Improv Is Easy!

(Then why is it so hard?)

Posts tagged UCB

10 notes



I’m currently taking classes at UCB (in 301 now) and I’m constantly preoccupied with gaging my progress. Aside from the fact that it’s a crappy thing to do, I know I can’t ask a teacher, coach or classmate/teammate if I’m good or bad. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing better than I actually am. Any advice on gaging your own progress or ability? Or should that be something to avoid doing in general?


Whew, tough question! Thanks for asking it.
In many ways, yes, I think it’s counter-productive to improv. Often it will bring about nothing but stress and self-doubt, which lead to rough scenes.
(But that doesn’t mean we still don’t do it from time to time.)
There are no stats in improv, so it’s almost impossible to measure. How do you gauge  success? By a ratio of “good” scenes vs. “bad” ones, like a batting average? And what makes them “good” or “bad,” anyway?
Improv’s ephemeral and unquantifiable and weird; it either feels right and works or it’s rough and a slog, and I think it works when we’re totally focused on the moment between ourselves and our scene partner, and not judging our abilities.
I understand wanting to measure progress — it feels good to see how far you’ve come! — but I think it’s a lot like Demetri Martin’s depiction of success…

…and accepting that a lot of your experience will be in that squiggly area (where it sometimes goes right but then wrong and then wrong AGAIN shit wait that scene was good what’s going on why do I suck hold on that wasn’t so bad  yeah we rock, etc.) might make things easier for you.
Lastly, I’m all for reviewing your work (like an athlete reviewing tapes of past games) after class or shows. That’s why we have notes and feedback.
For me, it’s all about simplicity, and I try to keep it to these two questions…
Did I yes-and myself and my scene partner?
Did I make the scene enjoyable for myself and my scene partner?
And that’s all. If the answer is yes, then great! If the answer is no, then I just try to yes-and the next time.
I hope this is helpful, and if other people want to chime in, I’d be very interested in reading other people’s thoughts. 
Ask improv-is-easy a question!

I’m currently taking classes at UCB (in 301 now) and I’m constantly preoccupied with gaging my progress. Aside from the fact that it’s a crappy thing to do, I know I can’t ask a teacher, coach or classmate/teammate if I’m good or bad. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing better than I actually am. Any advice on gaging your own progress or ability? Or should that be something to avoid doing in general?

Whew, tough question! Thanks for asking it.

In many ways, yes, I think it’s counter-productive to improv. Often it will bring about nothing but stress and self-doubt, which lead to rough scenes.

(But that doesn’t mean we still don’t do it from time to time.)

There are no stats in improv, so it’s almost impossible to measure. How do you gauge  success? By a ratio of “good” scenes vs. “bad” ones, like a batting average? And what makes them “good” or “bad,” anyway?

Improv’s ephemeral and unquantifiable and weird; it either feels right and works or it’s rough and a slog, and I think it works when we’re totally focused on the moment between ourselves and our scene partner, and not judging our abilities.

I understand wanting to measure progress — it feels good to see how far you’ve come! — but I think it’s a lot like Demetri Martin’s depiction of success…

image

…and accepting that a lot of your experience will be in that squiggly area (where it sometimes goes right but then wrong and then wrong AGAIN shit wait that scene was good what’s going on why do I suck hold on that wasn’t so bad  yeah we rock, etc.) might make things easier for you.

Lastly, I’m all for reviewing your work (like an athlete reviewing tapes of past games) after class or shows. That’s why we have notes and feedback.

For me, it’s all about simplicity, and I try to keep it to these two questions…

  • Did I yes-and myself and my scene partner?
  • Did I make the scene enjoyable for myself and my scene partner?

And that’s all. If the answer is yes, then great! If the answer is no, then I just try to yes-and the next time.

I hope this is helpful, and if other people want to chime in, I’d be very interested in reading other people’s thoughts. 

Ask improv-is-easy a question!

Filed under improv comedy school UCB

13 notes

andrewsecunda:

improvobsession:

In this, The Stepfathers have a talk about Pets and Sex. I like this scene, but I want to point out Andy Secunda in this because I like his work in this one. He injects a good amount of information at the top with Will Hines, trying to take the scene to an interesting point. Shannon O’Neill comes in and really solidifies the game.

My favorite thing Secunda does to this is particular scene is his straight manning. He doesn’t stop the scene and end the conversation, which in all honesty may be more realistic, but it’s less fun. Secunda instead interjects little bits of straight man dialogue, but really lets the funny control the scene.

