YBY ep 259: Neil Curran and the ever-evolving artform of improv.
This week on Yes But Why, I have a great talk with Irish improviser, Neil Curran.
Neil Curran is one of leading influencers of the improv scene in Ireland. He has been teaching and performing improv both in Ireland and internationally for many years. He has toured with his signature show, “Neil + 1,” at festivals and theatres around the world. By day, Neil is an applied improv trainer with corporate clients around the world.
Neil Curran is the founder and director of Improv Fest Ireland and the assistant camp director of Improv Utopia Ireland. He founded and runs the “Love! Improv Irish Community” group, and he is a co-founder of No Drama Theatre. Aside from his own shows, Neil has guested in numerous others including Orange Tuxedo, Upstairs Downton, Comedysportz San Jose and the improvised musical, When X Meets Y.
In our conversation, Neil and I talk about improv from every angle. Neil tells me how performing improv feels like channeling energy from other people. He blows my mind when he compares improv to the show, Quantum Leap. We are all Sam stepping in to play a moment in someone’s life. Boom.
Neil and I discuss improv as an ever-evolving artform. We discuss running a theater business and building a community. We talk about making emotional connections with audiences. We talk about how covid has opened up the global communication about improv and how that flowing influence will change the landscape of improv for the better.
We talk about Neil’s work teaching improv to corporations and how important communication skills like improv can be in the business world. I talk about how my improv skills have helped me reinvent myself constantly during covid. We get into it and chew on all the deep, good topics in the improv world. We even talk about THE BEST (and our favorite) improv group on the internet, through which Neil and I got connected in the first place!
Support Neil Curran by taking his upcoming online level 1 improv course that starts May 18th! And you can keep track of his festival producing and eventual touring via his website, lowerthetone.com! Let’s all meet in person someday!
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. #YesButWhy #Podcast #HCUniversalNetwork
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This episode of Yes But Why is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. Go to PodcastCadet.com and put in offer code YBY20 to get 20% off your first consultation!
(production notes: recorded zoom meeting with Rodecaster on 3/11/2021…posted on 4/19/2021)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners. This is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Yes But Why Episode 259: My discussion with Irish improviser, Neil Curran. But first let’s talk about our sponsors. Today’s episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by Audible. Get your free audio book download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YesButWhy . Today I picked up a self help book I got on my audible library and started to listen to it. I’d tell you the name of it, but I’m trying to avoid swearing in the first three seconds of my podcast. So let’s just say it’s called how to un-bleep your brain. Got it. It’s not your average self help book. It’s super fun and available on Audible. Head on over to audibletrial.com/YesButWhy right now and download the app. You’ll get a free audio book and access to hundreds of books and podcasts that are included with your membership. Now’s the time. Get audible. Yes But Why podcast is also sponsored by podcastcadet.com. PodcastCadet.com is all about helping people with podcasting. My husband and I started it because we are on all the podcasts and groups on Facebook and the like. And there are a lot of misconceptions out there about podcasting, how to record how to retain rights, what you can and cannot put in your episode. Lots of stuff. So please contact us. We want to share our experiences with you and hopefully save you for making some of the mistakes we’ve made in the past. Connect with us now at podcastcadet.com use promo code YBY20 and you’ll get 20% off the first service or workshop you buy. This week on Yes But Why, I had the pleasure of chatting with Irish improv influencer Neil Curran. We talk about Del Close, Quantum Leap and Improv Utopia. And of course we talk about the best improv group on the internet, “improvisers talking about food.” such fun. I now present to you. Yes But Why Episode 259 Neil Curran and the ever evolving art form of improv. Enjoy. I’m Amy Jordan, and this is Yes But Why podcast. Yeah. What was the first moment in your life, when you were aware that you wanted to do creative stuff that you wanted to be a performer or be involved in creating shows?
No, it’s funny, I have a strange relationship with the word creative. So I was a very introverted child, my mother was an actress, and I grew up in medicine, theater, and like everything when you’re a child, you don’t appreciate us, you know, your dad could be Neil Armstrong, first person on the moon, you take it for granted. So, but my father came from a business background. So I was quite fortunate that rather than having you know, parents who say you should go study this or do that I was allowed to tap into, you know, theatre and drama as a as a young person. And totally not appreciate it. And but have that as a resource, which was incredibly liberating and empowering for an introverted child. So improvisation and kids drama when I was doing was, was a huge part of it. Of course, it’s not improv as as we know it, in that sense, that’s gonna it’s gonna pay off the purists by the saying that. So. So improv was a tough it was being used a lot, though, and say, teenage drama and kids drama. And it was quite liberating, you know, to have a part of your life as an introvert where you’re just told to kind of pretty much as a child do what you want, you know, you have a framework, you give a team a theme or topic and you you would kind of devise your improvisation which your which your peers or your friends. And so it was quite, quite empowering. And but I never viewed it, and I still don’t view it as this incredibly powerful, creative way for me to spread my love in the world. Because I don’t have an interest in sketch company, not as from creative perspective. And people that you know, say, well, you should, you know, you should you should ride our you know, it’s COVID you should be doing lots of riding and stuff. And I’m like, I’m not a creative person. I just do improv, which seems where I’ve kind of used it a bit like, as an improviser, you’re just channeling, you know, ideas, energy. And, I guess the energy of other people, to the characters to create something on stage. I really don’t use the word create. They’re not create Do it on the head. But, you know, it’s like the thing about it. This makes no sense. Well, Tony brought a great start. the only the only analogy I can give is a bit like someone who does improv, and they get introduced as a comedian. And that makes a lot of improvised. You know, we’re not comedians are improvised. It’s a little bit like that. And if you told me to sit down and write a comedy sketch, you know, I probably wouldn’t get very far. I don’t do it that often. And maybe it is a thing of what you should try now. But it’s, that’s a difference. It’s a different ballgame altogether. So so maybe improv is kind of like, you know, an outlet for my therapy, and, or just something fun, because it’s about playing at the end of the day. Yes, there’s lots of other things going on. There’s lots of things I’m able to do as part of that. But ultimately, it comes back to playing. And certainly I have very vivid memories of playtime when I was a kid, and you know, having fun with that as a child, and I guess we’re now doing that as I head on. So no one’s judging as far as our shows, but aside from them, nobody’s judging as far as it just acceptance and normal behavior for an adult to engage in.
