The Improv Life: I Love LA

The Improv Life: I Love LA

LA has a magic to it that is hard to describe.

I started coming here to do improv, as the thousands before me, so many now being my friends.

I drive these streets and get inspired creatively.

I feel the history around me in LA’s weird angles. An American City grid on top of a Spanish City outline in what used to be Mexico and native land before that. If that’s not improv, I don’t know what that is.

The one advantage is I didn’t have to live here. I can take what I need from it and return to my fortress of decaying suburbia just beyond the Orange Curtain.

But even then, I don’t escape LA’s grip. From the Grapevine to end of the 405, it’s all just one huge quilt of urban development, with LA being the pulsating heart driving the constant progress and expansion. This is Megacity 2.

And you see LA’s cultural reach in TV as well. You watch a TV show and you notice that key creative leads got their training at UCB, Groundlings, Second City, Pack, and a bunch of other improv schools and communities with people cutting their teeth in the LA comedy scene.

Of all the places to find my life – to find myself – LA has become an integral part of my journey, past, present, and future.

Love you LA,

Fernando
Son of Juan and Alicia

#improv #la #losangeles #comedy #ucb #groundlings #packtheater #secondcity #djwaldie #holyland #essay #city #cityscape #megacity2 #immigrant #journey #border

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The Improv Life: What I Learned About Editing from Rich Sohn

The Improv Life: What I Learned About Editing from Rich Sohn

I studied with Rich Sohn online this past year for his Pack Theater Level 2 improv class.

It’s a 4-week session, but you get a lot, and you get a close look at Rich’s improv philosophy, shaped by his years studying, performing, and teaching improv in Chicago, the mecca of our art form.

I liked the class so much I took it twice. And I want to take it a third time. I’m at a point in my journey where Rich’s philosophy and teaching style vibes with me well.

I learned a lot, but I learned about the importance of editing. Scene edits are the invisible fabric of a good show. A good scene depends on how well it’s edited. If you have enough good scenes stringed together, you got yourself a show you can hang your hat on at the end of it.

Pop quiz hot shot: you’re on the sidelines and your team is dying on stage, begging to be edited, but you don’t have an idea for a new scene – what do you do?

You get your teammates the hell out of there, and you trust yourself and your new teammate on stage to make a new scene and figure it out from there. Getting your teammates out of danger is more important than having some hot shot idea for an amazing scene.

A scene that goes on too long is risky. It affects the energy of the overall show. Teammates get insecure, feeling like their sinking in quicksand and being abandoned by their teammates, and the audience is weirded out by uncomfortable scenes that seemingly never end but feel like they should. Good editing solves all these problems and increases the likelihood of good scenes and good shows.

Basically, good editing saves the day.

Knowing how to edit is one of the most important skills an improviser could ever develop. This under appreciated ability can be one of the difference makers between an amazing, out-of-this-world show and a “Meh” show that leaves everyone feeling weird afterwards.

Thank you, Rich. Because of you, I know the importance and power of editing (and how to do it). I encourage all of you to go study with Rich Sohn ASAP.

Let’s talk tomorrow,

Fernando

#improv #edit #editor #cut #packtheater #teacher #class #team

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The Improv Life: I Love Doing Dingleberries

The Improv Life: I Love Doing Dingleberries

Woooooooo!!! Just did a really fun set with Dingleberries!!!

Dingleberries is a weekly improv show on the Pack Twitch Channel hosted by Pack teachers, Neal Dandade and Rich Sohn, featuring special guests.

Well, this week the amazing Allison Smith and I were the guests, and we had a blast!

We just talked in an honestly and real way, and then did some improv. Because we’ve all known each other for a while now, it was easy to play with one another. I mean what else can you ask for? Playing with people you’ve know, really respect and admire, and who make it feel like time flies when you’re in the presence of each other’s company – that’s Improv.

So go check out Dingleberries every Monday night at 9pm on the Pack Twitch Channel. And study improv with Neal and Rich at the Pack Theater! And check out Allison Smith’s improv shows Animal Crossing and Play Cousins on the Pack Twitch Channel every Thursday at 7pm!

Take care y’all,

Fernando

#improv #packtheater #packtwitch #comedy #dingleberries

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The Sketch Comedy Life: You Could Literally Do Sketch Show About Anything

The Sketch Comedy Life: You Could Literally Do Sketch Show About Anything

The great thing about sketch comedy is that you can literally do a sketch show about anything.

A few years ago I did a sketch show with the Latinx Comedy Pachanga and Pack Theater friends called “Previously on X-Men,” a night of X-Men themed blackout and name-the-game sketches, with longer pieces sprinkled in between.

A blackout sketch is a 1-2 page sketch with a really clear premise and strong game, usually being one powerful joke.

A name-the-game sketch sets up the joke of the sketch up top with a framing device, like how I intended to use ‘Previously on X-Men.’

I got inspired by the old X-Men: The Animated Series (XTAS), the SNL sketch MacGruber, and the experimental energy circulating at the Pack Theater.

Before every new episode of XTAS, a short clip summing up the past episode would play with the preface, “Previously on X-Men.” The clip was always over the top and dramatic.

It then occurred to me, “Hey! We can have a show that uses ‘Previously on X-Men’ as a set up/framing device for a series of X-Men themed 1-2 minute sketches.

MacGruber had a similar energy in that it was a 3-4 minute sketch broken down into three 1 minute chapters, with every chapter making the sketch bigger and bigger. Go watch a MacGruber sketch right now on YouTube, and you’ll see what I mean.

The Pack had really cool shows like Book Report and Speedface that were big inspirations. Book Report did sketches around a classic children’s book, and was always fun to watch. Speedface was a show where you had 90 seconds to do a bit. It encouraged high risk/high reward, ambitious pieces. I loved watching this show and performing on it whenever I could.

Finally, I had an amazing ensemble in the Latinx Comedy Pachanga and my various Pack friends who stepped up to make the show a blast! Sketches included the Latinx-Men, Veterano Spiderman, Wolverine at Home Depot, Alpha Alpha Flight, and more.

It’s a project I will always look at fondly. Go create the comedy you want to see.

#sketch #sketchcomedy #improv #packtheater #xmen #xtas #snl #blackoutsketch #namethegame #latinxcomedypachanga

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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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