You don’t have to stop the scene as a straight man.

Thank you.  Straight-manning is definitely the bedrock of all great improv and no team will hit its potential unless its members serve the flow of the scene before their own desire to be the star.  

Also, straight-manning allows me to employ my talent for being less funny.  It’s been hard work, but I believe myself to now be a Less Funny Master!  

(via andrewsecunda)

Filed under improv comedy UCB Stepfathers Andy Secunda Andrew Secunda straight man

21 notes

The Stepfathers vs. a Heckler: The Second Beat

anthropolissa:

You may remember a little while ago that The Stepfathers had to deal with a heckler during one of their shows, per this blog post “The Stepfathers vs a Heckler.”

Well, tonight, the hecklers were back at it again.

As I was standing in line for tonight’s show, I saw a white limo pull up and unload a slew of very drunk, belligerent men who I assumed were gathered for a bachelor party. I knew right away that this would not end well.

The Stepfathers began their set, and about two scenes into their first half, one of the bachelors started making some noise. At first it was subtle; small comments or overdone cheering after scene edits. Bachelor eventually got to a point where he was shouting out full sentences for everyone to hear.

“I wanna kill your neighbor,” Shannon said to Silvija during their scene, finally acknowledging the asshole who interrupted them. “I want him to be evicted from this neighborhood.”

Still, Bachelor would not be silenced. Even after being called out, he continued to disrupt the show.

But, The Stepfathers, being the amazing team they are, took this as a gift and decided to milk it. Gethard stepped out into the audience area, and stood there for the rest of the first half, “heckling” his teammates.

After a few more scenes, Connor steps out to do a genius scene with Gethard still in the crowd. He says something to the effect of, “Hey man, you’re the worst neighbor ever. Stop trimming my bushes. … I know you think it’s fun to participate in this neighborhood, but this here [pointing to the stage], this is my house!”

Crowd eats it up. Huge applause break. They continue to have fun with Gethard as the heckler until the end of the first half.

And Bachelor was kicked the fuck out.

(Source: alrightalissa)

Filed under Improv Hecklers Comedy UCB

9 notes

amyamyamyaimee asked:

I was listening to Anthony Atamanuik’s episode of the UCBTNY podcast and you were mentioned as being part of the movie class he took with a bunch of people who are almost all still involved in improv. What’s THAT like? The class and the people, I mean, not the mention.

Anthony was talking about Instant Cinema, which I’ve posted about here, namely in being the worst person on the team.
My memory’s terrible, but here’s what I remember (and I originally wrote a long response, but shortened it to prevent TL;DR).
Instant Cinema started out as two consecutive classes (32 people!), about half of whom were on Harold teams. I think this was one of the first performance classes, actually.
I wasn’t in the class with Anthony, Neil, Gethard, Curtis and John. I remember their first show, though, and watching Anthony for the first time and being blown away. He wasn’t on a Harold team yet, I’m pretty sure.
They asked 13 students to audition for basically the next generation of Feature Feature (the UCB’s original Movie show). If asked why I got to audition, I’d say 1) I was good in the performances 2) I seemed to take to the Movie form naturally and 3) I had a very open schedule.
Somehow I made it onto the team! We were Anthony Atamanuik, Neil Casey, me, Matt DeCoster, Kate Emswiler, Angeliki George, Curtis Gwinn, Dave Martin, and Zach Woods, with Silvija Ozols and Joe Wengert eventually replacing Kate and Curtis.
Despite being a nine-person cast, we were rarely all together. That might have colored my belief that it’s better to have smaller shows than larger. (And now there’s a Two-Man Movie, so there’s that to consider.)
That first year was stressful for me (and for Kate, the other newer improviser).  I wasn’t confident or aggressive enough to step out against some of those heavy-hitters, so I didn’t really pull my weight. That kinda sucked. I usually felt out of my league, and it was hard to make my presence felt since these were a lot of big performers.
Also, it took time for the team to get our bearings. Despite that line-up, we still all had to learn a new form, and Narrative stuff can be a bit tricky. It requires people playing micro and people playing macro, and that takes time.
This is where I started getting better at playing macro, which is something I prefer to do years later - hanging back, filling in holes, connecting strings and making the scenes move. I can only remember playing the lead once (in a Shawshank Redemption-like show) and I hated it.
That first year we did a weekly double-feature, so by our first anniversary we’d performed 100 Movies.
(This corresponds with the unpopular theory that it takes 100 Harolds to really know a Harold.)
By the end of that first year, I’d say we really knew the Movie form. We could consistently improvise good to great Movies, including what I think was our best, Police Broad starring Neil Casey. 
As you can see from the link, I maintained a (very incomplete) database of the Movies we improvised.
In our second year we lost our weekly double-feature and were paired with different shows like The Real Real World and Monkeydick.
This is when we performed a 19-minute Movie (The Car That Lived: The Adventures of Mr. Fenderbottom) - the shows were running behind schedule and a quick show would help out.
We decided to retire at the end of 2005, and photos of our final show are archived here on this celebrity photo site (full disclosure: I worked for this company at the time).
Overall, though, I think it was sometimes stressful, sometimes fun, and sometimes magical, which basically amounts to most improv experiences, right?
Ask improv-is-easy a question!
I was listening to Anthony Atamanuik’s episode of the UCBTNY podcast and you were mentioned as being part of the movie class he took with a bunch of people who are almost all still involved in improv. What’s THAT like? The class and the people, I mean, not the mention.

