The Improv Life: The No.1 Thing I Forgot That I Absolutely Love About Improv

I Forgot This Thing I Loved

So what is the one prime benefit I get from doing improv or watching improv?

Here’s the answer: it keeps me in the present.

Whether I’m on stage living as another character, or I’m in the audience being sucked in by a great set, my entire being is anchored in the unfolding moment happening before my very eyes.

How does this happen? It’s just surprise! It’s surprising to see something you’ve never seen before be born in front of you.

The surprise grabs your attention and it keeps you focused on whatever is happening.

Because you’re surprised and invested, you give every ounce of attention you have to give.

This active state of attention shuts off the noise of the world.

Whatever is on your mind, good or bad, goes silent.

You literally forget about every single worry you have.

You do this because you are so invested in what’s going on that you don’t want a single piece of information drop.

When you’re doing a scene, your brain is processing information so that every tidbit of data that is thrown your way is caught, collected, and processed to see how it can be used for the scene.

The amount of cognitive energy this takes makes it impossible to think about anything else.

To do good improv you can’t multitask.

This isn’t washing dishes and listening to Genesis while you reflect on your life.

This is driving 100 miles per hour on the 5 South while a dinosaur on fire chases you.

It’s all consuming, exhilarating, and thrilling — when it’s good.

Good improv monopolizes your attention, and that state of being in the present—a place of complete awareness of what is happening and how my actions right now can affect it immediately—is what I love about improv.

I forget that sometimes, but it’s good to be reminded.

This blog post was inspired from the last day of my UCB 101 class with Jonny Svarzbein. Jonny Svarzbein is a great teacher, and I recommend taking a class with him today. Thanks for the class, brother.

#improv #actor #present #ucb


Why You Should Go To Packchella 3: The Comedy Music Festival — Special Interview with Gil Baron

This is going to be the best Packchella Yet!

LA’s Biggest Comedy Music Festival

By Fernando A. Funes

Packchella 3: The Comedy Music Festival is here!

Packchella is a comedy music festival bringing together some of the best talent of the Pack Theater over three days to celebrate the very special niche of comedy music.

I was able to catch up with Gil Baron, the creator of the event, to talk about the 2019 edition of Packchella and to discover what is the magic of this once-in-a-year event.

What is Packchella?

Packchella is LA’s premiere comedy music festival. Which is easy to be, because it’s really the only festival that is strictly about comedy that is musical, and music that is funny.

It’s 3 days at the Pack Theater in Hollywood where all the shows are related to comedy music. June 28-30th.

What inspired you to create this event?

I’ve always been a sucker for a funny song. Weird Al, Sarah Silverman, Tenacious D. I loved them all growing up. And a festival like this always seemed like such an obvious idea to me. So when The Pack gave me the greenlight to take over the whole theater for a weekend 3 years ago, it was a dream come true.

I brought it up to my producing partner, Ben Kuerschner. And he immediately got what it was and what it could be. So we got really ambitious.

When was the first time you did it?

We did Packchella the first time in April 2017. At that time The Pack had a lot of heat on it and their momentum combined with our novelty, really helped us to book insanely big talent.

I was also working in casting at Fox at the time, so I was forming relationships with a lot of agents and managers, which also helped us a lot.

What’s different this year?

I think people really love to be part of the first of something and to be part of something with a track record. So the excitement around the theater has been really energizing and encouraging.

I have to give a lot of credit to this year’s producers, Cat Durickas and Dave Ciaccio. They are amazing at pushing what this festival can be. They came in with great ideas.

Last year, one of our biggest hit shows was CK Kimball and Hope Richard’s Burlesque tribute to Mel Brooks. This year they are back with a Burlesque tribute to Bill Murray!

In addition, we brought in The Funny Dance Show, from Heidi Heaslet and Justine Marino. This is a huge show with a great reputation and fanbase.

So I think showcasing Dance and Burlesque as parts of Comedy Music has been a way that we’ve expanded the scope of Packchella this year.

