11.13.14 Mantzoukas and…. at UCB Franklin. Haven’t been to one of these in forever, but I’m so glad we made it to this one! Jason Mantzoukas had his long time friends Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair join him for an hour-long monoscene that had it all - unrequited love, eagles, catfights, loaded descriptions of vomit, and a fused labia. There was even a Q&A at the end. 

Is there a danger in catering an indie team’s form to what works best in rehearsals? I’m on a team that practices weekly, and we happened to try a monoscene in a session and it generally went better than the montages the group was originally doing - the hesitancy to edit and initiate (two of our biggest issues) were now non-factors, given the method of the form. The only thing is, we’re all 401 level students - are we avoiding problems that need to be confronted in doing monoscenes instead?

Not at all! Cater your form to your strengths. Your indie team is your chance to grow as a group and do what’s best for you.

There’s this weird tendency in improv to hamstring ourselves - either by running away from our natural impulses, sticking with coaches who insist on pulling us in an undesirable direction, or by just forcing a lot of headiness for no real reason - and I don’t get it and would love to stamp that out.

Anyway, it’s interesting because you still have to initiate and edit in a Monoscene. It’s just a slightly different way of molding the clay. (See Billy Merritt’s post on the Monoscene) When you master that, you could see how it works in every other form.

I would say it’s wise, however, to be aware of your initiating/editing issues in class or a practice group. Or, maybe, spend a group rehearsal just focusing on those skills.

But by all means, if the Monoscene feels good/right/fun/natural for your group, then keep exploring it!

(And if this was asked by someone I coached on Monday, you know what I’m talking about and you’re great. If you’re not in that group, I’d love to do a workshop on this subject.)

Ask improv-is-easy a question!

No One Here Wants To Be Funny?

One of my favorite moments at an improv workshop was one that Matt Besser taught in the summer of 2005, when he reminded us that it was okay to want to be funny.

It was in the UCB offices which at that time were three rooms over the Malibu Diner on 23rd street. The main office, where the artistic director and school supervisor and others sat, were in the middle. There were classrooms on either side to the north and south. The northern classroom stored all the costumes used for the UCB’s sketch show and had a cot where Besser would sometimes crash when he was in town from LA, like he was at this time. The southern room was smaller, a bit neater, and had what I remember as about fourteen radiators which pumped full blast year round including the middle of July. We were in that one.

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The growing up, the falling down, the throwing up, the shame, the silent prayers, the nausea, the game.

- William Finn, the Nausea before the game, In Trousers

Tomorrow night is Bucky’s last Harold Night.

Robber Baron’s first show was May 12, 2009.

I tried writing something long and sentimental about the whole thing but it seems very, very indulgent.

The gist is: I cried a lot after Robber Baron’s early shows (don’t cry at McDonalds, do cry on the steps outside the post office).

I had a really hard time on Harold Night for most of my time here. A lot of Wednesday mornings I woke up from fever dreams about the night before. I’m too insecure, too sensitive.

I emailed or met with every Artistic Director we’ve had (all two) to ask in some passive way the vague question “WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR ME” (disguised as something else.) And somehow, through the magic of empathy and insight, I got good advice back every time. (Even if I didn’t realize right away.)

But then something happened in the last year of Bucky and it’s been nothing but rich, rewarding, stupid fun. I feel so so lucky that this thing that I loved, that was so hard for so long, finally just became  fun through no work or effort or character growth on my part. (That’s true. This is not a post about perseverance or morality or lessons. This is a valentine to luck.)

I think it maybe happened when Frank gave me a Wonder Woman mug for the teacher’s lounge but it would take a whole post to parse out the significance of that gesture.

Being on Harold Night requires a strength of character that I did not, do not, and never will have. It requires the ability to enjoy a good show even if you weren’t in it that much. And the ability to shut your mouth about certain things even when you’re really, really sure that your opinion is the just and true one and these other numbskulls do not know what they’re talking about. I can still do none of these things. The one time I mentally accepted with grace that I might not be in a monoscene harold very much, Jeremy pulled me on stage to play the most fun matching characters I have ever played.

The hardest thing was consistently appreciating and respecting the seven random fucking yahoos that I didn’t ask anybody to put on MY Harold Team. And then realizing - oh wait - I am also a random fucking yahoo who they didn’t ask anybody to put on THEIR harold team. But really truly, it’s about realizing there is no my harold team or their harold team but only - gross alert - our harold team.

I love the nine random fucking yahoos who have been on Bucky. And tomorrow night I am very, very excited to take the Chelsea stage with the six random fucking yahoos who have been there from the beginning.