The Improv Life: The No.1 Responsibility of a Producer

I care because I must! Who else will?

By Fernando A. Funes

This Is What You Have To Do

I’ve been very lucky to produce a lot of shows this year.

As much as I enjoy being a writer, performer, and director, being a producer brings its own special reward.

You create this thing — a show — that brings a lot of people together and lets them share their talents with the world.

Producers unleash creativity on a mass scale, and we’re all better off for it.

However, there is one thing as producers we all have to accept.

No one needs to see your show.

Hurts to say that, and hurts to write it. But it’s an indisputable truth about being an artist and entertainer.

We’re competing for people’s time and attention against Netflix, Hulu, Avengers Endgame, another Warriors NBA Championship Run, hooking up on Tinder, vegging out on the couch, and just anything else that is easier than showering, getting dressed, driving to a theater, and paying $5, $8, $10 for a live comedy show.

So how do you compete in this saturated marketplace where the buffet of entertainment options is limitless?

You have to care about your show.

And that is the no.1 responsibility of a producer.

You have to care enough to do whatever it takes to make your show successful.

You have to rent rehearsal spaces, coordinate schedules, write emails, write copy for advertisements and social media, talk to writers, performers, directors and whoever else, and put out fires. Always putting out fires.

And these are just the standard things that come with the job.

And they require a lot of energy.

Delivering a show from concept to show date is a mountain climb.

But the journey, although vigorous and exhausting physically and emotionally, is worth it once you get to the mountain top and see your great work laid before you.

That’s why we produce: to accomplish incredible things.

And to do that, you have to care.

That will always be the no.1 responsibility of a producer — the rest fall underneath it.

Now go produce a show!

Shout out to all the producers out there creating opportunities for people and delivering shows — thank you.

#producer #improv #comedy #sketch #leadership #theater

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How To Edit Part II: The Art of Tagging — Notes from the 04/19/19 Specs Friday Drop-In

I talk about my friend John Combs in the post, so here’s a pic from way back.

Notes from 04/19/19

Two weeks ago, I taught everyone how to edit scenes in terms of ending. For the following week, I wanted to teach students how to edit in terms of tagging.

Tagging is the second tool you have in your tool belt when doing long form improv. Along with ending scenes through a swipe or clap, tagging is a way to move a long form set along and discover new things in your show.

What is tagging?

Tagging is a way of transporting interesting characters to new and different settings to see how they would react in those situations.

How do you actually physically do that?

Person A and Person B are doing a scene.

Person C on the sidelines finds Person A’s character interesting for some reason.

Person C taps Person B on the shoulder.

Person B exits the scene and Person C takes the position Person B was in.

Person C begins a brand new scene with Person A.

Person A remains the same character as before; they are just in a new situation with a new character, but their character remains the same.

Person A and Person C then do a brand new scene together.

Person D is watching from the sidelines, and they are also fascinated with Person A. Therefore, they tap Person C and start a brand new scene with Person A, who remains the character they were before?

Is there a shorter way of saying all that?

Sure! If you’re on the sideline watching two performers play, and if there is one performer who has an interesting character you want to play with or have a good idea for them, you tag the other person (the shoulder tap) they are playing with and start a brand new scene with that interesting character, and you take it from there.

Other people then have free reign to do the same or to edit the scene once they feel that character has said all they can say. Hope that is easier to understand!

Can you give an example then?

A few years ago, I was doing a show with my sweetheart team, Big Selfie.

Inspired by a monologue of mine where I talked about a man who I thought was my dad’s best friend but realized during the story that he was not, Big Selfie member John Combs came out and did a scene with me. Here is how it went.

Fernando: Dude, you’re my best friend.

John Combs: Dude, you’re my best friend too…Well…”

That last “Well….” John dropped got a huge response from the audience. He took a small pause in between, lifted his finger up as if he was going to say something, and the inflection in his voice communicated obvious doubt. There were so many elements to his character .

Brandon Thresher then tagged me out and did a scene with John.

Brandon: Wasn’t that an amazing breakfast?

John Combs: It was an amazing breakfast…Well…

Again, the audience got a huge reaction out of John just being this interesting character who always second guessed things in such an obvious manner.

