gold was meant to be culled shortly after her “birth” due to her unpredictable behavior, but mercury persuaded the higher-ups to allow her to keep gold as her personal pet project. at a later date, in an unrelated incident, mercury became partially corrupted herself and self-exiled to escape persecution. despite this, gold remains unshakably loyal to her once-savior and does her best to keep her safe and well out of the sight of gem authorities. likewise, mercury is fiercely protective of gold and outright hostile towards other gems, attacking on sight in almost all cases.
mercury is no longer able to summon a weapon from her gem. instead, the mercury deposits in her gem have manifested as a mass of malleable, self-regenerating toxic mercury in place of ordinary hair. she is able to control the length, shape, and direction of travel. exposure to the substance tends to confuse and disorient other gems. prolonged exposure can cause degeneration.
gold’s gem is a small ring manifesting in the center of her chest. the attached decoration is not a part of the gem, but a gift, given by mercury before her corruption. gold places a great deal of sentimental value on the object and fashioned her weapon after it. gold is body-oriented and prefers not to use her weapon in battle, but won’t hesitate to summon it if necessary.
for two such kindred spirits, these two would have an awfully messy fusion fyi.
When those unjustified beliefs consist of things like questioning if Jews are humanor calling for genocide against black peopleand the person publicly espousing them is trying to lead a political movement,they are a clear threat to people and should be prevented from expressing themselves at every opportunity, by any means necessary (instead of, say, being given a platform by the national media to present their beliefs).
In virtually every country in the western world save the United States, calling for a racist genocide is considered hate speech and is illegal. Because these countries recognize what this leads to.
As a RASH skinhead once told us, “when you publicly advocate and organize for the enslavement and extermination of the majority of humanity based on skin color or religion or sexuality, you have forfeited your right to a polite and civil debate.”
let’s call that piece written by slave owner Alex Tizon what it was: propaganda. you don’t hear eudocia’s perspective, you can’t because she was never given that opportunity. instead you only read what slave owner Alex Tizon wants to tell you, and any particularly gruesome details are glossed over because slave owner Alex Tizon wants you to believe that the fact he felt remorse for Eudocia somehow make him the unfortunate son of a slave owner who didn’t have any control in the situation (as well as his siblings), even after his mother died and he became an independent adult with a family of his own. don’t fall for this propaganda, he was a slave owner who contributed to manipulating eudocia and robbing her of her home country, the opportunity to obtain other necessary skills in order to get a job and become financially independent of his family, and ultimately her life
Okay, so this probably sounds like a really silly question, but I have to ask. Why do assassins get close to their target before killing them? Isn't it more efficient to kill their target immediately?
Depends. Okay, so there’s actually 3 different possible meanings of “getting close to their target,” and I’ll hit them in turn.
If you just mean physical proximity, then, they usually don’t. A trained, professional killer isn’t going to want to be anywhere near the victim when they’re dropped unless it’s absolutely necessary.
If the target can be dropped with a high-powered rifle six blocks away, that’s a much safer option than going in with a garotte. No matter what popular fiction, like The Professional or the Hitman games will tell you. (To be fair, The Professional is a fantastic film, but as with most of Luc Besson’s work it’s not terribly realistic.)
Getting physically close to the victim is about making a statement. The assassin is declaring they’re untouchable, or trying to tell the world, “hey, I did this thing!”
It’s not a silly question. A great deal of modern spy fiction and most of the action adventure genre dealing with professional assassins prime the audience to view them in a way that is inherently unrealistic. This also involves burdening them with approaches to their kills that are unsustainable without the aid of authorial fiat. The general emphasis ends up being on the assassin killing, not on all the other aspects of the job needed in order for them to be successful. This approach generally relies on negating or outright ignoring the police and the protectee’s security service in order to present the idea of “badass superkiller1!1!!!!!!1”. If your primary view of assassins is as the Anime Ninja, or the action adventure heroes from R.E.D., or even the Hitman games where an assassin is just the new code word for “human killing machine” then I can see where it might be confusing.
If the kind of assassin you’re planning on writing fits into the categories above then you can feel free to ignore this post.
In a world that takes into account all the people out there (including law enforcement) willing and able to get between an assassin and their target, the game of cat and mouse an assassin has to play in avoiding the local authorities, and finding an opening to take a shot at an important person who may have upwards of twenty bodyguards watching their every move then the prospect of actually murdering them (much less getting away afterwards) becomes much tougher.
Besides what some video games and books might tell you, walking into a house and murdering everyone inside is the sort of action which makes everything worse. It doesn’t make it better and it’s not even viable in the short run. Bodyguards don’t line up in a shooting gallery, instead they’ll do their job. Taking the time to deal with them (and it does take time) will end with the assassin missing their window of opportunity as the rest of the security detail gets their boss to safety. Once the window of opportunity is gone, the mission is over. Your assassin has one chance to dance, if they blow it then it’s over. The more people the assassin fights on the way to their target, the higher the likelihood the assassin will get made. If the assassin gets made then there’s a good chance they’ll either end up on the law enforcement radar (lucky) or a criminal organization’s (incredibly unlucky). Either way even if they do escape, they’ll spend the rest of their life running.
This is why you get “close” to your target.
Getting Physically Close: Hallmark of the Political Assassin
The guy who walks up to the President and puts three bullets in his/her chest only to get tackled by some very angry members of the Secret Service is a person who wants to get caught. This is the standard conventional assassin and the one we understand best because there have been so many of them. They do it because they want to make a political statement, their imprisonment or death will lead to them becoming a martyr. In the grand scheme, there’s no difference between John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of President Lincoln and an al-Qaeda suicide bomber. Both acts are politically motivated and both are types of assassinations meant to draw attention to their cause (whatever cause that is). Getting physically close to the victim is about making a statement. The assassin is declaring they’re untouchable, or trying to tell the world, “hey, I did this thing!”
