Improv was doomed with a semantics crisis from the start.
When long-form improvisation began to flourish as its own art form under comedy guru Del Close in Chicago in the 1980s, “improv” referred to The Improv, a popular chain of stand-up comedy clubs in dozens of cities around the country. The Palm Beach Improv, for example.
When I used to intern at an improv theater in Hollywood, it wasn’t uncommon to find a couple who wandered in from the street, expecting to see a guy with a microphone, telling jokes. Television shows like Whose Line Is It, Anyway? helped audiences distinguish improv from stand-up, [...]
In a recent interview with Complex, Riggle talked about his career and sports and junk but the most compelling parts came when he opened up about his time at UCB:
That was everything to me. That was my whole foundation…It was early enough where they didn’t even have a theater. Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, and Ian Roberts were the teachers. I was one of the first students to go through the UCB…They only had three levels back then and I took each one twice, just so I could get each teacher at least once. Eventually, I started teaching there. It was awesome and I give them [...]
The Del Close Marathon starts tomorrow!!!!!!! I've been not sleeping to get myself ready to watch comedy for 50 hours straight, which is probably a great idea! Not only did they make these useful videos (more after the jump), but there is an official Del Close Marathon iOS app too. It's a very helpful way to organize your presumably very busy DCM schedule. Also, the app is UCB trained, so when you ask it to perform a function, it "yes, ands," performing a second function as well. It's all you need, other than a change of clothes and deodorant. Seriously, bring those things or else the theatre [...]
Last night, Matt Walsh was on Conan to talk about Veep, which was fun and fine but then he dropped the red, white, and blue-striped bomb that he annually goes to Harlem Globetrotters' training camp to teach them improv and dunking (OK, not dunking). This does explain why each quarter at a Globetrotters game starts with a monologue.
"I think it was improv. It was watching people be on stage, acting without a script. There was something in me that was like, 'I want to do that. I know I can do that.' For some reason it was less scary to me than having words in front of me, because I think when you’re handed a script you know that you’re supposed to do it in a certain way, and people will think, 'How is she reading this?' But when you’re improvising, there’s nothing to compare it to and you can do whatever." — Kristen Wiig on why she was drawn to improv when she first started getting [...]
Will Harris over at The A.V. Clubhas a great interview with actress Jami Gertz today. Gertz was one of the stars of Anne Beatts's short-lived, much-loved sitcom Square Pegs, which Beatts's SNL buddy Bill Murray guested on once. In the interview, Gertz reveals that Murray was trying to put together an improvised movie circa 1983/1984 and had recruited her to be part of the cast:
"I did some improv with [Bill Murray] back in Chicago, with Del Close. He really introduced me into the improv world and what improv is all about. In fact, there was a small time there where we were… well, he was trying to get a movie [...]
"'Yes, and' is about agreement. Agreement doesn't necessarily mean you literally say the word yes all the time… In fact you more often probably do say no. Agreement means I'm agreeing with the improviser, not that I'm agreeing with the character… Agreement is I'm agreeing to your premise." - Matt Besser on the latest episode of improv4humans explaining the common misconception over what "yes, and" means. It's part of a well-articulated rant on the subject that shows why he is an improv legend. You can download the episode on iTunes or listen to it here. Start at the 75:45 mark, so you don't have to hear Chris Gore talk [...]
Craig Cackowski is a long-time improv performer, teacher and coach, and a well-regarded veteran of Chicago’s Second City and iO (Improv Olympic) theaters. Now residing in Los Angeles, he performs regularly in celebrated improv ensembles Quartet at iO West and Dasariski at UCB, as well as shows at Second City Hollywood. You might know him best as Officer Cackowski, the no-nonsense campus cop on NBC’s Community. This summer, you can see him as one of the guest performers in ABC’s new series Trust Us With Your Life, a Whose Line Is It, Anyway?-style show in which host Fred Willard interviews celebrities like Ricky Gervais and David Hasslehoff, and [...]
"It wasn’t long into the show before the performers exposed themselves as the deadbeat hacks I now know them to be. Immediately after the perfunctory introductions of the cast, the ringleader of this circus of disappointment stepped forward and asked for an object with which they would begin the first scene. This was the moment I’d been waiting for; knowing well that the art of improvisation relies on useful audience generated suggestions, I’d spent the earlier part of the evening brainstorming some top quality objects, locations, and relationships with which to aide these improvisers in their craft. After the request for an object had scarce left the lips of the [...]
Did you know that Anna Faris grew up acting in Arthur Miller and plays about the Holocaust? This profile details how she moved from those roles to House Bunny and Scary Movie, and most recently The Dictator. Here's how she describes her experience working on the improv-heavy set of the latter:
“You have to really be on your toes be very malleable,” says Faris. “Sacha definitely thrives on making people uncomfortable. He’s like a bulldog that way. When he senses he’s making someone mildly uncomfortable, he just clenches on and won’t let go. It’s fun for an actor to be able to play off that. You just had [...]
I’ve been teaching some form of improvisation for 18 years now, and I will keep on teaching as long as I can. I love it, I will not apologize. There was a time that I was worried about the phrase “Those that can’t do, teach” — was that me? Am I condemned to teaching while watching others succeed around me?
Yes and No.
Others will succeed whether I teach or not. I seem to be getting a steady stream of work outside of improv (VO’s, TV, and Model [...]
"An art form without an author, improv comedy is sometimes compared to a high-wire act, but truly to understand the level of difficulty, imagine a team of tightrope walkers chained together. Then every few seconds one daredevil must make a sudden, dramatic move." - The New York Times'Jason Zinoman on the risky hilarity that is long-form improv.
Better start figuring out how to clone yourself because the 14th Annual Del Close Marathon Line-Up is a doozy. The non-stop 50+ hour improv festival, which begins on June 29th, is nearly two months earlier than it has been in previous years, as to not interfere with pilot casting and thus allow more LA performers to participate. Some notable shows include: "30 Rock Writers", which pairs actual 30 Rock writers with the actors who play TGS writers – a nearly three-hour taping of Matt Besser's podcast, improv4humans – "Hot Sauce", featuring Ben Schwartz, Adam Pally, and Gil Ozeri – and like 12 zillion more shows. Seriously, just go through [...]
When I spoke to Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, there was a lot of discussion of their old UCB days. Here is a clip from an old news story from those days and it's a really fun watch. The highlight has to be the interview with Zach Woods talking about how UCB is such a refuge from high school (HIGH SCHOOL!!!): "I'm not a huge fan of high school but I'm a huge fan of this," from the mouths of babes, literally. There is also a lot of Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz in jean shorts, a crew-cut-possessing Rob Riggle, and Paul Scheer referencing a Palm Pilot. Hop [...]
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