Finally, Liam O’Mahoney or Dustyn Willoughby tagged Brandon out and did one final scene with John where he was forced to backtrack on a statement and go “Well…”

There have been a million examples and this is the one that comes to mind.

Why did you guys tag out each other so many times to do scenes with John Combs?

As soon as the audience responded in uproarious laughter at John’s “Well…” character, and because we all knew where that character was inspired from — my monologue about my dad — it was easy to play with John’s character.

We were all on the same page about who this character was and how they responded to things; all we needed to do was put this character in new situations where he could respond the way the rest of us (Big Selfie and audience) expected him too. And that’s exactly what John did.

That tag run — what we call a series of tag outs followed one by the other — is one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of — thank you, Big Selfie and John Combs.

That sounds like fun!

It is fun! Once you find an interesting character or situation that everyone is on agreement on — team and audience — the possibilities are endless.

Tag outs are a great way to go on a journey with a character or to build a universe.

Sometimes tags get crazy and you end up being ina fleshed out world that has different rules than the one we currently live in.

What’s amazing is that the audience is with you the whole way. They are watching, observing, and listening as much as you are.

Believe me, an excellent tag run where everyone is on board and in agreement on what is happening, and what could potentially occur/exist, is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have on stage.

I hope you enjoyed these notes and see you at a drop-in class sooner than later!

Fernando A. Funes

Spectacles Improv Engine host drop-in Improv Classes every Friday from 12pm to 2pm and every Sunday from 11am to 1pm at STAGES Theater in Fullerton. Classes are $10, and every class is different from the other. Check it out!

One more pic with John Combs just because I love the guy and miss him.

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The No.1 Reason Why You Should Take Sketch Level 1 at The Pack Theater with Eric Moneypenny

A picture from the end of my Sketch Level 1 Class at the Pack Theater back in Fall 2016.

The Power of the Table Read

Taking Sketch Level 1 at the Pack Theater with Eric Moneypenny two and half years ago was one of the best decisions I ever made.

It opened up my dormant sketch comedy brain I had not accessed in a while, and most of all, it empowered me to create the comedy I want to see in the world.

If there is one thing I enjoy about the Pack Theater is the ability to create the sketch comedy you want to see, and that the only prerequisite is desire, hard work, and follow through.

Its punk rock, DIY aesthetic can be a bit intimidating, off putting even, especially if you’re not a fan of punk rock or whatever associations you may have with it.

But I think the ethos of punk rock — not needing permission, certification, or approval to create art — is evident at the Pack, and the source of that energy comes from the classes themselves.

Every week I would bring in a sketch just eager to share it with Eric and my classmates at the table read. And I was eager to hear their stuff and see what they had come up with.

And this is the no.1 reason to take Sketch Level 1 at the Pack Theater — it’s super cool, empowering, and validating to have your work read out loud by your peers in the table read.

The table read is a place to get real time feedback on your writing in the form of laughs for good stuff and silence and coughs for stuff that needs to be worked on.

Trust me, as a sketch writer, there is nothing more empowering than have your sketch crush it in a table read.

It’s the kind of validation you don’t get elsewhere in the world. The experience itself — making your peers laugh out loud with your work — is a high. And it’s something that keeps me coming back to table read after table read.

And where did I first experience that? Sketch Level 1 at the Pack Theater with Eric Moneypenny.

I can’t promise that everyone’s experience will be as powerful as mine.

I took the class at a time when I was ready to give all of myself to sketch comedy.

But I can tell you with a degree of high confidence that you will get a lot out of Sketch Level 1 if you go into it with an open mind, a good attitude, a good work ethic, and are willing to put you and your work out there.

It’s scary to put your work out there and have it judged. And that fear is probably what prevents a lot of people from ever pursuing their dreams. But Sketch Level 1 is a good place to dip your toe and see if this sketch comedy thing might be for you.

Believe me, it’s a risk you will not regret taking. In fact, once you take it, you’ll probably be telling yourself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

The price is reasonable compared to other places in town ($310), and payment plans are also available. You can also pay for classes through PayPal Credit. And if you don’t have the money to pay right now, sign up for the Work Study Program and start working towards those class credits.

Whatever you need to do, sign up for a class ASAP! What are you waiting for?

