YBY ep 229: Ride the wave of comedy with Tom Booker!
This week on Yes But Why, I interview actor and comedian, Tom Booker.
Tom Booker is an actor, improv comedian, writer, voice actor, and director.
Tom is the owner of The Institution Theater, an improv comedy theater located in Austin, Texas. Along with voice acting, Tom has appeared in several television shows, a few movies and nearly a hundred commercials.
In our chat, Tom and I talk about his journey. Tom tells me about growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He talks about playing Top Dog, the mascot for University of Oklahoma.
Tom learned improv in the heyday of Chicago theater, under the tutelage of such improv greats as Del Close and Mick Napier. He is a founding member of Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre. I picked his brain for lots of stories about this time. Think of the genius he soaked up!
Tom talks about the amazing experience of performing in The Annoyance Theatre’s Off-Broadway production of “The Real Live Brady Bunch”, a show known for all the great comedians that were in the cast. So many wild little details!
Later, in his stories of his Los Angeles adventures, Tom talks about Theatre-A-Go-Go!, the L.A. theater company he founded and the wild sketch comedy shows he wrote and directed there: “Patty, Patty, BANG! BANG! – The Patty Hearst Musical!” as well as a stage production of Valley Of The Dolls.
I met Tom after he had moved to Austin and started The Institution Theater with Asaf Ronen. Tom is an important member of the Austin Improv Community as it currently stands. It was an honor to have him on the podcast.
Support Tom by listening to his podcast “The Good Morning! I Love You! Show with Tom Booker” and by checking out his forthcoming blog, “The Recovering Bohemian.” There are also awesome online courses available through Tom’s theater, The Institution Theater! Check those out as well!
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 7/22/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to episode 229 of Yes But Why Podcast, my talk with improviser and comedian, Tom Booker. But first, let’s check out our sponsors. 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 audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android, or Kindle. Download your free audiobook today at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. This episode of Yes But Why is also sponsored by my company, PodcastCadet.com. Podcast Cadet is dedicated to helping you build your podcast. We will connect you to the resources you’ll need to get better and better with each and every episode. Swing on by PodcastCadet.com to get help for all your podcasting needs! Let us know you heard about us from Yes But Why and you’ll get 20% off the workshop or service you buy! This week on Yes But Why, I interview actor and comedian, Tom Booker. Tom Booker is an actor, improviser, writer, voice actor, and director. Tom is the owner of The Institution Theater, an improv comedy theater located here in Austin, Texas. In our chat, Tom tells me about learning from Del Close and Mick Napier in the heyday of Chicago improv theater. Tom shares his experience of touring with the production of “The Real Live Brady Bunch”. I was excited to hear his stories and I’m happy to share them with you! I now present to you – yes but why episode 229 – Ride the wave of comedy with Tom Booker. Enjoy! I’m Amy Jordan. And this is Yes But Why Podcast. Yeah. What was the first show where you knew Yeah, this is the thing. This is what I want to do.
I think it would be 1982 at Nathan Hale High School and Tulsa Oklahoma with there was a like a student talent show type thing called Halo. Balu. Nice. Yeah. Yes. Nathan Hale. You know, we also used to say, hey, Oh, yes. That’s a good one. Like what what high school? Did you take this?
When high school did I go to? Yeah, um, I went to ursuline Academy.
Okay, so it would be like, hey, oh, yes, Ursula. I know. Oh, I get it. Yeah. Hey, yeah. Yeah. Oh, Tulsa. And
we’ve got the talent show where you the host, DMC.
I was in a lot of things. Especially there was a there was a band from our high school a bunch of good guys. They formed a band called Lynx, Li x. And they were trying to make it big. There was a breakup, then they changed their name to image. But I have a bunch of friends and I formed a band called The missing links. And we we had our two songs, centerfold by the takeouts band and I love rock and roll by Joan Jett. And, and I hopped around that stage and jumped rounded. And I’ve been in place and everything before. And I was I was thinking about this a few days ago how I was the world’s worst student council president. But I you know, had funny speeches. And but I think it was then that I that I thought that this is something that saw that I was something I was pretty good at. And then when I became the mascot for the University of Oklahoma basketball team, that’s when I realized this is what I want to do. I like people looking at
Really? Yeah. Did you like the fact that you had like a mask? Like because you wore like a suit, right?
Oh, no, I told everybody that I was topped out Yeah, I had a suit.
Or an epi Oh.
Awesome set up for and in fact, this is how my far out at when the bars would close Norman, Oklahoma. Because I used to drink a lot and the bars would close. I would stand on a on a barstool and shout who wants to fuck top dog top dog with her basketball mascot and oh my god, no buddy. And then later in the we’re just talking about in when we’re doing the real life radio show. In New York and the bars would close the ark, I would stand on a barstool and say who wants to fuck Bobby Brady? And again, nobody.
These seem like rough things to be to try to be sexy about
that. Everybody wants to fuck gray gray.
You Really? Yeah. I mean, legit. Also, he’s kind of an adult. So like, I feel less bad about it. Right.