Um, so do you think of improv like, is like a spiritual experience, like, because you’ve mentioned like channeling energies and like, channeling and I like I appreciate and I will delve in with you this idea of like improv versus sketch comedy, versus like comedy in general. But like, I’m interested as well, by the way, you describe your experience of improv, as channeling energies and finding the characters out of the ether, like, does it feel to you like you’re spiritually connecting with something
that no, I wouldn’t go that far. But you know, ultimately, the improv is an art form where you are totally have to support the people that you’re performing with, it is completely about the other person, and what they’re doing. And your job is to, you know, be the bridge that their car drives over your job is to be the airplane that they fly across the sky. And your job is to be the water that they swim in. So we’re all playing support roles, you know, even the people who the audience say, That girl is so funny, or that guys, I think they’re still playing a support role to the rest of the team, the team, not the cliche that some of the team is greater than the sum of the parts. You know, that is so true at improv. And I think for a lot of people, it’s not until we realize that as an improviser, that the it falls into place. So that’s my job. When I go out on stage, whether it’s whether I have the good fortune to perform which yourself me or whether I’m performing with, you know, an ensemble of six people, my job is to focus completely on them and give them everything they need. And that means, you know, we want to draw the spiritual analogy that means whatever creativity that comes to them, I see I got myself out of that creative, Limbo land, whatever creativity comes to them. My job is just to be there. Be the platform, be the mechanism to allow that to come to fruition to allow the flower to blossom as well. ways way to spiritual but no. Now,
think of it that way, then you don’t have to like force it. No need to shoehorn an idea into what’s not already there. I just the way you spoke of it seemed so a theory all seems so like, you know, this characters passing through the veil and feeling me and I’m like living their life for a moment, which is cool. Okay, well really think that?
Well, I do to some degree, I do think, you know, improv is a bit like the TV show quantum leap. You know, we’re all we characters. I don’t think I think it was, I think it might have been de pathways. TJ jagad esky said this originally, but the, you know, you have to view the characters that they exist somewhere in the universe, like may not be in this planet, there might be another planet. And we have to treat them with respect. And I think that’s so true. So that when you step into that character, and even if it’s just the man who sells newspapers on the corner, and he’s angry, even if that’s the character, no, he still has feelings about things that may not come up in the scene, but know that maybe he just doesn’t like you know, to eat red meat. And maybe he has a distaste for reality TV, and maybe he loves Mozart, that may never come up in a scene, but that allows you to give three dimensions to what is presented as a two dimensional character. And when the scene is over, that character still lives on and their existence and their go about their life. So it’s very much like quantum leap. You’re just for a moment in life, just taking a slice of it and representing that on stage. So you better do a good job no different than you want an athlete to represent your country to their best of their ability in the Olympics.
Man the Quantum Leap I’ve been doing improv for 12 years and the Quantum Leap thing just punched me in the face. It was great that it now I’m like, I was like trying so hard to focus on you because my brain immediately was ignited with 1000 Quantum Leap show ideas. And I was like, No, no, you focus on him because you’re you just totally like it. spired me in that moment, that is a great example. Like, it’s exactly what it is. And I also appreciate sort of the even the idea of how that in and of itself isn’t spiritual in the way that I’m trying to ask, but it is what it like jumping into somebody else’s life for a moment. idea of it like, man, super cool. Um, so to sidestep to the other thing you were talking about, which is the improv versus sketch comedy thing. So I talked to a lot of people from all over the world. And so, improv is not always it. I would say more often than not, not comedy. I’m finding in the rest of the world. In the old states. Yep, it’s comedy. Is it comedy in Ireland? Is that where you’re, since that’s where you’re starting? People are trying to get you in the comedy world? Because that’s what improv is all about for you, or how does it play out?
You know, I think for the most part, the vast majority of improv that we see is comedy. And we will be lying to you if I said, comedy isn’t a desired output. But I think comedy and laughter is sometimes the least interesting thing about improv, or the example I give people is me, you know, I could go to see the best comedy film that was ever created tonight, spinal tap, I got a spinal tap, and we will come out of spinal tap. And I said, Oh, my god, that was so funny. Remember the bit with this. Remember with that, and after 1015 minutes of maybe regurgitating the lines, we remember we’d say, Oh, you know, let’s go get a beer. And we talked about everything else except Spinal Tap, or didn’t occasionally go to remember that bit. But if you go through a piece of art, if you go to a drama, and they affect you emotionally in other ways that comedy doesn’t, then that affects your audience that moves your audience. And that gives you something to think about some reflect on something to talk talk about. And we don’t see enough of that in improv yet we forget that improv is one of the most spontaneous art forms that time is largely Well, time is irrelevant. We don’t. So let’s say let’s say not that we never get enough
offers from current affairs. But let’s say that something happens in the news today, as is every day, we don’t have to go off and write you know, spend a week writing materials to sit sit to take a satirical look at it, we can just create it in the moments. So we have that luxury, we have that privilege as improvisers. So I don’t I try not to limit myself to just doing that this is going to be comedy on stage concerning the shows I perform. And I lean mostly towards a narrative. If a scene ends up being funny, great, but if a scene ends up being dramatic, Grace, even better, if you blend the two if you take a leave at a Shakespeare’s book and can build up drama and tension and have a very serious scene that you know has a message in it. Wonderful you’re playing, you’re pulling a number of different strings. To me, the most rewarding thing or some of the most rewarding things that have happened to me through improv is I had somebody wants to cry during my show, and not because it’s bad. But because they were genuinely moved by something that happened on stage. And when people come up and start talking to you how to carry that choice that character made. I remember one time he doesn’t know this, but when I did one of my name plus one shows it was actually a show in Dublin and Dave Rizal ski was at it. And he asked me about a choice that my character made and I knew plus when I use an audience member using an improviser and he asked me that a choice a character made and he he discussed to me and you know, he doesn’t know this, but I was like my neighbors asked, he has asked me this question, you know, that this is great. This is you know, it clearly I was able to make a connection with the audience in a strong way to do that. And so I find that very interesting and as an art should be interested, comedy is great. Oh, there’s nothing you know, this is so uplifting. It’s so such a rush to do to be able to make an audience laugh. But that isn’t the be all and end all. Now I caveat this by saying to me, improv is the end You know, a lot of people will view improv as a means to an end, you know, you know, some figures even position, you know, on the hierarchy, improv you start with improv and you move into sketch a lot of people who are actors and want to make a name and showbusiness improv can be a means to an edge to an end. But to me improv is, is is that ultimate? You know, it’s like, well, let’s see how far we can go with this as an art from how do we push the boundaries? How can we use improv to kind of, you know, use us as a platform to you know, talk about how we feel what’s going on in the world, you know, stand up comedy did that in countries. You know, Ireland stand up comedy was the voice of the people for decades because of the oppression of the church and from what I understand from talking to friends and reading the news, it’s doing the same thing in India if some company has become this massive force in India, some but why am I counting probably doing that, you know, it’s kind of convenient that’s going to ruin right material we don’t like we should Which can and should tap into this. Because not everyone wants to do that, you know, improv is very easy, in regard even just, hey, let’s improvise. Let’s just do something, you don’t have to think of it beyond, you know, the realm of what you want to do and what’s comfortable. But I just think there’s possibilities there. And from what I understand, I can’t, I’m getting so old and this I never know where my resources come from, but from what I understand, they’ll close near the time of the statue, you know, you know, find the potential in this art form, or we haven’t hit that spot yet. And I often think to myself, and genuinely do ask if they’ll close was alive today. How would you view improv now is an urge to what do you think that we’ve kind of hit, you know, hit the tapped into that, you know, either of amazingness I’m not thinking of the right words here. But I hopefully that comes comes across in the right way. the full potential of improv as an art form, I certainly don’t think has been realized. Yep. And that’s not a critique. And it’s not a criticism, what we do, it’s actually something exciting, exciting to be able to say to ourselves, in a way, we haven’t hit it yet. We were still, you know, how far down the rabbit hole, can we go with this? Our potential is untapped. But that’s just kind of how I view and you know, improv is, if we pigeonhole ourselves, it’s like improv, no, even like the way a lot of people advertise shows or somebody improv with comedy attached to it. As soon as you tell somebody, you’re doing an improv comedy show, you’re doing a comedy show. Your word improv is kind of irrelevant at that point. It has to be comedy. So you’re letting your audience down if you if you don’t, if you’re not funny, whereas it’s nice when people say, Hey, I’m doing an improv show, or I’m doing an improvised theatre show. You know, I often when improv Fest, Ireland, we will say, you know, it’s improvised theatre and comedy festival, you know, it kind of let’s, let’s get it all, that’s good. Make it as broad as we can. And I hope that doesn’t come across as quite preachy. It’s just, you know, the potential is, I think, huge. And it’s not a critique. It’s, it’s opportunity for us.
