YBY ep 223: From zombie flicks to Zoom improv, Erin Souza devises worlds for you to enjoy!
This week on Yes But Why, I talk to performer Erin Souza.
Erin Souza is an improv performer in San Francisco. She currently plays in the team, “The Professionals,” directed by (previous Yes But Why guest) Diana Brown. “The Professionals” is an improv comedy troupe who perform a “docu-reality” parody that is currently available to watch through the Leela SF Improv’s Youtube channel!
In our conversation, we chat about Erin’s journey from making zombie films in malls to performing standup at Pride Pageants to being featured on Leela SF Improv’s virtual stage. Erin has flowed easily from one group to the next, following her creative whim.
Erin teaches me about “After Dinner Speaking.” I wish I had had that kind of stuff in college. We talk about improv and the different schools she went through on her journey. She talks about how much she loves her current creative home, Leela SF, for the great performance opportunities she has found there!
Support Erin Souza by checking out her improv troupe, “The Professionals!” Their recent show called “The Blizzard Chronicles“ is available now on Youtube! Check it out!
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Download the FREE HC Universal Network app for Android and iDevices or visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com and join 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.
This episode of Yes But Why is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. Swing on by PodcastCadet.com to get help for all your podcasting needs! Go to PodcastCadet.com and put in offer code YBY20 to get 20% off your first consultation!
(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 6/24/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, yes, but why listeners? This is your host Amy Jordan. Welcome to Episode 223 with guest Aaron Souza. But first let’s talk about our sponsor. This episode of Yes, but why podcast is sponsored by Audible. You can get your free audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audible trial comm forward slash Yes, but why? Our guest this week Aaron Sousa started her comedy career doing stand up. So let’s see what audible has on the subject. Oh, here’s a fun one with just clips of stand up. Here’s a Lewis black comedy special, and about 100 How to manuals for stand up comedy. Get listening to these guys and report back. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android or Kindle. Download your free audio book today at audible trial comm forward slash Yes, but why? This episode of yes but y is also sponsored by podcast cadet.com swing on by podcast cadet calm to get help for all your podcasting needs. from writing to producing to hosting podcast cadet can help you improve your podcast, go to podcast cadet.com and put an offer code YBY 20 to get 20% off your first consultation this week on yes but why listening to my laid back interview with San Francisco improviser Aaron Sousa. We chat about her journey through stand up and pride pageants to improv comedy. Support Aaron by checking out the professionals, her improv comedy troupe who perform regularly on the Leela SF improv virtual stage. I now present to you Yes, but why Episode 223 from zombie flicks to zoom improv, Aaron Sousa devises worlds for you to enjoy.
I’m Amy Jordan. And this is yes, but why podcast? Yeah.
What was the first theater or performance thing that you did whether in school or not? Where you really felt like, this was the thing like you did the theater and you’re like, yeah, I’m gonna do this more.
Oh, wow. Let’s see, probably.
I would have to say like maybe fifth grade. We did some adaptation of like, the greatest Pumpkin Charlie Brown where people made like these paper machine masks of the peanuts characters heads to wear and and somehow I ended up playing Snoopy. Oh, we didn’t have a mask. We didn’t have a mask I think could because the, the actor who, you know, the student who was supposed to play Snoopy was sick or something happened to him that day. So I borrowed his costume, which was like some, you know, some replica of a flight helmet for when you know, Snoopy was doing his flying ace and got got to narrate that well chasing some other character dressed as the Red Baron around the around the cafeteria.
So you dug that you were like, yeah, this is it for me.
Mm hmm. Yeah.
And that it was kind of I guess like, like Junior High School in high school like I had friends and I like we we often listened to old radio, like comedy or radio theater broadcasts on this one station here in San Francisco that used to have like a comedy and vintage radio night on it. And it’s like, one of us, you know, gotta gotta like cassette recorder for his birthday. And we decided, oh, you know, let’s do our own little, you know, do our kind of radio type plays or whatever and so we, you know, we we have a lot of fun playing around with, you know, music and sound effects albums and stuff.
Oh, that’s fun. Got it. Yeah, sound effects albums. I have so many in every version of them, records and then tapes and then CDs These so many sounds. I love it. Fun. How ingenious have you and your friends to like create your own show? I bet you like and then the school was like, let’s do a radio play, but like no, it’s you and you’re like pals just making it on your own right.
Then I was like, you know, kind of grat gravitated to high school and summer school, you know, drama classes. And did some, you know, we’re writing some of our own sketches to perform in some of those.
Oh, yeah, they let you write your own stuff like like in summer camp or like in school.
It was more in summer it was more in summer school. Oh, right on. Yeah. I think we all like we were all like,
big fans of the Marx Brothers. So we kind of wrote our own Marx Brothers sketches in their style, and often just kind of re rehashing their some of their classic bits from their films
now in this at this point are you performing just for your other friends? Are you like doing stuff for your parents or whatnot?
It was mainly I guess for our for our classmates and summer school and just for ourselves like the radio things. Yeah. And then this one somebody in our group got a got a movie camera starting to make you know, Phil said it’s like, oh, yeah, that’s what we have to do to x. So we got we got into that doing that. And
is this the same group of people that you’re like hanging out with from like, Junior High into high school and you guys are all like, creating together?
