(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.
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.