I think we have more musical versions of Pack Shows, we have more show’s we’ve invited from other theaters and clubs, and we have more original, one-time-only, must see shows.

What are some things we can look forward to at Packchella 2019?


There are food trucks and a step and repeat for all those gram-able photos. We have performances from the biggest musical comedy stars today; Regan and Watkins, Drennon Davis, Luke Null, Allie Goertz, Hell Kross and The Cooties

The Pack’s weekly sketch show, Go Sketch Yourself is turning into a psychadelic musical journey called GoSketchChella.

Cat Durickas is producing a Pack performer musical showcase called Packside Lands.

And Sketch That Tune is doing a special tribute to Lilith Fair, hosted by Jillian Dunn and Erin Nicole Bounds. Between Lilith Fair and Packside lands, it’s like having 3 music festivals in one!

What makes this event special?

I think the thing that makes Packchella special is the same thing that makes The Pack special. It’s about this community, the talent here and the ambition here.

It always makes me proud to book comics from around town because I know pack audiences will make them feel great.

Erika Curry is bringing The Scramble back for a one time only event, Erika Curry’s Country Fried Scramble. Our Friday line up includes musical editions of The Nicky Urban Show and Super Dating simulator, which are already two of the hottest tickets in town. And the incredible improv team Stormchaser has gone all out by booking the biggest musical improv stars around for their show, including Juzo Yoshida and Ben Namnoum.

So I guess to sum that all up, it’s special because the people involved are treating it like it’s special. When Show Producers step up their game, audiences notice. And our show producers already turn out the best shows month after month.

Why should people come to this event?

It’s Pay What You Can. Every show is an event.

Food trucks, burlesque, dance, stand up, bands. I can’t think of a reason why anyone wouldn’t come to this event.

Where can we find Packchella on Social Media?

We are @Packchella on Twitter and Insta, and Packchella on Facebook.

Who or where can we contact for further questions?

Hit us up on any of those socials! We’d love to hear from you!

Any closing remarks?

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life whistle

Author’s comment: Gil Baron pulls out all the stops for every production he is a part of. As a producer, I admire the hard work, dedication, and vision Gil brings to all his shows. Producing a show is no easy task, so I can’t imagine what it takes to produce a whole festival. I’m friends with half the talent at these events, and they’re all amazing. If you got nothing going on the weekend of 06/28/19 — 06/30/19, I highly recommend that you check out Packchella 2019. It’s going to be a great one!

Click here for more information =>




Man Competes With Man For (1) Table Next to Window at Santa Ana Dunkin Donuts

Besides donuts and coffee, people can find peace at Dunkin Donuts.

By Fernando A. Funes

Two Men Compete For A Table By A Window

Everyday at approximately 06:07am Brad Hernandez, 37, of Santa Ana, CA meets face to face with his nemesis, day laborer Richard Rodrigues, 51 of parts unknown.

“We both want the same thing,” says Brad.

“The table. The table by the window. That’s what this is all about.”

The said table in question is a simple square 36’ by 36’ stainless steel table with a faux mahogany counter top. It sits adjacent to a large plane glass window that has an excellent view of the First Street and Harbor Blvd. intersection in Santa Ana, CA.

The view is actually quite nice, and you are able to see the various lives and rhythms of this cross section of Orange County.

Brad comes here every day to read for a few hours. Mr. Rodrigues comes here to ponder and reflect before going to work.

The table and its view is something both men want.

“The other day I got here at 06:09am, and he was already there sitting,” says Brad.

“He looked at me and cracked a one-eighth smile. And he knew what I wanted, and he took pleasure in taking it from me.”

To look at Mr. Rodrigues is to admit that he is a still and silent man of very little emotion.

However, despite his quiet demeanor, he seems like a regular guy anywhere else in the country who likes to get a morning cup of coffee before starting a day of work.

A reporter should never get sucked into the stories they report on, but Brad’s anguish was so obvious and debilitating that I felt obligated to help.

Sitting at the table by the window–Brad was not able to get it first today –I tried communicating with Mr. Rodrigues through a head nod and a “Wassup.”