Yeah, yeah. That’s great.
That sounds so fun. I really appreciate that. Like, most of my stuff growing up was, you know, sort of organized by schools. So I love this idea that like, sort of like just ad hoc teams being like what you guys want to make a movie like
right so fine. We were the kids in the neighborhood who would like you know, decorate the garage and converted into a haunted house for Halloween
things like that so
fun I love Yeah. What were you movies about? We make horror movies
or something. Oh, we made a couple horror movies I remember like our one of our I think our senior year right you know, my we did like a zombie film and recruited everybody in our in our drama class to act in it. And one of our one of our classmates had connections with the local mall. And so we were able to get into the mall like after hours to film in there.
filming in the mall for your zombie film that’s just like gonna go. Oh, right,
right and I think we use like, you know the science, the science, you know the science lab at school. Oh, another scene? Then you guys are on point
And then I like I was one who kind of focused more like I wanted to do comedies. Yeah. And so like I was very influenced by like shows like, like the monkeys reruns and and the Beatles films helping Hard Day’s Night. We kind of did films of Matt made where it’s like, me and my buddies are, you know, kind of portraying characterized versions of ourselves, you know, living in a, you know, a goofy and Goofy house where weird stuff happens.
Like you do, yeah. Oh, that’s
fun. I really like that. It was, it was, I think it was back in. This was back in the 70s. Yeah, late 70s, early 80s. So we didn’t really have like, video equipment was not readily available, you know, it was still pretty, pretty expensive. So yeah, you know, we were shooting, you know, I think paying like, I forget how much for a cartridge of film that only lasted like, you know, three minutes, you know, and then you’d have to pay to get it processed and wait three days to pick it up at the drugstore. And then you’d have to, you know, we actually had to, you know, literally cut you know, and splice the pieces of film together to make but you know,
how did you figure that out? Like, who’s telling you how to do this, how do you know how to do these things?
One of my one of my friends, you know, did have did have a, like editing and splicing equipment and other times we just, it’s kind of like, you know, going to The Library of the covet looking up, it’s like oh, that’s what, that’s what you do. That’s how that gets into that, you know? Wow.
That’s like, it’s just like just the sheer like the fact that you guys like wanted to make it happen so much and you and you did it’s just so, so intense like that that effort that you put into it. That’s so great. You don’t happen to have any of these films like to
I think I do have have like, it’s like a VHS copy of our because of I think of all of those films somewhere I think we love point one of us decided to like you know, just kind of somebody got a hold of a video camera and just kind of pointed it at the screen while reading the projector and
so it’s not necessarily the best quality.
So do you and your friends from high school can You too do movies and, and stuff like that after high school
for a little bit, then we kind of,
you know, found other interests. I mean, I originally wanted to, like after high school kind of went to the local junior college and wanted to get into their like radio and television production classes, but ended up getting on the, by way of a radio theater class that I took, ended up getting recruited to our like our college, you know, forensics competitive speech team and getting into that world. And that’s where I first kind of learned about you know, doing after dinner speaking, which was kind of stand up comedy, but with that with a speech truck structure to it, and until then, I was, you know, kind of, you know, focusing a little more, uh, more on writing and still trying to figure out what I want to do and
What are those kinds of like college speech programs gearing you towards? What are they like? Are they trying to get EDA? Like, I appreciate it’s called after dinner speaking like, I’ve never heard that. I love it. Yeah. I feel like that should be the name of a show. Like, but like, it’s, so it sort of makes sense where it’s like, this is a one we can talk off the cuff. But like, Who’s the audience, like when you’re doing those kinds of speeches? Like, what’s the, what’s the effort? You know what I mean? Like, who are you talking to? Why are you? Right? A lot of it ainger I just never did that kind of stuff when I was in college or high school,
right? You’re you’re in these competitions, with people from other parts of the state or from other states. And there’s different styles of speaking that you could compete in and there’s also there were some acting events. And like a staged reading theater that you could do and so it’s kind of this little, this little world unto itself. I kind of crossed paths with a lot of people who kind of, you know, went on to some bigger better things.
What kind of bigger and better things like writing for political campaigns and
so like I think like one of our, you know, like
one person I know
he still does a lot of like solo theater here in that in the Bay Area. And he also you know, he, he did some some feature film work with like rock Robert Townsend.
So the people that are coming out of this program they’re most it’s mostly theatrical. I always imagined that the people that did the speech stuff, became like lawyers and like senators, and more
There were there were programs that were folk like we didn’t have many people who actually focused on that kind of debate and did things like preparation for being an attorney or whatever right? We were kind of more on the theatrical you know? Oh cool, artsy Yeah.
Oh right on Oh, when you had said like, I got involved in that world I thought you meant like it was a drastically different world which may be I suppose live performance versus making films is drastically different. After you did this speech stuff, did you do any theater like onstage or stand up?
I did a little bit of theater. You know, in college, I think maybe one or two plays, you know, but most of it was most of my time there in college was involved with the with the speech team. At weed we would do is either be going to tournaments and sometimes preparing for like a production that or an extended reader’s theater production that would open to the general public and presented usually be it would usually be with a theme and people presenting different pieces related to that theme.