It’s worth remembering that President Obama gets 30 death threats a day, that’s 210 a week, and somewhere around 900 a month. All those threats must be investigated by the Secret Service. The more powerful a person is, the more enemies they accumulate, and the more people there are who want them dead. This counters all the people surrounding them whose job it is to keep them alive. The act of killing is the simple and easy part, it’s everything leading up to it that’s difficult.
Preparation is Key
A trained, professional killer isn’t going to want to be anywhere near the victim when they’re dropped unless it’s absolutely necessary. If they can manage it with a high powered rifle on a rooftop six blocks away then they will. It’s cleaner, easier, and safer that way. Still, being in the right place at the right time involves knowing their target, their habits, their security plan, and where the holes are to find the opportunity necessary to take the shot. They also have to scout the environment ahead of time, locate a place to prepare their setup with an understanding that their target’s security will be looking for exactly that. You might think sitting up on rooftop with a rifle waiting to take a shot would be easy, but it’s not and, unlike in most movies, there’s no one who will do the work for them.
Your character will not automatically know where to go or what to do. The more they know about their target the better they can predict their movements, the better they can predict their movements, the more options they have if or, really, when things go wrong. An assassin must always be one step ahead of their target and they can’t stay ahead of them if they don’t know them.
Preparation is the key to success.
Is it really more efficient?
There’s a choice every character must make for themselves: do I want to kill the once or do I want to kill multiple times? If you decided to become an assassin tomorrow then you’d probably follow the protocols that media has prepared for you as do most would be assassins. It’s what gets them caught. “What would I do if I were an assassin?” is a great opener for crafting a newbie.
Ignoring law enforcement agencies and desire for retribution on the part of the surrounding individuals who might not be too happy that their friend, loved one, hero, or source of paycheck just got offed is a mistake and it’s an easy one to make.
Take some time and investigate the other side of the equation. Watch some Law and Order. Then think about it from the perspective of all the people who are going to investigate and hunt your assassin down. Collateral and Lucky Number Slevin are great movies to watch on this account because they’re all about the shell game involved in an assassin covering their tracks or getting close to their target. In Collateral, the assassin (Tom Cruise) pays cab driver (Jamie Foxx) to drive him around the city as he performs his hits. While the assassin’s behavior toward the cab driver is friendly and amiable, we learn from the cops investigating the initial murders about a cab driver who went nuts and killed a whole bunch of random people in one night before committing suicide. I’ll give you three guesses for who really killed those people.
The goal is going to be get in, get out, without anyone the wiser. Often leaving a fall guy to take the blame (like the cab driver) or covering the killings by using another rational explanation. The first season of Elementary for example involved two assassins who covered their tracks in different ways. The first one murdered people in the exact same way every single time in order to make it look like a serial killer doing the deed, some of the people he killed on his spree were his targets but others were just random innocents who fit the profile. He only popped up every few years and each time in different places. Because the cops were looking for a serial killer and not an assassin, they missed the key motivations necessary for uncovering his identity. Thus, the assassin was able to continue his business while the cops chased their tails looking for a pattern that wasn’t there.
The second assassin covered his kills by using conveniently timed accidents to do the deed. He pushed an air conditioner off a three story building onto a passing man below (freak accident), cultivated a colony of particularly nasty bees along the workout route of a woman who had a deadly allergy (natural death), and murdered a man by disrupting the signal to his pacemaker and giving him a heart attack (hardware failure). If you look at all these victims as individuals and not at their relationships to each other then each appears to be a random accident. In that case, there’s no need to investigate further. (It’s always worth remembering that most law enforcement agencies are buried in cases that cross their desk. Homicide is a great look into the life of a homicide detective and the world of unsolved cases.)
Of the three, Collateral is the most realistic which is why I recommend watching it once and then with the commentary turned on. It’s very helpful.
For Your Assassins:
Ronin, I know we’ve plugged this one a bunch lately. It’s not a fantastic film, but it is a fantastic thing to watch to get a look at operational preparation. That is to say, the things your assassin needs to do in order to get access to and kill their target.
Collateral is a pretty good look at both assassin and general criminal psychology. Again, we’ve plugged enough lately you should be familiar with it.
Lucky Number Slevin is a bit off-beat, but the entire film sets up a shell game to hide what’s actually going on. It’s a decent example of someone getting close to the target without blowing their cover.
Hitman: Blood Money is a murder playground. This is one of the very rare times I’ll actually recommend a video game for anything. There’s some seriously puerile elements, but it does basically leave the player with free reign to deal with the environment as they see fit. If you’re wanting to see why someone might try to pass themselves off as a member of the cleaning staff to get into a facility instead of camping outside with a rifle, this might be a good thing to look at.
For Your Investigators:
Elementary,Technically almost any faithful representation of Sherlock Holmes will work, but if it’s not Elementary then your best bet will probably be the Jeremy Brett series from the 80s and 90s. Also, if all else fails, and you’ve never read them, you should probably look at the original stories.
Law & Order is an absolute must view, probably in binges, for getting a feel for your cops. The show is slathered in it’s New York City identity, but a lot of it carries over elsewhere. In my opinion, the series really gets going in the third season, but feel free to look at some of the other seasons for a different mix of Police and members of the DA’s Office. Southland is a decent primer to update you to the current climate.
Homicide: Life on the Street is the unpleasant cousin of Law & Order. Again, you’re looking at street level detective work in the mid-90s. But the show is focused more on the psychological strain of the job, as opposed to the procedural techniques. These shows should really be watched together as two sides of the same coin. I’m told The Wire is the decent update to 20 years later, but I’ve never gotten around to it.
Not So Helpful, But Good Movies Anyway:
The Professional is like most most Luc Besson films, not terribly realistic, but it entertaining and quite good. Jean Reno’s character is, unfortunately, a major part of the modern myth of a professional assassin.
