The Improv Life Ep.4 with Mike Ransom – Fernando’s Improv Blog Podcast

Talking with Mike was a blast.

Ep.4 of The Improv Life with Mike Ransom

Welcome to Episode Four of the Improv Life! 

My wonderful guest was Mike Ransom! A dude I’ve known for a very long time! Damn, I’ve actually known Mike for over 10 years, and I have a great deal of respect and admiration for him. 

I’m a huge fan of Mike. I’ve been watching this guy crush it on the improv stage for years, bringing the audience to tears with his outrageous characters and spot-on choices. At first glance, you might think this guy is just naturally funny and goofy – which is partly true – but there is a lot of thought and intelligence in his improv. Mike thinks deeply about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. If the audience laughs, it’s in response to Mike’s deep focus and attention for what he’s doing on stage. As an improv philosophy discussion, this has been my favorite discussion yet. 

I feel like Mike and I got closer in this interview. He opened himself up to me in a very honest and vulnerable way, and I’m glad that happened. Mike is a super talented, wonderful guy, and I hope this dude performs forever. As a friend and an improviser, three cheers to Mike! Thanks for doing the interview, brother! 

You can listen on SoundCloud too.

Here’s What Mike Ransom and I Talked About 

  • The long history we have in the Orange County Scene
  • How his long running team Instant Improv makes it work 
  • How respect and shared history leads to friendships and future partnerships 
  • How Mike, Improv Collective co-founder Jeff Ambas, and OC Improv OG Ryan Keel started improv at Marina High School with help from no one 
  • How Mike was a huge fan of Improv Shimprov, and then years later, found himself as a member of the team, and how he transitioned to playing their style 
  • Mike and I get deep on improv philosophy, how to add to a scene, the power of gifts, Mike’s Method for playing characters, and why people break  
  • How Mike and Instant Improv are transitioning to this new world of Zoom Shows
  • How Mike adapted to being an improv coach and teacher 

Links 

You can follow Instant Improv on Facebook and Instagram.

They do a show every Thursday at 7pm on Facebook Live. Their content is family friendly, so bring the whole family! You can watch their latest episode here. 

The Improv Collective is also on Facebook, and they are also doing live shows. 

Follow them here to stay on top of their latest announcements. 

My improv conversation about Mike made me think about some improv philosophy blog posts y’all might enjoy 

How To Unpack & Prove Gifts: Specs Friday 03/15/19 Drop-In – When I was a drop-in teacher for Spectacles Improv Engine, I would write a blog post for every lesson. Here I wax poetic on my philosophy for gifts. 

How To Make & Play Big Characters – Specs Drop-In Class 03/08/19 – My mantra and philosophy for playing characters.

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The Improv Life Ep.2 – Liam O’Mahoney, Fernando’s Improv Blog Podcast

I always love talking to Liam O’Mahoney.

Welcome to the 2nd episode ever of Fernando’s Improv Blog Podcast – The Improv Life! 

Today I talked to none other than Liam O’Mahoney! 

Liam is literally one of my favorite people in the whole world. There’s nobody I’ve probably done more improv scenes with in my whole life because of our time on Big Selfie together. 

Him and I share a crazy synchronized group mind. There was a moment in the interview where Liam was speaking, and I literally thought of the next word out of his mouth – and I was right! And I told him, “That was the same word I was thinking!” 

You don’t meet someone like Liam O’Mahoney every day. Dude is funny, kind, accepting, and creative. I’m very lucky to call him a friend, a person I’ve had a million good times with on stage, off stage, hanging out in the parking lot before a shot, and just in life. Love you Liam! 

You can listen to the latest episode down below!