So what did this kind of performance opportunity lead to next for you?
Ah, next I decided to see if I could get it to a film program at a university so I went to San Diego State
that was where kind of things you know my purse things in my personal life started to started to go south and I just really wasn’t ready for to be away from home yet. Southern California’s feels a little different than Northern California.
In San Francisco, huh?
Yeah. Yeah. So like I actually grew up in the East Bay of San Francisco, right.
So, and I think that was around the time I had my first girlfriend who, you know, I was up here in the Bay Area, and I was down there and so that fell apart. And I was very upset over that. So and I just, you know, had a lot of other, you know, mental emotional health issues that I needed to address.
Yeah, plus college just isn’t forever been a No, no, like, it’s not the journey they that you have to take. Clearly you had another path, you know, Mm hmm. And San Francisco being your home. You know, a lot of times, getting yourself involved in a community is a lot easier when You feel comfortable? So or?
Yes, yeah. So did you come back then?
Yeah, I did come back. And it. It took me a while to kind of find new community. And, you know, during that time I was, you know, taking classes and I went back to San Francisco. Stay tuned. Did a did a couple little films for classes there. And at the time, they were really geared for an extensive film production core, they probably took about maybe 20 people into the production wing of the film department. And it was very competitive. So I decided, you know, to focus more on writing, which was a strength of mine anyway. So I focused but went to their screenwriting program and that’s what I ended up getting my degree in.
Ooh, fun. Now, what’s that? Like? Did that end up being fun? I know I say who fun but maybe maybe it wasn’t? was it? Was it all that you wanted it to be? And more? Or were you just like taking it because you didn’t want to compete with the other people who were a little too cutthroat?
I think it was the latter is, you know, not always the most driven ambitious person
out there in the world. So,
you know, though, sometimes, sometimes I’m like, you guys fight. I’m gonna get some work done. You know what I mean? Like, there’s so much. I have certainly avoided a lot of competitive environments myself in life, you know. I usually try to, well, let’s be honest, use comedy to get out of it, right. Like, if somebody tries to swindle me into getting competitive with them in a way that it’s like, if we fight about this This is not gonna make our situation better. Like if I’m in a scenario where being competitive with someone is actually going to improve our performance. Okay, I’ll do it. But if it’s just to be like, you know what, I’m better than you. I’m not interested. Right?
Yeah. I mean, it’s if you can have, like, kind of respectful rivalry as, as it is, right? It’s like, it’s like, wow, you did that, oh, I gotta come up with something equally as impressive and right, you know, you’re, you’re one, you’re forcing one another to, you know, to up the bar each time,
as opposed to like, you’re a jerk. You’re a jerk. You can get stuck in those kinds of things.
Right, right. And I just, you know, that was the part that I kind of felt a little intimidated by. And that whole kind of the whole hustling and networking. Yeah. All this time. I’m, you know, I’m also just kind Supporting myself and at working.
Oh, yeah, yeah, so
yeah, right. Well, that’s good. Getting some, you know, making sure I have something that can pay rent and things like that. Sure.
healthy life experience, I would say.
Because I was about my next question was gonna be like, so what happened when real life happens? He got out of college and then yeah, what really happens?
Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of like a continuation. It’s like, okay, after graduation, I’m still working, you know, the same. The same job that I was, you know, prior to graduation, you know, when I said, You know what, I’m, I’m still with that same company, you know, 30 years later.
Almost a good job.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s a it’s a union job and, you know, has good benefits and security. So it’s like, Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to leave This and it’s one of those things that, you know, once it’s five o’clock you go, you know, you could, you could leave it and focus, focus on the things in your life that you enjoy that some of that money is paying for.
Yeah, yeah. Well plus also like, you know, from the point of view of people who are doing, you know, trying to do, you know, theater or whatnot, a lot of times aids in the evening, and you might as well have a job, right? And they also like, you know, gotta have a job. So it’s nice that you found a spot where you could like really work and, and have a nice time, or at least, you know, get enough time to be like, you know, hey, alright, pays bills does work. I feel like contributing a little bit to the world. And I get to do all the cool things I want to do. Right? That’s a real toss up of life, right? Like, as long as we come back Those two things I got to do all the responsible stuff okay I’m gonna do but I also get to have this fun time stuff so it right it is kind of awesome that you’ve had the same job I don’t know that anybody’s had the same
30 years well it’s it’s admirable
been had different jobs within the same company so it’s still good yeah and I mean it really speaks well to healthcare shift around a lot so
oh even better look at you lives and doing comedy I love it. Right so you’re you’re working your job you’re trying to do how are you getting involved in performance and writing and stuff once you’re out in the world? You’re an adult now you’re like in your 20s What’s happening?