No, I think it’s based on all of the different schools that you’ve had experience with and all the different kinds of improv that you personally have tried and been part of that lead you to your own theories about, you know, the way improv should be. Side note, I believe, if Dell close was alive right now, he’d be super pissed about improv, I think he think it was a corporate and terrible, and that we’re using it the wrong way. But that’s just because I see him and I’d never met him. But like, in my head, I see him as sort of like a hippie who wants things to be all grassroots and that if Dell clothes had his way, that no Improv Theater would ever get bigger than, like, 30 people. And then like, that’s it, like, that’s the end. And it’s like, oh, you want What do you 31 start a new one, because then we’re done. This is as many before it gets terrible. This is what it is. But that’s that’s just my like side theory on him. As far as your experience and whatnot, it would seem that, you know, a lot of people I talked to don’t even like when I say, comedy, in improv, they’re like, Oh, that’s just because you’re American. Because here, it’s like, every, it is unusual if the improv is dramatic, right? Like, every school is creating improv comedy, right? From my point of view, when I even teach, I’m teaching with comedy structures in mind from the get like, so as soon as I’m teaching you how to just talk off the cuff. I’m also teaching you little cues and pathways that you can take that will lead you to comedy, even if you don’t, even if you don’t know what to say, or how to do it. If you go up the stairs, and you will, you will get to something that’s funny. And, and that’s just the way that I’m teaching, because comedy is the basic framework that we are starting from right. But from your perspective, both of the education you’ve received and the education that you give, what kind of like how are you presenting it? Clearly, comedy is something that’s like a byproduct occasionally. So how are you setting up and you don’t have to give me the secret sauce that people are gonna pay for. But like, you know, what is the way that you think of teaching and presenting improv that is not structured with comedy?
And that’s a fair question. Like I just position it, you know, from my my courses that people sign up to scenario for me, and this is separate to the business application. It’s just improv. And I get excited by teaching people who don’t want to be onstage the skills of improv and a lot of people who come to me are professionals. They won’t learn the skills of improv. And if I do my job, right, I won’t have to sell them the idea of getting on stage they will just want to get on stage. And that, you know, it’s nice to see certainly in Ireland that there’s people who are huge contributors to, to the in promising in Ireland who when they started a class with me and say I have no interest in being on stage and they go on to be part of epic groups and you know, organizers of events. And that’s really great to see. But that’s a particular interest in me is professionals and in the professional world, the screening for the skills of wealth of how we create improv on stage, how we create the art on stage, they’re screaming out for the skills of improv, and I’m able to share that with them. No, I do have a little my background, you know, I, I worked in the corporate sector for decades, you know, I was in management so I’m able to blend the two worlds. So it’s nice in a class of somebody, you know, saying, hey, I want to improve my skill, public speaking skills, I don’t want to be on stage. It’s like, Hey, here’s your, when you’re doing your public speaking and work that is performing, you’re on stage, you know, it’s just not cracking jokes throughout it. And so that is, you know, what excites me and I do work with, you know, actors and with theatre companies. But broadly speaking, the vast majority people coming to me are professionals. In saying that there is misconceptions about improv, I just wrapped up a course for a theatre company in Dublin where I was, it was improv was the goal of the course that but it was about teaching them how to form structures around creating shows over zoom. Because Ireland’s going to be stuck in the zoom world for the next 20 million years. But improv was the tool that was using it. But I knew that if I position that as, hey, improv and structures and forms, and they wouldn’t be interested, so but what was the nicer we’ve had our last class last night, it was like more questions like, I had no idea I could use improv in such a way, you know, to achieve these creative dramatic roles, and so on and so forth. And that was really great to see. And that’s, you know, that’s one person who now sees the light, who, you know, there’s, you know, an actor that kind of no longer fears and problems, this thing that comedy does, or this thing I don’t like, because I made to do things, and improvise, you know, so that’s a nice thing to be to be able to do. So. That’s my particular angle is mostly people come to me are professionals. And if I do my job, right, they will want to perform and go on and do those cool things. And I also one of the luxuries in Ireland, and certainly, when I was learning improv, I, you know, there was no big theater, there still is no big theaters, there’s a few of us who teach and, and we’re very lucky, we have some some great teachers. And but there’s no school affiliation. So there’s no I Oh, down the road, there’s no second city you can go to. But I think that’s a good thing. Because if you’re serious about the art form, it forces you to have to learn in as many ways you can. So my career was very much guerilla career I had to travel. Certainly any teachers who visited Dublin or get teachers over, I did that. But I spent a lot of time traveling and doing courses out there I absorbed in the pre, a long time ago, before anyone had even thought of watching improv online. I was absorbing as much as I could, you know, I my first experience of the Herald’s was watching and trophy wife from iOS, you know, perform Harold’s and kind of dissecting that with, you know, truth and comedy and my other hand, and trying to work out what this hero thing was. And that was my first kind of exposure to it. And so that’s, I think, a luxury and you’ll find that a lot in Europe that that’s the case in most, if not all cities, that there is no one there is no one philosophy, for improv in that country. It’s just based on the exposure people have to different teachers. So I think that’s, I would argue that’s an advantage, because you don’t have to subscribe to the kind of college mentality of well, this is my theater, this is my school, and this is what we do. And I you know, there’s none of that kind of carry on. So, it can be quite fruitful, close, you know, if you then marry that with, say, people who have a theatre background and they you know, they have a very strong culturally very strong theatre background in their country like to say, when when you watch some of the Italian theatre groups perform the work they do the challenging problems from the work they do. Mind blowing, you’re gonna be credibly credibly powerful. You have to pinch yourself, remind yourself, you’re watching improv. And isn’t that cool that when that happens, you know, so, yeah,
some of the best improv I’ve ever seen has been scenarios where you’re like, how is it possible that these people are so well connected and my theory always, and how I teach it has to do with, you know, it’s, it’s not about like, this person is more skilled than that person, it’s about the group. And if the group is super connected with each other, then they have the superpower that is being connected, like so you could put you know, it’s like, it’s like random jams with like, the top performers in the world that are just stuck together and just met each other. You know, they’re gonna be good technically, but as far as like the kind where you’re like so swept up into the moment with them. I think that’s more about human connectedness and like opening yourself up to having This experience with these people and when you are when you’re in a class or when you’re in a group, you know, this is who you work with, you got to like, focus on them and give them the attention be like how can we be the best together? Then we can ever be. And that for me, I think is what the sort of improv theory that I take out into the world, you know, as far as like, certainly with corporate work and whatnot, is this idea of like, really appreciating the people in your team? Like, yeah, they might, you know, maybe you’re like, Oh, these people don’t get along with great, awesome, but what have they contribute? And what are you going to contribute back to them, that maybe will create a better and more symbiotic relationship, where your personal feelings about whether you like or dislike them don’t matter, because it’s about getting the work done. Like a machine doesn’t isn’t like friends with the other piece of machinery that like moves with it, as it like, create something, but they both do their job, and they give and take the way they need to? And that’s how it gets done. And that’s, that for me, I think connectedness between people is the most important part when it comes to doing improv.