Red, this is actually an adaptation of a comic by Warren Ellis. Keep an eye on Helen Mirren and Karl Urban, they’re good references, and their characters don’t really exist in the comic. Especially the way Urban’s character preps and cleans crime scenes.
You may be a new puppy emerging into pup play looking for an identity, or a pup with a name simply skimming this article. BOTH of these pups should read through this article carefully. It is important to understand how to develop your name and be able to answer these questions for any new puppies that may look up to you for support.
When starting to train a new biopuppy, their attention can be difficult to focus. One of the first lessons to teach a new dog is to associate the biopup with a name. A name allows you to gain and narrow the attention of the puppy while also giving feedback. No animal besides humans give a name such power over their person. Your puppy name is the most pleasurable sound to hear. It gives you attention and feedback. If you are hearing it spoken aloud, your tail begins to wag in anticipation of the person who wants to bring attention to you. This is the important reason why naming is a crucial aspect of puppy play. Attention, acknowledgement, and feedback are important tools of communication for puppies
How do I get a name?
A pup name can either be given to you or found independently. Especially if you are in solitary play and you cannot ask someone to give your pup a name. Make certain that you put time and effort into sniffing out a good pup name. No biopuppy is given a name that doesn’t associate with them. For example, Pup Shadow is given his name because he is easily frightened by shadows. The same lesson applies for a Sir/Handler naming their dog. A Sir/Handler would hesitate before giving their puppy the name “Rex” if they knew a better more appropriate one. Whatever the name is, it should make you excited and welcome upon hearing it.
What should my name be?
The puppy’s name is an important aspect of puppy play. It is going to be the initial wag and excitement you feel when your ears perk to its call. It should not be something you dislike or doesn’t have any relevance to your puppy’s personality. A Master will not call you “Spot” if it is a name you either dislike strongly or has nothing to do with you. Your name should define you as a puppy. Pup names can range from something simple describing how you play as a pup OR can be more complex. Names can be as simple as Rex, Spot, Waffles OR can evolve into something more compound such as Aloysius or Sirus.
Should a pup name be given to me or should I find one myself?
This is a common topic of debate when discussing puppy names. There is a common belief that a pup name should be given to you by a Master/Sir/Handler/Alpha. However, this policy excludes the full opportunity puppy play offers. If you are given a name that doesn’t suit you, it limits your ability to connect with your pup mindset. In the defense of this policy, the name being given to you may be a more appropriate option for slave or humiliation puppies. The humiliation of being given a name you dislike may enhance your experience.
For puppies practicing solitary play or wanting to give themselves a name, take some time to explore your pup mindset without a name first. How does it feel? Do you desire one day to be able to use a name that can give you feedback or attention? Think about the future and go forward with your inspiration in finding a name. Look up popular puppy names on the Interweb. Sniff out how different cultures name their pets. Find something suitable and stimulating that makes your ears perk and your tail wag furiously.
Can I change names?
The puppy has limitless freedom to change their name. Many situations present themselves as necessary opportunities to renew the puppy within you. Puppy names carry with them memories and associations such as a past Sir or bad relationship. These associations limit your experience in pup mindset because you feel the name is owned/collared by this memory. A new puppy name severs these connections with negative memories. When discovering your puppy, you may find that your name grows dull and expected. These names cause a puppy to strain to live up to the name instead of the pup within them. These names create an experience that is also dull and expected. Changing your name can be a welcoming change of pace. Caution: Changing your name often can also limit your experience. The puppy inside of you can feel confused and unwelcome with the new name. Much like a biopuppy with a new home and new name after previously being given a name. Change your name as often as you feel is comfortable and necessary.
“Equality of opportunity is not enough. Unless we create an environment where everyone is guaranteed some minimum capabilities through some guarantee of minimum income, education, and healthcare, we cannot say that we have fair competition. When some people have to run a 100-metre race with sandbags on their legs, the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not make the race fair. Equality of opportunity is absolutely necessary but not sufficient in building a genuinely fair and efficient society.”
—from 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
I am careful not to claim students that have transcended to fame. The reason for this is that I don’t believe that there is a causal relationship between my training program and the success of the individual. I think it is fine to state that this person or that person did study or perform at my theatre as a matter of interest and commercial appeal, but I am very very careful about the wording, for I will not suggest that my training or training program is the reason for their success. Because it isn’t. It is, in addition, not the reason for an individual’s lack of professional success. It is merely an influence in the journey along the way. Powerfully, and merely, an influence.
If you claim a causal relationship between someone’s training and someone’s success, then you must also claim the causal relationship between someone’s training and someone’s LACK of success. Another way of saying this is that you must count the misses along with the hits. You would be saying that someone’s success is, in large part, BECAUSE they trained with your school. You are claiming accountability of a person’s success as a RESULT of your training. Then, if that is the case, you are forming a causal relationship between your training and your success rate, and those that don’t professionally succeed must be accounted for, as well. For you are truly saying that your training has actual bearing on the success of the individual that gains widespread acclaim, and equal bearing on the individual that does not.
If this were true, and there is, indeed, a causal relationship in this way, then the professional success rate of the average improvisational school is beyond reprehensible. At least 99 percent do not achieve professional success. If, very lucky, one out of 100 improvisational actors from any given school achieve any kind of professional success, that is, get paid to improvise or act in any way. That number is probably more like 1 in 200. The percentage of individuals that achieve mass notoriety goes down much much much much much more. Let’s say 1 in 5,000, and that would still be very generous. The percentage of people that get famous from the pool of people that study improvisation in any particular school is actually, conservatively 1 in 50,000. In larger schools, it could easily be 1 in 250,000. Now, once again, that’s people who gain mass notoriety, popular fame, from acting or improvisation.