I mean, in hindsight, I guess I’m probably pretty lucky that no one picked up on the body. Brady?
Probably good that that didn’t work out. I like that. You maintained a consistent effort, though. I mean, at least you were asking for permission. I suppose.
I was I was, you know, I was I just showed you how picky I wasn’t. You know. All right.
I feel like a lot of my dating life was like that to be like, What? You great. Sounds like a good time. Let’s head out. And be like, Who’s that guy? I don’t know. We’ll see.
Yeah, that’s kind of the 80s for me. Yeah, it was. It was a lot of like, Oh, I guess we’re dating now. A lot of sex, I guess. Okay. Oh,
sure. I guess.
I’m here. We’re good. Okay.
I assume the 80s was a wild time. I mean, as far as what I imagine it being like, wild drug times. I imagine everyone was cocaine fueled. Was there a lot of that in your high school
than the high school but in Chicago? Yes. But that summer, I mean, we didn’t have a lot of money. But no, my high school was pretty. Pretty tame. And then when I went to college and found out that everybody else’s High School seemed to be like, it was it was a new movie at the time Porky’s right. I was like, oh, wow, now, I we’re gonna we’re gonna really get open in the pocket. Everyone, no problem and have sex. That was my sophomore year in college. And that was a good thing for me. Yes. I would not have been. I was. I was barely emotionally mostly prepared for it in college.
Yeah, I have a similar situation. I waited until my mid 20s. Because I was like, Yeah, I don’t. That’s not a thing I need to do. But thanks, though. You’re nice. That’s great.
Well, I will it was different for me. No one was offering. Sure. Well, no suffering
for me either, right. Yeah, just to be honest.
But it was but in hindsight, like, is it it? Just? Yeah, I was. I was a little mad. so sure. Chair wouldn’t help. would not have helped.
No, no, not at all. Plus, you were getting all that attention as the mascot, right? Yep. You were the big crowd screaming
didn’t come to my junior year. So it didn’t come till after things.
Yeah. Oh, you think they’re correlated? You think they were like, well, we were gonna hire you last year. But you weren’t ready.
You’re though that you got that look in your eyes? Man who just had sex?
Yeah, I feel like that’s something they tell you when you’re a kid that like they can look at you. And they could tell you can’t tell anything.
I do remember walking in the mall with my friends The day after it. And like seeing myself and mirrors as I walked thinking I should look different. Yeah. Because it’s such a big deal. And it’s time passed me. I’m not really sure.
Well, I mean, I think as you get older, you like lack first. There are there are a few things that I haven’t like, I’m saving a few for when I’m old. Like I make jokes. I’m like, Listen, if I hit 80 I’m doing heroin. I’m just saying like, I just I’m not gonna do it. I don’t want to do but if I’m at like, I earned it, right. Like, let’s do this, right?
Yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting. You do go from doing first to, to I’m so I’m sick of this shit. Ah, like I remember shortly after moved to Austin. You know, I was huge star in LA, really. But you know. And so I was doing it was one of those things that that like, hey, what should I bring for my costume? I’ll just bring your whole whole whole class. We’ll figure it out there. So I was walking in the Texas he carried every stitch of clothing that I own. And I just remember it was the first time I ever had this thought it was 43 I thought I’m getting too old for this shit. Then I realized that From then on, my life was just gonna be a continuous stream of declarations of I’m getting too old for this shit. Until finally the last thing is like breathing. I’m too old for this shit. And then that’s it. flatline.
Tired of it? Yeah, you’re like, forget it. And it’s done. Yeah, I don’t think that’s how it works. But I appreciate the idea of it. I like the poetry of the scenario for sure. Don’t
love me by now. They never will.
Yeah. Oh my god. Yeah, no, you have so many chances. That’s the beautiful part about it. And out The idea that you moved around from city to city so we started in Oklahoma right now I’ve heard Well, okay, I haven’t heard of a city. I don’t know where University of Oklahoma is. But so I got to Oklahoma get Chicago, Los Angeles. I got Austin. There’s so much adventure in here. I like how much you move. So tell me about after you said the mascot was the thing that like got you excited about performing? You were like, you know what, I did this attention? How did you foster it after that?
Well, I had a roommate from Chicago had never been to Chicago and he went to high school with someone he used to identify as Joel or Bill Murray’s brother. Turns out it was Joel Murray. And, and he told me about this place called Second City. And so I the job to get with, I would have gotten a journalism telecommunications degree. And the job to get at that time from University of Oklahoma with my degree, was to run the camera at a network affiliate station in Oklahoma City. And that paid $3 and 10 cents an hour, which was minimum wage. And I thought I can make minimum minimum wage anywhere. I’m gonna move to Chicago. And so I called up Second City. And I said, Hi, I’d like to take classes at second city. Do you have any improv experience? Nope. But I was the mascot for University of Oklahoma. And they told me about this place called players workshop of Second City. And so I, I thought I graduated. Turns out I was three hours short, I used to drink and do a lot of drugs. So I didn’t get my really get my college degree until 1994. So I went in in 82, and graduated in 94. So I like to say I went to college for 12 years, because I would take these correspondence courses, but was when you’re drinking and doing drugs, it’s really hard to keep up with that sort of thing. And, and I don’t make that or didn’t make that joke around my dad, because my parents pay for my college didn’t think it was funny. Sure. They hate that. They really like it. Yeah. And so I moved up to Chicago and I flew in on a Tuesday and started my first improv class on a Wednesday. And I remember going to class and I introduced it instantly at 12 new best friends and I remember thinking, I these are, these are my people. And it was weird because I was in a room filled with 12 other class clowns. The last time I felt like that was when I was at mascot camp in 1986. Boom mascot camp went to mascot.