Yeah, well see I’m in my late 20s sure, getting
out of college credit
took that took a little bit of a Securitas route through college. And
then I look kind of was
there was a slight detour in a way where I was kind of exploring my gender identity issues I’ve transgendered
shortly after you know graduating college that I finally got the nerve to like get in touch with you know other you know transgendered people and get into like transgender support groups and stuff and clubs and you know for a while I like this one club we have like a you know a pageant to see who would represent our club in the in the in the Pride Parade each year and so I got into doing that and I kind of returned to stand up through that in a way because I was doing you know, for my, the talent portion of the pageants yet Most people were just, you know, would come out at lip sync, you know, to share or some, you know, Celine Dion or somebody, oh no, I’m going to do some I’m going to do something different. I’m going to, you know, actually do something live. And
so did you like write your own sets and stuff and do it? Yeah. Do you like rehearsing at open mics and stuff? Or were you like,
No, No, I didn’t. I wasn’t ready to go to to go to open mics and clubs yet. I had done a little bit of that in college. Right. That was that was as you know, my former male persona.
This was, you know,
yeah. So we’re like you’re getting into the new scene. With your pride crowd and you’re getting ready for the pageant. How did it go? Did you get it?
Ah, I did the pageant like four years. And like what make like find Made finalist once and then a couple times just didn’t didn’t advance beyond the preliminary round. And my last year I was, I was first runner up.
And then it’s like about halfway through the year. The girl who won who was kind of who had already like, I think, had cert had the surgery and everything and had found a man and was kind of wanting to just, you know, disappear into the woodwork as they say. And so she she decided to drop the title just, you know, the whole way and be wifey someplace where nobody would know her past. So I kind of inherited the title. Oh, fun. second half of the year. Yeah. So it was fine.
When I was in New York they New York City. They did a pageant, called the Mr. Lawry side pageant and the winner had to represent had to quote unquote, represent the Lower East Side for a full year. And if anything happened, like to that person, there was always the runner up. And the runner up was called Mr. Tribeca, and deep New York joke. And, but the, but the joke that everyone will get is that the runner up was given a hat that they had to wear as often as they could. That looked like a vagina. Like it was like it was like a hat. So like the face it was like he was being born out of it. So back. I remember one year there was one guy he wore it. Every time he came into the club, we were like you don’t we get the joke. It’s fine. You don’t have to do it. He was like, ah, we’re like too much too much. But he was ready. Ready to step in at any moment. So I get that I get that scene. Yeah. Wanting to get the title. Now, what did you do with your power? Did you change anything? wasn’t anything amazingly different because of your, your leaders that
that not really just you, you get to go to different events in the community and you know, wear a tiara.
Nice. Oh, I need to find opportunities to wear tiaras in my life. To be honest, I could be wearing one right now who knows?
So, at this point, you’re, you’re doing a little bit of stand up. Did you continue doing stand up in your comedy journey or have you I
I did, I did I started to venture out and, you know, started you know, looking for like, you know, queer friendly comedy venues and found a few here in the city. eventually got on and performed at them.
How’d that go?
That’s it went okay.
Yeah. Doesn’t sound like it was your favorite thing to do?
Yeah, I mean, again, it was one of those, you know, I like writing the material. I like forming it. You know, it’s the whole, you know, trying to get out there every night and network get stage time that I that I wasn’t too far.
Yeah standups not for introverts. You really have to get out there and talk to everybody and be everybody’s best friend or enemy. whatever path you want to choose in your store. Yeah. Yeah, that can be tough. That can be Yeah. How were you? But you were still sort of going out in the scene and like hanging out with people. You just didn’t want to like it was just too much effort to be right formed in that way. Mm hmm.
Yeah, you know, it’s like a kid. You know, you can’t talk to They up to, you know, two in the morning waiting to get on getting on some stage at some open mic to you know, when you have to be at work. It’s, you know, seven or eight the next morning it’s
Yeah, it’s not great. It’s not Yeah, it can be tough. Plus, number one thing that I hear from improvisers about stand up when they tried it. Is that like, stand up, you’re alone? You know, like, yes. You’re just sort of like good luck by yourself up there. Like, okay, let’s see how this goes. As opposed to with improv where like, not only do you have a team that’s gonna have your back because they’re your team. It’s like, legitimately one of the rules, you know what I mean? Like, yes, like, it’s not even kind of, it’s like number one. Yes. And number two, have each other’s back. What are you doing? Like that, you know, one on one kind of stuff to the point where, whenever I teach one on one, like I teach improv one on one And whenever I’m teaching it, I’m like, you guys can relax because you’re here for each other, and also be here for each other. Okay? So it’s like both a call call to action and also, and also, this, this sort of like calming like, don’t worry. You’re all right now we’ve got you.
So how did you get to improv? How did you find that?
yeah, I was looking for something to do to try to connect with people beyond you know, just you know, beyond just the, you know, the transgender support Club, which I did get busy with as, as an officer and a writer for its newsletter and so that that there were some creative outlets in that kind of club events. The result there was some entertainment that I got to partake be participant in so, you know, you find your outlets where you can. And at some point I decided to try you know, I was you know, I don’t remember if I done any improv in college I remember seeing, you know, seeing it, you know, and so it kind of looks like fun. And so, you know, I was, I guess looking through one of the, you know, like alternative papers, you know, here at the time this was before the internet internet was so widely prevalent. And it’s like, oh, you know, Oh, this looks like fun. So I you know, went to it to a theater games demonstration and tried it and then signed up for an introductory course and you know, just really liked it just found that. Okay, there’s there’s more to it. than just kind of getting you know, getting laughs and, you know, jokes the way it is and in stand up, you can actually, you know, do some interesting things with structure and themes and storytelling which you know, which you don’t get to do in, summited stand up, or at least, you know, you’re a stand up audience isn’t gonna isn’t going to necessarily be so be very patient when you’re trying to, you know, build something like that. Whereas I think improv audiences are more. You know, it’s a very different vibe.