So if you are selling “Stardom”, and tout the celebrities that “make it” as a direct result of studying with you, then that percentage is the direct success rate of your school. “For every quarter of a million people that train with us, 2 will gain fame!”.
“Our training, the training that actually influences someone’s chances of success or failure, is that bad!"
Let’s dismiss notoriety for a moment, and just address the professional definition…. people that get paid. As I said, generously, 1 in 200. Conservative, indeed. It is probably a much higher number, say, 1 in 500. But let’s say 1 in 200 people become a professional in the field of improvisation or acting and the claim is that it is a direct result of training with a particular school or theatre. 1 person out of 200 students go on to work at a professional level.
Now let’s pretend you are not an improv or acting school, but instead you are a medical school. Let’s say that your success rate is the same. Out of every 200 medical students that come to study medicine at your school, 199 of them fail to become professionals….doctors. Your training results in only 1 out of 200 students that become professionals in the medical industry. Or let’s say it’s lawyers, or engineers. You would have a TERRIBLE medical school. Or law school. Or engineering school, and it could literally be dangerous to study there. Only one out of 200 students actually go on to become doctors, the rest do not. "1/200th of our students become lawyers!” Your reputation as a learning institution would be awful.
But in that medical school, let’s say there is a “break-out” person that becomes a famous doctor, and this doctor actually publishes a book or is responsible for some other medical wonder and gains notoriety. One. But hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people did not become famous doctors in your medical school, and a couple of hundred didn’t even make it to being doctors. I would say that you should be put out of business, certainly not boasting about your one extremely rare professional success.
But back to the less life-threatening improvisation school.
Is it more likely that your improv school is actually NOT a causal factor in that person’s success, but instead, one of many schools of training that influences a person that already has a propensity toward performing in the first place. And that out of all of those people that attended all of those schools, the professional and famous one’s talent emerged and grew and evolved through ALL of the training and performing experiences that they exposed themselves to.
And there’s a greater chance that your school is a magnet for people that already have a leaning toward a successful if not famous career, and that you provide a valuable piece of the puzzle for that person’s journey and growth along the way.
If each school, including my own, is merely a magnet, then is training completely irrelevant? Is it a ruse to merely attract already talented people and play a numbers game of successful students thereafter?
Absolutely not. The value of the exposure, training, and performing in various schools of acting and improvisation, though, is more evidence than anything that one philosophy cannot form this singular causal proclamation to an individual’s professional success. It is many different factors, including intelligence, upbringing, world-view, awareness, AND training.
Now let’s take a more specific look at the training and actually examine its authentic causal effects. Chicago, for example is the birthplace and epitome of contemporary improvisation, with New York and Los Angeles and Toronto fast on its heels. Let’s look at Chicago, because I know it best. This model is applicable wherever, though.
Let’s examine the training necessary to perform, for example, on the Second City MainStage. I have directed a lot of MainStage shows, and have a thorough understanding of what it takes to thrive there. What it takes is a great many influences from both training and performing, along with life, itself. No one school is sufficient to fully train for a position there. As a matter of fact, as a director, I have had to compensate for actors that have relegated their training to only one or two of the many schools of study and performing available to them in Chicago. The reasons for this are both pragmatic and, I’ll say, cultural.
Let’s look at some of them.
Let’s first take a look at the basic skill sets required or at least highly desired to be a performer on Second City’s MainStage. What are they?
I’ll list some.
1. Improvise. You must certainly be a good improviser. But what kind of good improviser? All kinds of good improviser.
2. Act. Yes, indeed, you create the role and that’s fun and now you will be doing it 8 times a week for about 8 months. Less fun. Can you act?
3. Write. You must write your own show. You must be able to write comedy.
4. Collaborate. This is an ensemble of people. Do you know how to create with an ensemble? You would have to know how to do that.
This is a broad, basic list of this extensive skill set. Any one of the schools in Chicago will NOT provide you fully with all of levels of all of these skills necessary to excel in sketch comedy at Second City.
I will start with my own school.
The Annoyance. If I had an Annoyance-only trained MainStage actor, I would have to work very hard to reel characters in, for as much as I am proud of our ability to push and have people commit fully to what they are doing, the training tends to create bigger and broader characters. Now this is great a lot of the time, for it is sketch comedy and you do want to possess that ability to create a fierce character range, but not all of the time and certainly not always that big. It takes some effort to bring an Annoyance actor back to some of the more necessary grounded and acted two-person scenes that they will encounter on the MainStage. The “take care of yourself” philosophy of the Annoyance can get in the way of those type of scenes, and leave the other player feeling as if the scene is being railroaded, a bit. I’m always having to encourage an Annoyance actor at Second City to play a little slower and less frenetic and more interpersonal and grounded.
The language of an Annoyance actor becomes an issue, as well. While I’m not making people talk dirtier or weirder at the Annoyance, the shows, with their lack of censorship and the invitation people have to freely create there, pushes the language to an R if not X rated level. This influence often collides with my good friends at Second City and their audience sensibility and often has to be attended to. I have to work to have people still feel free, but also have them realize where they are and how to play to that room.
Married to that is the “Anti-comedy” phase that inevitably happens among young improvisers in smaller, subversive theatres. The rebellion to comedy and against comedy must be turned to the even more courageous and daunting task of actually creating professional comedy once at a place like Second City.
There is also a lack of reps at The Annoyance. (The experience gained from the repetition of doing it). There are so many different shows a week and so many people that the Annoyance does not afford an actor the necessary opportunity to “get their reps in”, or to perform with enough frequency and volume to hone their skills to Second City’s professional sketch environment. Culturally, this leaves Annoyance actors with a bit of a “rag-tag”, unpolished demeanor that has them scurrying to acclimate in the slicker producer and tech and often, client environments they may encounter at Second City.
