YBY ep 240: Aaron Garrett is up for the challenge.

This week on Yes But Why, we talk to theater artist and comedy writer, Aaron Garrett.

Aaron Garrett is a writer and lighting designer by inclination (and a producer/director/actor by necessity) based in Houston, Texas. He has a passion for pushing the cultural boundaries of sketch comedy and in 2012 founded Be Kind To Strangers, currently Houston’s longest running sketch comedy troupe. In 2014 he founded the semi-improvised Magical Lying Hour which (when possible) travels frequently in the U.S. and beyond. In 2017 he merged his projects into Pronoia Theater, which now focuses on original scripted and improv comedy.

In our conversation, Aaron and I get into a heated discussion about improv and sketch. He has strong opinions and we talk it all out. Challenge is the theme of this episode. Aaron likes to be challenged. I oblige.

Aaron shares some great stories about the theater community at his alma mater, Rice University. We talk about college and the opportunities we had.

Alongside past guest Steven M. Saltsman, Aaron now runs the Pronoia Theater.  We talk about writing and directing and all the little details that go into running a theater that you don’t think about. This was a great discussion. Very spirited.

Support Aaron by watching his improv show, Magical Lying Hour, online (and maybe soon in person). Check out Aaron and Steven’s collaboration, the online sitcom, Space Train. New episode coming soon!  And don’t forget to check out Aaron’s podcast, Presidential Death Match. Great stuff! Enjoy!


Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com to join in on the fun.

This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible – get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at http://www.audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY

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(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster on 11/23/2020)




TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai

HOST  00:00

Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Yes But Why episode 240 – my conversation with theater artist and writer, Aaron Garrett. But first, you guys should totally buy stuff from my sponsors because a) they are awesome and b) It helps me and I sure could use your help these days. So, our first sponsor is, of course, audible. Get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. You know I am using this every chance I get. In the car while I’m driving around with my toddler, I get Audible to read Chicka Chicka 123 to him and he LOVES it. Parenting solved. Audible is available on most of the devices in your house. I’m sure of it. Go now and sign up and then you can get your free audiobook today at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. The next sponsor of this episode is PodcastCadet.com. Podcast Cadet is dedicated to helping people like you navigate the uncharted waters of podcasting. Let Podcast Cadet get you started! Ask Podcast Cadet for help with your existing podcast! No matter what your question, Podcast Cadet can help. I have a webinar on PodcastCadet.com about being a better host for your podcast! Check out what me and the rest of the Podcast Cadet community can do for you! Use code YBY20 when you contact PodcastCadet.com and you’ll get 20% off the workshop or service you buy! This week on Yes But Why, we talk to writer and lighting designer, Aaron Garrett. Aaron is the co-founder of Pronoia Theater, which focuses on original scripted and improv comedy. We get into a heated discussion about improv and sketch. Aaron has some strong opinions and he did his research on things I’ve said on this podcast. It gets wild. I now present to you: Yes But Why episode 240: Aaron Garrett is up for the challenge. Enjoy!


I’m Amy Jordan. And this is yes, but why podcasts? Yeah.


Were you like the kind of low kid who, you know, did presentations for your family and stuff? Or, you know, were you like, quiet and in your room studying history books?



Oh, probably a bit of a mixture. I definitely remember one time when the after because we went to church on Saturdays one time after church on Saturday being very excited by what we learned in Sunday school and then telling my parents that I wanted to perform a Sunday school lesson for them the next day, which they they allowed me to do. But certainly a majority of the majority of the time I was either wandering around the woods, in our house, around our house, not at our house. Or I was reading or I was playing board games for video games. We were I mentioned before we I was homeschooled for a good portion of my elementary school education. And I was geographically isolated because I lived in the middle of a forest growing up. And then not a gregarious person. I don’t necessarily like talking on the phone all that much. I like talking to people face to face. I didn’t talk with a lot of P I didn’t have the opportunity to be social a lot. And so I usually had to find ways to entertain myself.


HOST  04:19

Was that something that you enjoy doing or something that you felt was like a burden?



Oh, I liked it a lot. Yeah, definitely. My I had, I had tons of fun wandering around coming up with stories we would play this MMO RPG coder escape, which is still relatively popular online. And it’s this fantasy world. And so I’d play in it and then I walk around thinking of thinking of what my character did and what my character could do and sort of retelling the stories that I had just played through. And all that was was great fun for me and then I was on the internet for movies. very early age, I was in that span of time when some people had the internet as kids and some people didn’t. But But I had the internet as a child. And so I would often go and find fanfiction, and read it. And sort of imagine things and try to tell my own stories, which it wasn’t until much later in my life that with the help of some teachers, that I sort of connected that love of storytelling to working in the arts as a profession. Hmm.


HOST  05:38

What even made you I mean, you say that you got, you know, help from teachers. I’m interested in your education, but like, what was the thing that even, you know, made you think about it? Because I think a lot of people are like that, you know, like a lot of people’s brains process and in storytelling nature, you know what I mean? And they just don’t even think about it. It’s just the way that it is. Yeah, ever be in theater? You know? Oh,



yeah. I mean, I guess I had the relatively unfortunate, it’s not that unfortunate. But I had the relatively unfortunate position of being told fairly frequently that I was smart as a kid, which is never a good thing to tell a kid because it puts a lot of pressure on them to continue performing and to not make mistakes.


HOST  06:34

By saying, like, I gave you a big ego, and you were a jerk to people, no,



no, no, no, it’s just the sort of thing where if people keep telling you that you’re smart, and that you can do a lot of things, that it kind of shuts a lot of doors, because you don’t want to make mistakes, and you feel the need to constantly be proving that you are worthy of continuing to receive that positive feedback. It’s something that recently, they’ve been telling school teachers not to tell kids. But I had a lot of teachers who would say something along the lines of, Hey, I know you’re interested in x. But it seems like you’d be really you would really excel in my subject. Or, occasionally the opposite of, yeah, you are good at my subject. But I think you would really excel in something else. And that was just a frequent occurrence in whatever I was studying up through high school, but there was one teacher that, that I liked quite a lot and didn’t get to see a lot of because of the way my education was structured. But But she specifically talked to me because I was concerned about college. And I was concerned about what I wanted to study, and more so where I wanted to go steady, because I didn’t have a lot of strong feelings. And she said, Yeah, I know, a lot of people seem to keep lying to put you into math and sciences and stuff. But I definitely see you as more of an arts and English kind of person. It just seems like that’s what you want to be doing. I thought, Oh, I guess that is what I want to be doing. Huh.


HOST  08:25

It’s weird that at that point in your life, you need somebody to like, and maybe other points too, but like, you need someone to give you permission to do what you want to do. Because I was there to totally, I was literally enrolled as a biology major in college. And like the week before I left my house to move into college, I called up and switched everything to theater, and then cried. When I told my parents they were like, Alright, make sense.



I also think that As Americans, we get, I only say as Americans, because when I’ve spoken to some of my European friends, they may trade people for this view that Americans tend to think that we are the best that we are the experts on ourselves. When we in fact have an incredibly subjective and warped opinion of ourselves. Our perspective of ourselves is very, very warped, whereas other people can often see things more clearly about us, because they are apart from us, and they can also attach it to other patterns that they’ve seen in their life. Mm hmm. So I think it’s just that those teachers could see could be reminded, I reminded them of someone or something. And they decided to give some advice. Hmm.