Yeah, I totally agree. And I think part of that connectedness to improv is shared vulnerability. Sometimes the shared vulnerability from a beginner’s perspective is the fact that they regret signing up to an improv class when they realize it’s tonight. You know, that’s, that’s vulnerability. But as we go on to vulnerability evolves into, you know, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen, Isn’t this great? You know, let’s share that experience together. And I think that’s, that’s a huge burden in the modern world. vulnerability is so important. You know, as the thing we have to recognize, share, support, and appreciate.
Yeah. Plus, I feel like I feel like this last year has certainly built up a lot of our walls, both literally physically, and also like, sort of anxiety wise. You know what I mean? Like, I love talking to strangers. Oh, man, I love it so much. But there is definitely not as much openness to it in the world anymore. Like, my favorite thing to do when I go grocery shopping is to just randomly make people laugh around while we’re like looking at pairs together and I make like a pair Joker like, I’m going down. I’m like, so much bread. I’m right. Like just where they’re like, what is the Decker just see so much bread, like, so just things, but like, now people are more like their walls are up. They’re more insular. I feel like the people that I’m interacting with in the improv world are people like, you and I diehards, we’re into it. We want we’re seeking it out. It’s like, Oh, my God, give me some more of that improv. Are you uh, now clearly the work that you did just now was people that weren’t exactly like, yeah, give me an improv class. But like, how does it feel for you, given that we’re all a little bit more, you know, sheltered held together, you know, got our walls up. How did their recent experience, you know, break down the walls, get them to share their vulnerability?
It’s, you know, it’s a great question. And it’s a deep question because, you know, one of the things that we’ve prided ourselves on as improvisers is the term community, you know, improv community. And, you know, I think a lot of people who, who establish improv communities recognize early on the community is what drives in profits very much a collective, as opposed to, you know, I’m going to set up a stand up comedy club, you know, if you’re opening an Improv Theater, if you’re establishing an improv scene, community is at the core and, you know, improv, to quote a friend of mine. in Denver, you know, improv is my master, you know, improv is who I serve, not the other way around. And, and in order to do that, you sacrifice a lot of knowledge to create community and maintain community, you sacrifice a lot. And you give a lot of yourself, and we love community. And in the last year, over the last year, we kind of saw true, you know, the transparency of community in a lot of ways because it causes us all to retreat initially. And then when we emerge from the ashes, when we realize actually this is going to go on longer than we think, you know, people who are serious about improv are going to embrace the online format and take it for what it is, but a lot of people didn’t, and some communities have crumbles under that. Sadly, that’s not to say people should force themselves to do it, but then it kind of leads as you’re questioning that whole concept of of community. I think I feel anyway and The other thing about it is you can only do what’s fun for you. We all reach a burnup stage, you know, quite fast online. And I have the greatest of respect and admiration for Gail, this new era of improv, like, one of the great things about online is there’s names of emerging and probably would have never heard of before, that are playing a blinder, you know, in this generation, or in this generation, in this in this new era of improv, when we do go back to normality, and we will go back to normality and, and when we do go back to normality, you know, I hope that they continue to rise to power, because some of the stuff that’s happening online is just incredible. And you cannot say, now a year into this pandemic, improv online is not the same. It’s a completely different form of entertainment. Yes, but you can knock it out. Because there’s certainly theaters that are putting on incredible shows online that are, you know, far more entertaining than some of the shows I’ve been in, you know, so let’s be honest, you know, it’s, it’s not that we’re trying to recreate the stage on on screen, it’s just the screen is a new platform for us to entertain audiences. So a great, I’m racing with that. But I, you know, from my personal perspective, I had to kind of, take it, take a bit of a breather, and kind of, you know, take stock of, you know, I did to try to do a lot for community last year, and I just say, you know what, I’m going to burn out here. So I need to take a step back and just allow it to just bubble up inside me again, and then find that, so I kind of realized that I need to put a lot more focus on myself and what I want to achieve to in Providence stop, you know, not necessarily make so many sacrifices from a community of me for community perspective, and then see what the next chapter in my life entails. And that was a bit of a crisis in some regard, you know, for myself, like, what I do, I can’t run a festival, I can’t do this. So that was a bit of a crisis. But you know, janitor friends in, who were very encouraging, it’s okay, we knew this day would come to you that you would eventually want to go, Hey, why don’t why don’t I do something for me, I’d be really selfish about. And so so that was kind of nice to be able to talk to him about it. But also, it’s also scary as well, because, you know, you’re kind of moving on to the next creative autonomy to create the next opportunity, if that’s even the right word. But yeah, I think when, when this is over, you know, we look at those figures, I don’t want to name names, because I’ll only leave people out by mistake. But we will look to those people who have been warriors, true COVID, in what, what they’ve done and what they’ve brought to the world. And they will be defining what improv looks like when this is all over. Because it won’t be the big theaters, because they’re going to be reluctant to put such cash investments in bricks and mortars to bring to bring theaters, it will be the indie theaters that determine, you know, which is just theaters in Europe, because we don’t have those big theaters. It’s just the theaters. But yeah,
a lot of theaters in the US across the board have closed, like a significant portion. And not just small theaters, like big deal, like like UCB doesn’t have a space of any kind anymore. Like, I don’t know, if that community will continue. Like, there’s whole sections of schools, you know, that aren’t aren’t going to be there anymore. Like, legitimately the idea that you see B’s like business model wasn’t the right one is blowing the minds of improv school, like people across the country, because it was like, for a long time, people were like, a gold standard. And it’s like, Huh, is it though, from lots of perspectives from like, how they make money, how they pay their teachers, what’s going on with that, like, and we follow it like that the news? Like, you know, like, I definitely have groups of people where we like, send each other articles about like, how other theaters are running, just to be like, oh, okay, so I guess that’s not the right thing. Like so there’s different different things we get to learn from this in the good and the bad like, and like no disrespect meant to anyone in the UCB community, but the idea that we thought it was the right way to do things. And then it wasn’t, because financially just couldn’t maintain itself was like, Oh, my God, what, wait, what and the idea? It’s almost like you’re talking about for yourself personally, what you thought was what you had to do and what the right thing was, was pulled out from it. It was like, by the way, that thing that you’ve been looking at as a goal, not the goal, when you’re like, oh, how do I do this now, right? And I want 100% agree with you, that when you let the weight off your shoulders, from building community, and then just try to be in community That it can feel so much better. I mean, I ran an Improv Theater in its early stages, and mid in like 2012 to like 15 or something where like, I was the person who you had to talk to to accomplish any task. And it was too much, too much too much too much. It took me years to like recoup, after I stopped doing it, to like, acknowledge that I personally had feelings. So the idea that you’ve had to do it with this insane pandemic punch in the face, like, Hey, you didn’t make a decision or or you didn’t, like, stop working a job and decide to move forward, like the world was like, dumpskey. Like, that’s it, you’re not doing this anymore. And then you had to shift like, you know, forgive yourself for being a little, like reticent to like jump into the next thing, especially when it’s like, Am I getting into a life raft? Or is this a boat to somewhere cool, like, with all the decisions, you know? And then the other part is this idea of like, if I give up this, am I quitting? Am I like, should I hold on to this thing that I had? Because I’m strong? And I’ve been through this? Or do I need to let this thing go and try to do something else? And both Oh, by the way, I would like to tell you, you mentioned Oh, that’s me being selfish. I don’t think it’s selfish to actually take care of yourself. like to be in your own life and make decisions based on the outside stimuli which you had no, you didn’t like cause what happened? You’re just like, oh, what I can’t do this job that I’ve been doing for a long time. Right, I will do something else, right? That’s not selfish. That’s literally living and surviving. But you know, there’s something great about this new chance that we can have if we embrace it in a positive way, in a way that like you said, with the new people that we’ve I’d never known about all of a sudden, we’re like best friend with I mean, you and i, you and I connected on an improvisers group about food. That’s a community that I joined online since COVID, to try to connect with people. And it’s not even about improv, right? It’s just about looking at food and talking about food, and it’s the best.
