The Improv Life: What I Learned About Editing from Rich Sohn

The Improv Life: What I Learned About Editing from Rich Sohn

I studied with Rich Sohn online this past year for his Pack Theater Level 2 improv class.

It’s a 4-week session, but you get a lot, and you get a close look at Rich’s improv philosophy, shaped by his years studying, performing, and teaching improv in Chicago, the mecca of our art form.

I liked the class so much I took it twice. And I want to take it a third time. I’m at a point in my journey where Rich’s philosophy and teaching style vibes with me well.

I learned a lot, but I learned about the importance of editing. Scene edits are the invisible fabric of a good show. A good scene depends on how well it’s edited. If you have enough good scenes stringed together, you got yourself a show you can hang your hat on at the end of it.

Pop quiz hot shot: you’re on the sidelines and your team is dying on stage, begging to be edited, but you don’t have an idea for a new scene – what do you do?

You get your teammates the hell out of there, and you trust yourself and your new teammate on stage to make a new scene and figure it out from there. Getting your teammates out of danger is more important than having some hot shot idea for an amazing scene.

A scene that goes on too long is risky. It affects the energy of the overall show. Teammates get insecure, feeling like their sinking in quicksand and being abandoned by their teammates, and the audience is weirded out by uncomfortable scenes that seemingly never end but feel like they should. Good editing solves all these problems and increases the likelihood of good scenes and good shows.

Basically, good editing saves the day.

Knowing how to edit is one of the most important skills an improviser could ever develop. This under appreciated ability can be one of the difference makers between an amazing, out-of-this-world show and a “Meh” show that leaves everyone feeling weird afterwards.

Thank you, Rich. Because of you, I know the importance and power of editing (and how to do it). I encourage all of you to go study with Rich Sohn ASAP.

Let’s talk tomorrow,

Fernando

#improv #edit #editor #cut #packtheater #teacher #class #team

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The Improv Life: I Wanted to be a Musician, But Comedy Came Easier

The Improv Life: I Wanted to be a Musician, But Comedy Came Easier

I wanted to be a badass lead guitarist who plays Marty Friedman like guitar solos, just one after the other, a flurry of fretboard genius and virtuosity that the guitar and I merge into one being.

Alas, that was not for me.

Comedy came easier to me. It was a more natural fit. I knew what I needed to do without being educated about what I needed to do. The instinct was there.

Years of watching movies on HBO, SNL reruns on Comedy Central, and tons of Simpsons had given me enough examples of what was funny and how to execute it.

My parents were funny too (in their own way) but I just didn’t know it. They would argue and dissect everything, throwing jabs or inserting jokes wherever possible.
They were also great observers of human behavior, always looking for the awkward things beneath the surface, trying to sniff out who was trustworthy or not.

So I did have a comedy education of sorts. But I still wanted to be a lead guitarist! I’ve tried on and off throughout the years, and it is fun to play, even more rewarding to learn a song or see progress.

But my growth in comedy compared to my growth in music was like racing to the Moon in a rocket ship designed by Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four versus a mule pulling a wooden cart with stone wheels, and one of the wheels is wonky because of a chipped edge, making the ride off kilter.

But like that’s life. You have to accept your weaknesses to embrace your strengths. It’s a parodox. Not that you can’t develop a weakness into a strength, but it will take way longer, longer than you imagined, and if you put that effort into developing your strength instead, your strength will explode, more than you thought yourself capable of. I know, it’s a parodox.

Anyways, I’m going to go listen to Steely Dan now because I’m in my 30s. Cheers.

#improv #music #strengths #weakness #growth #progress #rock #metal #journey #class #nature #nurture #life #paradox #steelydan

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The Improv Life: Everything’s Changed, Nothing’s Changed

The Improv Life: Everything’s Changed, Nothing’s Changed

We used to do shows in Downtown Santa Ana when I first started.

Those shows were special to me because performing in my home town was validation that I was on the right path.

I would ask my work if I could get off early in order to make it on time.

I’d then go to Starbucks, get some coffee, and get in the zone.

