The Improv Life: You Will Use Everything You Know

The Improv Life: You Will Use Everything You Know

Steve Martin’s standup memoir “Born Standing Up” is must-read for all comedians.

He describes things only other comedians would understand, like doing a show in front of a packed house but being thrown off your game because of the one audience member in the front row that you can make eye contact with.

Honestly, I discover something’s new every time I read it.

One of its most enduring lessons, however, comes from a time when Steve Martin was on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for the umpteenth time.

During a commercial break, Johnny leans in close to Steve and tells him, “You will use everything you know.”

In that moment, Steve knew exactly what Johnny meant. And when I first heard it, I knew immediately as well.

You will mine every single experience for comedy. Or everything you’ve ever read, watched, or listened to, you will use it for something. All information, insight, gossip, revelation, newspaper headlines, magazines articles, and whatever is yours to use for bits.

And I’ve been using that strategy all month long in my one-improv-blog-a-day project. Coming up with a blog post every day was hard, so I literally pulled from every corner of my comedy experience, and I loved it!

I now have 30 essays on the improv experience, ranging from mediations on the journey, comedy history, and at least one how-to piece. I hoped people found value in what I wrote, and at the very least, some of these posts set up a bedrock of improv comedy insight for me to explore further.

Honestly, writing every day is a great habit to clarify your thinking and get ultra specific in what you want to say. And the more you write, the more insight is revealed to you, and all that knowledge stacks up on top of each other, leading to some major discovery down the line – and its the major discoveries that make this art form amazing. I encourage you all to write every day. Thank you for reading these past 30 days.

Fernando

#improv #sketch #comedy #stevemartin #johnnycarson #writer #usewhatyouknow #blog #bornstandingup #insight #knowledge #discovery #revelation

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The Improv Life: Processing the Weird Feelings of the Journey

The Improv Life: Processing the Weird Feelings of the Journey

I get weird feelings all the time about the comedy journey.

I beat myself up too much for bad shows, failed concepts, ideas that looked good on paper not working out in real life, awkward interactions, friendships I neglected, and failed relationships.

I got a lot of regret, which causes awkward feelings: complex emotions that I’m not always the best at dealing with.

All the regrets revolve around people and how things could’ve gone better. Sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes it’s theirs, and sometimes it takes two to tango.

Some wounds are healed by time; others just hurt more with the passage of the years.

These memories don’t take away from the good times and experiences I’ve had – moments I will hold onto forever – but rather, they serve as a shadow to counter the light of my positive improv experiences.

Like my light, my shadow follows me wherever I go, and I will always be aware of it.

As I write this, I’m thinking of all the faces I’ve disappointed. I don’t know if they’ll forgive me. I hope. At the very least, I can forgive myself, and not let the weight of regret prevent me from moving on to the next thing. In the next thing is another part of my journey that will reveal unknown parts of myself to me.

#improv #journey #people #relationships #awkwardfeelings #emotions #light #shadow

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The Improv Life: Dance Like No One is Watching

The Improv Life: Dance Like No One is Watching

Here’s a tricky improv principle to ponder: dance like no one is watching.

So like go out there, give it you’re all (win, lose, or draw) and who cares how the audience responds to you.

Now that last part is what makes it tricky. How can you do improv and not adjust your performance to the audience’s real time response?

Damn, I don’t know! Maybe I just wrote myself into a corner?

I guess what I mean is this: whenever you’re performing 1). Have fun (that’s my no.1 rule for all creative endeavors), and 2). Withhold judgement of yourself (and of your teammates).

When you judge yourself, you’re telling the audience you’re not comfortable with yourself. If you’re not comfortable with yourself, they won’t feel safe watching you, things will get awkward, and everyone will want the scene to end ASAP.

Believe me, I’ve been that uncomfortable performer who made the audience feel awkward in his self rejection. But I’ve also been that performer who has connected with the audience by just going out there and having fun.