Sure. They would, you know, have a this is how you do it scenario. Mm hmm. Oh, my goodness. So that’s fun. You got it in there. You got into players workshop, I’m assuming is like, what is the conservatory and of Second City? Like?
There’s like, it was like Second City prep. It was started by Josephine Forsberg. And it was it was, in a way connected to second city, but you would go through their program and the teachers were Martin democ was one of the teachers and who started the conservatory. Yeah. And, and so you would go through that. I think it was like a nine month program. And then you would audition to get into the conservatory at second city.
Did he run me Second City, New York for a while.
I don’t know. He lived in New York. He was from New York.
From another story name sounded familiar. And it was like the second city things cool. I like it.
So How were the How was the vibe there? You said you met 12 of your best friend’s didn’t really work out that way. Was it like you as soon as you got there? You just like felt at home? And like Chicago was awesome. Like an awesome place to spend your 20s
Oh, yeah. And I went there. I was there at a great time. And oh, they Yeah, it was it was great. And because, you know, there were all these people moving to Chicago, graduating from college, moved to Chicago, and to study at second city to try and get on Saturday Night Live. And Chicago was an old city is an old city. And rent was still pretty, very cheap. And since this old city, the buildings are old. Since the buildings are old, the ceilings are high. Since the ceilings are high. Any building could pretty much be a theater. And so there are a lot of us there and everybody. We just started theaters, you know, groups just started performing everywhere. And there was an audience there that would would support new stuff, and no one was watching. It gave us time to fail, you know, and sharna was there with improvolympic at the time. I was improvolympic. Back when she was getting sued by the International Olympic Committee. Sure. And, and they really didn’t fit this. They weren’t too concerned with sharna but at that time, there was some thing called the gay Olympics. And, and so the International Olympic Committee did not like that. But they could just go after the gay Olympics. And so gala picks is now or I don’t know if it’s still around called the Gay Games. And, but, and, you know, Dell was there, Dell was, I think a lot of times there are improv teachers that are, this is the way you do it at Dell wasn’t one of those people, you know, he would, he would guide you, but he was open to new new things. And so there was also just a group of young people who would try new things if, for Part of the reason was to try and impress Dale, you know, because he was such, I don’t know, if mentors too strong a word to someone, we, that had been there before, you know, and had been at second city and, like, I love that he piled around with Lenny Bruce. That’s pretty cool. And and so, uh, we had no one since no one was watching. We had room to fail. Yeah, you know, so it was a really, really good time to be there.
Now, I wonder if you mentioned that. Dell wasn’t exactly a mentor, was he not exactly a mentor to you, but he was to other people. Because, like, you know, some people and what I would consider you are sort of leaders in their own right, like they have they like, and I know that I’ve met you in adulthood, so I don’t know what your you’re at. 20 was like, you know, and you don’t know what I was like, when I was 20. But like, you know, there’s sort of like a self assuredness. Like, I’m gonna take care of myself. Like, I’ve had some mentors, but very, not that many, because I’ve always been like, yeah, I can learn it. Sure. Like, I’ve listened to people and like, take in their lessons, for sure. But it’s like, some people really, I don’t know, some people really like hang on every word of certain people. And that’s what I always imagined happened with Dell people. Like that’s blowing how much of a genius he was. I was like, Yeah, he seems like your average schmo. But he just seemed to get a lot of people excited. So great.
Yeah, he would hang on his every word I and there were people that that were like, there was Chris Barnes. I think of Adam McKay. A man Matt besser, you know, the, there were a number Mick Napier. I was just always scared of everything at that time, including Dell, and Dell did nothing I would, that’s just where I came from. I, and the very first show that I ever put together, I remember Dell came to the night and he stood up and he said, bravo. And then walked out. And I was just like, I’ll just set Bravo. And, but it was, it was the it was, you know, and this is looking back, it was just his willingness to break the rules and see what happens. You know, and, and to see that that’s okay. And there’s a woman named Francis Collier, who used to run the second city Training Center in Los Angeles. And she used to describe it as a second city was the source, improv Olympic fried the form the noise theater, fried the actor. And, and that was, you know, Dell created this form that Herald or, and, and he would teach that, but then, you know, we would learn the Harold, the structure of the Harold, so we could break the rules, and see what what happened. But we always knew we could come back to the structure. Yeah, totally. I always
think about that when I think about rules and whatnot, because I, when I’m personally teaching, I’m usually teaching, you know, level one. And I’m like, I’m gonna give you a bunch of rules and tell you, you have to do it a certain way. And then when they get to their recital day, I’m like, anything that happens is fine. These were just guidelines to help shape your brain to think of things in a certain way. You don’t have to do anything that we talked about. You don’t have to try anything. Just talk and your gut. Like, especially level one recital. I’m like, Hey, man, you’re here. You guys. Like Yeah, but yeah, rules are meant to be broken.