He responded in kind with his own head nod and eye contact. He then diverted his gaze and returned it right to where it was before: the window.

From that brief interaction I concluded this: Mr. Rodrigues is a private man who likes to keep to himself. Nothing wrong with that. Seems pretty normal.

However, upon sharing this conclusion with Brad, I stirred him into a frenzy.

“No. You’re wrong. He doesn’t care. I feel like he can read my thoughts, but I can’t read his. It’s like we have this relationship that only I’m aware of, that only I care about.”

Brad’s anguish escalated. His turmoil was bleeding through his face.

Feeling guilty for not being able to reach Mr. Rodrigues the first time, I tried one more time to contact him. This time using more aggressive tactics.

“Buenos dias,” I said in my Jaliscan flavored Spanish.

Mr. Rodrigues, nodded silently and stared off into space.

Nearly irate for having just witnessed our interaction, Brad stage whispered to me, “Do you see? I’m telling you man. The guy is a master at mind games.”

Acknowledging that the man was quite stoic, and wanting to show Brad that I was trying, I pressed further for a comment.

I said, “El café está bueno hoy.”

He nodded again. Took a swig of his coffee and stared off into the window.

A Man Looking For Peace

“Sometimes I’ll sleep in,” says Brad an unemployed man who still reads comic books, “and he’s at the table. Staring off into the window. He doesn’t even acknowledge me. The worst part is that I have to sit by a window that has a huge poster of this month’s special, and I can’t see anything.”

Noting his obsession with this individual, I turned my questions to Brad.

“Have you ever thought that the issue only exists in your mind?”

Feeling attacked by the question, Brad Responded: “F*#! You, and f*#! That question!”

However, once his initial defensiveness calmed down, Brad got honest: “Look, I acknowledge that this issue is solely a creation of my own imagination. That dude and I aren’t locked in some epic struggle for this table.”

“But why make it an issue?”

“The way that guy stares out the window is freaking beautiful. I never saw Picasso paint, but I’ll bet you a dozen donuts it’s a lot like how that guy stares out the window.”

“What is about him staring out the window that captivates you?”

“The purpose. The intent. The conviction. The reason for being born and being alive. It’s as if he was put on this Earth to stare out that window and just do that. He’s so at peace. I wish I had that.”

One Man’s Search For Peace

Aha! Here was the rub: one man’s complete sense of peace set off another man who had none.

This table gave one man the sense of peace he was missing while for the other it only complimented the peace he already felt within.

Brad’s envy for the table wasn’t really about the table; it was envy for the peace Mr. Rodrigues had in his being that only seemed to be highlighted while sitting at the table.

While Mr.Rodrigues was at peace at the table, he did not need the table to feel that sense of inner serenity. The peace went with him wherever he went.

Whereas for Brad, his peace was contingent on sitting at the table. No table, no peace. Simple as that.

Brad was troubled.

“I think you need help, brother,” I told Brad.

Brad broke down and said, “F*#!ng eh I do. What should I do?”

I didn’t know what to do. I was a reporter, not a therapist. I discovered Brad’s anguish organically through observation and connecting the dots, but I was not equipped to help him deal with that breakthrough after discovering it.

“What am I going to do?” said Brad.

Scanning my mind for what to do next, Mr. Rodrigues came up to us and said, “Pueden tener la mesa.” (“You can have the table” in Spanish.)

He walked away, made eye contact us with one last time, nodded, and then disappeared into the 07:11am 43 Bus heading south towards Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

Brad got onto the table and never before had I seen a man’s anguish, turmoil, and anxiety wash away in one instance. He began to read and it was as if I never existed.

Seeing my chance to exit, I took my leave.


Confidence vs. Arrogance: Notes from the May 17th Specs Friday Drop-In

It’s been a long journey on the road to confidence, but I’m glad I got here.

By Fernando A. Funes

Confidence Vs. Arrogance.

Confidence is one of the key elements of a good improv performance.

Every improviser has experienced pressure to be funny.