Sign up for a class today! Here is the link => https://www.packtheater.com/classes/sketch/

And you can email internships@packtheater.com for more info on signing up for work study.

If you have any more questions, hit me up! I’m more than happy to help and talk about the Pack Sketch Program!

Take care,

Fernando A. Funes

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11 Reasons Why You Should Study w/Neal Dandade

Neal and I at the Pack this past Summer for an amazing Improv class.

11 Reasons Why You Should Study w/Neal Dandade.

If you ever get the chance to study with Neal Dandade, go for it! He is amazing! Here are some reasons why:

1. Neal will teach you how to work in an ensemble and how to adapt your unique individual improv style to fit whatever group you’re working with.

2. Whether taking the class solo or with a friend, you’ll learn to be malleable and responsive to whatever happens in a scene.

3. Neal practices what he preaches too — just check him out every Monday Night at the Pack Theater with Dingleberries, a group of Chicago improvisers who love to fuck with each other.

4. On top of that, his enthusiasm and positivity is down right infectious, and you can’t leave class not liking this man and whatever he’s taught you that day.

5. Seriously, it’s super awesome to be around a guy who is so positive and welcoming.

6. Don’t underestimate the power of these two traits in a teacher.

7. Neal doesn’t judge! His acceptance of students of whatever level they are at makes it extremely welcoming.

8. I don’t feel like I have to please him, or fear disappointing him. He’s chill in the sense that he is there to teach and accept and help you out in this particular step of your journey.

9. I’m not saying I don’t feel this with other teachers. It’s just that with Neal I can let my guard down and be vulnerable.

10. Being vulnerable is when you can be most affected, therefore, be most teachable.

11. Neal will make you feel safe, vulnerable, and from there you will learn.

Level 2 Improv at the Pack Theater last year was a blast because of him, not to mention my amazing classmates, who were a pleasure to work with.

Neal now teaches Improv Level 1 at the Pack Theater, and you should consider studying with him!

Trust me, it’s a choice you won’t regret. Sign up today!

Here is the link! => https://www.packtheater.com/product/improv-i-may-june-2019/

Love you, Neal!

Fernando

#improv #packtheater #laimprov #teacher

It was a great class!

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Why I Love Being A Producer

A pic of me on stage for “Previously On X-Men,” a sketch show I recently produced for the Pack Theater on April 4th, 2019. PC: Jonathan Blake.

23 Thoughts On Why I Love Being A Producer

Here are some thoughts on why I love producing shows, live events, and other occasions for bringing people together.

1. You get to bring people together towards a shared goal.

2. At the end you’re left with something amazing no one person could’ve done on their own.

3. You unleash people’s creativity.

4. People are incredibly creative; they just need an opportunity to show it.

5. As a producer, this is one of your key duties — creating opportunities for others to shine.

6. To do that, you have to like people and you have to want them to succeed.

7. As a director, I try to find a performer’s strength and match them to the needs of the script in order to get a great performance.

8. And that comes from the same space — I love seeing others succeed.

9. For that to happen, you have to meet the person where they are at and work at their skill level.

10. Maybe that is where the responsibilities of a director and producer overlap, but I guess the word I’m trying to arrive at is care.

11. You have to care if you’re going to be a producer.

12. If you don’t care, you’re not just wasting your time, but the time of the people willing to do whatever it takes to make your show happen.

13. So you have to care from start to finish.

14. What is care?

15. Care is giving a damn. Care is having compassion and concern for the people helping you bring to life this thing you see in your head.

16. Is care anything else?

17. Yes! Care is believing in your vision, its purpose, and need to exist.

18. Because if you’re a producer, that’s what you have: vision.

19. Vision is seeing something only you can see and which the world lacks.

20. And since the world lacks it, it’s up to you to bring it to life.

21. And once the world sees it, they’ll form an opinion about it: they’ll love it, hate it, or be whatever about it.

22. However, you made it; you brought this thing to life by bringing people together over a shared goal.

23. You delivered the baby. That’s what I say when I delivered a show on the date promised.

Hope this helps!

Fernando

PS: The next Previously On X-Men will be on Saturday May 18th at 09:30pm at the Pack Theater.

#improv #sketch #producer #comedy#director #writer #show #packtheater#specsimprov #improvcollective

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