Saturday, January 31, 2015

One Neat Thing

One cool thing about the improv world is that I semi-regularly interact with my first improv crush on Facebook, in the form of likes.

The year was 1993ish. Loose Moose Theatre was at the Simplex, a former cattle auction room with raised seating around the stage. I was in high school and would go see Gorilla Theatre 10 or so times a year. I had no idea about Micetro on Fridays or of the people I now know, who were part of the company at that time. I only went on Saturday nights when the cast is made up from those who have attained "gorilla" level in experience.

My favourite improviser was always Graeme Davies. A moment that sticks in my memory was a solo scene-to-music which he initiated by waking up in the morning to the hillbilly heehaw music the sound improviser played. His face was rubber and he square danced around the stage like a cartoon. It's one of the perfect moments in comedy that I have filed away. That one scene wouldn't have been memorable if the rest of his stuff wasn't brilliant, either, which it was. I think it may have been what solidified one of my own fundamental comedy tenets: Commitment. To everything, to the words and character and body and the accept/give connection with everybody else. IMO, you needs it. It's one of my goals for sure.

Anyways, I friend requested him back when the theatre did the first of an annual homecoming event and he came out to retake the stage. Back then people were more generous with the online friendships. We sat in the waiting room together? Let's be friends! For the past few years we've traded likes on statuses or articles every so often. Each post of his that I read is filtered through what I know about him so far, from back then as the funny performer and now with what he posts. It's nice. An informal acquaintanceship with a person whose creativity I've admired for over 20 (!) years, shimmering around in the ether. He's not the only person out there that I now have a loose connection with, he's just an example and, quite frankly, the shiniest. There's a lot of people in my extended networks. It's actually freaking me out a little. I'm still over the 50% mark on the introverted scale.

Facebook has created a few new classes of relationship. Since the site is so pervasive and ever present in daily life, I think it will be around for a while longer. I guess me and Graeme are on track to trade occasional "likes" for... another decade? Two? Everybody getting to know each other better a little at a time yet never forming anything tangible? That's a new addition to the Eskimo list of words for Love, which must cover lesser relationships like "we nod when we pass each other on the tundra". They didn't have this version of rapport back in the, uh, ever.

Sociologists, get on it. (My arrogance is in thinking for one second that this hasn't already been studied to death.)

Hack attack

Well, the timing of a hack to my email account overnight is interesting. A real one, password cracked and not just spoofed. Coincidences, right? Anyways, I caught it after only 131 messages went out to various men around the world, tempting them to marry and bring me to the New World.

I've had the feels that I've had a shadow stalker for a few years now. It's at the point where I can put out a little veiled hint and I invariably receive a timely "response". I even know who, down to 3 people.

There's nothing really to be done, other than to hope the crap is cut, and this person unveils themselves. At least they are chicken shit. THANK HEAVEN for that.

Monday, January 26, 2015

late January 2015

Augh, the Giggle Duck podcast is up on the main website of my improv group. I don't want to know anything about it from this stage on. Wow. I'm bugging out so much over something that only a few generous friends will listen to. I'm not Marc Maron here. I totally get Harrison Ford's refusal to watch his own movies, though. The thought is terrifying. La la la, just don't think about it. And yet, I feel compelled to do it again. What is this devil art.

I came here to write more on the subject of improv, though. I am totally nerding out on it lately, so much that I'm starting to look like Jimmy Carrane. Ha ha, Improv World in-joke. He's a nice guy, by the way. I read his book ten years ago and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I emailed him and he wrote back and added me to his LinkedIn, a site I'd never heard about but joined anyway, later noticing that it doesn't do all that much for the stay-at-home set. Later on he broke with his podcast ("broke" to me, all the way up in Calgary- he was already a name in the 'provs) and for a few years after he was "a name" (I feel so douchey talking like this) he was my only LinkedIn friend. Me 'n Jimmy. He will always have my loyalty because he took the time to write me back. To further Improv World name drop, I told this anecdote to Mark Sutton (of Bass Prov, with partner Joe Bill) and he laughed. Or at the very least, chuckled. Yes, it was at a workshop that I paid to attend, and it was during a break where a group of us were gathered and making small talk, but it still happened.

I think my favourite part is the impulse. I want to do more work on impulses. I think I am noticing them more. In real life we act on impulse all the time, because you never have to consciously think "lift my arm to open the cabinet take out a coffee cup put it under the spout push the button..." When you're on stage, you have to think those things because the cupboards and coffeemaker aren't there. One goal is to be able to enter the empty stage and feel as at home as I do at home. Not just actions, but words too. I really love it when it's clear that the people on stage don't know what they're talking about. I don't mean that they don't make sense, I mean that they aren't pre-aware of the junk spilling out of their mouths. It's never junk. Those above names are able to do it. I've never seen Jimmy Carrane in action, but I did see Bass Prov with special guest Patti Stiles and they were all about the impulse. All about that pulse, bout that pulse, no thinking.

Name drop!