Anthony was talking about Instant Cinema, which I’ve posted about here, namely in being the worst person on the team.

My memory’s terrible, but here’s what I remember (and I originally wrote a long response, but shortened it to prevent TL;DR).

  • Instant Cinema started out as two consecutive classes (32 people!), about half of whom were on Harold teams. I think this was one of the first performance classes, actually.
  • I wasn’t in the class with Anthony, Neil, Gethard, Curtis and John. I remember their first show, though, and watching Anthony for the first time and being blown away. He wasn’t on a Harold team yet, I’m pretty sure.
  • They asked 13 students to audition for basically the next generation of Feature Feature (the UCB’s original Movie show). If asked why I got to audition, I’d say 1) I was good in the performances 2) I seemed to take to the Movie form naturally and 3) I had a very open schedule.
  • Somehow I made it onto the team! We were Anthony Atamanuik, Neil Casey, me, Matt DeCoster, Kate Emswiler, Angeliki George, Curtis Gwinn, Dave Martin, and Zach Woods, with Silvija Ozols and Joe Wengert eventually replacing Kate and Curtis.
  • Despite being a nine-person cast, we were rarely all together. That might have colored my belief that it’s better to have smaller shows than larger. (And now there’s a Two-Man Movie, so there’s that to consider.)
  • That first year was stressful for me (and for Kate, the other newer improviser).  I wasn’t confident or aggressive enough to step out against some of those heavy-hitters, so I didn’t really pull my weight. That kinda sucked. I usually felt out of my league, and it was hard to make my presence felt since these were a lot of big performers.
  • Also, it took time for the team to get our bearings. Despite that line-up, we still all had to learn a new form, and Narrative stuff can be a bit tricky. It requires people playing micro and people playing macro, and that takes time.
  • This is where I started getting better at playing macro, which is something I prefer to do years later - hanging back, filling in holes, connecting strings and making the scenes move. I can only remember playing the lead once (in a Shawshank Redemption-like show) and I hated it.
  • That first year we did a weekly double-feature, so by our first anniversary we’d performed 100 Movies.
  • (This corresponds with the unpopular theory that it takes 100 Harolds to really know a Harold.)
  • By the end of that first year, I’d say we really knew the Movie form. We could consistently improvise good to great Movies, including what I think was our best, Police Broad starring Neil Casey. 
  • As you can see from the link, I maintained a (very incomplete) database of the Movies we improvised.
  • In our second year we lost our weekly double-feature and were paired with different shows like The Real Real World and Monkeydick.
  • This is when we performed a 19-minute Movie (The Car That Lived: The Adventures of Mr. Fenderbottom) - the shows were running behind schedule and a quick show would help out.
  • We decided to retire at the end of 2005, and photos of our final show are archived here on this celebrity photo site (full disclosure: I worked for this company at the time).

Overall, though, I think it was sometimes stressful, sometimes fun, and sometimes magical, which basically amounts to most improv experiences, right?

Ask improv-is-easy a question!

