Wednesday, September 17, 2008

lessons from blockquoting

The East Tennessee improv scene is expanding. For years Einstein Simplified was the only game in town. A group called Bullscript has begun performing occasionally in Gatlinburg. Last month the Sevier County News ran an article about the troupe's origin:
In true improv style, Bullscript was formed one night two years ago when the members, who were then actors in a murder mystery dinner theater production, had to literally improvise a show when a key actor in the murder mystery was involved in a car wreck just before a performance.

"For the life of us, we could not figure out how to write him out of that script in 15 minutes. So Justin Benoit, a member of our troupe, said, 'Let’s do an improv show.' Sure. No problem!" Rahe said, laughing at the memory.

The group quickly put together some improv games they’d seen on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?," an improv show that ran on ABC-TV, and from Einstein Simplified, an improv troupe in Knoxville. Brad, another actor in the murder mystery, also is a member of Einstein Simplified.

"Brad quickly told us how (the games) worked and there we went. The audience loved it; just loved it. We pulled it off," Rahe said. "We said, 'This sure beats having to learn lines. Let’s go on with this,' so we formed this group."
A scheduling snafu kept us from seeing a performance by Bill Chott and The Improv Trick when my wife and I passed through St. Louis last month. Bill turned up in my Google News Alert for comedy improv today. He was interviewed in the Cherokee Street News.
Q. What are some of the things you teach your students that you apply to your own Hollywood roles?

A. I teach them to trust their instinct and focus on making the other person look good. If everybody’s looking to make everyone else look good, then you never have to focus on your own performance. I use those lessons every day on the set in Hollywood.

Q. What are some of the things you teach your students about comedy? What’s the difference between learning improv and learning to act?

A. I teach my students that the words “humanity” and “humor” both begin with the same three letters for a reason. We’re not trying to be funny. We try to explore the truth about the human experience and find the humor in that rather than making jokes or trying to get laughs. Laughter is something that happens naturally…a lot…at The Improv Trick. The difference between learning impov and learning acting is that you have to take the reverence you have for the words of an author and channel it into reverence for your fellow players and “the moment.” Just serving “the moment” the same way you serve a script.
Earlier this week I read an article in the Daily Lobo about the Duke City Improv Festival. One of the participating groups is called the Gryfinndorks.
[Doug] Montoya has a philosophy on improv: "The best scenes are the ones where people are supportive of one another."

He said a good improv team can create a connection to the audience that other types of theater lack. The comedy that results is made all the more funny by the fact that the audience gets to participate.
Multi-talented Wayne Brady has an album out. He's turned up on several daytime talk shows recently to promote it. I read an interview with him at Lee Bailey's EURweb.
The very persistent Brady continued that while he worked hard to hone his comedy skills, there is a bit of natural talent required in improv.

"There is a certain combination," Brady said of the improvisation formula. "When I teach improv class, I always say, 'I'm not going to teach you to be funny.' When I started learning improv, I think I brought something to the table. Not everyone can do improv, because it takes a certain level of intelligence. Coming from a background where I read everything I can get my hands on, I watch everything I can, I'm basically a receptacle of a lot of information, some of which is useless until I'm on stage. You have to be a learner to be able to do improv. It's not about, 'Hey, I just did a funny fart joke.' It's about the reference you can make while doing the fart joke. That's what I think improv boils down to. 'Whose Line' is really about a bunch of nerds being funny and trying to one-up each other with cultural references, a character, or some bit of trivia that we can stick into the scene."

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Anonymous J said...

Was that last looonnngg quote from you? 'Cause it sure sounds like you: Reading and watching everything you can. It explains a lot about why you love improv comedy. I just cannot imagine being able to turn off the pressure to be funny and let the funny flo. All you Einstein boys and other improv groups impress me.


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