HOST  09:58

You know, it’s funny, I find And when I work with students in the middle school and high school ages, they’re generally easy to figure out. You know, they’re not so complicated yet. So what they want and like is very clear. Yeah, for various reasons, because to be honest, I mean, like, Look, I teach theater classes only. So number one, they are enrolled in a theater class. So like, there’s that. But also, then there’s different, like, the fun thing is I so I teach this summer camp, and sometimes I started asking at the beginning, like, okay, who enrolled because they wanted to be here, and then who enrolled because your parents wanted you to be here. And there’s like, a definitive, like, half and half for sure. And I’d be like, okay, and that just note, the people who were just there for their parents and like, not worry that much when they only gave like, 40%, that’s fine. If they ended up liking it, and it went, Well, great. But if they didn’t, and they continuously just were there, because grandma told them to be totally cool. Keep it go. You’re gonna hold this sign, whatever, you know.



Yeah, I had that. I used to be a technical director at a local high school. And I would teach there stagecraft classes. And there was a very similar dynamic of the students who thought it was an easy art credit. And the students who wanted to be more learn more about technical theater.


HOST  11:36

Yeah. And like, it’s not like, when when you know that about the people, it’s, it’s like, no judgement, Hey, man, you don’t like it cool. Fine. I’m fine with that. I get while you’re here. Good on you for doing it. But like, so I’m not going to stress about it. You know what I mean? Like, I’m not going to try to make this kid be something that they’re not. But the other thing is, like we’re talking about, these kids are super clear about who they are. And they end up contributing in different ways. Like, there are definitely ones where like, they did not want to be there. But after a while, like I’m writing, I’m teaching comedy camp. Right? How hard and crazy could it be? Like, I’m like, so what’s weird for a duck to do? What do you guys think? Anybody? Anybody? So a duck goes to where grocery store? What happens with a duck? Like, I’m trying to make them write weird stuff, right? They actually they get into it, even if they’re like, not at all interested. They’re like, ah, like, what if a duck was flying the plane? I was like, excellent skills. He has good good, you know? And then they’re into it. It’s just a matter. But that being said, like, I just don’t like I think that kids really clearly communicate what they want and who they are. You’re right to their teachers. everybody’s like, Oh, yeah, that guy. Like, oh, man, like I bet you if you went to school for science, they like, man, wish you went to school for theater. Yeah. So where’d you end up going?



I went to Rice University, which is a school in Houston, which is around where I grew up.


HOST  13:17

Oh, and a good, a good theatre school there. How was the experience?



I really enjoyed it. I think it’s what I needed. So until I got to college, so I transferred into rice. I went to a community college Previous to that. Nice. Before I went to that community college, I had never been in a position to do theater. From the time I was very young, I knew I was interested in theater because I would go see shows. And especially when I was being homeschooled, my mom would get school tickets, and we would go see shows in Houston. But I could never be an active participant in it because of where we lived. And the high schools that I went to did not have a theater program that I could be a part of, for one reason or another. So it wasn’t until I got to Tombow college, which is the first community college I went to, that I could begin doing theater and so I I came into my major because my theater became my major relatively quickly. I came into my major being very green at what I should be learning. And the nice thing about Rice was that it was a small program that really allowed me to do as much as I wanted, which was a lot and to try my hand at a lot of different subjects. Unlike University of Houston which has a much more formalized and large theater program where you kind of get sorted into You’re going to be a designer or you’re going to be an actor or you’re going to be a stage manager, whatever. But rice, I was able to learn and do everything. And the take on leadership positions from an early point in my development. And then on top of that, I thought that teachers were really fantastic. I really loved my professors in theater at Rice. So I, I do not have any complaints about it.


HOST  15:31

You had a great experience that sounds great. What kind of what was the like focus of the theater department, like I went to theater, I got a theater degree at University of Dallas. And it was very Shakespeare and very, like Greek theater, you know, that was pretty much the bulk of what we did. What was the like, vibe of what you guys did.



So then that’s one of the other really cool things looking back on on rice is that. So there’s the vodka department, that’s the official theatre department. And they did do Shakespeare, they usually did a classic work in a modern work every year. And the modern, the modern works, or modern works that were chosen by people who liked Shakespeare. So they usually weren’t the sort of thing that I was necessarily into. But then there was also a high profile student run Theatre Company, which I got to join, which shows its own thing. And so every year, what that company would look like, would be different as the students who are running it were different. That was a very exciting time. And then rice itself has, without going into too much detail. There are residential colleges. And each of though there are about 12 of those on rice campus, and each of those residential colleges also have their own theatrical identity. And they would put on their own plays. And so Weiss, where I was at, focused on musicals, and one acts make Mercury, which was another one focused on original work. Baker did Shakespeare, all sorts of different things. And so there was the the official official program. We did Macbeth, we did Noises Off, we did a bunch of do about nothing, you know, we did a lot of sort of classic works one way or another, right? There was a lot of opportunity to do weirder things, as long as you could convince seven people to do them with you. You could get it done.


HOST  17:47

Did the student run theater? Like have a like faculty advisor? Or was there any Did you have like, did you perform in the middle of the quad? Or was it like you had a space? And there was some sort of, I don’t know, organizational something?



Yeah. So the theatre department at Rice was founded in 2005. And so I was one of the first classes that went through it. But the student run theater group had been present on campus since 1957. And so the user group was very established, they had an endowment of their own. They had a deal with the campus that they would get to perform free of charge in the large theater on campus. And they would have access to the, to the shop to build sets, and they would have access to materials and they would be able to make purchases and they could hire their own directors and choreographers and, and all of that. Yeah, so so the company the rice players, was as organized as the students who were running it, which, over time seems to have gone down. I got interviewed to direct to show urine, it seems like I’d be on a bit of an uptick, which would be exciting. But but but yeah, the the student run theatre group had the resources available to be as big as a normal theatre department at a school. In fact, before the vada department was created, or the theater track within the body department was created, the professors who were running it, that theater department had been hired to be just faculty and staff for the student run theatre group. So it was it was definitely not a fly by night operation.


HOST  19:54

Seems like a hard earned theater department. Like for years. They’re like see where Gonna keep doing it. It’s gonna keep happening. That’s cool. Don’t give us two degree for it. We are still accomplishing stuff. Like he.



Yeah, so in the I’ll tell this story quickly, I had to look up a lot of race theater history, because while it was there, it was the 50th anniversary of something. But the 20 in 1920 or so, which was eight years after the school opened, there was a real terrible hurricane and the student theatre group at the time, which is not the right players, the zoom theatre group was rehearsing in the academic lounge, and they left all the windows open and caused $20,000 worth of damages in 1920s money to the administrative offices. And as a result, all official theatre activities were banned on rice campus for 35 years. But you had the students like you say, just continue to perform guerrilla theater, just sort of pop up outside somewhere or go right outside of the bounds of campus and perform on on a parking lot or in a field just outside of campus in order to continue doing theater.


HOST  21:23

I love that stuff. What a great experience.



Yeah, yeah,






I have some frustrations with my college experience. And I didn’t get as much out of it as I perhaps what I would have wanted to hear I did there I am largely proud of him and join the club.