Yeah. Yeah. I feel like stand up. Audiences want them to fail and improv audiences want them to succeed.
Yeah. Yeah, it’s, it’s very, it seems like it’s very zero sum in it. Stand up.
Yeah. It’s like do you like a punch in the face? This is for you.
What? But then there’s a few people are like, Yeah, let’s do it.
Oh man. Yeah, it’s a very different crowd for sure. I’m glad you were able to find improv now. Yeah, you went to a theater games done demonstration was theater games, the name of the theater.
I, it was called that the next stage.
The next stage
run by this this teacher, Marcia Kimmel. Who was originally from Chicago. I think she might have been like as a child was like the old Poland’s neighbor or whatever she knew Viola.
And this is San Francisco, right? Yes. Yeah. It’s like, you know, church basement.
She was old church basement. Good old church, man. Bless you for going to that. Then. You’re like, Oh, I’m gonna go to this improv thing. Where is it? Let me just walk right up to the Oh, what it’s in the church basement. Do I have to? Like Yeah, come on in and you’re like,
Okay, it’s like where’s the exit? Okay, great. Oh,
you know the the AA meeting? Nope. I don’t think this is improbable. You know?
Yeah. Man up. Yes. ending in such a different way at a meeting you’re like, oh goodness. Yes, man. Yeah, I did that. Yeah. Oh boy. Man. So, uh, so you finally see you’ve made it out of the church basement. You were like, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. And then did you like sign up for a class with next age and take like a bunch of classes with them? Oh, yeah,
I did that for a while. And I was kind of bouncing between that and doing like the occasional you know, stand up and then it was I guess it was like, I left it for improv for a while, and I guess, kinda like, I guess in like my mid 40s. You know, I was looking for, you know, to do it again. And looking for a, you know, something, you know, beyond just, you know, beyond next stage. So,
how many years did you’ve been away from it?
Ah, maybe about five years.
Right now, right now, were you doing something else at the time? Or was it just like life got in the way and you were like,
kind of like life life got in the way?
Yeah. Yeah. Awesome that you got back on the horse. You know, I mean, like, a lot of people life kicks them off. And then they’re like doing other stuff. And they’re like, Oh, I don’t have time to do this kind of stuff. Or worse, which I find terrible in adults, is when they say things to me like, oh, adults don’t do that. And you’re like, Oh, that’s so sad for you. What do you do? Just drink. Oh, that’s not great. Yeah, you’ve got to have a thing. Right? Even rolling or whatever, like, you know? Yeah, and shuffleboard do it like
slowpitch softball? Yeah.
Anything. Yeah. something where you can just have a, an outlet even just to be like, Lorraine be a better picture, right? You get involved in that and then you forget your whole life. You get back to your house and you’re like fish, at least my wife’s not Lorraine. Right? You know? So it helps it helps to have that distance to do other things. Oh, man. Yeah, it’s a, it’s, it’s great that that you were able to turn it around and like, find a way to get back into it. And so you were like, I’m sorry, you’re searching around. I sort of cut off your story to like find out a timeline because because sometimes I think that that kind of stuff is important. Like I hear your five years and I’m like, cool. Okay. I’m kind of in a bit of a low myself because I have a three year old so I can’t. How much time are you spending late night at an improv theater with a three year old? I’m gonna say, yeah. So like, you know, I’m like five years. Okay, cool. I got that I can do five years that seems good. All of this is all of the podcast is just me figuring out my life. But so what? So at this point, where do you find how did you find the spot where you started?
I found that there was a there was like a informal Saturday drop in workshop that was happening out here in San Francisco’s Marina district. And it has been ongoing for, like 30 plus years. And it was started by Jim Chrono, one of the original members of the committee. Yeah, sketch comedy troupe from like the late 60s and 70s. Yeah.
And he’d started Did it and
when he got too old to continue with it, he handed it over to some of his steep students that will take over. And so went to that 2007 and just really clicked with the people there. And that kind of became my new tribe. And so, you know, been pretty, pretty regular there ever since. And what’s that crowd call? It’s just called the Saturday improv workshop.
You know, so doing that, and that still, you know, it’s kind of a lot of weekend play playmates, as well as, you know, socializing afterwards. And it’s, you know, it’s realized it’s like, gee, I’d like to, you know, be nice to kind of get it get into a group and have like, performance opportunities. So then I started looking around For different schools and things that offered offered that, oh, right on,
no at this point, have you mostly just been doing like you took the classes at the next stage. But then the Saturday drop in workshop that’s just sort of like ad hoc, not like a syllabus necessarily. Is this next spot where you found classes? Were you looking for more structure?