Yes, exactly. I think especially in creativity. Yeah. And and because you don’t know what’s coming next and you want to see what’s next. That’s what’s exciting about it.
So did you feel at the time that you’re in on something special, like creating a form creating a wave of creativity that, you know, because you’re a part of that scene, and that scene is kind of like the light We’re talking about Andy Warhol earlier like, that’s it for improv. That’s exactly what that was like the pinnacle of people figuring out how to put it together. And the lessons learned during that time literally are the blueprint for every improv school across America.
I don’t know if we realized that we were part of a scene, because that would that would, I think, require expectation, and we really didn’t know what was going to happen. We were just kind of following our hearts. I didn’t know that. And I, I did know that I felt great. And then I was with some very, very smart, creative and kind people. You know, we were at since we were all mostly in our 20s that were over reactions to stuff. But it was, it was nice to, you know, just that we were just creating stuff that had never been seen before. Yeah, I guess.
Yeah. I mean, certainly, from your point of view, I like the idea that a lot of people, you know, went to Second City knowing that they had a plan. They’re like, Oh, I want to do this, but you were like, what’s that it’s a cool place to hang out. Cool. I’ll call them and head there immediately. Like, you know what I mean, like, you didn’t even have to do that you also didn’t know ahead of time, like what you were planning on creating. So, you know, you got there and had a great sort of organic experience both of like friendship, and like, Oh, cool. I get to create all this stuff. Tell me about the projects that you worked on. You mentioned the Brady Bunch show, was that the pinnacle of your like creativity when you were there? Or were there other shows that you remember as being the ones that were you’re like, oh, man, I learned the most this was the best,
huh? Well, I probably the place that I first started probing regularly was an improv Olympic. We’re at a place called cross currents. And I was with a group called Blue Velveeta. And that was a lot of fun. And we were we were just a bunch of close friends sharna put us together. And we became eventually became a house team for improvolympic. And it was great. And I years later, I didn’t know this at the time, but years later shrnas said that she considered us the best group ever the structured Herald I didn’t know. And then through that, I also studied it at Second City Second City Training Center and worked with a number of people but my first teacher at second city was Mick Napier. I was in MC Napier’s very first improv class at second city and I knew MC from improv Olympic and MC had done a show with a bunch of friends of his from college called splatter theater. It was a show that they developed through improvisation, and it was a spoof of a spoof of slasher films from the 80s. And they there was a little room above the above the across curves for improper lift with performing and mykad created this little space, he set it up to look like a living room. And so there were couches and chairs and tables, and there was carpet right in front of the stage and people would sit on the floor and then the table on the tables were candy dishes filled with cigarettes, a different type. And not only smoking and drinking allowed it was encouraged. My favorite part was there wasn’t no smoking section. And they were two chairs that make it put on top of a radiator. And anyway, they decided to remount show called they were going to do splatter theater too. And they’re going to try and do it on a on a larger scale. And I auditioned for spider theater too. And I got in i got i was the role of plastic. But at that time, Tim Meadows and de fer saski who were both cast, there was a double cast cast as the lead Carl got hired by Second City to be in a touring company. And so I got the role of Carl. So I played Carlin splatter theater was when cross Barnes was closing down and there were I think 13 deaths in splatter theater and was just chocolate syrup with red food coloring everywhere. And at the end would cross currents was closing down. There was little or no running water and there was no hot water. And so we would all have to wash this chocolate syrup off our bodies with cold water. We just went around one basin and the end but anyway, after bladder theatre did not, did not go well. I mean, the show went well, but production lost money. And Mick decided that he wanted to improvise his show. He wanted to call it poet prison slits, the musical, it was going to be a musical about women in prison. And he wanted to have a drag queen fight a fully dressed circus clown. And so he asked me to be a part of the cast of CO Ed prison slots, the musical. And we develop that through improvisation. And, and just The show ran for 11 years. I wasn’t in a hole 11 years, but wow, it was it was kind of a it’s kind of hit. And it was since our rent was so low, it was mykad made it it was free to get in, you’re paid to get out. Yeah, he would just we would just pass the hat at the end of the night. And, and it was, it was a lot of fun. We didn’t. We did a preview for the members of improvolympic. On Thursday night after they did their Thursday performance downstairs, they came upstairs to watch our show. And they just looked very confused. And we realized something was wrong. Our opening night was the next night. And we stayed up all night and rework the show. During that time Susan messing, went to the hospital, past the kidney stone and came back. And we finished our rehearsal about dawn and then we open to a standing ovation that
Why did she
come back? Why didn’t she just rest
with Susan messing?