And isn’t it just because it’s the best thing about it. The best thing about that group is that improvisers don’t talk about improv, but that’s why it’s possibly possibly the most popular Facebook improv group. This
really isn’t like, but it’s connecting me in a way. But like, even this idea that like previous to this, and like previous to COVID, it was like trying to build community, like, come on. Yes, come on. And now it’s like, Hey, what do I have? What do I want to do? How do I even do this? And the relaxing, like, I never would have been part of the improvisers food group. Because I’d be like, Listen, I’m too busy. I can’t get involved. I’m like, Listen, I’m just like, social stuff is like important or whatever. But like, I’m a worker, right? That’s how I like imagined. And then the world was like, Hey, did you want to work? Yeah, every kind of work you’ve ever done in your whole life is now gone. So How’s that feel? How you doing? How’s that going? And it’s like, I don’t know. Right? So how, without this undercurrent of you being selfish, what is it that you’re trying to, you know, what’s your new jam? What’s the thing that’s, like, filling you with joy now in your new, you know, post COVID new life?
That’s a tricky question, because so much has changed and not changed. Does that make sense? Do I’ve used
a year Yes.
I’ve had a lot of reflection and, you know, ideas come into my head and I’m like, oh, and then I’m like, No idea. This is still not about you this community thing. So don’t do that. I did, I wrote a script, which was the thing that I do. So when I do do things like that, I end and it becomes very personal and then they become the locked away this fireproof both but our own scripts, which is cool, and which will be which will become a play cast with only improvisers and but I’ve tapped into something. You know, I did did a lot of corporate work and the corporate work is the day job, the corporate training and you know, we’re improv is a funny thing in the corporate world, but I’ve actually done in the last year I’ve been able to raise improv platform To improv, to a higher level that I’ve been doing prior to that in the online world, and because after the initial shock of everything going online companies were like, well, we still got to run a business, and we need training. And we’ve got this huge skills gap. No, because now everything is virtual. And it just so happens, some of the specialties that I teach in the corporate worlds, you know, where, you know, fill those gaps. And so, that has been very interesting to me in seeing how improv has playing such an important part of organization soft skills and communication, you know, strategies and approaches to communication. So that’s been fun, but also had has been a necessity because we have to continue working COVID Well, doesn’t stop just because it’s a killer virus and navigating it that as well. But I, you know, without kind of harping on about it, I promise, like the Star Wars saga, no. And you can map this analogy to any particular view of aim, provenance, space and time. So you think the original trilogy, which are arguably the only three Star Wars films, but I’ll get over that. And, and that’s, you know, if you think about that, that is what it probably is to a lot of us, it’s the good times in improv, it’s like other group I was in or theater, I remember when we trained about that. Remember, when you and I were on, like, that is when improv is. And Star Wars had this huge community of people, you know, who loved the original trilogy, and like, high five and Star Wars conventions, and then there was talk of the prequels going on and the prequels could be like, given the similar criticals could be viewed as, like, COVID, you know? And, and then things get weird. It’s like, you’re still doing improv, but they’re in this kind of frequent territory. And the thing about the prequels is, you know how it’s going to end, you know, that Darth Vader is going to emerge from anecdotal data, you know, that all the characters that you haven’t seen in the original trilogy are going to die. So you know, that’s what’s gonna happen in the prequels. And then loyalists starts. That’s kind of what we’re going through now. Like, we’re the COVID is the sprinkle phase. And it’s just some of us we go, nope, just hate it. So we switch off like I can’t, I don’t like the prequels. I don’t like I don’t like him probably COVID. Rather than kind of saying, well hang on a second, there’s actually a creative opportunity here. And, and then we have the next generation buttery films, the Abrams films and Ryan Johnson pelts. And they suck, but they suck because I’m still looking back at the original. The original truly is the good old days, rather than saying, hang on, look, Ron Johnson, Johnson, completely spend the whole concept of what Star Wars should be on its head and turn Luke Skywalker into a massive loser in your face original trilogy fans. So you know, Ryan, Ryan Johnson, in many ways are people who are doing things in improv now in an online world and doing them amazingly, a lot of the hate ron johnson got were from people who just want to let go of the original, the love the love they had from the original trilogy. So you know, it starts to rain Johnson films. But I guess I’m going off of one here. But it’s just recognizing, you know, that the pandemic has changes, and we will go back to normal, but normal won’t look the same as what at what it was. And the question we have to ask ourselves is, you know, what are we going to do as part of that? I think it probably will lose a lot of people who were keen improvisers, you know, by the time this ends, and we’ll have gained, you know, the richness of the new people and the people who have been doing great things. As part of it. I think, get back to your original question. What am I doing? And
wait, before we get to your question, Can I Can I follow up your Star Wars analogy, to say that you’re hopefully the new whatever the new Pinnacle, because you were talking earlier about how like, we haven’t reached the pinnacle of what improv could be, but we can work on it. And maybe we can get there now that we’ve got all this other stuff going on. There’s new lessons for me and I, clearly, I don’t know how you feel about it. But for me, the Mandalorian was a step up a step were brought the world of Star Wars, to so many more people that had never seen it before. And because we were all stuck at home at the same time, and it came out week to week. It was this thing that our generation had not been able to do for a long time, which was experience this thing all together, be in on this world and discuss what happened in the past and in the future. Also, my favorite part was having a teenager explained to me where it was in the actual timeline. I was like, oh, that Oh, okay. That’s what the Mandalorian is. But like the idea of that as an art as a piece of art, and how it really brought us all together in a way that like Star Wars hadn’t for a while you’re right there was like, Oh, I think this is better. Oh, I think that is I do I like these but I don’t like those. But I feel like across the board, everybody was like, hey, Mandalorian is great. And then also people who had never ever, ever, ever, ever watched. were like, Hey, what’s this thing? Everyone’s watching? Oh, that’s fun. Let’s do it and brought people together. And I wonder if to maintain the improv to Star Wars universe analogy, if maybe we just need an improv Mandalorian show that will then bring improv to the masses in a way that they’re like, I love Guys, did you know that improv was
a thing? And
you’re like, yeah, pretty much for a long, long, long, long time. But I don’t know how your personal feelings on Mandalorian. But I felt like that brought the ideas together.