Yes. Yeah. Right on, you know, learning type learning to kind of be you know, in a group and it took some classes in the East Bay for some need for some months and you would do you know, your typical kind of graduation performances of short form games, and I got it I got kind of tired of that or preoccupied with other things and try doing a solo performance workshops for a while. Well, That was kind of that was good enough. But I think Pat did maybe two or three shows two or three, you know, 20 minutes shows in that world. You did
you made solo shows.
Yeah, yeah. Wow.
like such a such a big jump from stand up to improv to solo. Like, and I know that it sounds like, you know it would make sense to do that but I don’t know just what you’ve told me makes me feel like maybe solo would make you uncomfortable. Like how did that go?
It went pretty well. And there are things I liked about it because it was kind of like you could I could work some, you know, stand up and improv elements into it. But at the same time there it’s kind of the conceit where it’s like, okay, the audience is gonna be you know, we’ll be patient while you while you build build the story.
Yeah, totally. So is it like storytelling workshops are where they like literally trying to build you towards doing, like, you know, talking to the audience but like telling a story. I mean, I know that storytelling yeah
the same Yeah, you know what’s Safra trying to get you to, you know, build you towards you know, you’re gonna be up there you know, talk you know, telling your story you know talking to the audience telling telling your story about what happened and you can act out different parts if you want or not.
Yeah, definitely, I guess is the combination of like, stand up and improv for sure. Did you do any, like, solo shows like that you were into?
I mean, just the few that I did connected connected with, you know, you take us I guess it was like a maybe a 10 or 11 a week class and at the end, you know, you have the performance. So I did that a couple times. And I think I signed up for their theater was having like, A Monday nights series are different people would perform and I think I signed up for one Monday night and performed one of my pieces, then,
man. So you’re like really creating these opportunities for yourself. I mean, like you’re taking this workshop where you’re like, gonna have a show at the end, which is a solid way to have a workshop. But like, you’re the go getter In this scenario, right? Like you’re trying to trying to find something was there like a story we’re trying to tell was there like something you’re trying to work towards?
I guess we’ll still just trying to find in some ways, you know, a community of peers all who had, you know, some creative interest. You
said that you had found good friends at the Saturday improv workshop, where you’re still looking for other collaborators, or were they
right in pounds? Yeah, I was.
So what happened next is good.
Let’s see, kind of got into, you know, the travel travel bug kind of bit me. So, you know, then a lot of my focus was okay, I’m preparing for this trip to over here and
did you like take improv workshops all around or did you just I, I did
not, you know, it never occurred to me You know, it’s only like, towards the end of my you know, one of my last trips was about four years ago I went to Iceland, and this, you know, tried to find an improv dropping improv workshop in Reykjavik and there was one listed that was happenings on some, you know, college campus, you know, some evening and, of course, the night I went, it was raining and this campus was nearly impossible to navigate. And so, you know, at the time, I found that room where it was supposed to be happening. There was nobody there. So
Oh man. Oh, well, where else did you travel?
Let’s see, ah went to a lot of places during those years. Went to like China, Peru, Russia at arctica and Australia.
Whoa, what was that like your your like list where you were like, okay, I want these places.
Yeah, yeah. Oh Korea are some things that I wanted to do like I wanted to you know,
I wanted to go I always wanted to do like the Trans Siberian Express, you know, train ride across Russia. Did you? I did.
So I’m like nervous to go to Russia. I’d love to I think it’s beautiful. Yeah. Yeah, no, no, yeah.
I don’t know if I’d want to go now. Yeah, this was I guess Like 2009 a simpler time. a simpler time? Yes.
Oh boy. So so that’s fun. Listen to this kids dying in the audience now let’s know that kids you can you can use that money or you’re spending on your improv classes to travel the world. So you know, take a year off maybe travel a little world come on back, do a couple improv sets with with the Euro set. And and then you can come back and tell your scene and whatever city you’re at doing improv. Hey, did you know that this is how they do it in Germany? Okay. I’m pretty good at stuff. I’ll tell you what if I’ve learned anything from talking to people across the world, the US and Canada are primarily doing comedy when it comes to improv but like Europe is a largely doing dramatic improv which I find fascinating. And and whenever they’re like, you know, you’ll be I’ll talk about improv and they’re like, Oh, you mean comedy improv? Yeah, I understand. That’s what you guys do. And I’m like, Oh, what is it? Tell me everything. I want to hear your snootiness. So So yeah, I mean, there’s like there’s something so great about finding out like, what, that’s what happens over there. Let’s do it. I’ve never done dramatic improv. It’s only jokes, right? Yeah, yeah. So how did you I got connected to you through Leila. How did you get to Leila? When did that connection in the community start?
Ah, that started I think in like 2015. You know, I had just, I think I’ve gotten back from a trip to I think either to Houston and is thinking God, you know, I really want to be, you know, I think I saw some improv there and, you know, caught some people performing and Like I really want to, you know, belong to something where I can, you know, perform more, you know, regularly, you know. And so I started looking for, you know, classes in this it, you know, here in San Francisco that, you know, give that have performance opportunities.
Oh, there are a lot of schools where it’s just school and not so much stage time.