There’s a strong negative correlation between judgement and fun. The less you’re judging yourself, the more fun you’re having. I really wish I said that in the beginning, but I was going with the flow.

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

Fernando

#improv #performer #fun #judgement #dance #critic #performer #performance #performancetheory #technique #awareness #awkward #theimprovlife #theater #comedy #sketchcomedy #comedy

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The Improv Life: What I’ve Been Thinking About After 4 Days of Performing – Thoughts on Bad Improv Shows, Being on the Backline, and Purpose

I got a lot on my mind that I want to share.

I’ve just done 4 shows in 4 days, and I’m awash in knowledge!

I was so lucky to play and learn from so many amazing people, and I got all these thoughts and insights that I need to share right now before I lose them to the tide of time.

Thoughts on Bad Improv Shows

*Was lucky enough to not have a bad show in this little run I just did!

1. You can’t predict a bad show; they kinda just happen, and you deal with it as it happens.

2. Good shows go by too fast, and bad shows take forever to end.

3. Not respecting your teammates and their choices is one of the root causes of bad shows.

3a. You don’t like a scene partner’s choice, so you try to course correct by adding a new idea to the scene. An idea you think will save the scene, thereby by saving the set.

3b. It’s disrespectful, condescending, and happens more than you think. I’m thinking of a specific person as I write this, and I’m wondering if there aware of their arrogant behavior. In their mind, they think they’re helping.

3c. And I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t confess to doing this myself under the guise of “helping” when it was really a matter of taste.

3d. Agreement on taste is something improv groups don’t talk about enough. We call it style when we mean taste. Style is how you do something and taste is the product.

3e. People can have similar styles but different tastes.

3f. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation where your taste is different from the majority, and you’ll have to leave (or someone will ask you to).

4. Bad shows can also come from insecurity.

4a. You’re insecure about your abilities, or don’t trust your teammates, so you project that insecurity and lack of trust onto your scene partners, and you poison the energy of the show in progress.

4b. I was on a team where every single member did this, including me. We were a bipolar team going back and forth from grand slams to big losses.

4a. The audience won’t always tell you if you had a bad show. Sometimes it’s your teammates in the vibe they give you after a show.

4b. But the audience will let you know you’re bombing. You’ll know. You’ll feel it in your posture and go into a silent panic asking yourself and your teammates through eye contact, “How are we going to get out of this.”

4c. Talking to a show audience after you bombed is soul crushing. Their lips say “Good show,” but their eyes say “You sucked.”

4d. It’s the eyes, man. The eyes say it all.

5. After a bad show, you just want to get the hell out of there.

5a. If it’s a good show, you go out to eat together.

5b. The more you do this, the higher your batting average gets with good shows vs bad shows.

5c. But it’s also on you to be conscientious about your style and growth, and how your choices (or lack of them) can lead to a bad show.

6. Bad shows are going to happen. Don’t let them get you down. And if you have a good show, celebrate it, but don’t let it prevent you from going out there and doing it again for fear of failing.

7. Every show is a sandcastle that will be washed away by the rolling tide of the ending day.

8. One last reason for bad shows: Chemistry: sometimes you don’t vibe with someone and that’s okay. Play with other people.

Being on the Backline

Just so many insights.

9. I’m always listening, listening, and listening, and then when I’m done listening, I listen some more.

10. I’m paying as much deep attention as I possibly can, always asking, “Am I needed here?,” “Can I add anything?,” and “Is the scene fine as is?”

10a. In your mind you’re thinking, “How can I help?” And that’s the million dollar question for me every time I’m on the backline.

11. One of the best lessons I’ve learned about being on the backline is to let scenes breathe. Give your teammates the space they need to find their scenes, develop their characters, and figure stuff out for themselves.

11a. The stronger your teammates are in their characters, the stronger they’ll be in their scenes.

10a. In your mind you’re thinking, “How can I help?” And that’s the million dollar question for me every time I’m on the backline.

11a. The stronger your teammates are in their characters, the stronger they’ll be in their scenes.