And that’s, that’s fair, because one of the reasons why the Mandalorian work was it stopped trying to be Star Wars. Maybe that’s the snobby, you know, that’s the secret of maybe it’s the improvisers talking about food is perhaps the Mandalorian. Because we don’t talk about improv, and, you know, that’s it. I think Mandalorian is at its weakest, and I’m not a big fan of all of it. And primarily not because it’s Star Wars, but because I think the person, what’s the chaps name? Who plays a Mandalorian? And I should know this, hey, dro paid Pedro Pascal, I don’t think he’s a very good actor behind a mask, you know, which is a shame for Star Wars film, when you see what other actors who wore masks in the films were able to achieve behind the mask. I don’t think he’s a great mask actor, he does very little emotion that you draw on him. But when you look into the likes of, say, Darth Vader, and what he did, by what but pres and James Jones are able to do, and it was fantastic. I got it off, like But yeah, I mean, maybe there is a lesson for improv in that that, you know, when we come out of this, we know the UCB models may not be working, we know, big theaters aren’t gonna be around, people will still want to make a living from this art form. So what can we do to you know, to tap into that, I mean, the entertainment industry is going to be there for the taking entertain entertainment market is going to be there for the taking. When this opens up, you know, ask your friends, when society goes back to normal, what’s the first thing they’re going to do? And I don’t mean your improviser friends, because they’re gonna honestly say, probably improv, but asking your friends, what’s the first thing they’re going to do? I imagine the first thing people will want to do is connect socially. improv has a part to play in that if it’s community based, then it won’t be it can’t be the same as what it was. It has to be something new, something fresh. And I don’t know what that is, somebody else will find that out for us. But I think that’s I think, for us to remember the entertainment industry, the button has been reset, when we do come through this, but not everyone is going to want to necessarily be creating comedy theaters. At first, they probably want to just be hanging with friends going on holiday, having parties. So that’s something for us to can to consider. I mean, wouldn’t it be very disappointing if maybe it wouldn’t maybe I’m just old, I wouldn’t be very disappointing. The first thing you do is is all over is go to see that same improv team perform that same show in that same space that they did for years beforehand, and nothing has changed. I mean, that would probably be a little bit of a shame. Also, isn’t. It sounds very enticing when you think about it, too. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I guess we’re speculating on something that hasn’t happened yet. True?
No, that’s all right. I mean, we’re discussing what is happening to us right now. And I think that there’s something really valid about exploring, you know, what we, I’m going to use this term loosely and both of us are going to be embarrassed by it improv leaders are doing about, you know, moving forward as a community as a global community as a like, as an art form right now that we’ve had this chance to connect with each other. Like there are things about improv and performance that I didn’t know about, know about, until I have connected with and met and worked with people across the globe, right? I mean, like, my connection to the Indian improv scene alone has opened my mind to like three or four different styles. I didn’t know were there, different kinds of community building in a way that I was like, Man, this is so great. Like I Why didn’t we ever think about this like, and, and it’s just because we’re in different places with different, you know, models, and everyone’s trying to do what we thought was the right thing to do. And following whatever makes sense. It’s like, we’re just winging it, because we’re doing improv. Right. But that it almost brings it back to earlier you mentioned that people are always saying you like, why don’t you write a comedy sketch, you do improv? It’s like saying, like, you’re great at acting, you should be a business owner. Yeah, those things are different. Those are definitely different parts of the brain. They’re different parts of like, just general skill sets. Like you also have to have a focus that’s totally different for both of those things, you know, for all those things, and it’s like, people expect it to work that way and it just doesn’t. So I think this conversation is fully valid. Because we have both had life experiences where we have been working and making money as improvisers improv teachers doing things. And now the, you know, rug was pulled out from under us, and we’re trying to figure out what it can be. And if nothing else, we have to maintain a level of optimism because like, like the idea when people say like, oh, art is unnecessary. I’m like, okay, go back in your hole. Because you don’t know anything. Like it’s literally the only thing. Like there isn’t other things. Like, what are you talking about? You couldn’t? It’s just like such a ridiculous idea that that would be it? And also like, do you want to know how we’re going to make it through the next couple of years after this? It’s literal artists, crunching ideas like we are right now trying to figure out how we can heal, like as people as like humans, right? And if anybody needs anything, we need improv. Right? If I didn’t have legit, if I did not have the improv skills of my life, before this happened, I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t I haven’t had a job in a year. Like I’ve done a few teaching jobs, very tiny little teaching jobs here. And they’re here and they’re not enough to pay any bills. Like maybe a coffee. Enjoy that coffee, right. But the idea of being an improviser and being able to just turn it over, make it something new. Okay, well, what’s next? All right, well, that didn’t work. Great. Next thing, next thing, next thing, right? That willingness that font of, of optimism, and constant ideas like earlier when you say quantum leap, and I’ve struggled to stay pay attention, because my brain like spilled out with 1000 creative ideas. Like, that’s just the way it works. Once you prime your brain as an improviser, your brain then is just like idea, idea, idea idea. And so when you have a hard time, you’re like, Okay, what do I do now? How do I do this? How can I change this? What’s gonna happen? how’s it gonna work? And you’re able, you have these skills now, and everybody needs these skills, specially right now. Right? How do I reinvent myself 14 times in a year, like, you know, wild? So, to go back to whatever, the thing that I cut you off when I mentioned the Mandalorian was you were going to tell me a nice story. And if you remember what it is, I’d love to hear it.
I can’t remember now. That’s terrible. We’d have to pause it rewind.
I think it was about what am I doing to kind of give me that creative?
Yeah, what do you what your Yeah.
