The Improv Life: Why You Have to Read Books, Watch Movies, and Listen to Music

The Improv Life: Why You Have to Read Books, Watch Movies, and Listen to Music

I’m a big believer that everything you consume informs and contributes to your art.

You don’t know how it’s going to manifest in your art.

Unless your making a conscious effort to channel specific themes and references from a work of art that inspires you – which a lot of artists do in other kinds of mediums (but not usually improv) – you’re just going to go out there and see what comes out.

Improv is spontaneous and unplanned – there’s no way you can go into a scene knowing what’s going to inspire you in the moment.

Yes, you get a suggestion, but that’s just the starting point, not the whole scene.

You’re mind/gut sends you an impulse, you hold onto it, and use it to build a character, or to explore the scene while you figure out what’s going on.

But what is that impulse? It’s probably an idea for a character, or a vague feeling pushing you in a certain direction, with every move giving you more handles for you to grip your character.

But where does that idea come from? Well,  that probably depends on you. For me, and I don’t know how this developed, I’ll think back to some random thing I read, watched, listened to, remembered – and I totally have no control over this; it just arrives on its own, prompted by the moment and its unfolding action – and I use that for inspiration.

And you can create some wild stuff when you take what your mind gives you to cobble a character together. Some characters feel like they’ve been waiting to come out fully formed, and others feel like a mosaic I’m slowly piecing together with every choice. But the point is this: my subconscious is processing everything; the more I give it, the more it will give me for my art; I don’t control how it manifests, but I embrace whatever it gives me because I know there is gold there waiting for me to uncover it.

And that’s why you have to go read books, watch movies, and listen to music – you don’t know how it’s going to inspire you, but you can bet it will.

#improv #character #books #writer #director #books #art #creative #inspiration

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The Improv Life: I Miss Going to Canter’s After Shows

This Pastrami Rueben was amazing.

The Improv Life: I Miss Going to Canter’s After Shows

That post show come down is a doozy, man.

The better the show, the hotter the crowd, the tighter the set, the bigger the high.

It’s like you got energy for days.

Like I don’t need to do drugs because I do shows. The high of a great show is unmatched by anything else.

I want to say it’s adrenaline, but if I was an adrenaline junkie I would put myself in unnecessary dangerous situations just for a whiff of a high.

Nah, man, the stage is its own drug. When you’re in a fire improv set in front of a packed house, or your sketch is landing with the audience exactly how you wanted it to, or you’re doing some crazy clown bit that is pushing your limits and the crowd is with you every single step of the way, you’ll feel higher than you’ve ever been.

So how do you cool down? Well, me, I’m going to a diner* with some friends (or sometimes solo).

*For the purpose of this essay I consider Del Taco a diner.

I’m going to sit down, order some coffee, get some good food, and chat with some buds.

And one of my favorite places to do that is the world famous Canter’s Deli in Hollywood. My good friend from Cal, Alan J. Miller, introduced me to Canter’s just before I started going to LA to do comedy.

We saw a great show at UCB Franklin with his cousin, and then we went to Canter’s, and I loved it. Place just radiated good vibes with it’s awesome food and stuck-in-a-time-capsule ambiance.

I didn’t know it then, But Alan was introducing me to a place I would fall in love with. Once I started coming up to LA more to do shows, especially at the Pack Theater, Canter’s became a frequent stop. I even got my OC team to go with me once, and it was amazing.

Not going to Canter’s for over a year and a half was hard because of a). The amazing food, company, and ambiance, and b). I didn’t have a reason to go because I wasn’t doing shows, and that broke my heart.

I just want to get back to a place where performing in LA every week is normal, with the occasional visit to Canter’s peppered in to cap a great night of LA comedy.

#improv #sketch #food #losangeles #canters #pastramiruben #show #performer #theater #packtheater

Love you Canter’s.
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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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The Improv Life Ep.6 with Jorge Emanuel Berrios

Ep.6 of The Improv Life with Jorge Emanuel Berrios

Welcome to Episode 6 of The Improv Life! 

Alright, y’all, so I sat down with an improviser I am genuinely in awe of: Jorge Emmanuel Berrios. 

Jorge is probably the most physical improviser I have ever witnessed! The only improviser who I can think of who comes close is a guy in the OC named Mark Wolf. So Jorge and Mark are the only ones! 

Honestly, when Jorge does improv, it’s as if you’re watching a live action cartoon character. He stretches his body in every direction possible. He bounces. He jumps. He extends. I’ve seen him do the splits out of nowhere with no warning or setup. You can’t take your eyes off the guy. Hey, if you’re going to be a performer, that’s the one quality you’re going to want to have. 

Also, he is probably one of the most charismatic performers I’ve ever seen. You know they say, “Game recognize game,” but I know a good performer when I see one. With Jorge, there is no doubt about his abilities: this guy is the shit. 

So it was a pleasure to talk to him about his journey and how far he has come. Check it out! 

You can listen on SoundCloud too.

Here’s What’s Jorge and I Discussed

  • How Jorge was in an unheard of (9) Miami Quinceneras as part of the Court where he developed his dance abilities 
  • We talked about the importance of food in Latinx immigrant families and the relationship that creates with body image and perception 
  • Jim Carrey’s influence over Jorge’s comedy style 
  • Jorge’s experiences working in a call center and being told that “He had to be more serious and less funny” if he wanted to be funny 
  • How (1) stand up class changed his life and outlook on comedy by making it possible of him perceiving himself as a comedian 
  • How Jorge decided to move to LA after long and thoughtful reflection and used a job interview as a reason to come out here 
  • And a bunch of great tangents about our Latinx identities and shared experiences! Check it out! 

You Can Follow Jorge on Instagram @berrios305 and here is the link – https://www.instagram.com/berrios305/

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