Filed under improv ucb comedy Movie

9 notes

Different Theaters
Yep, I perform at all three theaters. Trifecta!
What’s the difference amongst UCB/Magnet/PIT, you ask?
Hmm… other than a slight difference in philosophy and approach to improv, not much. All have two stages. Lots of great teachers and performers and students, as well as some less than awesome people. Great shows to watch, some might not be to your taste. A lot of opportunities at each theater, as well as the usual bullshit you’d have to deal with in anything involving the entertainment industry. Some people are nice, some are mean, some are crazy, some are in it for the wrong reasons, and two/three at each place are brilliant.
People tend to stick to one theater due to money (you’d rather take Levels 1-3 at one theater rather than three Level 1s at each, right?) It also ties in to Rule #1 from that thing I reblogged yesterday - “Find a place you trust, then try trusting it for a while.”), and that’s the main thing that leads to brand loyalty, I think.
Some people might wanna debate about how “their” theater is better, but that’s most likely an indication that they’re one of those less-than-awesome people I mentioned before.
So really, not too much difference.
And yes, there’s even more out there! More so than those three theaters! Don’t sit around and beg for any theater’s attention. You create your own opportunities, so work hard, be nice, and make ‘em!
PS: Tonight is my debut with Hello, the PIT’s Friday night musical show. 9:30 p.m. I’m now a “regular” performer at all three theaters.

Different Theaters

Yep, I perform at all three theaters. Trifecta!

What’s the difference amongst UCB/Magnet/PIT, you ask?

Hmm… other than a slight difference in philosophy and approach to improv, not much. All have two stages. Lots of great teachers and performers and students, as well as some less than awesome people. Great shows to watch, some might not be to your taste. A lot of opportunities at each theater, as well as the usual bullshit you’d have to deal with in anything involving the entertainment industry. Some people are nice, some are mean, some are crazy, some are in it for the wrong reasons, and two/three at each place are brilliant.

People tend to stick to one theater due to money (you’d rather take Levels 1-3 at one theater rather than three Level 1s at each, right?) It also ties in to Rule #1 from that thing I reblogged yesterday - “Find a place you trust, then try trusting it for a while.”), and that’s the main thing that leads to brand loyalty, I think.

Some people might wanna debate about how “their” theater is better, but that’s most likely an indication that they’re one of those less-than-awesome people I mentioned before.

So really, not too much difference.

And yes, there’s even more out there! More so than those three theaters! Don’t sit around and beg for any theater’s attention. You create your own opportunities, so work hard, be nice, and make ‘em!

PS: Tonight is my debut with Hello, the PIT’s Friday night musical show. 9:30 p.m. I’m now a “regular” performer at all three theaters.

Filed under UCB PIT Magnet Improv

16 notes

Digsy Finally Has A Tumblr.: Harold Night Stats (Update!)

This is a very fun look at Harold Night!

(Click above for the full post.)

digsyfinallyhasa:

Here’s some stats!

Bold means still active so their rank will increase.

Italics means information incomplete, since the team existed in November 2000 and most likely before the website remembers.

MOST SHOWS PERFORMED ON HAROLD NIGHT

  1. Bastian: 133
  2. RAGNARÖCK: 102
  3. DeCoster: 95
  4. Creep: 87
  5. 1985: 81
  6. Sandino: 74, Monkeydick/Janice: 74
  7. Optimist International: 71
  8. Ice-9: 69
  9. Badman: 67
  10. fwand: 65

LONGEST RUN ON HAROLD NIGHT

  1. Bastian: 204 weeks (2/13/07-1/4/11)
  2. DeCoster: 177 weeks (8/14/07-12/28/10)
  3. Monkeydick/Janice: 165 weeks (4/5/01-11/14/02, 1/16/03-3/20/03, 6/17/03-10/12/04)
  4. RAGNARÖCK: 159 weeks (5/27/08-6/7/11)
  5. Ice-9: 143 weeks (?-8/5/03)
  6. Creep: 138 weeks (11/16/04-7/3/07)
  7. Optimist International: 137 weeks (2/4/02-9/21/04), Neutrino: 137 weeks (?-6/10/03)
  8. Dr. Awesome: 123 weeks (?-3/13/03)
  9. Badman: 110 weeks (4/28/09-5/31/11)
  10. Police Chief Rumble: 109 weeks (9/26/02-10/19/04)

MOST RESIDENCY ON HAROLD NIGHT (percentage of weeks during run that the team performed)

  1. Reuben Williams: performed 45 shows in 49 weeks
  2. 1985: performed 81 shows in 108 weeks
  3. fwand: 65 shows in 87 weeks
  4. Sandino: 74 shows in 103 weeks
  5. American Cousin: 10 shows in 14 weeks
  6. The Shoves: 51 shows in 73 weeks
  7. Grandma’s Ashes: 43 shows in 63 weeks
  8. Still Mike: 17 shows in 25 weeks
  9. Airwolf: 8 shows in 12 weeks
  10. Bastian: 133 shows in 204 weeks