Oh, my god, no.
Yeah, nothing. Said Susan. I think she brought the kidney stone with her to show it to us. Ah. And so then through the we’ve actually got the became the cross currents became another place called con Chicago, and they’ve actually got evicted from there. And the owner did not know that we were upstairs. And so all our stuff got put out on the street. But there were a bunch of homeless teens since our show was free to get in. That would come and see the show every Friday and Saturday night. And they stood and watch their stuff to make sure no one took Uh huh. Yeah. And so nice.
I know, touching. And so that’s
the actual real characters of the musical rent. We’re helping you. Because they’re on the streets. Yeah, we’re like, let’s help the arts. Right.
They were. There was a, we rent crosscurrents. We’re to Wilton and Belmont. And around the corner at the time was a punk rock juice bar. So teens could go there called the deuces. And so these kids would come and they’d watch coded prison slots. We did it 1031 on Fridays, and Saturday nights. And then they’d go around the corner to medusas. And they have very long Mohawks and they would sit right in front and Mark set and dubbed it the chicken coop section. Because when the kids were watching the show, when they move their heads back and forth, they look like a bunch of chickens. And so the chicken coop gang, watched our stuff for us, and then make found a building. And that’s where the annoyance theater started. And I think that and we continue to do develop shows through improvisation we did after coed prison sleds, we did that turn antichrist. And then we did a show called your butt. And I was Laura Hall, who’s the musical director for Whose Line is it Anyway, right. Used to be Laura Wasserman, actually use me my piano teacher. But when you drink and do a lot of drugs, you really don’t practice piano, or have it together enough to tell your piano teacher. I shouldn’t come today, because I didn’t practice but I would show up and we would just talk for half an hour. When we became press, he still charged me. I think it was $12 for half an hour. He still charged me $12 and and we became friends. And then as she was playing the piano for co Ed presence let’s at the time, and you’re but and that aren’t antichrist, because we did that our net price today. co Ed prison slex at 1031. And in between shows Laura and I would walk down to Baskin Robbins on Broadway and get ice cream. And But anyway, we decided that we were going to write a musical together. And we wrote Manson the musical, which we did at midnight, so I’d have a show at eight o’clock. 1031 and then midnight, and Manson. I love a guy named William castle, who is the king of the gimmick like he would do have movies come out and he would. This was 50s and 60s. You’d have buzzers underneath the theater seats so at a certain point projections were pushed by The seats would shake. And so with Manson the musical first it was $6 to get in five if you had an X on your forehead, and we give out little hits of acid, which were those small Chiclets and, and Laura had written an acid trip song this week, at a certain point with the audience take their acid, when we announced that they were all placebos except for one, and that person is really going to enjoy the show. And then we have them take their acid, then we present an acid trip on stage.
Wait, was that true?
Blood? No, no, there was no acid.
It’d be very affordable. If you just had one. You know what I mean? Like, you’d be like, this is this is feasible, guys. We could do this. I mean, probably not legally in any real way. But I love the idea of this. And the idea that one of them is actually get drugs in it and the rest of it does.
Yeah, that’s and john fabro he played Wojtek pipe toski. In Madison, the musical in Madsen, the musical God. And who else was at Kate Flannery from the office was in it. Valerie hutsul, who went on to do Saturday Night Live.
Wait, Melanie? hutsul.
Yeah, you know, Melanie? Well,
no, not personally. But she was my like, SNL person, like she was the person when I was in high school that I identified with the most. Like when I watched SNL, she was my gal. And recently I’ve been looking her I looked her up, because I was telling somebody this like, I was like, Tori Spelling, the character of Tori Spelling was like, my thing in high school. Like, I did that constantly. And I used all of her jokes and all of the every time she was in something, Amy Botha Foucault all the things, I would turn them into school projects, because they like got that I was weird and theatrical. So they let me do stuff. So like, my religion project was like an SNL based on the 10 commandments. Like it was like whole stuff, but she was who I was like, This is who I want to be. So the fact that like, you know, her, it’s kind of amazing.
A year ago for South bikes. She was in a movie and and around with in prep,
yeah, she’s so crazy. Like, I mean, it’s not the smallness of the world as I get older, not crazy. But like, I love that you were in. I love it like john fabro. And in the world of people listening to this, they’re like, Why is she excited about that name, and not the first one? I love john fabra. That’s great. But Melanie hutsul was like my thing. You know what I mean? Like, ah, like that, to the point where like, I think about characters I develop now. And I’m like, how did she do it? Like, or how would 90s her do it? I don’t know how she do it now. But you know what I mean?
And that was in touch with her. She’s, she’s wonderful. Yeah.
Plus, you’re so so at this point, you’re in like a sort of a heightened moment of like, total creativity. I love the fact that you’ve got like three shows a night at 1030 midnight, you’re really rocking and rolling. Did you feel like when the annoyance started that you were like in at the ground level? Was it like your theater? You know what I mean?