It’s scary at first to go out there in front of a bunch of strangers under the pretense that you will make them laugh.

It’s part of the contract when you sign up to be a performer.

Although it takes time to become comfortable on stage, there is one indispensable component to becoming a great stage performer: confidence.

Confidence is what makes this whole thing less scary; it gives you the strength you need to go out there and put on a show without knowing what the hell is going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. You still need good improv fundamentals, empathy, listening, responding in the moment, and every other quality needed to be a good improviser. All I’m saying is that confidence is an important component under-girding all of those.

What is Confidence?

Confidence is your belief in your ability to execute the task expected of you — put on a show, do a scene, be yourself and respond like a human being.

Confidence is what allows you to go out there and do a strong choice even if you don’t know where that choice is going or why you did it. It’s the bridge between your training and instinct.

It’s your relationship with yourself and how you feel about your abilities.

When it comes to improv, confidence is a way of saying: “I may not be in control of things, but I am in control how I react to them.”

Although people on the outside can influence it through trying to bring you down through insults or building you up with compliments, confidence is internal.

It’s just in you, and it’s expressed in how you express yourself on stage and how you interact with others off the stage.

What is Confidence’s relationship to Commitment?

When we talk about commitment, what we mean is having confidence in your choices, character, and ability to roll with the facts of a scene.

Commitment is a euphemism for confidence. It’s a softer way of saying “be confident,” while removing any implications of arrogance attached to confidence.

What is Arrogance?

Arrogance is not confidence. Arrogance is a way of saying, “I’m better than you are, and you need to catch up to me, not the other way around.”

Arrogance is usually a mask for insecurity.

What is Arrogance’s relationship to Insecurity?

Insecurity is triggered when we are around others and we feel concerned about how they feel about us.

We may want people to like us or form a favorable opinion, and that want — to be liked, to be loved — manifests in different ways behavior wise when it’s coming from a place of insecurity.

We may shrink (that’s one of my go-to’s), act tough, go silent; do whatever negative things that turns people away. And for some people it’s arrogance.

Arrogance is almost a way of pre-rejecting people before they can reject you. People have to prove themselves before you have to prove yourself to them.

They put the burden of proof on you, and that means they can hide in their insecurity a little bit longer.

What is the key difference between Confidence and Arrogance?

While arrogance is directed outward in how you relate yourself to others, confidence is directed inward. It’s about how you relate to yourself in the moment and your belief in our ability to perform at a competent level.

Arrogance = outside

Confidence = inside

How do you know this?

I’ve been accused by people of being arrogant in the past.

And you know what? Maybe they were right.

I wouldn’t be able to talk about this subject with such confidence if I hadn’t experienced it a bit myself.

I guess my arrogance came out in the form of me being unfazed by anything and having the air of supreme confidence of being able to perform anywhere at anytime. In reality, I was eager to hit the stage and want to blow everyone away because I had something to prove.

Maybe this need I have to prove myself comes from a place of not feeling worthy enough? Maybe I need the validation of outside people in order to feel good about myself?

These are deeper questions. And these are things that I think every performer has wrestled with at some point in their journey.

We all have our baggage and insecurities and triggers and things that make us put up our guard in front of others.

There is an old saying that goes, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and I think what that means is that you carry your baggage and insecurities with you wherever you go.

So if you’re insecure in your real life, that might come out on stage and how you conduct yourself in a community.

And if you are aware of that, you’re better off to dealing with that.

Confidence is internal because if you have a good show, you own it, but you don’t ride that high too long. If you have a bad show, you don’t let that bad show define you. You say “Oh well,” and move on to the next one. Basically, you keep doing shows and keep trying to learn and grow.

Whereas with Arrogance, your internal self-worth is is based on every show. A good show makes you feel like a god and a bad show makes you feel like kitchen floor scum. It’s not a healthy way to live.

Developing your internal self worth takes time. But believe me, it’s worth the effort. Spend some time on yourself. Journal. Go see a therapist. Exercise. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Learn to love yourself and so will the rest of the world.