12. But if you have to edit because the scene is asking for it (your teammates are asking for it) then you have to edit.

12a. Tag someone out and start a new scene with the remaining person, sweep edit to wipe away the stage, take edit to start a scene with someone else without knowing where it’s going.

12b. Editing when helping your teammates get out of an awkward position is always a good choice.

13. I like being on the backline for a lot of reasons.

13a. If I’m playing with new people, I’m learning their style, thinking about how I can compliment it, add to it.

13b. But sometimes you just want to watch a hilarious person crush.

14. It’s also learning about restraint. You might have a really funny idea, but it would  interrupt whatever is happening or take away focus from your teammates as they develop something. Plus, you don’t want to take away stage time from them.

14a. I guess part of me being on the backline is wanting to help and protect my teammates.

14b. Rich Sohn’s voice just popped up in my head telling me that, “That kind of attitude is condescending towards your teammates because it presumes you don’t trust your teammates to take care of themselves.”

14c. He would then add, “Take care of yourself first and then worry about your teammate,” meaning know who your character is and take it from there (that’s how I interpreted it at least).

14d. Everyone should study improv with Rich Sohn at the Pack Theater. Dude knows what he is talking about.

15. But I still want to practice restraint.

15a. My ego and my humility are constantly arguing whether I want to join the scene because I want to add to it or because I want to become the center of attention. That’s a real question. Always.

Purpose

Insights on insights on insights.

16. Improv is a gateway to other types of comedy.

17. Start with improv, and then go try standup, sketch, clown, character, whatever – let it be your door to trying new things.

18. Trying new things is about exploring parts of yourself that need to be discovered. It could be something you find is not for you, or you may stumble upon a key to unlocking parts of yourself you didn’t know existed.

18a. It goes the same with people. The more people you open yourself up to, the more likely you are to find some compatible collaborators.

18b. Honestly, it’s always fun playing with someone new when your energies align.

18c. Doing improv with someone you vibe with accelerates friendship. Truth.

19. If you can, help out the next generation of improvisers. Share your knowledge and experience with them. Do shows with them, play with them, but I understand that this is not everyone’s bag, and that’s alright.

19a. Just don’t be a dick to new people.

19b. Your tenure at a theater, status in a community, or years of doing improv doesn’t give you the right to be disrespectful to people.

19c. I’m guilty of invoking all three at some point to be rude to people, and I feel sorry for that. I’m trying to be better every day.

19d. Still plenty of people who do this. You know who you are.

20. Look, just be nice to people and don’t be a dick.

21. This community has a long memory. You won’t forget the people who did you wrong. However, you’ll always remember who helped you out.

22. Be someone worth remembering for good reasons.

Take care, y’all.

#improv #shows #performer #theater #writer #actor #bts #cast #ensemble

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12 Things I Don’t Like About Bits

12 Things I Don’t Like About Bits

12 Things I Don’t Like About Bits

1. People who don’t get bits

2. People who don’t respond to bits

3. People who are threatened by bits
Because they don’t understand them

4. People who think you’re being serious when you’re just really commiting to a bit, and that seriousness forces you to double down on your commitment.

5. People who like to do bits in front of others without taking into account people’s reaction to it, not knowing how to turn the dial from high to low or vice versa depending on the response.

6. People who laugh at their own bits while they’re doing them, but who get mad when you don’t laugh at them to

7. People who think they’re funny telling you they’re funny, and then proceeding to do nothing funny at all, disproving their claim as soon as they make it.

8. Office clowns who win the position by default because they speak up the most while being oblivious to how people respond to them.

9. People who claim to like bits in theory, but don’t know how to emotionally react to bits in fact.

10. People who use bits to attack others, but then get hurt when the heat is turned on them.

11. People who think they’re funny but are not.

12. Bullies

*I’ve been all these people at some point in my life.

112.2020 #poem #poemaday #nationalpoetrymonth #bits #jokes #routine #act #comedy #writer #stevemartin #orange #sketchcomedy #standup #improv

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