That it originally started grew out of something called Metro form, which were a bunch of people from India, a lot of people from India, and a university and some other people and then, but I was part of CO Ed prison slots, which was the flagship show when the when the space started, so that was right there. And then there were also a number of other groups happening around Chicago, there was too much like mixed baby go blind, started about the same time. Mm hmm. And there was a group called torso theatre and Cardiff Giant was another thing we used to do shows one of the best shows was called LBJ of kkk. Yeah, no, I, it was. And it wasn’t easy in the beginning, because we even though that now I think they get better houses. At the beginning. We didn’t get great houses. It wasn’t until the real life Brady Bunch started. That things really took off.
Now is that an annoyance show built the way you guys build these ones out of improv,
know what it was was a chill solloway now Joey solloway and her sister faith. Faith was the musical director for a touring company in Second City and maybe even Second City Northwest, which is out in Schaumburg at the time. She also went to college with MCs, she was one of the Indiana University people. They had an idea that to put the Brady Bunch episodes on stage. And so you know, we were like, Sure, why not. And so it’s Started on a Tuesday night and let’s see Mick was originally Bobby. Remember who Peter? I’m not sure if it was Ben’s up. But Steve Carell was originally Greg. Jane Lynch was Mrs. Brady. I can’t remember but it was was a lot of people that when we went to New York, they, they were hired by Second City at the time, so they wanted to stay back with Second City. weird because it just people started standing on the line around the block, and we only charged like $5 and did not expect it to do what it did never say. There’s a guy named Eric Waddell, who always wanted to be a game show host. So he developed a game show that went in front of the the real library a bunch called the real life Game Show. And to make it a whole evening of theater, and that was a lot of fun. And
was it all improvised? Or did you do like the scripts from the show?
We did strips did the scripts. It was more caricatures. Ah, yeah, it was more it was it was scripted. And then we would also do commercials for annoyance theater shows, during commercial breaks, nice, smart, there would be commercial breaks. And it was just us doing characters of the Brady’s. And then what happened was universal. It got written up in the Chicago Tribune. Universal Studios found out about it because it was for the internet. And they were going to serve the annoyance with the cease and desist order. But sure, which forced the creator of The Brady Bunch was going to be in town, speaking at Northwestern. So he said, let me go check it out. And he came to our show on a Tuesday night. And he couldn’t believe that people knew the lines because people would put the episodes, people in the audience would quote the episodes along with the actors. And and then he got up on stage for a q&a. A everybody kept shouting his name, he said he felt like a rock star. And he could see that, you know, it was an old drag queen club that we turned into a theater. It wasn’t wasn’t very polished. It was perfect for us at the time. And then we were just doing on a Tuesday night on at Tuesday night, we’re charging $5 and so they worked out a deal with universal, I think the annoyance paid them $50 you know,
total or per show.
Push up. Okay?
Yeah, hi way, either way, a bit of a ripoff. But I appreciate that. I appreciate that.
Yeah. We’re good. And then rod Dolson winner, who is a, I think he’s retired from rock promoting, but still around. He was he is the rock motor in New York, for the 60s 70s and 80s and 90s. He claims he’s responsible for getting kissed back together. He found out about the show and wanted to produce it in New York. And so we ended up going to New York, and that’s when that’s when I started playing Bobby Brady, because MC wanted to was going to stay behind Chicago and and continue to grow the anoints theater. Sure. And we didn’t take you know, we thought it would be a quick run. Yeah. Is that
all you signed on for? And then it ended up being longer? How long was it?
It was a year in New York, and then a year in LA? And then it went on tour, but I stayed in LA once it went on tour.
Oh, so like this promoter guy really got it going?
Oh, yeah. And we were downstairs at circle in this or not. I’m sort of downstairs at the village gate. Right. Madonna came and saw us Knights 90. Madonna. Oh, and. And let’s see Robert Reed Payne. It was it was a lot of fun. And they would Limelight had parties for us. It was it was a neat time.
Man, it is so helpful that that creator of Brady Bunch was into the show. Yes. I mean, really helped it continue to go for sure.
Yeah, Sherwood was a very, very nice man.
Oh, man, I also like, just the idea of having this like marketing person helping you is really amazing. It’s sort of an amazing lesson when it comes to, you know, people who are trying to put on their own shows. And they’re like, well, I don’t understand what it’s like, if you hire a person whose job it is to make sure butter and seats, it’ll happen. But if you just hope and it’s not gonna happen all the time.
I think I think that it well, the show has to be able to connect to an audience. Yeah, you know, if you’re just like, I’m gonna read the phonebook and I want people to come like, I know what’s in it for them. You know, it’s all about connection. And we just happen to be there at a time where, where even the the 70s was doing a resurgence that people weren’t Coming of Age who had seen the Brady Bunch reruns every day, and there was the obvious 1990 a lot of stuff didn’t make sense, you know. And it was weird because the Vietnam War was going on. And yet still, there was this wholesome TV show.
