The Improv Life: Start Where You Are With What You Have

Where We Are Now Is Not Where We Began

I was driving on one of America’s worst highways yesterday at one of the worst times: The 405 North at rush hour in the South Coast corridor bleeding into Huntington Beach and Westminster.

This part of the 405 is a wall of traffic. It’s like driving in jello. Six lanes provide no relief. If anything, being surrounded by so many vehicles moving at a sun dials pace sets in existential dread.

You think to yourself, “Fuck this traffic, fuck this drive. Why am I doing this?”

What’s funny is for years I did this drive to learn improv.

Every Thursday night, I would drive from Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa to a coffee shop in Old World Village in Huntington Beach.

A group of us were hungry to do more improv than our once a week, 3-hour class at Orange Coast College.

We banded together and taught each other improv through instinct, experimentation, and ambition to be the best.

It’s like we all had this feeling of what good improv was, and what it could be, but we lacked the skill and experience to execute it.

Until then, we we’re going to have to just practice like hell and have patience with the process, and to have faith that one day we would be good.

We probably sucked. I don’t know? All we had was each other as our judges of taste.

However, we were in that stage of learning something called Unconscious Incompetence – we weren’t aware that we were bad (if we were at all? Probably).

We knew, Yes-And, don’t ask questions, don’t deny, and commit.

It’s like we were a bunch of cro-magnon cavemen with flint spears and a whiff of a nearby Woolly Mammoth – we were hungry and wanted to test ourselves.

We just played every short form game over and over because we liked them, unaware that every game reinforced some core improv concept.

New Choice taught you to listen, commit, and adapt.

Good, Bad, Worse taught you how to create a character and commit to living as them.

Countdown taught you to silence the voice in your head and just commit.

We didn’t know we were learning core skills, embedding them into our improv muscle memory. We were just having fun.

All the other stuff would come later –

wanting to start a team,

The slow drift into factions,

feeling insecure about yourself so you talk shit behind other people’s backs;

the petty power politics of the local improv scene and thinking you’re more important than you are;

The toxic improv groups nobody wants to leave because everyone is too chicken shit to talk openly about their feelings.

But good things we’re also waiting for us in the future:

Sold out shows to standing room only audiences,

Hanging out at Norms at midnight with your crew,

The endless parade of bits that made you feel connected to your teammates;

those breakthrough moments on stage where you bring the house down with a crazy character, genius support move, or heart felt monologue;

that moment outside after a show when you look at your friends and know you’re both thinking, “We did something amazing.” All that was in the future.

Right now, all we had was doing improv once a week at a random coffee shop in Huntington Beach.

It’s where we needed be.

It’s where we set the foundation for our future.

Cheers to all the friends front back then, and thanks to Amir the coffee shop owner for letting us play on his patio.

#improv #student #orangecounty #ocimprov


The Sketch Comedy Life: The Thing We Never Talk About After Every Show

Find people who challenge you and inspire you.

We Never Talk About This

The thing no one ever talks about after a show is…that’s it over.

You put all this work into creating this amazing show, an event that both challenges you and excites the audience.

You work like hell for weeks to take these funny ideas in your head, turn them into thought out scripts, get notes, punch them up, and finally pick a chosen few to turn into sketches.

You work hard to put the sketch on its feet. You memorize lines, which is always a freaking labor, the mental equivalent of chopping wood and putting it on a truck.

You work hard to find the funny of a sketch and honor the writing before you, and respect the time of everyone involved.

You rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, constantly fine tuning the piece with every repetition.

The day arrives and you’re racing across town to pick up costumes and props, and even make them with whatever you find at a Goodwill in Burbank or your closet.

Finally, you get on stage, and everything you’ve been preparing for is for this moment.

If you did the work — you’re off book, you got a good costume (or good enough), and you’re ready to go — you’re going to have an amazing time.

New, unexpected things about the sketch will be revealed to you on stage.

Something about a live audience enhances your stage intelligence and that awareness informs your choices in the moment.

The rehearsals were the primer; the performance is the final glossy coat of paint that will reveal the trued beauty of the sketch.

And you crush it, and you feel more alive than you do anywhere else, and there’s no other place you’d rather be than on that stage in a black box theater in Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd.

And then it’s over.

It ends abruptly.

And then you’re just left talking about it with your teammates. One last grasp at a magical moment that’s already turning into a memory.

But no one ever talks about it; it’s over and we have to go back to the lives we have outside of this dream we make room for in our after-our-day-jobs schedules.

Not that those lives are not beautiful, important, and meaningful.

It’s just not this — it’s not hanging out with people who love what you love, everyone challenging and inspiring each other to be the best they can be, and to have all that validated by an audience’s genuine applause.

It ends, you hug each other, and you tell everyone how amazing they were.

You have all this residual positive energy left over, so you go eat tacos to cool down, and that helps, but you just have to move on.

It’s special because it’s finite. If it was on a schedule to do the exact same show everytime, it would lose its magic.

That “I’m only going to do this once” gives the show an added impetus and elevates your performance and enhances your experience.

It’s a bargain you make when you sign up for this life. So you just have to remind yourself of that — it’s only magical because it ends.

Oh well. More memories to look back on when I’m an old fart reflecting on my life.

#sketch #sketchcomedy #packtheater
#moonshot #latinxcomedypachanga #marlando #losangeles #writer #performer #artist


The Improv Life: What I Learned About Owning Your Characters

Find empathy with your characters.

Here are my reflections.

1. At some point, your training will become instinct.

1a. This is more obvious in improv, but it’s also true for sketch.

1b. In improv, your training takes over immediately, and you stop thinking and you start acting. And because you’re making character choices in real time, you’re completely present in the moment.