HOST  21:42

We’re all sitting here paying millions of dollars and going like what did I learn? I really, I don’t know if I remember how, like, re read some of the books from college? I remember reading them. I didn’t know that. You know what I mean? Like? Yeah, and boy, so College is a weird experience. It’s almost like practice adulthood, right? Like, so first chance you get to be away from your parents to like, make your own decisions about like, who you’re going to be. And like how you’re going to act and I don’t know, just like, the college experience that I had was relatively, you know, small, safe, right? It feels like something like, you know, I’m glad I went through it because from where I grew up, I don’t know that I could have gone to like a rougher place or have moved to any of the cities but I ended up living in like it was very nice to have like a cushy college experience. Like but I was in it’s called University of Dallas but PS not in Dallas. It’s just outside of Dallas so it was cushy and far away and safe You know? And but rice rice rice is right in the middle err rice is in Houston is rough sometimes. What was the vibe in that was it as like safe and cushy as I’m saying my experience was or was it like hey country boy Welcome to the city This is crazy.



No No it was for sure an easy going the rice itself is in the middle of the Medical District but it’s in it’s right around the richer part of Houston or the richest parts of Houston so it’s it’s very comfortable and it’s around a nice park and where the only rail line is etc etc. So So rice is situated in a very comfortable area. And then because it’s Houston and because it’s Texas and everyone has cars you can kind of navigate your way around the the less savory parts of the city if you want to on your way downtown or what have you. So it was not right if you are at Rice you feel isolated from the city, if you want to be


HOST  24:06

okay. Right on. So what happened when you got out like did you start doing theater internships or did you have the fear of God real life put in? Yeah. And you worked at a call center like the rest of us?



Yeah, I I tried to get some internships. I was turned down for most of them. Unfortunately, I got a job right out of college being the technical director of a place called Episcopal High School, private high school in Houston. And they were known as one of the if not the top theatre program for high school kids in the city. Certainly one of the top private school theatre companies there are a few Public School, such as hspva, which is technically a public school, and then Stratford that are quite good theater programs. But I was the TD there for three years and on my way out, so. So in my last year at Rice, I got involved in a sketch comedy group and I started getting really into sketch comedy, which is the thing that I’m really focused on currently. And so shortly after graduation, before starting my job as a TD, I founded a sketch comedy group, which is the longest running sketch comedy group in Houston currently, since we’re still going strong. So my first few years out of college, we’re working as a TD at this school for 12 hours a day, 12 to 14 hours a day. And then going in doing my sketch comedy work outside of that,


HOST  26:00

what’s the name of the drew?



Be kind to strangers. And when you’re, for various reasons, very nice, awkward position with the name right now. But, but the kind of strangers is the name of the original sketch comedy group. And, yeah, I worked as a TD, I won an award for the school, as far as I know, I’m the last person to win an award for that school. And


HOST  26:33

were you involved in like technical stuff? Like I would not be able to get a job as a technical director? Oh, yeah. But like, being tech guy.



That was my focus. My focus was stage management, lighting design. While I was in school, I like I said, I did sort of everything but the stuff I did the most of was stage management and lighting design. And then I also was not state I was a carpenter at the school. So I worked in their shop for the two and a half years that I went there. So yeah, I had the requisite skills, if not the requisite experience, as it turns out, great to be effective TD at that school. And that was with few with a few very important exceptions. That was a great experience, being at that school. And within a year of getting out as a way of trying to make the sketch comedy be better. I enrolled in improv classes. And then I got involved at the improv Theatre in Houston for five years, until I left it a few years ago.


HOST  27:50

So you take improv classes, and did the improv aid your sketch comedy?



Oh, not specifically. I mean, it might have it’s hard to tell where growth is coming from, you know, sure. Did I get better at sketch comedy? Because I was doing it a lot. Or did I get better at sketch comedy? Because I was out in the world more regardless of whether I was doing improv I was seeing more people and being in more places and learning more things about society, or did I get better at sketch because I got more comfortable on stage because I had more stage time through improv. So I certainly don’t think it hurt.



Yeah, right.



Yeah, I have strong feelings about the way that sketch comedy is taught. And the way we think of sketch comedy, and most of them are intertwined with what I think is a very foolish decision to tie sketch comedy to improv.


HOST  28:56

Do you mind sharing with me purely because I teach both improv and sketch comedy and I’d hate to be doing it wrong.



Of course, I don’t mind. Although after. I know that you and I have disagreements because I’ve listened to other episodes.






that’s okay.


HOST  29:16

I accept disagreements.



So So the main thing is that if you look at the skills necessary to be successful at sketch comedy, you need good scripts. You need good writing, you need good acting. Theoretically, you want a good director. If you’re trying to put on a successful sketch comedy show, you need to think about things theatrically. All of the skills. To be successful at sketch comedy, are the same skills to be successful at putting on a play. For the most part, the writings a little different. The style of acting is a little different. The scope of the production is different, but the roster Skills themselves are the same. And if you look at the skills necessary for being a good improviser, those do not line up nearly as well with the skills for putting on a good sketch comedy show skills of being a good improviser listening, one presumes thinking on your feet not being afraid to look foolish. Being able to apply patterns quickly to new situations. And it is that we we have a very unfortunate connection, where sketch comedy has been abandoned by the theatrical establishment because we don’t take comedy seriously and we don’t respect comedy. And sketch has its roots in vaudeville, and theater didn’t like vaudeville all that much. And so sketch comedy has been connected to improv. Even though the sorts of people that get really excited about improv are not the sorts of people who would necessarily get really excited about sketch comedy, when it comes to know you’re going to need to memorize your lines. You’re going to need to rehearse this thing, you’re going to have to rehearse this thing so that we’re confident about what’s happening. If you want to get really good at it, you’re going to have to repeat it. And people in improv don’t usually like repeating things all that often, at least not intentionally. And so I usually liken it to that sketch comedy is the short story to theatres novel. Hmm. And that improv is something else entirely.


HOST  31:49

Yeah. And that’s just jazz music. And you’re like, that’s good theater. No, it’s not.



You would you might see improv and stand up in the same place. They’re both comedy


HOST  32:02

standby would be so pissed if you said them.



But they don’t count. But what I mean is that you would not say that someone should try improv because they’re good at stand up. You wouldn’t say that someone should try stand up because they’re good at improv. So why do we say that? Someone should be good at sketch. So it should be good at performing a character that is is written just because they are good at performing a character that is not written.


HOST  32:36

Listen, improv is the one who got put with sketch comedy not sketch comedy with improv because improv is just magicians who want to hang out with each other. Like it’s uncool. Nobody. Everyone knows it’s uncool. It’s always been uncool. And even though it’s kind of cool now, it’s still uncool. Like, yeah, it’s just it’s like, I love improv. Because I like it in the way that every minute is just an acting class. And that’s essentially what it is, right? It’s just an acting class all the time. Right. And if you sometimes you show your acting class, other people look at me, I’m taking an acting class. You see this, doing it? And sometimes they like it, and sometimes they don’t and who cares? Right? Like, that’s kind of that’s kind of how I think about it. I think you’re totally right, though, as far as like, I mean, in my experience of doing a sketch show at an Improv Theater. Yeah, I mean, I hit that roadblock. 1000 times, like people who take improv classes are prone to not liking memorizing lines, like as a crowd, right? Yeah. And also, like, the hard part about well, I’ve realized this from talking to international improvisers, which is that in most other countries other than the US, improv is more of a like, serious, dramatic thing. And that us doing comedy is kind of like gauche, like they’re like, yeah, I guess. And so like, when they see that, like, like, if you really want to, like, go to a international improv festival, go hard with your funny stuff. But know that they’re gonna be like, Did you see the American show? Like that’s what they think of it right? It’s not like, like, because there’s a lot of like, you’re right, loud personalities. I would say that the comedy. improv that does well with audiences, is often improv that is done by stand ups, or by good sketch comedians. But that’s not to say that they have to be some people. are just like I said, magicians, and they just like to go and be like, did you see this thing I got? Well, like, and that’s just how they like it, you know?