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, like, like the, one of the more established companies here, it’s like, oh, yeah, they’re, they’re the, they’re the name and, you know, improv training, but you really don’t ever get much you know, performance opportunities, you know, outside of your, you know, your classes, you know, graduation. So, so, you know, and I was looking at looking at Lila and I saw that, oh, they kind of have like some end in house. Performing ensembles that people can audition for, that’s extra fancy that they
offer stage time as well as classes, especially if in your particular scene. That doesn’t. Yeah, quite a bit. That’s pretty great. That’s pretty great. So did you start classes to get involved with them? Or did you Yeah,
I Yeah, I did. You know, I went to went to a drop in class and then shortly thereafter signed up for, you know, level one, and that’s where I first encountered Diana and had her again in level three, and then, you know, audition for her and now have her as my as a director and
very, director, very rewarding
professionals. Great. Yeah. How long have you been doing that?
Two years now.
Hmm, interesting. So you guys were sort of a group that were have been working together for a while. While you don’t like the vibe like a flow to your performance,
somewhat I mean we’re always you know people drop out we have to recast new people.
Oh yeah. Now have you guys I presume that previous to now you’ve done a lot of onstage shows but like have you guys been working to adjust to zoom improv
shows we we have and
they are the zoom shows went pretty well we had some fun with it, you know, we really have a lot of fun with the with our devised world where we’re playing some set characters, and we kind of did like a three, a three show arc sort of these characters and you know, we had some fun like using the virtual backgrounds in zoom have, you know props and miniatures and set pieces? So
Oh, that’s awesome. That’s Yeah,
yeah so so I felt like it’s kind of a little bit of refit felt like I was returning to those teenage filmmaking routes
Totally. Totally because you the The fun thing about zoom and I’ve been teaching a sketch comedy class to teens using zoom. And so in that scenario, I am sort of teaching them how to use the little box that they’ve got. I was like, the one day maybe like the second or third day I was like, I tell me honestly, guys, are you just staring at yourself? Like I’m staring at myself? And they’re like, yes. And I was like, Yeah, I can’t stop. I’m so sorry. I want to look at you, but I can’t I’m staring right at my own face. And they’re like, they laugh and I was like, use this awkward tunity to look at yourself and see what you look like on film, and try to use the space when you’re acting the characters and like, what is what is the box that you’re in mean to your specific world? What, what is going on? Are you guys in the same room and, and this guy’s to your right. So you’re always going to deal with him as if he’s here, right? Or, you know how we did this whole, like worked on like passing objects from person to person through zoom. And that was fun. But like just, you know, using this new sort of medium in a way that’s like find a way to make it work for you. Because a lot of kids are like, I want to be actors. And I’m like, great, the number one thing you need to do is stare yourself in the face and see what your face does because your face is what’s going to communicate everything. And so stare at yourself and make sure that your face is expressing and emoting and doing that kind of stuff. It’s something so like Interesting about having this new style to work with.
Yeah, yeah, it is. But what the one thing I found frustrating with zoom is you can’t really determine where, you know, your box is going to appear on the screen. Totally. It No, it’s like, they, you know, I think I sent something to the developers like do something where, you know, you can put enough, you know, put, you know, put a number before your name and that that is that assigned to to to a specific location on the grid because then then you can start doing, you know, creating specific stage pictures with the little squares arranged in such a way that I know that if you know, I turned to my right, you know, like, if we’re simulating a car, you know, I meant, you know, I need to be at the bottom right of the screen and if you know, I can turn to my passenger who’s in the square on the bottom left, and You know, and there’s, you know, three people, you know, up above us who are semi, you know, you know, simulating the back seat passengers, then you can, you know, kind of create that illusion.
I wish that there was even just like maybe an option for the, the administrator of the meeting to like, adjust, you know, cuz like, I know that when I’m looking at the kids, they’re looking at a different version of whatever they’re looking at, right? And so I tried to, you know, keep it open, because you’re right, like, there’s no real way to establish the stage picture. But it would be nice if like, I could like click on the boxes and move them around so that they’re so that it’s always in this one specific pyramid and be like, this is what you guys would look like, this is what you’re gonna do. Yeah, that could be interesting. You know what, though? I mean, zoom didn’t know is gonna become the like, number one user like The fact that everybody in the earth was gonna need it. And they’ve really stepped up like, as far as a product that I heard about before COVID. And I was like, Yeah, like, it’s a big in the podcast crowd, especially when you’re doing interviews like this, people are like, you’ve got to do zoom. I’m like, it’s fine. Like, I was like, I’m good. Like, my phone calls my Skype, it sounds fine. Like, don’t worry about it. And I was very much not into using it. And then all of a sudden, it was like, Oh, yeah, you don’t want to use it. Well, I’m gonna end the world. So you have to and I was like, fine, zoom. I’ll do it. But then I was kind of proud of the company and the technology because it was like, man, literally the earth started using you. And there is not a glitch to be had. Like, that’s some quality right there. I’m sure they’re getting a lot of suggestions from people because it’s like turns out now this is the new way people perform, which is great. But it’s like, I’m sure they had no idea that that was something that people would do. Until now it’s like the right and you are
this is just just supposed to be for Oh well, the people who can’t make it to the meeting in person we’ll just yeah have them check in remotely and beyond this be all be on the same wall so we can we can see them all at once.