IO. There’s a lot of greatness that comes from long form, and conversely a lot to overcome if that is the primary focus of one’s training. While long form is great for playing nearer ourselves and a bit slower as we find the scene, this can be trying in a world of sketch comedy where, what we are looking for, are ways to “get there quicker” and “hit it harder”. I’m constantly attempting to encourage long form actors to attack their scenes and make faster choices. Long form encourages an “easing in” to scenes that a sketch audience has less tolerance for.
Lack of character range becomes another issue for a typical IO performer. At IO, we are encouraged to follow the philosophy of playing “near ourselves” and “to the top of our intelligence”, and “slow comedy”, which are absolutely fine qualities, but certainly not always the best overriding philosophy when it comes to sketch. Good sketch requires good VARIETY, with a combination of super smart and super stupid and silly and substantive and slow and fast,etc. And it requires a variety of characters. A character range. This is a skill set that is difficult to magically develop overnight, and often takes a back seat in long form improvisational training. The devastating consequences of this shows up the most when people who center their training in long-form audition for Second City, and attempt to create, suddenly out of nowhere, the character range necessary to do sketch comedy there.
Another detriment in focusing on long-form, only, is the evolving and transforming continuous nature of long-form, with its edits and callbacks and tag-outs and self-reference and fluidity. As a result of these techniques, it is often difficult for an IO improviser to “package” the comedy into scenic product. Even that sentence may scare a typical long form improviser: “Package the comedy into scenic product”, but that’s exactly what sketch comedy demands, and it doesn’t stop at Second City. That is sketch on television, as well, and carries even more of that “product and packaged”, mentality. I have observed that the process-oriented, continuous, ever-connecting nature of long-form improvisation works against that in the performance and in the development of sketch material.
Culturally, there is sometimes what I call “cool-move” residue that an IO actor brings into the Second City Sketch environment. What I mean by this is that IO often has a student-saturated audience base which may identify the choices made in improvisation in a meta, “that was a cool move they made in that scene”, kind of way. They often separate and label improvisational technique in a way a normal audience wouldn’t. An insulated improv-based audience provides a more friendly “insider” environment for the show. This type of audience will constantly reinforce this type of performance as they provide a degree of affirmation and protection for the show and the performers that is not afforded them with a far more commercial and “Improv-uninformed” audience.
Second City. Second City is ironically unable to provide all of the education, training, and performance acumen that is necessary to currently perform at the level sought by Second City. And ya know what, Second City knows that and that is great that they do. Second City is an insular institution that is full-bodied in its training, but creates a limited comedic sensibility by nature of what it is. Hard to explain, really, but I’ll give it a try. Second City is often accused of being institutionalized by the improv and theatre community in Chicago and elsewhere, and is often seen as having safer and more homogenized comedic sensibilities. It is accused of being too safe with its comedy and not taking enough chances. Now things like this have been said to me directly or around me and I am quite often the director of a Second City show while that kind of conversation is being bandied about. Often right in front of me! “The shows are too safe there”, might be said directly to me, or “Second city is so afraid to take chances!” may be said in my presence or directly to me, as well. It is as if the assumption is that it is fine to say that to me because surely it is not I who is holding the comedy back; it is some other force that is doing that. Presumably, the producers, or perhaps the owners, they suppose. The assumption is that there is some higher entity repressing the work and that I, as the director, and certainly the actors, are victims to this censored oppression. The truth of the matter is that there is no “the man” at Second City. There really isn’t. There is no higher producing entity or executive power censoring or repressing the work. As a matter of fact, the owner of Second City usually advocates for darker, more subversive comedy. For that is Andrew’s sensibility. The producers do, as well, at least when it comes to the resident stages there. The MainStage and the ETC, the lifeblood of the Second City brand, are always encouraged to create freely by the producers and owners there. Yes, there is certainly close scrutiny of corporate content offerings from Second City Communications (Bizco), and certain content requirements for touring companies and occasionally shows at regional theatres, but as far as those resident stages go, they are absolutely not influenced in any way by the producers or the owners of Second City. Those processes are held sacred, and the creators are fully and wholly protected and trusted with the content as of January, 2014, when I am writing this.
So how does this perception come about? I know I’ve written about it before but I think it’s always worth a revisit… particularly in regard to discussion of training schools and philosophy influences. It is purely and organically created within the walls of Second City by all parties involved in the creation of shows, especially the audience. Different audiences in the world have different sensibilities, and the function or job or responsibility of the performance or show is to entertain THAT audience. That is the function. Entertainment for that audience. Unfortunately, people who judge comedy from the inside judge it according to their own presumably evolved tastes in comedy and do not often take into account how THAT show is doing for THAT audience.
So the audience at Second City is what it is. It is a 50% tourist audience that represents a wide range of age, gender, and geography. They are truly from everywhere, mostly in the US, and represent a wide spectrum of beliefs and sensibilities. As an artist creating there, the responsibility of a Second City show is to first and foremost make that audience laugh. Secondarily, it is to push the limits, a bit, or to say this and make a statement about that. It is also a desire to remain within the context of Sketch Comedy, that is; mainly unrelated scenes and songs and monologues. It is a goal at Second City to provide an adequate quota of social and political satire, whatever that is. Finally, it is an additional goal to invite them into a slightly subversive or touchy or thought-provoking world that pushes a button or is a bit shocking or a bit offensive, but not enough-so to alienate them from the primary objective: to make them laugh. In order to make them laugh they have to be “with you” enough to gain your trust with the point of view that you wish to gain comedic empathy with. Laughter, after all, is an evolutionary social phenomena, and the ideas of inclusion and trust and empathy are key. The moment the audience feels alienated, they will cease laughing. The moment they cease laughing at Second City, the primary. objective. is. terminated.