Here’s What Liam and I Talked About: 

  • Our first meeting ever and how we heard about each other before actually meeting.
  • Liam’s early days at the Improv Collective and joining the community through Binh Ngyuen’s Improv Class at Orange Coast College.
  • How Liam and I have a crazy group mind because of our time together on Big Selfie.
  • How Liam was able to say “Yes” to what he wanted to do with his life.
  • How that choice has brought him many friendships.
  • Liam and I reminisce about all the crazy experimental shows we did back in the day and how it made us into better artists.
  • How I intentionally planted the seed of “Game” in Liam’s mind when I coached him and Keefer Langer for their two-man Harold team. 
  • His journey to dreaming of being an actor, denying that desire, and finally embracing his artistic destiny by choosing himself. 
  • How the Improv Collective embraced him and nurtured him in the early days of his improv journey. 
  • Liam talks about studying at UCB LA and how different it felt from the Improv Collective. 
  • Liam reveals how deep he got into the LA improv world with his various practice groups and indy teams. 
  • How this is the first time ever Liam has not done improv because of the crazy times we’re living in. 
  • Overall, check out this podcast to see two friends with a lot of history and a love talk about their journeys. 

Links 

Help Save Us, Improv Collective – the amazing theater where Liam and I cut our teeth at and formed our friendship needs your help. The Improv Collective has set up a Patreon to raise money to keep the theater alive. If you could sign up and donate, I would really appreciate it. 

The Improv Collective Facebook Page – Stay up-to-date on all things Improv Collective. 

The Big Selfie Facebook Page –  Follow the Big Selfie FB page to find out when we’re coming back! I don’t know when, but you don’t want to miss the announcement! 

Here are some blog posts where I talk about Liam and Big Selfie 

The Fernando Show – A Retrospective On Taking Risks and Failing Big – The one man show where Liam was my sidekick and everything that went wrong. 

The Improv Life: What I Learned About Owning Your Characters – I mention one of the last great amazing scenes and I did before the quarantine hit. 

Hardeen Profiles: Meet Liam O’Mahoney – A bizarre profile I wrote about Liam to promo one of our many failed Hardeen sketch shows. 

The Improv Life: Do It Together – A journal entry of when my Defenders like super team did a set at Idiot Dome. 

The Improv Life: The Importance of Side Projects, Or Some More History of How Big Selfie Came Together a little bit of background of how my Armando team, Big Selfie, came together. 

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The Improv Life: Trying to Salvage This Blog From My Extreme Neglect

The Macho Man “Randy Salvage.” Okay, that was a cool pun, but this was the closest pic I could find in my media library that fits my current mood.

By me, Fernando A. Funes

Trying To Salvage This Blog From My Extreme Neglect

I feel like if you switched out a few words in the title of this post, it would describe my human experience – Trying to Salvage My Life From Extreme Neglect.

In fact, if I ever make it BIG, and I mean so BIG, I don’t have to work a real job ever again, I might call my cash-grab autobiography that.

And believe me, that book will be 100% Fernando A. Funes propaganda on the level of the ridiculous documentary, History of the Eagles Part 1 and 2.

I would be both Glen Frey and Don Henley.

Whoever my David Geffen is, I would have that person in the documentary to just serve as a famous person that helped me out but who I still shit on. I would make broad, indirect swipes at Neil Young, even though I’m nowhere near his level.

This is all just fantasy. I’m just a – and this is a nod to a great but now defunct podcast – Journeyman Improviser.

So I’ve neglected this blog.

There was a time when I would write in it frequently, especially in the heyday of my Orange County Improv Days.

In fact, this blog was created to keep me focused on growing and developing as an improviser because I knew that I would not be as active in Orange County as I had been in San Francisco.

There are a lot of good times recorded in this blog.

It’s a diary of a time when Improv in the OC was golden, and I didn’t need to go to LA because there was enough here to keep me busy, engaged, and growing.

Most of the blogs are sentimental.

How so? Because I was neglected, I’m sentimental. Because I’m sentimental, I’m aware how soon things come and go; how you have to appreciate the present because it’s not going to last.

I don’t like being sentimental – mostly because people who are not sentimental don’t dig that part of me – but fuck it, that’s who I am, and I’m not going to suppress it. This blog has been a great tool in accepting that part of myself.

This blog post, A Poem For Orange County Improv, is proof of my sentimentality – it’s about my love of Orange County Improv and how a bunch of us came of age together in the OC doing improv.

Alas, LA is next door.

I just didn’t feel that I needed to go to LA.

That’s bullshit. The more comedy you do, the deeper you get into, the louder the call of LA becomes.