Yeah, totally. Man. It was just a random business meeting and now all of a sudden it’s improv improv improv.
What’s all this aesthetics? What I could do with it?
What do you mean backdrop? I don’t understand. The person was like, Okay, let’s get a millennial in here. Nobody has any idea what they’re talking about now, like, okay, you’re like, Okay, there are no filters, get some filters. jaysus I’m gonna put it right in. Yeah. I mean, I think I don’t use any of the, the apps that have all the filters and all the different stuff, but I’m always like, that’s awesome. Someone created that. There’s a person who’s like, you know what, people are gonna dig more having ears like a dog and everyone Like, I was like, Yeah. Like, how do you grasp that? How do you like get that idea? And then go like, you know what? I’m making it like? I don’t know. I don’t know, man. Yeah, so wild. So we’re having a great time with the professionals right now learning new stuff, working on things. So during the course of our conversation, you know, there’s been a lot of times where you’re just definitely like, going out and finding opportunities for yourself to perform. You’re like making it happen. It’s not like there’s anyone taking you down a road or making you do this, these are your moves, like I want to do try this. I want to try that. As advice for people, you know, who are listening to this, like, how do you keep it going, how do you keep yourself going back and finding something new? You know, if maybe the thing that you worked on was like, Oh, that’s not exciting. Or, you know, you go somewhere and you’re like, well I guess I’m not good at that. Whenever that’s about how do you keep it moving?
Ah, yes, good question. I think a lot of it is, you know, I think it helps to be in a city like San Francisco where there’s a lot of different venues in which to try things, you know, and, you know, everybody’s offering, you know, classes. So, that’s a good way that, you know, to get to try something, you know, and kind of get get a taste for that community. And, you know, even if you’re just, you know, staying local, wherever you are, you know, it’s like, I think people, you know, we get seduced into this myth that, oh, you’re only legitimate if you’re, you know, if you’re, you know, on SNL and making big money, you know, it’s like
being you know, just waterfall is, you know, has its value to.
Absolutely. Plus they’re doing zoom shows too. Yeah, like, Come on guys. Even the playing field, even SNL is doing a zoom shell.
Right. You know, and I think, you know, before the days of, you know, mass media, you know, I think, you know, local entertainers work kind of what you what you what you had, you know, for for entertainment and, you know, until like, you know, the the vaudeville circuit and, you know, different people came through.
yeah, absolutely. I’m hoping that these days lead people to more of an interest in their local entertainment community in the way that people are getting more interested in their, like, local politics. That it’s more and also like local restaurants, like I feel like these days, everyone’s like, you know, oh, if you have to buy cookies, buy it at a local bakery. If you have to do this, get it from this local company. You know what I mean? Like everyone’s trying so hard to take care of each other because it’s like, nobody has a job. So anybody who has a job, let’s quick pan them some money.
Yeah. So do you think maybe we’ll get connected?
Yeah. And you think about it, like people, some people, like, you know, live entertainment for some people. It’s like, well, it’s only you know, you know, driving a couple hours out of town and paying several hundred dollars to see some big name act and, you know, in a sports arena. Yeah, you know, and I don’t get within, you know, you know, 100 feet of them, but, you know, I’m there and I’m, you know, hearing, seeing and hearing them perform live, you know, okay, and that’s nice. You know, you really want to see, you know, who you’ve always liked or whatever, but then it’s like, you touch it. Yeah, you don’t you can’t, you know get Get up off the couch to just go across town and maybe drop 15 or 20 bucks to you know, see somebody in your community who’s you know, busting their butt entertain you and you know, and you could you know and new you can probably you know and and these with the local person you can probably hang out afterwards with that, you know?
Yeah, that could be your best friend
you know? Yeah, yeah You don’t you don’t you know you don’t get to go to the same bar and you know, drink you know, with Celine Dion after her show,
right? You can’t be like Celine. That was a really great third song you did, right? No, no can go after the bar and go, Hey, were you the guy who played the unicorn. Great job, man.
Yeah, great, great.
Well, you know,
Just taking these classes here. Yeah.
Yeah. When I teach my level one class, I always say after your final show, your friends come you need to stand out when the audience exits and let people give you compliments and your answer is not. No, I didn’t. Your answer is thank you for your answer. I don’t care what you think about their compliment. You just say thank you for coming to the show.
Because it’s like connect with some people. Don’t let it weigh on your back. Just have a nice time find a community make some friends. Who knows plus these days you know, you can you can check them out from a distance see which see which theater you dig by their YouTube channel. Yeah. And then you can decide later who you’re going to see in person, right? Like, yeah, I’ve watched all the improv theaters, this one Seems to be closest to my vibe. There you go, right.
Yeah, I was with the Lila shows we post up a zoom link at the end of the show. We’re like, hey, come to come, you know, log on to this if you want to, you know, come hang out and chat with us afterwards.
Oh, that’s fun. Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of like the kind of like the virtual bar.
Oh, cool. Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of the shows, but I’ve never seen I’ve never done the virtual Hangout.
Great. Well, hey, you know Aaron, thank you so much for being on the show and sharing your story.
It’s been lovely to chat.
Thank you. I enjoyed it myself a
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