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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Confidence vs. Arrogance: Notes from the May 17th Specs Friday Drop-In

It’s been a long journey on the road to confidence, but I’m glad I got here.

By Fernando A. Funes

Confidence Vs. Arrogance.

Confidence is one of the key elements of a good improv performance.

Every improviser has experienced pressure to be funny.

It’s scary at first to go out there in front of a bunch of strangers under the pretense that you will make them laugh.

It’s part of the contract when you sign up to be a performer.

Although it takes time to become comfortable on stage, there is one indispensable component to becoming a great stage performer: confidence.

Confidence is what makes this whole thing less scary; it gives you the strength you need to go out there and put on a show without knowing what the hell is going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. You still need good improv fundamentals, empathy, listening, responding in the moment, and every other quality needed to be a good improviser. All I’m saying is that confidence is an important component under-girding all of those.

What is Confidence?

Confidence is your belief in your ability to execute the task expected of you — put on a show, do a scene, be yourself and respond like a human being.

Confidence is what allows you to go out there and do a strong choice even if you don’t know where that choice is going or why you did it. It’s the bridge between your training and instinct.

It’s your relationship with yourself and how you feel about your abilities.

When it comes to improv, confidence is a way of saying: “I may not be in control of things, but I am in control how I react to them.”

Although people on the outside can influence it through trying to bring you down through insults or building you up with compliments, confidence is internal.

It’s just in you, and it’s expressed in how you express yourself on stage and how you interact with others off the stage.

What is Confidence’s relationship to Commitment?

When we talk about commitment, what we mean is having confidence in your choices, character, and ability to roll with the facts of a scene.

Commitment is a euphemism for confidence. It’s a softer way of saying “be confident,” while removing any implications of arrogance attached to confidence.

What is Arrogance?

Arrogance is not confidence. Arrogance is a way of saying, “I’m better than you are, and you need to catch up to me, not the other way around.”

Arrogance is usually a mask for insecurity.

What is Arrogance’s relationship to Insecurity?

Insecurity is triggered when we are around others and we feel concerned about how they feel about us.

We may want people to like us or form a favorable opinion, and that want — to be liked, to be loved — manifests in different ways behavior wise when it’s coming from a place of insecurity.

We may shrink (that’s one of my go-to’s), act tough, go silent; do whatever negative things that turns people away. And for some people it’s arrogance.

Arrogance is almost a way of pre-rejecting people before they can reject you. People have to prove themselves before you have to prove yourself to them.

They put the burden of proof on you, and that means they can hide in their insecurity a little bit longer.

What is the key difference between Confidence and Arrogance?

While arrogance is directed outward in how you relate yourself to others, confidence is directed inward. It’s about how you relate to yourself in the moment and your belief in our ability to perform at a competent level.

Arrogance = outside

Confidence = inside

How do you know this?

I’ve been accused by people of being arrogant in the past.

And you know what? Maybe they were right.

I wouldn’t be able to talk about this subject with such confidence if I hadn’t experienced it a bit myself.

I guess my arrogance came out in the form of me being unfazed by anything and having the air of supreme confidence of being able to perform anywhere at anytime. In reality, I was eager to hit the stage and want to blow everyone away because I had something to prove.

Maybe this need I have to prove myself comes from a place of not feeling worthy enough? Maybe I need the validation of outside people in order to feel good about myself?

These are deeper questions. And these are things that I think every performer has wrestled with at some point in their journey.

We all have our baggage and insecurities and triggers and things that make us put up our guard in front of others.

There is an old saying that goes, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and I think what that means is that you carry your baggage and insecurities with you wherever you go.

So if you’re insecure in your real life, that might come out on stage and how you conduct yourself in a community.

And if you are aware of that, you’re better off to dealing with that.

Confidence is internal because if you have a good show, you own it, but you don’t ride that high too long. If you have a bad show, you don’t let that bad show define you. You say “Oh well,” and move on to the next one. Basically, you keep doing shows and keep trying to learn and grow.

Whereas with Arrogance, your internal self-worth is is based on every show. A good show makes you feel like a god and a bad show makes you feel like kitchen floor scum. It’s not a healthy way to live.

Developing your internal self worth takes time. But believe me, it’s worth the effort. Spend some time on yourself. Journal. Go see a therapist. Exercise. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Learn to love yourself and so will the rest of the world.

So how do you cultivate genuine Confidence? Or at the very least, how do you fight off Arrogance?

There are a few ways to do that:

1). Stay Humble

Humility teaches you that you have a long way to go, and that there is always room for growth, and there are things you have not yet learned, and that there are others out there who know more than you and that you should learn from them.

It’s also a reminder that things can change. One day you’re on top; one day you’re on bottom, and it’s accepting that this is part of the cycle of life. All the confidence in the world won’t get you booked if you’re somebody people don’t want to work with because you’re an asshole. So be nice to everyone!

2). Keep Studying

Never stop learning. There is more knowledge in the world than you’ll ever be able to comprehend. Learn something new and be humbled by the fact that you will never know everything there is to know.

3). Be Kind

Confident people are comfortable with themselves, so it’s easier for them to be comfortable with others. Be kind, meet new people, listen to them, talk to them, pass no judgments, connect. Learn from them, or share with them something you think might benefit them.

4). Gratitude

Just be grateful for everything you have and everything you know. Embrace where you are currently as an opportunity for growth, and have patience and compassion with yourself on your journey.

I know these are all kind of hippy-dippy, New-Agey kind of stuff, and I know that it comes off as dime-store psychology, but it goes back to what I said earlier: confidence is about your relationship with yourself.

If you want to be confident, you have to have a healthy relationship with yourself. I know that’s a big ask of people, and it won’t be easy for everyone, but it’s something I think everyone should look into.

It’s cheesy to say this (and I hate that I’m saying it), but you have to love yourself before others can love you.

I hope these notes helped out and I hope to see you at a drop-in sooner than later!

Fernando

Spectacles Improv Engine host drop-in Improv Classes every Friday from 12pm to 2pm and every Sunday from 11am to 1pm at STAGES Theater in Fullerton. Classes are $10, and every class is different from the other. Check it out!

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