Yeah, I don’t know.



I mean, I agree with them.



I would say the the great improv I’ve seen is usually done by good actors. People who know how to tell a story quite well, I grew kind of bored is maybe the wrong word. But disenchanted, might be better. With a lot of the improv I was seeing in my hometown and their refusal to grow, or change, or make, you know, try new things. And I happened to go see some international improv and had I like the international flavor of improv a lot more is perhaps one I should say, because they tend to be better storytellers. Yeah, it’s


HOST  35:57

certainly there’s there’s different ways in which they approach telling stories that I find really fascinating. And when I talk to people, in other countries, it’s just really interesting to hear how they all build, you know, their stories and how they go about it. Yeah. So you’ve been writing with your sketch troupe for a while? What’s your process? Like? Do you guys write in a writers room thing? Or is it like you do finish products and bring them together? Like, what’s your process?



It’s changed a lot over the years, because I am, in some respects, the only original member left, depending on how you want to chalk that up. But when we began, we would each write separately. And then we would bring in sketches each week, and we would read them and then we would all give comments or give notes or punch it out. And then occasionally, you know, Dennis would bring something in, and he would say, I like this. And then we would say, Oh, it’s kind of rough. Dennis, why don’t I’ll take it and I’ll do a pass on it. And then when I’m done with my pass, I’ll give it to Dustin and Dustin will do a pass. And then we’ll give it back to you. And then you’ll do another pass. And then over over time, it shifted. Because in when it was first founded, I founded it right after I graduated. And I pulled some members from my college sketch comedy troupe. So the the group was about half people who had just graduated from college, and half people who had just finished their freshman year of college. And when those people graduated in 2015, they all left the city. And once that happened, we began to have closure, we would, we started to write longer shows, we started to write shows that were cohesive for an hour and a half instead of cohesive for a half hour. And we would write those much, much more together. Instead of writing around stuff and bringing it in and giving notes, we would sort of sit side by side and work out an outline. And then these days, I keep trying to find people to kind of recapture that writers room feeling but because I’m mostly in touch with improvisers who don’t like to sit down by themselves and light, quietly. It is a there have been abortive attempts to get back into a writers room. And it usually works for about two months. And we’ll put together a really good show. By then those people want to move on to other projects, which is fine. But so now the the process is me sort of finding some writers I want to work with, we write a show together, we do the show, I find some other writers I want to work with we write together. And we collectively decide this is what we want this show to be. And then once we decide on what we want that show to be we figure out whether we need to write it together, write it separately. And then of course, during this whole fabulous year we’ve been having we begun Stephen and I who was on the podcast a few weeks ago, Stephen and I have begun a project called space train, which is a sitcom. It’s an online sitcom we’ve been doing, and that writing process has been different than anything else.


HOST  39:38

Oh, yeah. Is it just the two of you writing that?



It is it is either the two of us or just me, depending on the episode. But usually what what has happened is we got together and we decided on a season arc and we said we want to take our eight characters through this story in these 13 episodes. And then when we get to a place in time, we will say, okay, we need to do a Tracy episode. What is the story we can focus on Tracy, because right now we’re focused much more on in traditional sketch comedy, although I usually approach things very much from a character perspective, traditional sketch comedy is very premise focused, for obvious reasons. Whereas this project is very character focused. And so we are writing the same characters over and over again. So we’re just having to think about the story in a different way. We have to say, Okay, so how are we going to serve Professor rat skull this month, he can do this, this connects with this, let’s make an outline. And then one of us will take the outline and go write it.


HOST  40:47

You know, I urge you to maintain with the sketch group I’ve done similar to what you’re talking about. When I did my show the neighborhood. For many years, it was just me dragging it along behind me like a wagon, and throwing people in every month. I did it monthly for eight years. And it was hard, a lot, a lot, a lot. And only maybe the last. Maybe the last four years, didn’t really get where I found a group of people that like all wanted to do it and be part of it together. And like, they stayed on for a full year with me. And it was like, Oh, my God, finally I get this thing that I’ve been looking for. Right. But I feel like you just got to keep trying to put stuff together. And this gotta be crap time for, you know, trying to meet new people and find new people to work with for sure. For sure. But like, I’m hearing where you’re at, and I’m just saying like support to you, brother, like stick with it, you’re gonna be great.



I think space trained has been that over the last seven months of the writing process is perhaps a little less cohesive than I would want it to be. But we’re using the same cast. And so there’s still that feeling of togetherness and that feeling of Oh, we’re back here together again. And we’re putting on our put on the skin of this character. And that’s been a lot of fun. Right on? Yeah, so






it’s, it’s always tough to be cuz at this point, I would almost feel and I would almost feel imbalance in skill levels, which I’m always trying to minimize, in the sense that I’ve been writing sketch, presumably, you’ve been writing sketch for so many years. Regardless of what someone has to offer, if they’re coming in and they haven’t built that discipline, they, they tend to defer to you too much. Hmm. And you don’t want a lot of deference in a writers room. You want challenge? And you want people to say no, I think this idea is good. Say No, I think that idea is bad. Why don’t we try this. And so over time, it has just become harder to find people who will disagree with me. Mm hmm. And sort of sharpen the work and the way that the work needs to be sharpened.


HOST  43:30

You know, I hear what you’re saying. I totally get what you’re saying. And that definitely happened. I when that started to happen, I stopped writing for the show. I would just get them to write. And I would do edits and stuff. But I didn’t write any of my own because even the dumbest ideas that I would pitch. They’d be like, Oh, yeah, that sounds good. I was like, does it sound good, though? Like, I’m pretty sure it’s not good. And then I’d read it and I’d be like, they’d be This is terrible. And then in the room, they’d be like, yeah, like, really,



I’m used to do that. So at the previous theater, I used to run a program called Blue shift, which was essentially that we would put together a writers group for a month, and I would be their editor. And I would get them together and say, Okay, we’re gonna put on a show let’s show are we gonna write and that was enjoyable, but it for me at least, I it wasn’t giving me what I wanted out of the creative process because I was not able to have the time to write my own stuff.


HOST  44:46

Sure, you were spending all your time being sort of the leader so you couldn’t like focus on creating your own thing. Does it feel better now and more free because to work on Space train with Steven because you guys have a sort of an equal relationship as opposed to either of you deferring to the other.



Well, you You think so wouldn’t you, but Stephen is fairly not confident in himself when it comes to writing. And so right now there’s a lot of me trying to put even Steven Steven will challenge me on social ideas present within our script. Like he’ll say, Oh, I don’t know that. This is the sort of message we want to be sending. But as far as jokes are concerned, or story structure, she doesn’t always hit as hard as I’d like him to.





HOST  45:49

You know, I’d be fascinating to know, fascinated to know, you were you were saying that you’ve listened to other episodes, and we disagree, but so far, we haven’t quite disagreed. What did you think we just agreed on? And like, and can I disagree with you and help you out?