PS- the show on the weekend was fun. It sold out, so there were 150 bums. I did my part and am still alive. No improv oscars for me, but I don't feel like I broke anything.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On the inside

Alright, I'm going to give in and write more about improv. I know, I know. I already talked about that stuff yesterday. But, blogs are personal, people have interests, I'm a person, improv is mine and I can talk about it here on my blog. I think this entire site is written for a really mean small person who in my imagination is constantly hurling abuse at me- and I think that little snark is actually me. I'm defensive when I describe myself. I shouldn't be, nobody else is, right? What else am I going to write about? It's what I want. Substitute "money" for- you know.

(ack this is only a partial version but you probs won't click anyway I don't think people even really click on the video anymore do they?)

I think that improv has been a hand that has reached down into my life and shaken everything off. It has been a life changing occurrence, and it will continue to be so. It has been a catalyst for quite a few fundamental paradigm changes. One of the new interpersonal skills that I'm slowly acquiring is to become comfortable with people examining and taking off of me as well as being able to read them and accept their offers, which are basically the passy things that sports people do with their balls (the balls being the offers caught and then thrown ahead and back to the other guy). I think there's a big sport on tonight, The Super Bowl. I must have been open to my environment to have used a pseudo sports metaphor.

That's another change: the soaking up of stuff around me, good or bad, and trusting that I can just start talking and my subconscious will send up words that are okay. It's getting better at sorting ideas and passing along ones that are easier to work with.

A third difference is my shy. It is gone... I still get awkward and embarrassed for saying dumb things, but I'm not particularly cowed by anybody. I'm fine talking to dudes. Trust me, this is huge, I know myself. It's because I've had to pretend to be intensely personal with a bunch of dudes, with other dudes standing around watching. Women too, of course. I've had problems relating to everybody all my life, male and female. The ice is broken when you spend a few hours a week with the same people. Even though I feel like my ice was thicker than most, it is getting chipped away.

I'm still in the early stages of all of this. Over 30 years of life spent getting trained the other way puts a wrench in the entire works, be they mental, physical, or social. I'm finding that improv is an extreme hobby, perhaps as extreme as the one pursued by my gotta-be-approaching-40-by-now roller derby friend... but on the inside.

Here's another video because I played the one above as I was typing this and it was one of the suggested ones at the end and I never click those and I know this has been played a billion zillion times since the 80s so it's far from a lost gem but I'm going to add it because at this time I feel like I could go for a little Buggles. Okay? Stop throwing your goddamn popcorn at me. Turn your music up and see the man behind the silver suit for once in your life. Really see him.

(sorry for being defensive again bye!)

Saw this poster, realized this is my current look

Except for the shaved part of the head. Funnily enough I have been thinking about it lately.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I was asked to be in a show that's happening tomorrow night. It's an East-coast themed comedy/improv/music/dance licensed event. I guess it's like the socials that happen in smaller towns. I went to one in Manitoba while visiting my cousins, about twenty years ago. Back then my relatives told me they were regular occurences, happening throughout the year; in that particular case it was an engaged couple who was hosting a social, and they sold alcohol and DJ'd the event to raise money for their wedding. The one this weekend is a fundraiser for a Girl Guides group, and it's happening in the city.

It is one of those things that seems fine over email because it's perfectly normal for somebody to put an event together and then ask a few improvisers and a band to come out and put on a show, especially since there are a lot of people on my social media friends lists who put on their own shows all the time. I see at least 5-10 posts per week from people pumping their own stuff. Completely normal, relative to my google circles. Yet, suddenly it's the day before, and there have been 120 tickets sold.

I'm one of four people in one part of a four-part schedule. I don't have to shine, I just have to support. I don't need to freak out about it. This is what we've been talkin bout, right? There's no reason to have an existential breakdown over what dark desires could be driving me down this odd and unplanned highway. It's all just fun. There doesn't need to be a reason for it. Put on some lipstick and curl your hair, it's time to go to work at the bomb factory. We can do it!

This is what it sounds like when doves have stage fright. Channel the nerves into a song and think about it later. It will all be over in 36 hours.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Super Nerdy Improv Post #1

I just had an epiphany and want to get it down before it evaporates. The audience wants to see the reaction first and the justification second. There can be a lot of stress around correctly justifying an action/reaction when all you need to do is hang there and explore how you feel and why. The audience will draw their own sense out of it.

At a rate of around 30% of my shows and practices I'll find out that I wasn't on the same page as most of the others, when recalling what happened and what the theme of a set was. Different people will remember different things. I'll put more importance on a certain storyline but my teammate is focused on the other.

Fitting together plots in a hapdash fashion (oh my god hapdash fashion! The phrase bears note) is great when it works but it can get tough and squidgy (uneasy) if the players aren't on the same page. Focusing on showcasing your inner character and drawing out the characters of the others, and then leaving the plot to come to the surface on it's own is magic. Then nothing is technically "wrong" and there is a greater chance of "delighting the audience". People will watch you tie your shoes, their attention rapt, as long as they believe that you don't see them, as focused on your task at hand as you are. Just like they say on every other improv blog and book in the world, probably. I've seen it a few times, at least. The delighting part was in quotes because it's part of the mission statement of the group I'm in. There is a duty to provide entertainment and not charity.

Sometimes it takes a little bit for concepts to sink in. I'm so glad the days are getting longer. I'm feeling charged up again. I didn't do my usual make-friends-with-winter thing this year, which makes a huge difference in my overall mood. However, there's only brighter days ahead, even if there's a bit of snow.