So how do you cultivate genuine Confidence? Or at the very least, how do you fight off Arrogance?

There are a few ways to do that:

1). Stay Humble

Humility teaches you that you have a long way to go, and that there is always room for growth, and there are things you have not yet learned, and that there are others out there who know more than you and that you should learn from them.

It’s also a reminder that things can change. One day you’re on top; one day you’re on bottom, and it’s accepting that this is part of the cycle of life. All the confidence in the world won’t get you booked if you’re somebody people don’t want to work with because you’re an asshole. So be nice to everyone!

2). Keep Studying

Never stop learning. There is more knowledge in the world than you’ll ever be able to comprehend. Learn something new and be humbled by the fact that you will never know everything there is to know.

3). Be Kind

Confident people are comfortable with themselves, so it’s easier for them to be comfortable with others. Be kind, meet new people, listen to them, talk to them, pass no judgments, connect. Learn from them, or share with them something you think might benefit them.

4). Gratitude

Just be grateful for everything you have and everything you know. Embrace where you are currently as an opportunity for growth, and have patience and compassion with yourself on your journey.

I know these are all kind of hippy-dippy, New-Agey kind of stuff, and I know that it comes off as dime-store psychology, but it goes back to what I said earlier: confidence is about your relationship with yourself.

If you want to be confident, you have to have a healthy relationship with yourself. I know that’s a big ask of people, and it won’t be easy for everyone, but it’s something I think everyone should look into.

It’s cheesy to say this (and I hate that I’m saying it), but you have to love yourself before others can love you.

I hope these notes helped out and I hope to see you at a drop-in sooner than later!


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!


The Improv Life: Why I Love Idiot Dome

Idiot Dome is where I found my serenity.

The Improv Life: Why I Love Idiot Dome

By Fernando A. Funes

If you’ve never led an audience in a full chant of the classic Phil Collins song, “Against All Odds,” you should really try it sometime; it’s quite invigorating.

“Against All Odds” being one of the Top 5 Phil Collins songs of all time, including his stuff with Genesis and the Tarzan soundtrack, is all song a lot of people can relate to across the spectrum.

Who hasn’t had their heart broken, been abandoned, and then hoped their love would return to them despite the unlikely probability of that? That’s why it’s called “Against All Odds.”

Back to me getting a room to chant “Against All Odds.”

It was at the Sunday May 23rd Idiot Dome at the Clubhouse, in the 3rd hour of the 4th Sunday Catsby block.

The great Oliver Georgiou asked me to be part of his Idiot Dome team, the House Band. Combining live music with live actors, the House Band was a human orchestra of sound, movement, and emotion.

Oliver was our conductor. He directed everyone to play a sound or do a movement. Once a groove had been established, he prompted me to tell a story inspired by the word VHS.

The film “Against All Odds”came to mind as it is one of the first VHS tapes I can remember my family owning.

I then talked about the song, one of my favorites.

Wanting to sing the lyrics, my mind went blank. I could recall the melody. But no words.

So I got the audience to chant the song title with me, hoping that would kick-start my memory.

Instead, this happened: the power of having an entire room chant the title of a song near and dear to my heart allowed me to feel safe and vulnerable and have an emotional breakthrough.

I screamed, I felt emotional pain, I saw a flash of muddied images dredging up pain.

Just as I started to cry — from arriving their organically, not forced overacting — the lights went black. Our set was over.

Having expressed what I wasn’t expecting to share with the world, I felt at ease. Peace washed over me.

Was it catharsis? Maybe.

I know this for sure: it was Idiot Dome.

Idiot Dome is a place to take off your armor and get real and vulnerable.

No judgments on yourself or what comes out. Just pure honesty.

Idiot Dome is every 4th Sunday of the month and is in the 3rd hour of the Catsby block, an Idiot centric showcase every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month put up by Chad Damiani and his dedicated team of producers. Idiot Dome hosted and produced by Joe Mitchell and Billy Sheets.


Pics by the amazing Jonathan Blake.