Oh, no, that makes total sense, especially right now. Like, I understand stuff like that better. Now. You know what, when you when you think about that, you’re right. I can’t believe they pitched and put on this show. But now that I’m sort of in a tumultuous time in the world, I’d love a Brady Bunch. Give me a happy family for the love of God. Like I would love that show right now. Please, someone write it and put it on television. Pleasant people who have wacky problems and are fine. That’s what we’re looking for. Like, you know what I mean? Like, I remember when I was a kid, and I watch sitcoms, the one thing that I appreciated was the assurance that at the end, it was going to be all right.
Oh, yeah. Like I for me, I like, I like structure. And I like repetitive things. Like that might be why I’m a Warhol fan. And templates, I like templates a lot. And there is I do like a good book. Mm hmm.
You know, but that’s why I like it is because of the structure. But this is illuminated the flow of storytelling when I was a kid, that’s how I knew, like, I would watch movies and feel the rhythm of like, you know, they’d be like, they’re about to solve it. And I’m like this 45 minutes left. I haven’t solved anything. Like, you know what I mean? I’m like, you know, you’re watching these things. I’m the person who’s got my eye on the clock going, like, that’s not the murderer. It is five minutes in and they just arrested him. He is the red herring. Come on. You know, like so. So I love that kind of stuff. I love the the idea of a pleasant ending a thing where, especially in a show where it’s like, like these days, they’ll kill off the lead character in two seconds. They’re like, what’s the show called? Ronnie Ronnie’s jet. You’re like, how is Ronnie daddy? It’s about him not turns out. It’s just mo runs family runs out. You’re like, Oh, man. Like, but back in the day. The show was called Ronnie. Ronnie. He’s not going anywhere.
Yeah, Rado is in every scene. He’s fine.
If he is hanging off a building dorba
robbers gonna save the day. Yeah,
it’s gonna be alright. You know, some comforting about that something like, I’m gonna continue to see this person over and over. Man, the ebb and flow of
art, right? I think soap operas in a way. Were kind of like that. I mean, you know, you would just see these evil people that you would fall in love with. And you knew, you know that it was gonna work out eventually. You know
what, though, based on what you’re saying just now about the Brady Bunch like doing caricatures. I kind of feel like that’s what soap operas are sometimes, like they’re doing every time they’re like, what’s the craziest thing that could happen right now? Like, it’s an absurd world where these big characters live. And you know, you and I know in comedy, like an absurd world, maybe throw a straight character in there, and you’re gonna make it funny, but absurd characters and an absurd world. Yeah, we could do this for 30 years. Like, no problem. If this guy is gonna be like, somehow shocked every time he gets betrayed. Yeah, let’s do it. Right. Everybody in the town wants to steal money from this guy. And they will eventually and he’s going to be surprised about it. What? You know what I mean? Like, his new wife is gonna he she’s stealing his money. No one loves him. Guys. That’s the show, you know? But there’s something fun about those sort of like wild characters and and building that. I mean, clearly you did the Brady Bunch show for what was it three years?
I guess I was sent it for two years. Yeah.
Oh, yeah. Well, but you did it before you did a year in New York and a year in LA. How long had you been doing it on the in Chicago before you went on tour?
I think we did in Chicago for about a year. I think. And and I I wasn’t one of the main cast. But I would be things like I’d be a student or I was dick stern when they went and sang on the dick Stern Show. And we’re trying to, you know, get enough money for the silver platter.
Right? Absolutely. Me, Davy Jones. We
did work with Davy Jones in LA. He did a week and then when they went on tour, they did the Davy Jones show with Davy Jones. Oh, actual Davy Jones. Yeah, that would be when we were in Chicago, a Tom Hanks was shooting League of Their Own. And he had Rita Wilson, his wife came to see the show. Because Rita Wilson was in the Brady Bunch. She played the part of the cheerleader who was like marches. Nemesis and then Greg kind of date, a third sheet. There’s a weird scene where he gets her to do a cheer in the living room and keeps I will I won’t just keep Savard say f f f i l l l l mo o r e Fillmore junior high for senior high. But that’s free to Wilson. Oh my god, that’s so
wild. It’s wild that it like touched so many people and like connect to them, because I’ve literally heard stories on other podcasts from other comedians talking about doing this show. You know what I mean? Like, like, Andy Richter talks about it all the time on his podcast. Yeah. So it’s like, this is a big deal show. This is like a, you know, a show that that a lot of people got to do and just hearing the story that like the creator was like, yep, put my stamp of approval on it. It’s cool. And then it went across the country had all these people in it that were that are like, now living such creative lives. Like this was a good gig like this was solid.
And then the Brady Bunch movies came out of it.
Oh, really? Oh,
- Universal would have thought of that. If Tilden faith hadn’t
taught Billy, I was gonna ask if they were related, but you know, wow, interesting.