That the one that I remember most strongly, cuz all I remember is going Oh, yeah, no, I don’t I don’t agree with that. And then I just kind of let it go. But the one I remember most strongly was you were talking in Stevens episode. And you essentially said something like, if you get into sketch comedy, and what you want all of your words to be sad, you’re in the wrong art, or whatever. Which I don’t I don’t disagree with in principle, because I do think that in the creation of original work, you can allow performers to be improvisational, and that helps things out a lot. Like it’s definitely a tool that I use. But I was I was really high on my horse of professionalism that day, I was like, No, we only don’t think that because we keep getting improvisers who don’t want to put forth the effort to memorize the lines as they were written.


HOST  47:13

No, totally. You’re not wrong. That’s exactly why I’ve spent so many years just not hearing it that I had. I was broken down. I was like, Fine, whatever. Are you here? Fine. It’s good. Did you put the hat on? Good? Yeah, whatever. There. It happened. Right. I was so worn down from people just doing whatever they wanted. That and, and, and I hand picked people sometimes. Like, there were people that wouldn’t let in because they weren’t professional enough. And yet the people I thought were the most professional. Were still not learning the lines and doing the things. I don’t know. I don’t know. So I guess I just sort of, in my infinite cynicism, you know, it’s it’s sort of like, Yeah, you got to deal with this. Yeah. Which it’s deeply cynicism? Not really, I mean, like, I don’t know you, you do have to accept the one thing that improv has been good to me, like, for my personal philosophy is the idea of like, shaking it off and moving forward. Like, yeah, like the Etch A Sketch of life. Like, I’m like, What just happened? Okay, cool. Shake it off. All right. Next thing? What do we got? Right? It’s very much assisted me. Yeah. Are you gonna say,



Oh, no, I was just timing and with that, that is true. I agree that improv is great for moving on. And trusting that maybe that wasn’t as great as I thought it could be. But that I’m gonna get another at bat here pretty soon.


HOST  49:01

Right? Now, here’s the other thing is you were talking about how, when you mentioned improv and sketch and I didn’t realize where you’re going with it. I thought maybe you went to like, you took a class somewhere at a place where they taught like improv to sketch because like, I’ve never done one of those Second City things where they like, teach that style. And I don’t get it. Like I just don’t understand, like, I get it like, theory. But like, Yeah, I don’t think I can do it. Like it just it’s weird. And it’s hard. I’m a writer, I’m going to write words, words are going to happen, and then I’m going to hand them to someone, they’re going to act it but like, I don’t know, watching somebody do an improv scene and then just doesn’t seem doesn’t seem like something I can do.



I did it. So I taught sketch, I do teach sketch, and I did teach sketch at the previous theater, and that previous theater is only right requirement because I designed the curriculum for them. Their only criterion was improv the sketch had to be part of the curriculum somewhat, because they are an Improv Theater. And that’s what they needed. And so I was like, okay, it’s I struggled for several years trying to find an interesting and cohesive way. And non unsatisfying way to bring in profit sketch. I agree with you. It is a weird thing to do. I don’t like it, I think it is inefficient. And sort of leads to the worst of both worlds.






but I did eventually come to a, a system wherein a kind of work. And it was a lot of fun. But it involved a lot of discussion. It involved a lot of writing the thing without actually putting words on a piece of paper.


HOST  50:58

Yeah, yeah. But I think that’s kind of what it is. Like, I think that’s, I think it’s a lot of like, even like, in the acting of the scene, you know, it’s like, it’s like, okay, but what if Rhonda? said it angrily Rhonda Tran? Oh, well, I really think you know, like, it’s like, a lot of side coaching, potentially. And I hate side coaching. That could also be why I don’t like it. But like, but like that kind of thing. And then because like literally my only experience with it. And I don’t know if this is actually experienced with it, because I don’t know that this is exactly what he does. But like I took a workshop with Kevin McDonald, right. And he says that his stuff is improv to sketch but I don’t think it is. I think it’s I think it’s improv ish. On top of a sketch you’ve written because the idea was bringing a sketch, or maybe this maybe he teaches different workshops, but the one that I took was, like Britain, a sketch that you’ve already written, and we’re gonna use improv to, like, make it better. So okay, so the idea being that, like, you write this sketch, and then we get actors up there, and then they just like side coach them to death, until we like rewrite how it could be. Right?



Right. It’s, it’s a form of rapid growth and then rapid pruning, by but it requires everyone to one be beholden to a director and I do not like, there, I have very little respect for the act of directing.


HOST  52:40

The total opposite, I really thought you’re gonna say the total opposite



I that that is a hyperbolic way to state my opinion, for the fun of people listening, but I do have a lot of problems with the role of the director in the way we think about art. And so so you have to have just this complete competence and fealty to a director and the improv the sketch because otherwise, it, it gets into sort of a mushy, middle thing, where if it’s two people talking and one goes, Oh, I think you should try that. And that person has no, then it doesn’t work. So you have to have a director who’s a final authority. So he’s this master craftsman who’s carving things out. And, and then you have to be willing to, quote unquote, find the scene in tons of repetitions of it, and believe that that is a better way to arrive at something worthwhile than having a skilled writer, as you say, sit down, write what’s in their head, and hand it to an actor. And then if it doesn’t work, we send to that actor, we send that writer away with more notes. And they polish the scene. It just, I don’t I don’t personally see the value.


HOST  54:06

Yeah, I mean, I’ve heard of some great shows born of that kind of thing. And, you know, for the people who find that process, you know, helpful, great, you know, whatever gets it done rarely, but yeah, for me, I just can’t wrap my mind around it. I am a super control freak, though. Like to the point where like, the whole time you’re talking about the director, I’m like, I was terrible. Like, you know what I mean? Like I I had a chokehold on my show, you know what I mean? Like, I was the head writer and director, intense, right? I would make decisions all sorts of all all sorts of times, you know, and I try sometimes to see in the room are we laughing, but the problem We kept coming up against this idea that what was funny in the writers room wasn’t funny to the audience. And we really needed to figure out what the audience wanted. Because whatever we thought was hilarious. They were just like, What?



Why are they just? What are they doing?


HOST  55:17

Yeah, I guess modal Ah, like goofball, terrible things. were like, you know, and we’re just like, Oh, god, this is gonna be so great. And they’re just like, what?



I don’t know.



I suppose to backpedal just a little because I also am frequently the director and head writer. It, I just don’t like the way that people grant just godlike powers to a director all the time. And I don’t like the idea that the director shouldn’t be challenged. I like challenge you may have noticed. And I don’t really enjoy. Oh, god, what what is the way I used to put it? I just think that the director is the least essential person in a show. Like if you had to cut a person, if you had to cut a roll, cutting the directors, your best bet for still succeeding at the show? In my opinion? See, I


HOST  56:33

just feel like you’ve been hurt. You know, I can hear the hurt, you know, and and the trouble is, is that the director, I mean, the director has to be there. I mean, if you ever like, maybe this is just the maybe you’re gonna go live in a commune someday, and this is how you work. But like, have you ever done like, full community sourced theater to the point where like, everything is like, up to the group? Like, it doesn’t work out. I mean, I could see dividing a show up into parts, you know, like, you guys are in charge of Act One, and you guys are in charge act two, and you guys are in charge Act Three? Sure, you know, give some division of duties perhaps, but like, I don’t know, their shows that I’ve been in, you know, where I’m not the director, I feel like you need you need a captain of the ship.



I don’t disagree with that. But I think that there’s a difference between seeing the director as a coordinator, whose primary role is administrative, and seeing the director as just this brilliant chess master artists, godlike man, who is controlling everything, and everybody is just an extension of that director’s ability, which, when I speak to people, that tends to be how they see directors.