Half of the people I know in LA – and multiply that half by two – are here because the need to do comedy, as much of it as possible, became so overwhelming that they had to come to LA. Of course, it’s more nuanced than that, but that’s been my general experience.

I’m just very lucky that LA is next door.

Driving down The 5 sucks, but I didn’t need to move here from New Jersey (a lot of people out here seem to be from New Jersey).

So I got sucked in by LA.

And there was a time where I could do comedy both Orange County and LA, but LA’s gravity slowly pulled me closer and closer until one day I woke up and realized that 90% of my comedy life was now in Los Angeles.

The more time I spent in LA, the less time I would spend in Orange County, dwindling down to one improv show a month (the first Friday of the month with Big Selfie) and the less I would write in this blog.

Neglecting This Blog

I feel bad. I worked really hard to build this blog into something, a channel for sharing my love of improv with the world.

And I just neglected it. A common theme in my life.

I’ve neglected a bunch of things, mostly involving my relationships with people.

On the other side of neglect – not the desire to squeeze everything out of every possible moment because you know it will be gone someday – is not understanding how important something is.

You have something, but you don’t realize how precious or delicate it is. And you don’t nurture it, give it the attention it deserves, or stop giving it the attention you once gave it.

Eventually, it withers and dies, and resentment takes it place. And resentment can last a long time.

To all the people I’ve neglected whether knowingly or unknowingly, there is nothing I can ever do to make up for not giving you the proper attention. I apologize for sucking you into my cycle of neglect, and you are under no obligations to forgive me. I just hope I can grow past the cycle of neglect and be a more responsible human being.

So What Am I Going To Do Next?

I’m just going to try to start writing in this blog again.

How do you overcome neglect? Action. Action is the only remedy for neglect.

Not just random action, but calculated efforts to rebuild this blog one post at a time.

To start off, I’m going to read Truth In Comedy and post my sincere opinions about it in here. It’s not much, but it’s a start! This is my comeback angle, baby!

On the real, this blog helped me grow and develop as an improviser and sketch comedian, and just overall comedy artist.

I don’t know if I would be where I am today had it not been for this blog. This blog forced me to think deeply about comedy and share those insights with whoever would have them.

If I can stay true to that promise throughout the life of this blog, then I’ll be okay.

Fernando.

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A Poem For Orange County Improv

A Poem For Orange County Improv

Look man
We taught ourselves improv
In people’s living rooms
And coffee shops
And at as many shows
As we could possibly have

I mean as many shows as possible
In front of great fans
Half who were your peers
Friends and family
And half real fans
Born from someone else’s
Friends and family
And more peers

Nobody was better
Than anybody else
Except for the perception
You had in your mind
Which told you
You were better than everybody else
Because you were insecure
Or that you sucked
Because you were insecure

But we were all geniuses
And we all sucked
Just depended on the night
But we were all watching
Hoping for the best

It was all of us
Behind the Orange Curtain
Doing it for fun
For community
Because it made us feel alive
And because it gave our life: purpose

If you’re looking for purpose
That’s what you need
Fun + Community
+ Making you feel alive

And we had that
And you lived for
Your once a week practice
Your once a month show
And all the other shows
Where you would hug everyone
You know and you called them: brother

Like pro-wrestlers
Because we were brothers
Because we prioritized
This art from and our community
Over own families
And other communities
And the love we gave each other
Was the love you give family
So it became a family by choice

And yeah man
There was bullshit
Petty petty petty grudges
And cliques that made people
Feel alienated
Fake friends and shit talking
Favoritism and discrimination
Problems all communities face
Regardless of size

But man it was different
Because we had to
Teach each other basically
I mean like literally educate each other
About everything
Build civilization from scratch
With trial and error
As our brick and mortar

And yeah, LA was just next door
But what we had down here
Was special
Not because it was local
Okay because it was local
But because all these amazing people
Came together
To do something they love
And from that love
A community was born
And what is a community born in love
Home

Thank you
for making me
The man I am
Orange County Improv

161.20 #poem #improv #sketch #ocimprov #specsimprov #improvcollective #man #growth #community #family #home #artist #comedy #goodtimes

PC: Jas Sams

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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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