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


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


The Improv Life: My First Comedy Teacher, Norm Macdonald

The Improv Life: My First Comedy Teacher, Norm Macdonald

You learn comedy by mimicking the people you look up to, the people who make you laugh the most.

In my early forays into comedy as a teenager, I was just ripping off Norm Macdonald bits and tried to pass them off as my own.

I learned to say outrageous things, just flat out lies, in the most straight man way possible, just like he did in Weekend Update.

I guess you would call it deadpan, but I never leaned into the punchline, or hinted that I was doing a bit. I just said bizarre, absurd things in a very matter of fact way to whoever was around.

My friends knew I was doing a bit, but other people would just continue talking to me as normal with me being an emotionless ass.

I would always say, “Note to Self,” pantomime a tape recorder, and record some absurd sentence that I thought was funny. “Note to Self: create secret language for my friends and I to talk about that thing we all do in private when no one is watching, but people know what we’re doing.”

I always used “Note to Self” to make a zinger about whatever was happening around me while the thing was still relevant. I guess I was learning timing from Norm.

Or even now, I still do his fake shock. In Dirty Work, or Weekend Update, he would say a joke with some surprising piece of information, act a wee bit shocked (but not really) to drive home how insane or absurd is the joke he just delivered.

Like he would say a joke with a little bit of shock, expect the audience to get it, hold for a moment, and then either address if the person got it or moved on.

Dirty Work taught me how to fish for funny people in life. If you’re working with someone and you softball them a joke with a light delivery, and wait for them to get it or not, their response (going along with your bit or going over their head) will reveal if they’re cool or not.

Out in the wild comedians have to sniff each other out. Bits are a way for us to find each other and seek refuge in each other’s company.

You always gave me refuge, Norm. And you taught me more than I ever knew. RIP, brother.

#normmacdonald #weekendupdate
#snl #dirtywork