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: Why You Have to Read Books, Watch Movies, and Listen to Music

The Improv Life: Why You Have to Read Books, Watch Movies, and Listen to Music

I’m a big believer that everything you consume informs and contributes to your art.

You don’t know how it’s going to manifest in your art.

Unless your making a conscious effort to channel specific themes and references from a work of art that inspires you – which a lot of artists do in other kinds of mediums (but not usually improv) – you’re just going to go out there and see what comes out.

Improv is spontaneous and unplanned – there’s no way you can go into a scene knowing what’s going to inspire you in the moment.

Yes, you get a suggestion, but that’s just the starting point, not the whole scene.

You’re mind/gut sends you an impulse, you hold onto it, and use it to build a character, or to explore the scene while you figure out what’s going on.

But what is that impulse? It’s probably an idea for a character, or a vague feeling pushing you in a certain direction, with every move giving you more handles for you to grip your character.

But where does that idea come from? Well,  that probably depends on you. For me, and I don’t know how this developed, I’ll think back to some random thing I read, watched, listened to, remembered – and I totally have no control over this; it just arrives on its own, prompted by the moment and its unfolding action – and I use that for inspiration.

And you can create some wild stuff when you take what your mind gives you to cobble a character together. Some characters feel like they’ve been waiting to come out fully formed, and others feel like a mosaic I’m slowly piecing together with every choice. But the point is this: my subconscious is processing everything; the more I give it, the more it will give me for my art; I don’t control how it manifests, but I embrace whatever it gives me because I know there is gold there waiting for me to uncover it.

And that’s why you have to go read books, watch movies, and listen to music – you don’t know how it’s going to inspire you, but you can bet it will.

#improv #character #books #writer #director #books #art #creative #inspiration

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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 Wanted to be a Musician, But Comedy Came Easier

The Improv Life: I Wanted to be a Musician, But Comedy Came Easier

I wanted to be a badass lead guitarist who plays Marty Friedman like guitar solos, just one after the other, a flurry of fretboard genius and virtuosity that the guitar and I merge into one being.

Alas, that was not for me.

Comedy came easier to me. It was a more natural fit. I knew what I needed to do without being educated about what I needed to do. The instinct was there.

Years of watching movies on HBO, SNL reruns on Comedy Central, and tons of Simpsons had given me enough examples of what was funny and how to execute it.

My parents were funny too (in their own way) but I just didn’t know it. They would argue and dissect everything, throwing jabs or inserting jokes wherever possible.
They were also great observers of human behavior, always looking for the awkward things beneath the surface, trying to sniff out who was trustworthy or not.

So I did have a comedy education of sorts. But I still wanted to be a lead guitarist! I’ve tried on and off throughout the years, and it is fun to play, even more rewarding to learn a song or see progress.

But my growth in comedy compared to my growth in music was like racing to the Moon in a rocket ship designed by Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four versus a mule pulling a wooden cart with stone wheels, and one of the wheels is wonky because of a chipped edge, making the ride off kilter.

But like that’s life. You have to accept your weaknesses to embrace your strengths. It’s a parodox. Not that you can’t develop a weakness into a strength, but it will take way longer, longer than you imagined, and if you put that effort into developing your strength instead, your strength will explode, more than you thought yourself capable of. I know, it’s a parodox.

Anyways, I’m going to go listen to Steely Dan now because I’m in my 30s. Cheers.

#improv #music #strengths #weakness #growth #progress #rock #metal #journey #class #nature #nurture #life #paradox #steelydan

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The Improv Life: Go Watch “Ghostbusters” Knowing That Bill Murray Improvised Most of His Performance

The Improv Life: Go Watch “Ghostbusters” Knowing That Bill Murray Improvised Most of His Performance

I’m never going to be an advanced Jazz musician who can tell you about the complexity of a player’s performance through their performance and phrasing, but I can talk to you about watching Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters’ after having trained as an improv comedian and having my mind blown away by his intricate, free flowing performance.

Not everyone might know this, but Bill Murray’s performance in “Ghostbusters” was largely improvised.

I didn’t know this as a kid. I just laughed at the movie, and watched it every time it came on television. I couldn’t tell you why it was funny; I just knew it was funny.

Later on when I decided to give myself heart and soul to improv, I discovered that Bill Murray improved large swaths of Dr. Venkman, his character in the movie.

It was a summer holiday, and I decided to watch it, specifically observing for Bill Murray’s performance, trying to see if I could catch where he was improvising.

Bill Murray was Dr. Peter Venkman, a sly, charming, confident, charismatic parapsychologist who was unfazed by any task (except for dealing with Slimer). It’s simply amazing, his performance.

I was a chump; I realized I didn’t know shit about improv. (What was I thinking? Who did I think I was?). I realized how much I didn’t know about improv and how much more there was to learn.

Here’s my main conclusion: I couldn’t tell you what was improv and what was scripted. If you can convince your audience that what you just improvised was scripted, then you have achieved something amazing.

Yes, I know that there was a script and an outline for the character of Dr. Venkman, but Bill Murray took the character and made it his own, exceeding the boundaries of the script and creating something so completely original and spontaneous that it’s become myth. And for that, thank you. Happy Birthday, Bill.

#improv #billmurray #ghostbusters

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