The Improv Life: Why Bits are Important to Friendship

The Improv Life: Why Bits are Important to Friendship

I had this job once where no one did bits. I’m not kidding. I would throw a great line just waiting to be riffed on, and the potential bit would die on the vine.

Or some body would unknowingly deliver a great premise just asking to be tossed around a circle and have every possible joke made about it. But it would just become nothing.

Hanging out with comedians and writers had spoiled me. Everything was a bit, a run of jokes to see who could come up with the funniest line. I mean not everything was a bit, but the possibility to see the humor in every situation and riff on it was always on the table.

Nor did they understand the concept of bits. I tried teaching them, but they never understood. It’s not that you need your co-workers to be good at bits; it’s that bits make life fun. They inject humor into any situation that otherwise would’ve been boring and absent of meaning.

Not that every situation must be a bit. And living in a constant state of bitiness can be exhausting. You’re always on (or feel like you have to) and you feel like you can’t be your honest self for a moment.

But not doing bits at all. Damn. That’s a hard one. What they don’t tell you is that a bit is a shortcut to friendship. If you can do bits with someone, you can also be honest and real with them when you need to be.

Friendship isn’t always about making each other laugh. It’s also supporting each other during the different movements in the opera that is life. Sometimes you need someone to laugh with; other times you need someone to hug you while your world falls apart. And if you can do bits with someone, you know you can shed tears with them too. That’s why bits are important – it’s a way to find real friends.

Shout out to all the friends I made throughout the years because they were good at bits.

#bits #improv #comedy #friendship #community #relationships 

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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: Del Taco Nights

No one beats Del Taco nights.

The Improv Life: Del Taco Nights

On almost any given Friday or Saturday night, I could roll on over to STAGES Theater and catch whatever improv show Spectacles Improv Engine was putting on that night.

If it wasn’t packed, I’d sit at the very last row and watch. If it was IFL, I knew I was in for a treat. Austin Floyd and Matt Thomas would be hosting, the field reporter would take suggestions, and the teams would be doing improv, and we were just living up the magic of each other’s company.

I remember there was this one time where the improv was amazing, Austin was on fire with his quips, he was even responding to my heckles from the top row, where I took off my shoes because no one was around, and I was exhausted, and then when I felt safe and vulnerable, I thought to myself, “This isn’t going to last forever.”

I don’t know why I thought that. It was a thought that came to the surface when I was off guard. I looked at the stage and got a little sad.

I then immediately buried the feeling and tried not to think about it. I just knew that I was witnessing a really cool moment that would stay with me from then on.

Once the show was over, I think I went down the steps to shake hands and give hugs and let everyone know how amazing of a show it was.

I had just had a long day in LA and hadn’t ate in more than 8 hours. I had a terrible diet back then, forcing myself to go without food until I couldn’t stand the hunger.

So I went to Del Taco, the one on State College and Chapman, ordered whatever, and then ate it in my car.

It was a very Orange County thing to do: eat Del Taco after a super late show.

Being an improv comedian in Orange County meant late nights: late shows, late dinners, late karaoke jams, late hangs in the parking lot spilling your guts to your peers, or opening your heart to a new friend; you let the day linger to its last second because you wanted to feel like you did all you could that day to squeeze every ounce of value and joy from this day that would be gone forever.

Del Taco was just part of that lifestyle.

I lived late, laughed late, and ate Del Beef Burritos after midnight.

I ate Del Taco to cool down my mind, body, and soul after an epic day.

To get some calories for the drive home.

To begin to let go of a day that had to end.

When I was at Specs, even when maybe it wasn’t the best or it was phenomenal and people would quote that shit forever, I did not want it to end.

I wanted the night to continue and go on, to see more improv, and do more improv; to just laugh like a dumb kid and throw out suggestions that were also bits; to see my friends and marvel at their skills.

Del Taco was necessary for me to end the day, accept it was over, and go to bed to not be too exhausted for the next one.

And you can substitute Del Taco for Norms, Denny’s, whatever post game late night meal to draw the day out a little longer. The bonus about those places was that you ate with friends.

I miss Specs. I don’t know if I have fully processed it’s over (despite playing in a show that was labeled as the Last Specs Show). Maybe I’m not good at processing reality or dealing with trauma, but not eating Del Taco at the State College and Chapman location for over a year finally convinced me it’s over.

Love you Specs. Thank you for all the good times and memories, the friendships and lessons, the feeling of being alive. I will forever be in your debt.

Love you too Del Taco.

#improv #ocimprov #specsimprov


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Somethings Are Hard to Explain: Synchronicity & Big Selfie

I loved Canters Deli the moment I walked in, just like I loved Big Selfie the first time we played together.

How do you connect everything?

Synchronicity is the idea that unrelated events have a central cause.

More mysticism than science, this phenomenon can only be proven over time.

Moreover, I don’t think one can comprehend its entirety; in a nonsensical world, how do you pinpoint the main cause of seemingly unrelated events; how do you determine a major cause from a minor one; how do you argue Synchronicity has taken place?

I want to make a case for Big Selfie being a real life example of Synchronicity. But then I can’t.

I feel that I would be ascribing myself with a level of intelligence I do not possess. The case I was going to make, I realize now, would’ve been a shallow analysis of this grander phenomenon.

My analysis: this team was born because of an opportunity for me to build a dream team that would perform a one off show at the OC Improv Collective. However, I can go no further in deciphering what was the genesis point of this Synchronicity.

Was it that a show opportunity popped up at a theater I was a part of?

Or was it that the theater existed in the first place for us to even have a space to perform in?

Then, at the individual level, it gets freakier: how did all these individuals’ schedules line up perfectly? How did seven kind-a strangers gell so well?

Finally, it gets even more profound as I try to understand how each individual member came to improv. What factors caused them to do this artform and not others? Again, this is an intelligence I don’t have, nor do I want.

So I don’t question it. I just accept the fact that I’m lucky to be on this team.

It took incredible luck to arrive at this point, meet these wonderful people, and build something great together.

Maybe Synchronicity & Luck are just two dudes at a bar buying drinks for everybody, and where one goes the other follows.

Love the people in your life. Don’t question it too deeply.  Live with the mystery. Enjoy their company, love each other, and build something from that. That’s probably the best thing we can do.

#improv #synchronicity #bigselfie

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