(Source: uncannybrettwhite)

Filed under Improv Harold UCB

12 notes

larhunter:

post-audition tip:
I took an audition class once and the teacher recommended you schedule it so that right after the audition you have somewhere to be, like an appointment or a date.  That way when you get out your thoughts go towards what you’re about to do and you don’t brood as much about the audition.

larhunter:

post-audition tip:

I took an audition class once and the teacher recommended you schedule it so that right after the audition you have somewhere to be, like an appointment or a date.  That way when you get out your thoughts go towards what you’re about to do and you don’t brood as much about the audition.

(Source: improv-is-easy)

Filed under Auditions Improv Comedy UCB Harold

12 notes

Great question, Nicole!
Unfortunately, I don’t have the world’s greatest answer, so I’m gonna make this a photo post and end with a question mark so other people can chime in if they’re so inclined.
Dealing with nerves is unique to every person, and so you gotta do what puts yourself in the best mindset beforehand, like following your pre- and post-show rituals. If this means wearing certain clothes or eating a certain something or going to the bathroom (gross!) before the audition, do it up!
Similarly, everyone’s got their own methods of self-destruction. Getting out of our own way, well… it depends. The easiest is to not worry about yourself or what you’re gonna do, but what your partner’s up to, and how to give ‘em what they want in a way that you find fun and funny.
And if you don’t know what they want, then just react in a way that is believable but also fun and funny for you.
Anyway, here’s some advice, basic as it might be…
BEFORE THE AUDITION…
For Del’s sake, please don’t worry about it too much beforehand. It’s improv, you can’t prepare or imagine what’s gonna happen. Seriously, don’t worry about it.
Show up early, but not TOO early or you’ll just be in your head the entire time.
Chat it up with your group, so at least you’re not afraid to look ‘em in the eye during showtime.
DURING THE AUDITION…
Think of it as your chance to do a scene you’ve always wanted to do and to try something you’ve always wanted to try and to do something fun.
Don’t focus on making the judges laugh. Focus on your partner and yourself.
After your first scene, drop it and don’t stew. Pay attention to the present.
If you’re on the backline and someone does something funny, don’t be afraid to laugh.
AFTER THE AUDITION…
Feel free to share stories with your friends. Bonding helps.
Don’t beat yourself up. They were just two scenes.
Find something distracting to do on the evening when they make callback announcements, so you’re not sitting by the computer or phone hating yourself.
Anyone else?

Great question, Nicole!

Unfortunately, I don’t have the world’s greatest answer, so I’m gonna make this a photo post and end with a question mark so other people can chime in if they’re so inclined.

Dealing with nerves is unique to every person, and so you gotta do what puts yourself in the best mindset beforehand, like following your pre- and post-show rituals. If this means wearing certain clothes or eating a certain something or going to the bathroom (gross!) before the audition, do it up!

Similarly, everyone’s got their own methods of self-destruction. Getting out of our own way, well… it depends. The easiest is to not worry about yourself or what you’re gonna do, but what your partner’s up to, and how to give ‘em what they want in a way that you find fun and funny.

And if you don’t know what they want, then just react in a way that is believable but also fun and funny for you.

Anyway, here’s some advice, basic as it might be…

BEFORE THE AUDITION…

  • For Del’s sake, please don’t worry about it too much beforehand. It’s improv, you can’t prepare or imagine what’s gonna happen. Seriously, don’t worry about it.
  • Show up early, but not TOO early or you’ll just be in your head the entire time.
  • Chat it up with your group, so at least you’re not afraid to look ‘em in the eye during showtime.

DURING THE AUDITION…

  • Think of it as your chance to do a scene you’ve always wanted to do and to try something you’ve always wanted to try and to do something fun.
  • Don’t focus on making the judges laugh. Focus on your partner and yourself.
  • After your first scene, drop it and don’t stew. Pay attention to the present.
  • If you’re on the backline and someone does something funny, don’t be afraid to laugh.

AFTER THE AUDITION…

  • Feel free to share stories with your friends. Bonding helps.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. They were just two scenes.
  • Find something distracting to do on the evening when they make callback announcements, so you’re not sitting by the computer or phone hating yourself.

Anyone else?

Filed under Improv UCB Auditions Harold