HOST  57:58

Sure, but don’t you think that just means that you are more of a confident human being who can like, put yourself like, who can imagine accomplishing the task without need of this additional person and, and from whom this person’s like, opinion seems unnecessary, whereas a significant portion of people are dying for a leader are like, Dude wouldn’t know what to do if somebody wasn’t telling them where to go? So like, that’s probably why they have this, like intense deference. I mean, I’ve had, I’ve had directors that, you know, should have gotten deference. And then I’ve had directors where it’s like, this is just, you know, we switch who’s the director every every month or something like that between us and figure it out at that point, you know, and it’s really just one person who’s gonna watch the scenes and go like, Oh, hey, you should come in from the left instead of the right. And stuff like that. But I don’t know, I hear what you’re saying. I’m just trying to challenge you.



Sure. Yeah, I appreciate it.


HOST  59:09

And hey, you know, someday, either you or sounds like you, but but you or someone else might be a great director, that you know, people really need, because there’s like, and I don’t mean to say this. I feel like I’m jumping back to our political discussion. But I don’t mean it. There are some people who are like, the leaders of the theater who like organize stuff and like, get it done. And then there are some people who just want to be part of it in a tiny part, like, I just want to act and say five lines or like, I just want to sew this costume or I just want to make some sound cues and press buttons. They don’t want to be in charge of the whole thing. They don’t know. No, thank you. I’m gonna build this stage for you and I’m going to walk away Right. So I mean, I think that there’s just some people that have to be making stuff and creating things.



Yeah. Yeah, I can’t really find anything to poke out there.



Good, good. I one.


HOST  1:00:29

Oh, I don’t mean that. I don’t want to do that. I mean, I do. But also like, no, you’re my sweet guest. I care about you. So what’s your what’s your, like jam right now? Like, what’s the thing? I mean, I know you’re working on space train. But like, what’s the I’m sorry.



I was just saying space train in a sing song anyway.


HOST  1:00:54

But like, what’s the what’s your creative thing? I mean, we’ve all kind of been stuck at home for a long time. And I know, some people are like, I haven’t been stuck at home, I’ve been doing my work or whatever. I’m still busy. But there is a certain level of creativity that has emerged. What thing? Are you? Even if you just thinking about it? What’s the like thing that you’re rolling around in your head? Or like, what’s the new project that I mean, even if you don’t feel like Tell me secrets, or whatever, but because it’s the internet, but, you know, like, just like, cool, whatever things that you’ve been creatively thinking of? recently?



Yeah, yeah, I mean, there, there are quite a few of them. As a matter of fact, space crane, of course, is the big monthly project, which is been a lot of fun. I’ve always wanted to write an ongoing series. And I feel like this is letting me do that is very exciting. And then I, back in 2014, myself and two friends of mine, Dennis and Andrew began writing a comedy sketch reach us president. And they got too big for us to accomplish, like we just were unable to film them. And we were also unable to stage them because they were too intricate. But we have been gotten her I have begun translating those scripts into our long plays, called God kings. And so we’ve had God kings one and two. And we’re going to be having the god kings musical special, probably early 2021. And God kings three, not too long after that. And that’s marrying sort of my love of comedy and my love of theater and my weird interest in colonial America. And then, similarly, with my my knowledge of presidents, Dennis, and I do a podcast every week now called presidential deathmatch, where we come up with an important topic, and then debate which President would be best at accomplishing said topics. So in the episode that was released last week, we debated which President would make their which presidents rather, it would make the best comedy duo. And so that that has been a lot of fun, because it’s historical research. Aaron’s going to chat with Dennis. And then there are just a lot of other projects that are in various states of completion, but I’m just working on a lot of scripts that I’ve had in my head for a long time would be the shortest answer for that.


HOST  1:03:41

That’s great. That’s great. Yeah, you’re doing so much writing. And, and I like I like how your love of history has found its way into your creative projects as well.



Yeah, yeah, that’s sort of been there from the beginning. And a lot of our early sketches, there would be a rough there would be some sort of reference somewhere, to some figure in history. Yeah.


HOST  1:04:08

I think that that’s really valuable because, you know, we all have different interests, and why not hone your creative skills by also getting super into your other interests, right. So if you’re obsessed with certain things, it’s like Why not? You know,



that’s the whole Has anyone ever spoken on this program about the teller letter or to Brian Brushwood at all? It’s a story I like a lot.


HOST  1:04:38

No, tell me about it. The teller letter,



the teller letter, so you know, Penn and Teller. Brian Brushwood is a magician out of Austin, who is a less a magician these days and more in internet personality. But he tells a story about how when he was young and in college, he went and Saw Penn and Teller perform live. And then he happened to strike up a relationship with teller and they had an email conversation back and forth. And Teller, essentially, in this letter gave him two pieces of advice. And one of the pieces of advice was that whatever you’re doing, you should be doing something other than what you’re doing. And you should bring that to what it is you’re looking at. So, for foreteller, he described it as he is a magician, but he should be a film director, he thinks like a film director. And so all of his magic can be seen through the lens of a film director. And that’s what makes him unique. And so you could say that I am a comedy writer, but I should have been an historian. And so I can take my comedy scripts and look at them through the lens of how a historian would look at them. And that may make my work unique or it will bring different different effects. I also occasionally will say that I should be a game designer, board game designer, but I write scripts. So what lessons can I learn from board game design, and bring them into to my comedy writing. And that makes it that makes it different, because if all your if the only way you’re learning how to do comedy, is by watching comedians, then your comedy is going to end up being a pale echo. The only way you are learning about theater is from other theater people than your theater is going to end up being a pale echo of what they’re doing. But if you start to pull from other industries and other thoughts and other ways of thinking, then you will begin to do your art in your own way. If that makes sense? Totally.


HOST  1:06:56

Yeah. I’m into it makes me want to have interests. Although to have interests, oh, to have interests, I’m going to allow myself to have interests later, after my child is older and in school, and I can think about New Year’s resolution is to get an interest. Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s funny. I since I guess, I never thought I’d be into kids. televic television, or movies or whatever. But yeah, they have. They have really unlocked a couple of stories that I had in my head. Like, I’ve had this one screenplay that I’ve written a few times. And every time I’m like, What is this? This is not what’s happening, why? And but I just put it away and I won’t like I have been refusing to, like, let it go. Because I was like, you can just let the story go. Like, they’re fine. They don’t have to. They don’t have to live their life. Like you go on to the next one, whatever. But I like can’t get it out of my head. And recently, I was watching some kids movie. And I was like, Oh my god, I just figured it out. It’s a kid’s movie. You know what I mean? Cuz like they’re written differently. And I hadn’t been watching kids movies, because I was like, you know, clearly a cynical adult. But now I you know, try if I’m putting on a movie, I’m not putting on anything. That’s, you know, pG 13 or whatever. So there’s a lot of movies with like sweet hearts and like, and like easy lessons. And I’m like, oh, oh, yeah, I you know, I can do that. Yeah,



I forgot. Everyone was cynical.