And I cut up my game with fitness. That was a weird thing. Because, you know, everyone likes to have some kind of outlet beard going for walks or whatever. So I’ve kind of taken that as kind of, in a way my new improv because I do it five, six times a week and and that’s interesting. Also, what’s funny about it is I’ve gotten it’s it’s really started replays aspects of improv, because now I watch YouTube videos about fitness instead of watching YouTube videos, but improv. And you realize that even when in the fitness community, they have community preference, no different than improv has community community problems, that I realized that that was kind of nice to know that were normal in that regard. And that Yeah, I, I did some, you know, I did some sketch, sketches on YouTube earlier in the pandemic, all improvised, but I didn’t go down there. A lot of people have kind of, you know, tick tock accounts, and they’re doing cool stuff on that. But it’s just kind of not my bag. I just, I just, when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I think of is improv. And then when I go to bed at night, the last thing I think of is improv. And I don’t mean that in a very, you know, poncey way. But it’s like, my brain is thinking in that way. You know, you’re everything that I do. I, you know, there’s an improv layer to it. And even even I’m working with some, like corporate clients, and I’m teaching them stuff. You know, I’ve taught corporate clients improv without telling them that I’m teaching them improv because if I did, they wouldn’t, you know, agree to contract with me. But you know. So that’s how my brain is wired to see you know, when you’re devoid of your outlet, by the stage of it in person, fast as that can be quite. It can be quite unhealthy to still go and have your brain dominated by a world of improv when you can’t, you know, release that. That tension, but yeah, so I think sustainability with that. I mean, we’re, this is the thing now, you know, when the pandemic started, we were all in this together. That was the quote, and then we’re very much not in the scanner. I mean, the US is going to be fully vaccinated. I think Biden said by me, which might be ambitious, but not unrealistic. Ireland is looking like it could be 10 years before we all get vaccinated because the European vaccine plan has messed up. So the world is coming out of this at a different pace and for a lot of us, so In Europe, we’re looking down a longer lens of when, you know, we do go back to normal. So what is sustainable for us creatively? And is the question, you know, because we could have another year of this before we go back into the theater before we get back into the training room. So how are we going to keep ourselves occupied and fulfilled from an art perspective in that in that period of time, because it may not be improv that those that that’s okay. That’s okay. That’s very existential. There’s my crisis. Now. It’s a midlife crisis to live at a podcast.
You know, though, to be honest, if I’ve talked about anything, often in my podcast, it’s about the changes that we have as we move forward as an artist, and how we can’t hold ourselves to these dreams of the past. Like, like I mentioned earlier, when I was like, 18 years old, I wanted to do XYZ, but now it’s like, the ideas that I had about what I was going to do or like, No, okay, great. I did a few of the things that I had on the bucket list. And then I was like, Alright, well, that wasn’t what I wanted it to be. And then, you know, or, or was, and then I checked it off and was like, Okay, well, let’s move forward from there. I mean, even myself, personally, right now, I’m trying to figure out how to redirect my artistic career, like, Okay, what can I do, that’s gonna be kind of what I want. But also, and also with all this stuff with COVID. And, and things that have gone on, you know, there’s a, there’s an urge to want to help people, you know, so I’m like, Okay, how do I help the world and also do art? And also like, what, what position Can I take in the world, in a job or whatever, that’s gonna help me on multiple platforms, right? And also, I feel like as you get older, I don’t know how old you are. I’m in my 40s. So it’s like, now that I’m older, I’m like, looking for more out of my art than just the art, right? It’s like, yeah, it was fun to perform on stage, and I’m into it, I can’t wait to perform on stage again. I literally cannot wait until I can stand on a stage in front of hundreds, maybe 1000s of people and speak to them all at once. That’s like, my favorite thing in the world. But like, when will it happen? I don’t know. Do I need to find a new way to figure out how that works? Yeah, you know, right now, my main thing is podcasting. We’re super safe. We’re having this great conversation. We’re enjoying ourselves, we’re there’s no way we’re gonna infect each other. And we’re still accomplishing great things. Both what we’re our conversation is how it contributes to the community that listens to it. And then podcasting as its own art. I personally am like, leaning into that, and what how that develops, right? So I don’t think there’s any shame or any problems. You know, nobody has to feel like, oh, I’ve given up I feel like art changes and what we need from art changes. Like, if we didn’t Evan flow, we’d be caught in the past, right? Like, we need to open ourselves up to what could be next. And, and yeah, I mean, maybe it’s just tiny little bits that we pull from all the new people that we have around us, and, and like all the different new things that we learn from different places, and then it’s like, Okay, this is how it works in my world. Because Yeah, I’m learning lots of things from all across the world. But like, the way the Austin improv community works is way different than a lot of places that I’ve talked to right, like a few theaters, and often like the physical spaces have closed, but the community of improvisers in town is still solid. There is like huge, like, connections of people taking care of each other doing performances, like, I’m not worried about that I live in a solid town for and I’m not even in charge of the community, but the community thrives. And I can just occasionally swing in and out of it. The other thing too, is building community changes the way it works. And as much as I you know, was the person who was in charge of an improv school at one point, maybe I’m not the right person to be in charge of it. Now, maybe I don’t know what the right moves would be. So I have to let that be somebody else’s job and go and do something else. And with the skills that I’ve learned, at this point, I’m side note or retirement. So we’re talking about like our careers and how we’ve developed them. I feel like we’ve talked a lot about where we are right now and how we feel right now about the world. But just as a you know, as a story for experienced during the course of your career. Is there any show or workshop or festival you are? We’re running an improv festival for a while. Like what Tell me about a fun experience during the course of your career that you’ve enjoyed some fun time, or, or even something you’ve learned from it can be fun and learning at the same time. But you know, some experience from your past that’s that you’ve been thinking about lately.
And the list, the list is endless. I think one of the one of the things that that one of my pride and joy is one of the things I love is his improv utopia. Now I am affiliated with a property Toby, but I wasn’t always and how that experience came up was I came across a random tweet for an improv camp and camp in Europe is the same as camp in the US. You know, it’s it’s not a cultural thing. And so I came across the street and like, they replied, Nick Armstrong replied to, and so I went to the what was their first East Campus they call it in Pennsylvania, but not their first ever improv utopia camp. And I was blown away. The camaraderie the community that was there, the people, some of those people became very good, became this past tense are some are good, close friends of mine. And I once I got over the 24, our initial shock of a place where everyone was so vulnerable, openly lovely and so warm and welcoming, which immediately my Irishness was great as a Catholic had worn this at home, once I got over that, everything was fine. And but every every improv utopia, camp, that and there’s, you know, there prior to COVID, there was three in the US and one in Ireland. There’s always something to take away from each of those experiences. And I’m not trying to sound odd sounds like an alien plugin, you probably took it on. And actually not is there just something the people behind it, the team behind us are just incredible people. There are people who genuinely genuinely care and love improv and love people around and and when you see that in its purest form, it’s incredibly humbling, and a lovely thing to witness. And there is a thing that I know will bounce back very strong after when this all Americans. And but every time I’ve gone there, it’s always been a kind of a reset from every camp that I’ve attended has always been a kind of a reset button to appreciate everything that is there in the impro world and in the community to appreciate people of all levels and experience because you get to take workshops, more variety of teachers. And part of the joy was you get to take workshops and things that you wouldn’t necessarily normally sign up there for whatever reason, but here you can. That’s quite joyful. I think, you know, my first ever camp just to kind of go on about that it was in this camp and in Pennsylvania. And I just remember that people in my cabin, Josh Nichols was the camp counselor, which remember when I got that email is a great I have a cancer is this like a therapy camp? Because we don’t have camp in our lives and nurture Shawn Geary was in my camp, and they were just such warm, welcoming people it was it was overwhelmingly wonderful. And but I remember this profound experience where we when we did the cabin shows and we asked Paul vallencourt for shark mice, if he would be on our troops. That was a bit of a geeky moment. You know, he I took a class on that. He’s great and has a chance to be with Bob vallencourt on stage and I hadn’t that, you know, I had that beginner’s improv feeling of, oh god, I’m not a team above Allah, God, I better not suck. I remember being on stage standing beside going. And maybe if I don’t go out, it will be best for me. And, and it was great, because it was that moment where I realized, you know, whether it was a moment where I realized, you know, if this never ends, this journey never ends, you know, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done up to now you’re still on that learning curve, no matter how much experience you have. And, and that was really nice. It was a really nice thing to do was I can’t remember anything that happened during the show because it was such a such a rush. So that was, that was a nice moment. And I do think about improv utopia a lot. Because it was such a powerful such an infectious place, you know, with the community with the people that are there and it’s something I’m very much looking forward to, to getting back to when this is when this is over.
