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: 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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The Improv Life: Start Where You Are With What You Have

Where We Are Now Is Not Where We Began

I was driving on one of America’s worst highways yesterday at one of the worst times: The 405 North at rush hour in the South Coast corridor bleeding into Huntington Beach and Westminster.

This part of the 405 is a wall of traffic. It’s like driving in jello. Six lanes provide no relief. If anything, being surrounded by so many vehicles moving at a sun dials pace sets in existential dread.

You think to yourself, “Fuck this traffic, fuck this drive. Why am I doing this?”

What’s funny is for years I did this drive to learn improv.

Every Thursday night, I would drive from Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa to a coffee shop in Old World Village in Huntington Beach.

A group of us were hungry to do more improv than our once a week, 3-hour class at Orange Coast College.

We banded together and taught each other improv through instinct, experimentation, and ambition to be the best.

It’s like we all had this feeling of what good improv was, and what it could be, but we lacked the skill and experience to execute it.

Until then, we we’re going to have to just practice like hell and have patience with the process, and to have faith that one day we would be good.

We probably sucked. I don’t know? All we had was each other as our judges of taste.

However, we were in that stage of learning something called Unconscious Incompetence – we weren’t aware that we were bad (if we were at all? Probably).

We knew, Yes-And, don’t ask questions, don’t deny, and commit.

It’s like we were a bunch of cro-magnon cavemen with flint spears and a whiff of a nearby Woolly Mammoth – we were hungry and wanted to test ourselves.

We just played every short form game over and over because we liked them, unaware that every game reinforced some core improv concept.

New Choice taught you to listen, commit, and adapt.

Good, Bad, Worse taught you how to create a character and commit to living as them.

Countdown taught you to silence the voice in your head and just commit.

We didn’t know we were learning core skills, embedding them into our improv muscle memory. We were just having fun.

All the other stuff would come later –

wanting to start a team,

The slow drift into factions,

feeling insecure about yourself so you talk shit behind other people’s backs;

the petty power politics of the local improv scene and thinking you’re more important than you are;

The toxic improv groups nobody wants to leave because everyone is too chicken shit to talk openly about their feelings.


But good things we’re also waiting for us in the future:

Sold out shows to standing room only audiences,

Hanging out at Norms at midnight with your crew,

The endless parade of bits that made you feel connected to your teammates;

those breakthrough moments on stage where you bring the house down with a crazy character, genius support move, or heart felt monologue;

that moment outside after a show when you look at your friends and know you’re both thinking, “We did something amazing.” All that was in the future.

Right now, all we had was doing improv once a week at a random coffee shop in Huntington Beach.

It’s where we needed be.

It’s where we set the foundation for our future.


Cheers to all the friends front back then, and thanks to Amir the coffee shop owner for letting us play on his patio.

#improv #student #orangecounty #ocimprov

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This past November, I had a mini-improv tour in NorCal. Here are some pictures. (Taken 11/13/14 – 11/16/14)

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First stop, SF Barprov.

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My Ka-Blahm-o! brother and constant source of inspiration and encouragement, Dwayne Mcdaniel.

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An awesome Ka-Blahm-o! set with Dwayne. Jamming with Dwayne in Ka-Blahm-o! is one of the funnest experiences I’ve ever had as an artist. (Photos courtesy of Ashley Bening of Charmer’s Market).

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Dwayne and Shirley F. Rivera, another awesome Bay Area improviser.

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Another big thanks to Dwayne for making half of this tour happen.

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After SF Barprov, it was off to the Up ‘Til Midnight Jam (Stacey Beckley and Joshua Love did an excellent opening of the jam).

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More Dwayne awesomeness at the jam.

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The TBD Comedy Alumni Show in the Basement of Moffit. So proud of these guys. When we got this shebang going, we had nothing. The next generation stepped up, built an audience, got a banner and lights, but most importantly, continued the spirit of improv entrepreneurship that the founders set up. I feel like an immigrant parent whose kids became doctors and lawyers.

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From Left to right: Picture One – Chloe Kiester, Jake Earl, Vanessa Leann Wilcox; Picture two – more of the same; Picture Three – Emily Forbes, Michael Ross, and Chloe; Picture Four – Michael and Chloe.

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From Left to Right: Picture One – David Loer, Vanessa, and Chloe, and ditto for Picture Two and Picture Three. Love these guys so much. They are to the founders of TBD Comedy what Joshua was to Moses (Book of Exodus reference/analogy).

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Back to Back Series 1: Dwayne and I. Dwayne is an amazing friend and an incredible asset to the Bay Area Improv Community. He’s the kind of dude that will accept you for who you are and be there by your side when you need it.

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Alan J. Miller and I. I love Alan. He was one of the first Berkeley improvisers to really embrace me, and he cheered me on throughout my entire Berkeley improv career. However, Alan J. Miller is an incredible improviser in his own right; he’s also an amazing musician with his group, Mike and Alan, and he’s one of the few dudes who has taken his improv skills – like team building and emotional intelligence – and applied it to his professional endeavors in the Human Resource world of Silicon Valley.

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Back to Back Series 2: Eric Rubin and I. My improv brother, fellow ex-monarch, and over-all wonderful human being. He’s a great listener, teacher, and Parkour practitioner, but he’s so humble about it all that you would never know it.

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Derrek Coleman and I. An incredibly nice, charming, and sincere fellow who can light up a room by entering it. Derrek and I used to live together at Stebbins Hall, where he gave me one of the best compliments I ever received – “You have my utmost respect for living your life with character and integrity.” Thank you so much for that.

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The King of the Bull-Shitters and a great Devil’s Advocate – Will Kuffel.

 

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Back to Back Series 3: David T. Cline and I. One of the kindest, gentlest, and most charismatic souls I’ve ever met. Hope you’re doing well, brother!

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My gracious hosts that gave me a place to crash while I engaged in these improv shenanigans that give my life purpose and meaning. Thank you Ron and Eleni. (My head is much bigger than either of theirs).

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Until Next Time, NorCal – Fernando

 

 

2014 NorCal Improv Tour Photo Album

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