HOST  1:08:33

Exactly. Exactly. Like, I’m trying to write like Tarantino and I need to be writing like Judy Blume? You know what I mean? Like, oh, gosh, yeah, I’m like, this is gonna be some hard hitting shit. And really, it’s like, no, this is good. This is not hard hitting this is like, you know, sweet and you learn a lesson and like we were talking about, you know, when I was growing up watching all those moral things that the after school specials, I’m just a little bit older than you. So they, like every day, they were like, Hey, you know what? Don’t be terrible. You’re gonna be and listen, we’re already mad at you. So like, just don’t Okay. Hey, generosity, that’s the thing you should be doing better do it. If you don’t, these dancers are gonna come and they’re gonna dance around you and it’s gonna be very awkward.



It’s gonna be strange for you to drink your milk while you’re at it.


HOST  1:09:31

Don’t lie, give, give flowers and food to elderly neighbors. Also, things you should do. He’s are important. There are a lot of commercials, you know, and TV shows trying to tell me the commercials



a lot. The library Church of Latter Day Saints sponsored a lot of commercials.


HOST  1:09:51

Yeah, that’s true.



They don’t kind of, you know, I


HOST  1:09:55

had no idea what that was even. I could tell you the name of that. Of course. I would say at the end of every commercial, but that was like, I was from Boston. I was raised Catholic. I didn’t know religion existed because everything was Catholic. Right? So I was just like, well, this is life. And then I was like, wait, wait, what? Wait, people are doing something different? Wait, there’s other ways to hell Oh, wait a minute, like No kidding. Only in high school that I like, figure out that there were other religions. I was like, Okay. I mean, like, when else would you find out? I was a child, you know, but like, you know, I was just like, hold the phone, what? You know, it’s kind of like, it’s kind of like right now thinking about all of the different like, I appreciate talking to you about different ways of looking at theater, because I think that there’s a lot of, there’s been a lot of like, this is the way it should be across the board for comedy in the US for a while. And I think that this break in theater, and improv and live performance of any kind, is really allowing people to open up their minds to different ways to do projects. And hopefully, it will abolish the idea of, you know, New York and LA. And that’s it.



I hope so,


HOST  1:11:27

like, I can’t, like, you know, right now, anytime, if you wanted to be in a movie, no matter where you are, you got to do a self tape. So get into it. Like people in LA, who are going to shoot in LA, maybe a block from their home, still got a self tape. So like, this is a thing that’s happening. And also there’s like projects and like plays going on, like across, you know, sometimes the whole world, but sometimes just the country where it’s like, oh, all these actors got together, and they’re doing this Shakespeare play, to raise money for blah, blah, blah, what? Guys, did you know that



we do that?


HOST  1:12:04

Wait, what? You know, so like the idea of this, I am hoping, you know, even just being inspired by our conversation and thinking about, like, there’s so many different ways and also like, and also like, I know that you’re younger than me, but we’re right around the age when people write like books about theater. So like, you should write a book, right? And then I should write a book. And then we should have like, book fight tours, like book tours when we fight, where it’s all like,



oh, whether mean names. Mm hmm. And Aaron doesn’t like directors, he thinks that all theater should be anarchy all of the time.


HOST  1:12:41

That’s why I have this special chapter called directors and why I love them. Yeah. Man, this could be good. telling you. You know, that’s how Charles Dickens got to be Charles Dickens. Like we know who Charles Dickens is because like, bro wrote a few stories and people were into it. And it was like, Yeah, yeah, cool. Awesome. So what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna take these super sweet stories you guys like, and I’m gonna go around and do book tours and read them to people. Hey, guys, you’re this awesome story. I wrote. Let me read it. And then it was a it was like the first book tour guy. And he went out there and like, made his own fame. You know what I mean? Like walking around reading his stories. I got him amazing. Have you seen this? And I love it. Like he’s so like, like, I found that out. Like, I figured it was so stodgy Lulu. No, man, he’s all like, Hey, what’s up? You guys heard of the Christmas carol? I’m amazing. Yeah,



yeah, you get that a lot with presidents too. And new technologies where we tend to think of presidents as being very standoffish. But if you look through history, so yeah, this is the first guy who ever used the train to go and talk to people who weren’t in his city. And think that he was crazy and unhinged demagogue.


HOST  1:14:02

He’s unhinged.





HOST  1:14:05

Oh my god. I love it. I love it. It’s just like funny. Like this idea. So I’m just saying we could be millionaires as people who fight about theater. No, everyone wants to read theater books. So yeah, no.



millionaire to get healthy again.


HOST  1:14:28

I mean, if 2020 sent me anything, it’s that you know, maybe the path is the evil path is all I’m saying. I mean, be nice to people, you guys. Oh, man. So. So Aaron, you are right now running and teaching classes at pronoia Theater.



That is correct. pronoia Theater is the company. We specialize in. In original works, either improvisational or scripted.


HOST  1:15:05

Hmm, so everything that you’re putting on your stage is something that the people who are performing it had a hand in creating.



So far, yes, if we ever got to the point where we could afford rights, we would probably feel comfortable licensing other people’s work. But right now, we do not have the money to do that. And so it is a moot point.


HOST  1:15:30

Sure, absolutely. But I just wondered if maybe it was like, that was your thing. Like that was the reason why you created it was to get new voices out there.



Oh, it is certainly to get my voice out there. I am a writer I do like writing. And so it is definitely a strong part of whatever it is we do, is going to focus on writing. And since I have, as people have heard particular views about sketch comedy, I want to teach people and hope to convince them that the way I think is good, and that they should write as well. But at the same time, I am also a person who loves theater. And I will read a lot of plays that I really want to have a hand in and since other theatre companies don’t seem interested in hiring me to direct or do anything. I would not be averse to putting to putting my own money where my mouth is in that way. But I am trying to get your voices out there. I shouldn’t try to be so equivocal and give a completely complete answers.


HOST  1:16:43

It’s okay. I mean, you can be honest, if you’d like why I create shows so that I can do stuff. Every time I’ve ever directed a play. It was just because I wanted to see it done. Yeah, I was like, Oh, um, let’s find this out. Also, I’ve done a lot of plays without paying for the right sorry, everyone. Sorry, everyone. I was young. I didn’t realize what rights were until many years later. And I was like, wait, why? Oh, one Mo. Oh, right. Sure. Like, isn’t he dead? Oh, yeah.



A lot.





HOST  1:17:20

Yeah. Does Shakespeare actually just Shakespeare cost? I guess it probably does somebody



know, no, anything written before 1924 is free to perform. In America, at least.


HOST  1:17:37

Oh my god, I just understood what hat so in my college, they wouldn’t let us do senior studios and senior year you directed a play. And they wouldn’t let us pick anything that was like, newer than like 18 hundred’s and now I totally get it. I wish they told me that. I insisted that I had to do this play that was written in 1996. And they made me do an edit of it. As if I this college senior has any right to do a edit of a play. But now I understand. My adaptation did not need to be paid for. Oh my god.



That’s amazing.


HOST  1:18:22

Man. 20 years later, I finally understand. I’m glad I could be here. Wow. I wish they just told me because they fought me tooth and nail. They were like you cannot do this play. And I was like I’m doing this play.



Let me play flicked a cigarette at their forehead. And he said, stop me.


HOST  1:18:42

Yeah. And I did it. I mean, I rewrote it like they asked me to but I did it. While play was it was a death in the Maidan by Ariel Dorfman.



Hmm, yeah.



Yeah, good play.


HOST  1:18:56

I mean, just in weather didn’t want me to do it. Man. Theater rights. so crazy. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, way to be way to be legal. Way to be on point. But



yeah, if I want to, if I want to ask other people to pay me to write stuff, I should be willing to pay other people.


