Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Why Improv Rocks; Shout-out to the UCB

I am taking a month off from doing the stand-up classes. I am taking an acting class and an improv class. I'll still be doing stand-up shows-- so far I've booked shows for November 4, 11, 12, 17 and 18.

I decided that I need to recharge my batteries, devote some time to writing new material, and exercise some different comedy muscles.

I really love doing improv. It is quite different from doing stand-up, which makes it fun and challenging. In stand-up, you are the whole show-- you control everything that happens on stage. In improv, you are just a piece of what happens, your ability to control what happens is very limited. In stand-up, you are funny because you find funny things to say. In improv, a lot of what is funny comes because you are playing straight, which makes something else stand out as funny. The more and the longer you can play it straight, the funnier that other thing becomes. My instinct, from stand-up, is to hear a line and say, "hm, that's good, now how can I top it?" In improv, I have to make sure that I build on that line, and let the scene build. I don't want to throw out a punchline, because that probably ends the scene.

Sometimes the scenes are great, sometimes not. It's fun to do something more collaborative. Plus, it frequently stimulates my thinking for writing stand-up material.

I took classes at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre in New York, and I just loved it. The teachers there, who are also performers, are top notch. They can be seen frequently on Conan O'Brien, VH1 and Comedy Central.

Occasionally, people have asked me if I have ever seen a comedian and said, "that guy is going places." The answer is generally no, as far as stand-up goes. But the top performers at UCB are right on the cusp. Any of them could be on Saturday Night Live, or become big-time comedic actors a la Jim Carrey and it wouldn't surprise me. One of the founders of UCB is Amy Poehler, who is currently on Saturday Night Live. (Truth be told? I have a small crush on her.) Another UCB alum, Rob Riggle, is also on SNL.

If you are in New York, I highly recommend going to see a show at the UCB. I especially recommend ASSSSCat 3000, which they do twice on Sundays. It frequently features Poehler, along with other SNL cast members such as Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch and Horatio Sanz. The early show is $8, the late show is free. There's a reason why people wait in line for 2 hours to see it. It may be the best entertainment bang for the buck in NYC. (Technically I guess if the show is free, you can't really calculate the bang per buck, since that would necessitate dividing by zero. Anyway, just go see the show. It's funny.)


At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Ericha2@comcast.net said...

I'm also an IIF of Kristy's. Was wondering where you were taking classes here in SF? BATS (Bay Area Theatre Sports) is great if you aren't with them you should check them out. Break a Leg with the improv! I worked with an improv group in college but I was never much of a performer...I prefer Stage/Company management but I love to watch.

All the best!

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Ish said...

I have taken classes at the SF Comedy College; they started offering Improv classes relatively recently.

I have heard a lot of good things about BATS, but my sense was that they focused on short-form games, a la "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and I really prefer the long-form.

I really like doing longer scenes, I don't want to get a score, I don't want to compete, and I don't want someone to tell me I have to rap when they snap their fingers.

Not that there's anything wrong with it, just not my first choice.

Anyways, thanks for visiting and thanks for the suggestion and good thoughts!

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Sydney said...

I would think that improv would be both really fun but really scary at the same time. Probably a good way to get rid of your inhibitions without the use of umm... substances of different sorts ;)

LOL or maybe improv is better ON substances of different sorts, who knows!

At 7:13 AM, Blogger MC Steinberg said...



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