So we push and tug and make people think and shock them and even offend them, but we work hard not to alienate them. Every theatre does this to a degree, but the scope of what is deemed as alienating or not alienating differs. Thus we present different comedic sensibilities that are required to make different audiences laugh in different places. Much of the material presented on the MainStage of Second City would seem out of place or fall flat at The Annoyance, for example, and much Annoyance material would alienate a Second City audience in its theme or language. There is no way you could present an IO Harold or other long-form as the offering for the product-oriented needs of the Second City MainStage, either. None of the comedy in or from these places is better or worse or more “sold out” than any other. It is merely different. The truth is that the comedy produced by Second City is quite brilliant. It takes very intelligent people to make it to that stage, and very intelligent people are thinking quite intelligently as they create shows there.
So how does it even get that perception, once again? It is largely self-regulated by the audience at hand. Those people are 325 people that come 8 nights a week all year around to see the Second City experience. Those people have a different comedic taste than an improviser or comedy nerd or a critic or an agent or a producer, even. They are who they are, and while one is developing the material, they are the ones constantly providing the feedback for the material. And laughter is key.
Making the audience laugh is the primary objective.
So if an actor puts up some surreal piece about “fucking dogs” as a metaphor for the “economy”, and finds that night after night of trying that scene in front of an audience on the Second City MainStage that the audience doesn’t get it or are repelled, then what do they do? The audience is provided no education or invitation to understand The Dog Fuck Economy Scene and it gets no laughs for 6 minutes night after night after night after night. Everyone in the cast, and I as the director, personally thought it was very funny when it was first presented as an idea, and have worked on making it acceptable to the audience as much as we can. But in the end, it’s a “no go” as far as the audience is concerned. So what do we do? Do we hold to our guns and keep that Dog Fuck Scene in the show? No producer is telling us not to, nor is the owner of Second City. Friends watching the improv sets think it is smart and weird and funny, as well, and they tell me and the actors that in the bar later.
Does it stay or do we cut it?
We cut it. And why do we really really WANT to cut it? Is it because we want to “bend” or “give up our vision” or
It is simply because we want that audience to laugh and to have a good time, and we don’t want a hole in the show for 6 minutes a night (an excruciatingly long time on stage) where no one is laughing. A scene that is not funny is not within our primary mission. Our main goal IS to make that audience laugh, not alienate them. In that way, it is a self-censored scenario. But I don’t call it censorship. I call it doing a good job.
In addition, most intelligent and reasonable actors who have written and are performing the alienating scene don’t want it in the show, either. They realize how much it damages the show and drops the energy. They realize they have to “recover” after that scene because it is dead in the water and they understand how it affects other scenes that follow, and their fellow performers and friends who have to do the scenes that follow, as well. More than any of this, it’s just not a good time to not get laughs in a scene. For the MainStage, keeping that scene would mean not getting laughs Eight times a week, for 8 months to a year in the show’s run. No reasonable person would want that.
If I were hired to direct at Disneyland, I would adjust accordingly. If I direct an Annoyance Theatre show, I adjust.
And so does a professional improviser and sketch comedy writer and performer.
So all of this is to say that any up-and-coming performer in the world of comedy in Chicago can’t provide themselves with the most thorough, varied, and sophisticated education in comedy necessary to perform at Second City by locking themselves exclusively in the Second City system. I know the irony of this, for it seems that someone that immerses themselves entirely in the Second City culture would absolutely know the comedic sensibilities necessary to perform there. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Because part of realizing the degree of comedy necessary to stand out there is to have a thorough understanding of it ….and then to fight it. And fighting it means knowing what you are fighting, and growing your comedic sensibilities elsewhere. The great people with wickedly funny and cynical and ironic and hateful and razor sharp biting instincts have a great deal of external influences that they bring to the work. This is not only personally, through life experience or through traditional education, but also through the weathered street smarts of different comedy writing and performing everywhere. In short, a Second City-only trained sketch writer/performer does not develop the scope or edge necessary to bring to the stage the sophistication of comedy that is required at Second City. They are just not savvy enough and they often get eaten alive. They are still too vanilla for the stage there.
So now what if an actor in Chicago is so fortunate enough to train at IO, The Annoyance, and Second City? Surely that would cover it. Well, among the most well-rounded Second City actors I have worked with, even more is required. Other skill sets come to mind.
-The ability to be yourself on stage. To hone your own stage persona in front of an audience.
- The ability to execute concise, slick, and professional introductions to games, shows, and scenes.
- Game playing. The ability to play improv games.
- maintaining a scene over time and keeping it fresh with consistent acting
None of the three schools discussed, The Annoyance, Second City, or IO, in my opinion, can fully train you to the utmost degree in all of those areas. Yes, you have to be yourself to introduce stuff in all three. You may introduce shows at The Annoyance or host a Jam or get a theme suggestion at IO, all as your “you” persona, but I find that there is often a deficit in those areas in many Second City company members, still. It is indeed a skill set to be engaging as yourself in front of an audience, and to be able to introduce or explain a scene or a game or a set in a slick, somewhat charming, somewhat funny, and comprehensible manner. Often it is assumed that this skill set is a given. It is not. I have seen so many people fumble and tumble around introductions and game-gets and scene set-ups that it’s astounding. In addition, the game playing alone is often shoddy. Many improvisers at this point have not yet learned that playing an improv game with full commitment and integrity is actually the “cool move” to execute, as opposed to continuing the monologue that “short-form is bullshit” and “I hate doing short-form” and just generally using the words “short-form” a lot.
Quite often, depending on the path that the improviser has taken, playing improv games may have been dismissed as unimportant or a necessary evil to merely endure. Little thought is given to them as they may have to do a game set here and there or a Dream before a long-form or a Freeze Tag at the end of the night. By the time the game playing needs to be at the Second City professional level, the learning and commitment has often not been seriously attended to. Where can one learn those valuable skill sets? Try Comedy Sportz, Boom Chicago, or a Second City NCL Cruise ship. All three also carry the added benefits of being placed in the fire of performance repetitions, and with the latter two, the sketch comedy acting consistency necessary to tour or be a company member at Second City.