Yeah, it sounds so shallow, do it.
Sorry, I was gonna say was and also people who do improvise, singing and improvise hip hop are thriving during the pandemic, and particularly MC Hammersmith in in Edinburgh. His videos are just fantastic. But yeah, I mean, that’s that’s a skill I wish I had so I could churn out the content on tik tok and entertain the millions.
Yeah, Geraghty songs and satirical homemade videos are like the bread and butter right now. Like that’s what? That’s what the comedy of the right now is for sure if you can write a parody song that like I have a friend who makes these amazing parody songs. And I’ll send you some videos because I’m just like, obsessed. Jamal, Max shout out to you. makes the best videos where it like just is it’s like how do you even find the time to this just happened? You were releasing this video about what’s going on, right? Oh my god, such good stuff. I that that for me is like, I am not the kind of person who has my finger on the pulse like that. Like, I like to look at cultural changes in a larger swath like in a farther away like, okay in 20 years, this is what we’re gonna take from this because for me, I’m working the long game, like I’m not gonna stop being an artist. At no point in my life, I’m going to be like, Alright, let’s be a banker, like it’s just not going to happen. So I am always trying to think further out like artistically, also, the other thing is like, Okay, great, you want to write a movie cool, you’re gonna make it in eight years. Like, like, you know what I mean? Like, so it hope you’re not writing a movie that’s only good for right now. Because that’s not sorry, we’re over that now. It’s like, you know, so. So I appreciate these people, like you said, like your friend who’s like, just so on point. And the people who are like using, what they’re good at, to immediately illuminate and create this art around. Guess what insanity happened today? Let me sing a song about it. Um, I was a little. When you mentioned the music. I was like, you know, it’s weird. I’ve tried to sing on zoom, and I can’t, we can’t sync up. So I don’t know how it works. But I understand that when a person makes a video, and they pre record themselves and do the editing work on their own thing, but I was like, No, man, I’ve legit taught workshops with people and tried to all sing together. And it just does not work out at all,
at all, at all.
So So at first, I was like, Wait, what? You got a musical improv show that’s working. Tell me about it. Now, one final question. I wanted to ask you, thank you so much for sharing your time with me.
What advice would you give to, you know, new artists, improvisers people that are just starting out about, you know, how they should explore improv in this new world, or you know, what they should be thinking about when it comes to navigating becoming an artist and doing theatrical things in this current world?
Oh, pull up a chair. And so a lot of things. Because a lot of that question kind of stand in how I, you know, went on to do Nicholas one. And so I think, a step away from guru ism, and the problem with somebody from gurus and anything, but first and foremost, learn from as many teachers as you can. And don’t assume that just because someone’s a guru, that’s the one stop shop for learning improv. And because it just doesn’t work that way. And, you know, when I think about the standout workshops of my time, I could name somebody and you know, a lot of times I might say, I don’t know who that is. And so be wary of Guru ism. And second thing is, there are things you will hear in improv that aren’t necessarily going to feel right or seem right. So you know, that thing of if you’re not having fun, you’re the asshole. We as improvisers we all know what that means. But when you’re learning that doesn’t mean you’re in so because the first thing you’re going to do if you’re struggling is be like, it’s not fun, and then you hear that expression and it’s gonna make you feel bad. And but we all know as we go on what that what that really means. And you can’t break improv, you genuinely can’t break improv. So you will come across, again, leading to the things we say in improv that we don’t practice on the beach, like this whole thing of you can’t do it overall. But you have to do it like this, you know, that doesn’t work. So recognize that, you know, choices you make an improv aren’t right and wrong. They’re just choices that you make that make your life easier, or they make your life harder when you’re on stage. And failure is a big part of that. And that’s okay. And but Fine. Then as you go on your journey, find the thing about improv that you like and do that because you might realize you’re doing something an improv. Maybe you’re taking a course and you’re not you’re not liking it, or you’re not getting it because you just don’t like that thing and improv. And don’t do that. If you find something in improv that you quite enjoy doing. do that until it becomes boring. Because improv is a word as an art form. It’s like sport. It’s like somebody saying, I love sports, you know? Oh, do you like cricket? Oh, no, I don’t like cricket. I like other sports. I just don’t like cricket. So that’s like saying, I love improv. Oh, do you like musical improv? Well, actually, no, I don’t like musical improv. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of like that. So if that’s okay. And if there’s a particular style approach that you’d like to do, and until it gets boring, you know, that’s what will make it fun for you because then you can understand what it means when somebody says, if you’re not having fun, you’re the asshole. And I think I think that’s probably a lot for somebody if it was environment mums at any advice about it. But certainly that’s some things to think of not everything you hear is going to be is going to make sense not everything yours possibly going to be right there. But you know, find what’s fun for you along the way. And definitely, please Please, please learn from as many teachers as you can. Very important. You will be surprised at what will surprise you.
Don’t worry, you’re giving advice to the kind of person who listens the full hour into the podcast. That’s like a good crowd. Like they didn’t stop halfway through. They made it all the way to the end. These are my diehards, they care that’s why they get the advice.
Brothers off script it’s now the cats out of the bag. Oh no, we don’t make it up at all. Oh, man.
There’s just scripts from the grave just coming out a deal closes a grave just
we just take them.
We just read them. What does it say?
I’m a cat.
Yeah, no. Well,
thank you, Neil, so much for being on the podcast and chatting with me. It has been quite a journey you and I chatting I feel so like, we’ve talked about culture and the path of art and just deep good stuff. So thank you so much.
Thanks so much me for having me on. It has been quite an unexpected experience in terms of where we went. Conversation why but it’s been great. So thank you so much.
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