fair game, but you are obligated to support that first choice and help your scene partner turn their initiation into what they envisioned, or into something even better! Who knows?

Furthermore, what’s great about Brian is that he always corrected me whenever I would introduce my idea without fully supporting whatever the initiation was.

“Wait a minute. He has an idea. Go with that first,” and other statements like this were always included with the correction.

The correction was immediate and direct, but it was necessary to destroy my old habit and establish a new one.

Baseball Analogy: It’s like Brian is a great hitting coach and he was helping me out with my baseball swing. Before I even got to swing the bat, he could already tell by my stance how I would execute my swing. By changing my stance, he improved my probability of hitting the ball and getting on base.

It’s easy to take initiations for granted, or not see your choices as disrespectful to your scene partner, but after 8 weeks of a really fun and enlightening class — take it now to learn Position Play and how to apply it to your current improv style! — I learned to really respect the initiation of my scene partner, and to overall, really respect all of my scene partner’s choices.

Thank you Pack Level 1 for teaching me all of this!