Take all of this and put it together, along with the aforementioned intangible aspects of genetics, upbringing, education, experience, and world-view, and it becomes ludicrous to claim anyone’s success for anything. To do so is the erroneous logic trap of using Selective Reasoning to it’s most heinous degree. I can only claim that it is lovely that so many talented people have been so nice as to have visited our stage or school in the first place.
I can further only hope that our influence has supported, enlightened, and informed them on their journey, wherever it may take them.
Aries: What a wonderful year!! Planetary positions are in your favor! But maybe challenging. Obstacles
may arise so decide on your priorities in life and focus your attention on ways to accomplish them!! This is a wonderful year for love for you Aries if you’re up for the challenge!
Taurus: You may face conflict between your inner self and the world outside. You should focus on enhancing emotional strength while accomplishing material success in your life. You will succeed this year if you have the capability to face the challenges that come up during the year.
Gemini: May be ideal for completing pending projects before taking up new ones. You may have to review your present objectives and set new targets. Be more practical in your approach. Seek the help from your peers to attain your goals. You will have more confidence and spiritually there will be remarkable progress! Presence of Jupiter and Saturn in your zodiac sign will give different signals.
Cancer: You will be optimistic and confident during 2016! Any misunderstandings in the family will come to an end with your frank approach. You may have to be more aggressive during the year dealing with professional problems. Do not hesitate to express your opinion. Mostly your inner voice will guide you! Use your social skills to gain support!
Leo: The presence of Jupiter in this sign this year presents you with excellent opportunities for growth in life! There will be plenty of optimism! There is a need to listen to other people if you want overall development. During 2016 you will enhance your social circle which will be instrumental for your future success. You should try to improve your spiritual strength during the year.
Virgo: This is a period for self-awareness and creativity! You have to discover your hidden abilities and make use of them in new and original ways to achieve your objectives in life. In this process you will have to change some personal traits which will block your growth. Look for opportunities to expand your horizon and for methods to exhibit your special talents.
Libra: You should decide on what they want in life, and feel confident accomplishing the targets. This will automatically make them more confident but will help them enlarge their social circle. Family will play a dominant role in development this year. You will be involved in the activities of the family to a great extent. Your energy level will be high and you will participate in outdoor events.
Scorpio: This year will be full of accomplishments on the personal front. There will be opportunities to make necessary changes and move ahead in life. You will have the vitality to enjoy life to the full. Second quarter of 2016 will pose some serious challenges. You will have to make important decisions after proper analysis. Improvements in life style will require hard work and more time in 2016.
Sagittarius: You will see overwhelming changes in your life. You are intent upon personal development and you will be gifted with plenty of opportunities during this period. This will be the basis for your growth. Your relationships require proper scrutiny and you may have to take some tough decisions. You will be proceeding at a hectic speed in life and the month of April 2016 will be suitable for reducing your speed and enjoy the benefits of your hard work.
Capricorn: You will review your objectives in life and form strategies to achieve them during 2016. You will define your goals precisely and take stock of your capabilities. You will learn new skills to suit your needs, and will disown all unnecessary things. You should be ready to terminate friendships which are an obstruction to your progress. You should not be bogged down by previous emotional baggage and feel free to express yourself. Planet Jupiter will help you with plenty of resources and there will be no hindrance to your progress in life once you decide your targets.
Aquarius: This is an excellent time to build new social contacts and form new relationships. You are likely to be argumentative so be careful not to hurt your career. There is a need to go through minor details while executing projects. Fine balance between aggression and harmony has to be achieved in your dealings with others in 2016. Look for loyalty while making new relationships and friendships. Aquarius, this is a period for creativity in your work and you should be ready to change some outdated ideas.
Pisces: Offers plenty of opportunities to grow in life. It depends on your capabilities to make successful use of these openings. You will be more realistic in you approach during the year and your creativity will have to wait. Significant growth is attained due to the influence of your spiritual strength obtained previously.
I’m so done with people calling Tauriel and Kili’s romance unnecessary. Please enlighten me, when exactly IS a romance necessary? When it drives the plot? When it’s the center of the story? Romeo and Juliet’s romance got six people killed, was that really necessary?
Rapid Eye Movements in Sleep Reset Dream "Snapshots"
TAU, UCLA researchers find eye movements during REM sleep reflect brain activity patterns associated with new images
Movement (REM) sleep, the period in which we experience vivid dreams,
was discovered by scientists in the 1950s. Because REM sleep is
associated with dreaming, on the one hand, and eye movement, on the
other, it has been tempting to assume that each movement of the eye is
associated with a specific dream image. But despite decades of intense
research by leading international scientists, this intuitive hypothesis
has remained unproven.
A new study based on rare neuronal data
offers the first scientific evidence of the link between rapid eye
movement, dream images, and accelerated brain activity. When we move our
eyes in REM sleep, according to the study, specific brain regions show
sudden surges of activity that resemble the pattern that occurs when we
are introduced to a new image — suggesting that eye movements during REM
sleep are responsible for resetting our dream “snapshots.”
The research, published in Nature Communications, was led by Dr. Yuval Nir of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine in collaboration with TAU’s Prof. Itzhak Fried,
also of UCLA and Tel Aviv Medical Center; Thomas Andrillon of the
Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique in Paris; and
Dr. Giulio Tononi and Dr. Chiara Cirelli of the University of
Deep down in the brain
goal was to examine what happens deep in the human brain during REM
sleep, specifically when rapid eye movements occur,” said Dr. Nir.