1c. I was doing a scene with Liam O’Mahoney for the Feb.7th Big Selfie show where I played a narcissistic husband who was obsessed with breaking glasses of milk.

1d. I would get a glass of milk, smash it on the ground, and say, “This is all I know.” I would then ask for another glass of milk to break. Liam played a great spouse who hated enabling me, but did not know how to leave this toxic relationship.

1e. Based on a previous scene where someone broke a glass of milk because they wanted to, for some reason, I got the idea to make this first glass breaker my mother, and that’s where I got the line, “This is all I know.”

1f. Playing this character was easy because I was owning every single aspect of them. I just lived them and it was easy to know what to do everytime.

1g. In my mind, this character was a trauma victim who was aware they were damaged, but did not want to fix themselves either.

1h. Big Selfie had been working with Jason Shotts, and Jason had been drilling into us with the idea of owning our characters.

1i. When you discover a character’s personality quirk, your job is to just keep expressing that quirk.

1j. When you deflect – ask your scene partner to do something else so you don’t have to express your quirk – you’re putting all the responsibility for the scene on your partner.

1k. That’s wrong.

1l. Don’t worry about your partner. Take care of yourself by just playing your quirk, and trust your partner to do the same.

1m. Is quirk a game?

*By the way, this is just my interpretation and my terminology of Jason’s teachings, so I could be wrong.

1n. Yes and no? I don’t know. I guess sometimes a game would not ask you to do a deep character analysis of who you’re playing. So long as you play the pattern according to the t

The Improv Life: What I’ve Learned About Owning Characters

1m. Is quirk a game?

*By the way, this is just my interpretation and my terminology of Jason’s teachings, so I could be wrong.

1n. Yes and no? I don’t know. I guess sometimes a game would not ask you to do a deep character analysis of who you’re playing. So long as you play the pattern according to the the rules of the game you’re good.

1o. The way my mind works, I’m able to create backstories for my characters pretty quickly.

1p. I’m not talking huge backstories, but just a simple thesis statement that makes it easier to live that character

1q. “I break glasses of milk because that’s how my parents expressed emotion”

1r. Made sense to me, but I see how bonkers it is now!

1s. I guess when you’re absurd, you see yourself as normal and the rest of the world as crazy.

1t. And that doesn’t veer too far off for everyone else.

1u. Because in real life, we all think we’re normal, and everyone else is weird for the way they do things.

1v. So I guess when you play a character, if you keep that in mind -“They’re all crazy! I’m the one whose normal.” – you’ll be able to play a real character who has relatable reasons for the things they do, thier behavior.

1w. Would that be called empathy?

1x. I guess so?

1z. So to play real characters, own who they are, and you own who they are by empathizing with them.

Hope this helped!

#improv #ocimprov #bigselfie #character #theater #actor #writer #empathy #jasonshotts


Why You Have To Suck

This is a poem about sucking and why you need to do it to get better.

I write a poem everyday, and today’s poem 02/10/202/ was inspired by some bits I did at Catsby

Why You Have To Suck

Poem 41

You got to get up and fail
And the more you fail
The better you’ll become

And it’s not going to be overnight
It’s going to take years
Like I’m talking about
Hundreds of reps
Of you moving
Back and forth
On a spectrum between
Sucking and not sucking

And you’re going to suck
And you’re going to have shows
Where you’re going to want to
Run out of the building
From shame and embarrassment

You’re going to suck so hard
You’re going to go to bed
And think about sucking
And then you’re going to wake up
And remember how you failed

And the constant awareness
Of your failure
Will weigh on you
For a few days

But then you’ll do another show
Ande you’ll be like
That wasn’t that bad

And you’ll keep doing that
Untill one day you’re like
Hey, I got some confidence now
What I got confidence?
Hell yeah!

And then you’ll go back out there
And do a show where you bomb
But you’ll go backstage
And be like
One bad show doesn’t define me

Comedy is like one
Súper long baseball season
That never ends
Or has playoffs randomly
With multiple World Series in one year

If you take the long view
That you’ll win some
And lose some
You’ll do alright

It’s not about
Winning the game everytime
It’s about the person you become
By trying to win every game

Dedicated to Catsby

41.2020 #poem #poema #catsby #clown
#idiot #sketch #losangeles #improv #fail #clubhouse


The Sketch Life: The Night It Felt Like I  Hit A Homerun

Clase de Español from the Moonshot February 2020 Show. PC: Jasper Sams

An Amazing Night For Harris Markson, Moonshot, and I

A wonderful little sketch Harris Markson and I co-wrote about a white savior who tries to teach “Español” to a 100% Latinx class of AP Spanish Literature students at a Los Angeles high school.

Probably one of the funnest experiences I’ve ever had being in a sketch on the Pack stage.

One of those pieces where you have to side smirk to hide your face from breaking at the top of the sketch because the energy of the moment overwhelms your training and preparation; although you just want to enjoy the sketch like everyone else in the audience, you can’t because you’re the other vital part of the sketch – his entitled white savior needs your rising-to-volcanic anger, super literate brown kid to play off of — therefore, you double down on your focus, access the rage your character is feeling, and do your job.

And then everything hits. Your training and preparation kick back in fueled by instinct. And you use the energy of the moment, the electricity between you and your scene partners to elevate your performance and stay in the moment.  And everything that’s supposed to go right goes right, even unexpected little things like the way you say a line or respond to someone turning a chair around.

And although you’ve never actually hit a homerun in a packed baseball park, you know how the crack of a bat can signal a feeling inside of you that says, “This one’s going all the way.” And then you just run the bases and enjoy the moment.

Truly a rare experience.

#moonshot #sketchcomedy #homerun #packtheater