The Improv Life: How Improv Saved Me

The Improv Life: How Improv Saved Me

Why haven’t I quit? I don’t know.

Maybe I’ll just slowly devolve into a bitter hack who laments his lost youth on a wasted dream as he smokes cheap cigarettes and store brand label whiskey in the patio of some forgotten LA dive bar where no one knows your name.

Who am I kidding. I love this too much to walk away. I did an improv show once at the Improv Collective for like five people, and it was one of the best improv shows I ever done.

I still remember it. Not that it felt particularly special when I was doing it, but looking back, man, that was a special show.

I got to bust out a Val Kilmer impression, y’all! Val freaking Kilmer! My Batman by an accident of birth! And it was stupid and dumb yet sublime at the same time. If your improv can fill the Venn Diagram of those three, then you got something good!

I did an Oscar Winning Moment where I played an alcoholic father who wasn’t getting enough shifts at CPK (California Pizza Kitchen). And my scene partners, Sam and Teresa, made me look like a million bucks.

This one dude laughed so hard at the moment, he was still laughing like 5 minutes later. That one dude’s laugh was enough praise that I’ve held onto it for years now. Sometimes I’ll pull out the memory out of the box I keep in my place of good feelings and remember that I was on my A-game for one night.

I mean, I didn’t know it was going to be a special night. I was at a weird place in life where I couldn’t appreciate what was in front of me because I was just fucking lost. Improv got me through those lost days where it felt like my best days were behind me, not realizing that these were some of the days I would cherish forever.

Life happens fast, y’all. Do what you want to do now because one day you’ll look back at now and realize this was a magical time.

One more to go. See you tomorrow,

Fernando

#improv #ocimprov #improvcollective #memory #goodtimes #heart #saved #life #lost #bryanadams #found #magic

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The Improv Life: Just Be a Big Dumb Clown

The Improv Life: Just Be a Big Dumb Clown

Yeah, man, I’m a goof. I like to do bits and play dumb. If I see an opportunity for a joke, I’m going to throw one in there. If I can throw in some biting satire to comment on my surroundings, I will. If I see a sad person, I want to make them laugh. I don’t know why I do it; this is just me. Making people laugh is a calling, and I don’t question it. I’m a big dumb clown because, hey, life is short and we got to squeeze the joy out of it. And for me there is no higher joy than laughter.

#improv #sketch #clown #idiot #comedy #performer #shows #theater #joy #laugh #laughter

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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: 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: It All Starts with Having Good Taste

The Improv Life: It All Starts with Having Good Taste

In an earlier blog post I stated that Norm Macdonald was my first comedy teacher because I just mimicked a bunch of stuff he did.

I knew Norm was funny on an instinctual level; I just couldn’t explain why.

What that means is that I had good taste. I knew what I liked, and I knew what I liked was funny.

So much of being a comedian begins with being a fan.

I loved comedy as a kid. Everything I watched growing up was comedy. The Simpsons, Married with Children, SNL reruns on Comedy Central, Wayne’s World, anything Jim Carrey did, Heavyweights, Clueless, Dirty Work, Mr. Show, Rocko’s Modern Life, random standup; you know just like anything and everything comedy (I was lucky to have cable as a kid).

I would ingest so much comedy and just repeat catch phrases and random snippets non-stop.

The point is I had good taste, and that is what eventually led me to wanting to be a comedian

And this is what “This American Life” host Ira Glass says in his famous “The Gap” speech: “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.”

The rest of the speech goes onto state that it will take a long time to become a good artist, the kind that creates quality stuff you’re proud of. Basically, you’re going to suck for a long time before you get good, but don’t quit, keep creating, and keep setting big goals that forces your skills to meet them.

It’s really inspiring, especially when it feels like you’re not growing. But it all comes down to having good taste.

When you feel like quitting, remember why you started in the first place – to create comedy on the same level as the comedians who inspired you.

To become the artist you want to be is a worthy goal, and you owe it to yourself to pursue it with everything you have. Don’t give up on yourself, and when you do, go read “The Gap” by Ira Glass.

#improv #sketch #comedy #gap #talent #resilience #iraglass #artist #creative #thisamericanlife

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