Nothing else mattered. My entire week was building up to this moment. We’d then do the show, win, lose, or draw, and then it was over. But I just wanted to be back on stage. The cycle would start over as I waited to be booked.

There would be jams, practices, dinners, whatevs. We did improv wherever they would have us. LA was close, but the cultural distance made it seem a galaxy away.

We were hunter gatherers learning how to kill our food in the parking lots, cafe patios, and random community college spaces of Orange County.

We were our own teachers because that’s just how it was. An exciting time, a time of growth and exploration, a time that would impact us forever.

But doing a show, man. That’s what it’s about. And that’s still what’s it about. Doing a show is the end-all and be-all of this art form for many of us. I know that’s a controversial statement for some, but there’s a different feeling to doing improv in a living room with your team as compared to doing a live show with your friends in front of a packed theater.

The audience, man, we need them. The energy they give us affects how we perform, and this exchange of energy is what makes performing live one of the best experiences on Earth – you’ll get the highest high performing at your peak in front of an engaged audience hanging on to everything you do.

All these years, so much has changed, but the core things remain the same, and that’s why I stay in this amazing game.

#improv #performer #show #theater #dtsa #validation #artist

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The Improv Life: Go Watch “Ghostbusters” Knowing That Bill Murray Improvised Most of His Performance

The Improv Life: Go Watch “Ghostbusters” Knowing That Bill Murray Improvised Most of His Performance

I’m never going to be an advanced Jazz musician who can tell you about the complexity of a player’s performance through their performance and phrasing, but I can talk to you about watching Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters’ after having trained as an improv comedian and having my mind blown away by his intricate, free flowing performance.

Not everyone might know this, but Bill Murray’s performance in “Ghostbusters” was largely improvised.

I didn’t know this as a kid. I just laughed at the movie, and watched it every time it came on television. I couldn’t tell you why it was funny; I just knew it was funny.

Later on when I decided to give myself heart and soul to improv, I discovered that Bill Murray improved large swaths of Dr. Venkman, his character in the movie.

It was a summer holiday, and I decided to watch it, specifically observing for Bill Murray’s performance, trying to see if I could catch where he was improvising.

Bill Murray was Dr. Peter Venkman, a sly, charming, confident, charismatic parapsychologist who was unfazed by any task (except for dealing with Slimer). It’s simply amazing, his performance.

I was a chump; I realized I didn’t know shit about improv. (What was I thinking? Who did I think I was?). I realized how much I didn’t know about improv and how much more there was to learn.

Here’s my main conclusion: I couldn’t tell you what was improv and what was scripted. If you can convince your audience that what you just improvised was scripted, then you have achieved something amazing.

Yes, I know that there was a script and an outline for the character of Dr. Venkman, but Bill Murray took the character and made it his own, exceeding the boundaries of the script and creating something so completely original and spontaneous that it’s become myth. And for that, thank you. Happy Birthday, Bill.

#improv #billmurray #ghostbusters

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The Improv Life: I Love Doing Dingleberries

The Improv Life: I Love Doing Dingleberries

Woooooooo!!! Just did a really fun set with Dingleberries!!!

Dingleberries is a weekly improv show on the Pack Twitch Channel hosted by Pack teachers, Neal Dandade and Rich Sohn, featuring special guests.

Well, this week the amazing Allison Smith and I were the guests, and we had a blast!

We just talked in an honestly and real way, and then did some improv. Because we’ve all known each other for a while now, it was easy to play with one another. I mean what else can you ask for? Playing with people you’ve know, really respect and admire, and who make it feel like time flies when you’re in the presence of each other’s company – that’s Improv.

So go check out Dingleberries every Monday night at 9pm on the Pack Twitch Channel. And study improv with Neal and Rich at the Pack Theater! And check out Allison Smith’s improv shows Animal Crossing and Play Cousins on the Pack Twitch Channel every Thursday at 7pm!

Take care y’all,

Fernando

#improv #packtheater #packtwitch #comedy #dingleberries

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