“Prof. Fried’s trailblazing research with epilepsy patients at UCLA
offered a unique opportunity to collect the necessary data — the
activity of neurons located deep inside the human brain.”
research for the study was conducted on 19 epileptic patients at the
UCLA Medical Center, who required invasive monitoring of brain activity
prior to potential surgical excision of seizure-causing areas of the
brain. Electrodes were implanted deep inside the patients’ brains to
monitor their brain activity over the course of 10 days. These
electrodes were able to provide the rare data needed to prove the link
between eye movements, dream imagery, and brain activity.
focused on the electrical activities of individual neurons in the medial
temporal lobe, a set of brain regions that serve as a bridge between
visual recognition and memories,” said Dr. Nir. “Prof. Fried’s prior
research had shown that neurons in these regions become active shortly
after we view pictures of famous people and places, such as Jennifer
Aniston or the Eiffel Tower — even when we close our eyes and imagine
In addition to monitoring the patients’ brain
activity via intracranial electrodes, the researchers also recorded
scalp EEG, muscle tone, and eye movements to identify periods of REM
sleep and detect the precise moment of each rapid eye movement.
Images, awake and asleep
electrical brain activity during rapid eye movements in sleep were
highly similar to those occurring when people were presented with new
images,” said Dr. Nir. “Many neurons — including those in the
hippocampus — showed a sudden burst of activity shortly after eye
movements in sleep, typically observed when these cells are ‘busy’
processing new images.”
“The research findings suggest that rapid
eye movements represent the moment the brain encounters a new image in a
dream, similar to the brain activity exhibited when one encounters
visual images while awake,” Prof. Fried said.
“How and why eye
movements occur are important,” said Dr. Nir. “And these moments
represent privileged windows of opportunity for the study of brain
I know true happiness comes from within, but is it possible that constantly being surrounded by negative external factors - such as toxic people - can affect your happiness? Or is it just a matter of "letting" it affect you?
Oh, definitely. Being surrounded by a bunch of ass-hats can be a mindfuck. And it is mindfuckery that keeps us from knowing the true abode of happiness. Of course it’s all in the mind but that doesn’t always make it any easier.
There is an Indian philosophical ideal called satsang, derived from the words sat (truth) and sangha (company). The concept means to keep yourself in the company of the truth.
This can be known on a variety of ever-deepening levels:
Socially, satsang means spending your time with people who are of a beneficial influence. At the same time, you spend less time with those people who encourage your destructive/delusional habits or who make you feel bad about yourself. Obviously we spend our time amongst a variety of people throughout our days and it is important to come to peace with that. But when you are free to surround yourself with whomever you wish, choose wisely.
Spiritually, satsang means venturing to events, retreats, and/or living with self-realized gurus. Someone once asked Ramana Maharshi why a sage’s silence was more potent than his speech. Ramana Maharshi replied that if someone comes to hear a talk, they may leave feeling as though they agreed or disagreed, understood or didn’t understand, but not much changes. Whereas someone who comes into the silent presence of a saint, regardless of their education, language, or background, may leave with something altogether indescribable that has transformed their heart. True silence, Ramana Maharshi said, is endless speech.
In terms of spiritual practice, satsang could mean reading the words of truth from scriptures or gurus. It could mean listening to or participating in devotional music. And it could also mean sitting with your awareness (Truth) in meditation.
Lastly, Truth and therefore happiness, as you pointed out, is within. It is never apart from you. Abiding in awareness, as your very living existence, is also satsang.
As you can see, the many forms of satsang are all variations on how you can receive Truth, be that through good influences of friends, the words of enlightened humans, images, music, spiritual practice, or whatever helps the mind to settle into peace and love.
In my experience, the essential point of satsang isn’t to escape the negative company but rather to give yourself all the opportunities necessary to shed your harmful confusion, delusion, and illusion. Keeping good people as friends, exposing yourself to the teachings and grace of saints and teachers, and being dedicated to a spiritual practice are all robust opportunities for emerging from the darkness of ignorance into the light of awareness.
And, beautifully so, the more you give yourself to that emergence, the less you will feel the affects of negative influences and people. That is how you know you have found the company of truth.
Let’s think about what “stealing the game” means. When I hear them say that, it makes me think that someone basically interrogated Mona to find out everything she knew and all it took for her to pull it off. It can’t be as simple as someone saying “you’re locked up so now it’s my turn!!!” since Mona is a genius herself and had an escape route. I know Mona had various visitors during her stay in Radley, but I can only think of one person who would have been there often enough to “steal the game”… Wren. He was her therapist and he had a lot of alone time with her. What a perfect opportunity to extract all necessary information from her! I think Aria mentioning how someone stole it from her whilst she was at Radley was a huge indication for us to think about Wren.
Thoughts On The Upheaval From A Global Perspective - Yasiin Bey
Where are we? We’re at critical time. We’re at watershed moment for humanity. I imagine we’ve been here before and I imagine we’ve probably been here longer than we realize. I think many of us are becoming even more aware of where we are. And the urgency to change this miserable condition on this earth” (as Malcolm X said) is occurring to many of us and reaffirming itself.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It’s an opportunity for necessary change. Positive change. And it’s not necessarily convenient or comfortable. As I’m sure is with any period of growth.
I read somewhere that in order for an arrow to fly the bow has to be drawn back. There’s some pressure involved and I think we’re all feeling that pressure. Some of us are more aware of it than others. Some of us are trying to drown it out. But we all feel it one way or another in indelible ways in these times and days.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Do you think its necessary to have an agent if you want to have a career in acting/music? How did you get your first opportunity?
It’s not necessary when you’re first starting out but it really does help! I was 2 when I had my first opportunity so I don’t think I’m the right person to ask! My brother went to a theatre school when he was younger and the agency there wanted to sign me up too and that was that. I’ve never really left the business!