HOST  1:19:13

Sure. Sure. Sure. Absolutely. So, in your journey, as you’ve you’ve done it, have you? What is your like, next goal?



Oh, I mean, there. I’ve always said that what I want to do is make theater with my friends. And that is the goal that I have is I want to make things with my friends, not even necessarily theater. I just want to make things with my friends. And so there are a lot of branching paths ahead. At the moment that could accomplish that goal. I would love to be able to this is kind of a small goal in the grand scheme of things, but I’d love to be able to to rent a larger Theatre in Houston and put on sort of a showcase of work for for a weekend or multiple weekends, like I’d love to have a run. And similarly, I’d love to have a small tour, we didn’t talk about magical lying hour, which was the show that you were in a few weeks ago. But I really magical Langer and I always want to travel it places. But the last couple of years with Steve and I have been aiming for and so far been failing at is convincing people to let us come and teach them things, and then perform a show while we’re there. And then I’ve got a couple I’m not, I’m not a film guy. I don’t like film all that much. I like stage work a ton. But I’ve got some film ideas that I’m trying to see whether I can make become a reality. But I would love to be able to have a either one of three things, a physical location for pronoia theaters, so that we could teach classes more regularly, once people are helping a the ability to travel and do teaching and kind of a tour, or the ability to take a lot of the work that we’ve done over the years that I think is quite strong, and presented in a way that feels a little bit more legitimate to regular people. So there, they may be willing to come out and see


HOST  1:21:40

  1. Interesting, I like it, a lot of solid goals. And I appreciate that right now the world is in such a weird place, you know, like, how do you accomplish anything when they won’t even let you be in a theater. So like, so weird. But the doors will open again, and people are gonna be ravenous for this kind of stuff.



If If this year has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not nearly as adaptable as other people. Because it seems as though other people were finding all sorts of ways to do all sorts of things very quickly. And I don’t know if I am too much of a perfectionist or don’t have money that they do, or they don’t have to work a nine hour a day job. And so they can focus on solving problems a little more. But I am excited for hopefully things to return to something a little more comfortable with.


HOST  1:22:43

Yeah, totally. To be honest, most of the major pivots that I’ve seen have been people who’ve had to switch their job jobs, like their jobs, stop being a thing, and then they had to find a new one. And you’re like, wow, you’re this now. Cool. But, yeah, it’s been a super weird time. But you know, you have you know, you’re in a great place, you have a good community around you of people that you’ve worked with. Sounds like you have some really good artistic partnerships that you’re, you know, working on developing the, you know, God kings play series and the podcast, and then, you know, you and Steven are doing the series and the theater. So, you know, that’s really, really very solid to have like, such a good crowd around you and to be sort of so raring to go to do to create your ideas. What do you have, what advice you have for people who, you know, maybe are interested in getting involved in writing or, you know, creating theater, but you know, they’ve just never really done it? Like, how, how would they even get started into doing near, you know, the amount of work that you’re doing?






I would say that.



Writing is one of the the few, certainly one of the few things in theater that a person can do by themselves. If you’re interested in writing, you can, you can find the scripts, if you go to my website, I try to put up all of the scripts that I light at that that we produce, so that people can read the scripts if they want. And I would say like find a script to just see how a script is laid out. And then you probably have a computer, that computer probably has access to the internet, you have access to the internet, you can write a script because you can go to Google Docs, and you can just start typing and I would say just because begin to work at it, find the comedy that you like, find the comedy that you don’t like does know who you are probably and then when you get to a place where you want To make things a little more official find people to challenge you. I think if if anything came out of today, it’s that iron strengthens iron, find people to push back and make your ideas better. We don’t want to settle for mediocre comedy writing. We want to have excellent comedy writing. And that means disagreement. And then chances are there’s someone in your community who wants to do theater. And if you put in a little bit of effort, you can find them. And there’s very few people who if they’re working in theater, and you go up to them and say, hey, I want to help, what can I do? They’ll say, No, we’re all full. We don’t need you. Most people will, can find a place for you. Even it’s if it’s not the most glamorous, and then if you want to hope, if it’s a good community, the more you show up, the more they’ll help you find your place. that’s those are the things that the top of my mind, great.


HOST  1:26:15

Okay, absolutely. I like the idea of, you know, just cuz you don’t exactly know, what you’re, you might totally want to do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like, gravitate towards the kind of people that you want to hang out with. And then you know it within that community. You know, one hopes that there’ll be people that can help you figure out what it is you do want to do, like, try all the things like even though even though I do agree with you that improv and sketch comedy are, you know, antithetical, I do think that I do like the idea of having them together in a theater. Not necessarily like one feeding the other, but as two separate things, because it’s almost like high worth theater space that functions for both types of people. Hey, do you need structure and need to learn lines and know what’s going to happen? Great. Here is where you gotta go. Are you interested in some extemporaneous speaking and maybe juggling? Great,



Hayward? Mm hmm. Like, yeah,


HOST  1:27:23

it’s kind of like they’re for everybody. And back in the day, when I was in charge of a theater, I would definitely do that. When I met people, you know, as students came in. I was the person who put them in classes. So I chat them up, figure out what they really needed, and then get them in that class. If they were trying to go into one class, I’d be like, Okay, well, what are you looking for? And then they tell me something different and like, I’ve had improv classes for you. But you know what? I have a sketch class right around the same time, you’re gonna like it. Try to I would try to put people into different spots, and even if they like, got into an improv class, and like, randomly saw them, and I was like, Oh, yeah, that person. They get sketch written all over him. yank him and pull him over to my side.



Yeah, you somehow find a way to discredit them, blackmail them, get them expelled from the improv side of things.


HOST  1:28:19

No, no, you just No, no, no, no, you you’re real cool. Yeah. Cool. And then people want to hang out with you. So then when you go like, hey, do you want to hang out with me? They’re like,



  1. Yeah.


HOST  1:28:34

I mean, I mean, you are talking to me, right? Okay.



Right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, whatever. Yeah. Yeah, yeah,


HOST  1:28:45

definitely. Whatever.



Tell me whenever, and I’ll be there.


HOST  1:28:50

I’ll be there. I’m ready. Um, I can go right now. I have a car. Yes, exactly. Exactly. I mean, you know, that’s how I Pied Piper people into theaters, for sure. For better or worse. Oh, boy, you are great. It has been wonderful to chat with you. Thank you so much for like, not only like telling me stories of your life, but also like getting into deep discussions on theatre and also, like, actively challenging me because, you know, it totally is the theme of the episode. And, you know, most people just smile and agree with me, and I’ve taken it for granted for a long time. So it’s nice. It’s nice that you’re like, Yeah, I don’t think so. I’m like, tell me why. I want to do it. I’m from Boston. So I want to fight. Like all Yeah, I don’t get out here.



So why wouldn’t you? Oh,


HOST  1:29:45

I’m always ready. My husband will tell you. Oh, man, Aaron, you have been a dream. It has been a great chat. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.



Thank you so much. And can I say that I believe that when this is coming out. On the upcoming Thursday December 10 we will be doing a new episode of space train if people are interested in that


HOST  1:30:06

yes good let’s all listen to space train find out what’s happening in space on trains.



Yeah Hmm It’s very important gradually


HOST  1:30:18

oh man thanks for listening to yes but why podcast? Check out all our episodes on yes but why podcast calm or check out all the content on our network at Universal at HC Universal Network calm

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