Yeah, of course. Taylor. Christine Taylor was our understudy Marcia, who went on to play Marcia. She was the only one the cast that that made it into the movie,
dude. Good for her though. I mean, like, rock on, like, as far as like taking an improv show. Or like taking a show. That was like cillian camp and really like riding it all the way up to the top like, heck, yeah, absolutely. I loved that movie. I was like, I’m pretty sure I thought saw in the theaters. Yeah, the 90s were such a like 70s excitement time was like, look at all the Dazed and Confused stuff. I mean, why do you think I moved to Austin, Texas? I mean, I don’t know about you. Maybe that’s why you also moved, but like, that vibe. I was like, yeah, that’s the thing I need to be near. So tell me about LA. You finished doing the Brady Bunch show in the run in Los Angeles. And then you say you stayed though the rest of the people, you know, went to Chicago or wherever in their lives. What about Los Angeles caught you? What did you want to do there?
I stayed because I thought I would be getting my TV pilot. And that never happened. OSHA. Yeah. And so, pilot, but I got sober. And my first sponsor told me that if I was in a play, I wouldn’t have to go to movies on Fridays and Saturday nights. And by that time, Laurel Hall, had moved out to LA with her new husband recall. And I had a bunch of friends from Chicago that we’re now living in LA and so I formed a theatre company called theater ago with john Keane who would play I met when we when we took the show to LA he became the new Greg Brady and woman named Jessica Hughes. And we formed we started doing like, you know, it’s late night, bad taste theater, developed through improvisation. Our first show was called Patty Patty, bang, bang, the Patty Hearst musical photobooth prepacked. Best, Best Musical of 1994 9393 and LA Weekly Theatre Awards. And we beat outside, which we were surprised because we don’t really, we weren’t good singers. But then after that, we did. We did up with puberty, beautiful musical about the ugliest time of your life. You mean LSD. And I also was in sight venture the musical and we did a stage version of Valley of the Dolls. And we’re in West Hollywood. And if you are a gay man of a certain age, you know the film Valley of the Dolls. And we are theater set 40 and we would cram 75 people in there. We got them sitting on ladders. And it was it was wonderful. And but then word got out about our show. And Lisa Bishop who owns the rights to Jacqueline Suzanne’s work, gave us a call recently, she didn’t like us doing it without permission. Yeah. And, and I called her back. And she said, What made you think that you could do this? And I was honest, I said, I didn’t think anybody would come so I didn’t think you’d ever find out about it. And, and she came and saw the show, and she really liked it. And she wanted to get the movie remade. And she encouraged us. We bought the right from her for $1. And she encouraged us to continue to do the show and we called rondelles dinner, and we ended up doing the show in New York. And I get calls from Lisa Bishop every once in a while, especially if there’ll be a charity that will call and ask if they can do a reading or a production and she forward to them. That’s great. that we created and, and Jill always called me and asked if it’s okay and it’s fine. So, Shannon, everything about Lisa Bishop it she’s Wonderful. Wonderful was very good to us. But did you ever see the movie The Warriors? Hmm I don’t know. All right but there’s a movie came out I think it’s 79 called the warriors. Lisa used to be an actress. And there is it warriors is about a bunch of kooky gangs in New York and there’s a guy murdered when all the gangs get together Central Park for a meeting Cyrus the leader of the rifts gets murdered, and they save the warriors in it. The Warriors are trying to get back to Coney so they can be safe because that’s where they’re from. And they run across an all female gang called the Lizzie’s. And they run into him on the subway and there’s a one of the lizard goats says hi. Yeah, that’s Lisa bishop. You’ll see. Yeah, don’t worry. Yeah. For years. Yeah. And yeah, so we did that. And Kate Flannery played Neely O’Hara, Kate Flannery did the whole What’s her name? She was in. She was married to john Aston Sean asins, Patty Duke played the Patty Duke role. I was I had
I know this was this
was a coil played the lead the woman in ballistic Christopher Lysa. Was it a lot all people weren’t all their shows.
Like one of the major lessons of your story is like, get the rights to the show before you do it. Or make sure that the show that you do is so awesome, that the Creator is gonna be like, you know what you can do? It
seems fine. It’s uh, yeah, I mean, what’s the thing is, though, even at the institution theater, we got cease and desist letters, but we were pretty lawsuit proof because we didn’t have any money. Worst thing that happened, they would say stop, and we’re okay. You know, it’s that we didn’t invest a lot of money in the production. Sure. So yeah, there wasn’t much to lose. And there was it’s there. It was canopied being an outlaw and having a sense of danger. No one’s gonna get hurt. Yeah. Yeah.
Absolutely. Certainly not anything too crazy. It’s going to go on for sure. Yeah. Um, so how did you so you’re running a theater? You’re running theater at gogo in Los Angeles. I mean, everybody knows running theaters is, you know, foolproof, and very lucrative. So like, what happened? Why did you end up leaving Los Angeles and was Austin Up next, or go somewhere else?
What happened? Well, this was in 9394 a week, we ran it St. Tunis, we just ran it for like $1,000. And there was, there was a guy who had acting classes going on except for weekends, and that’s what we used it. And it allowed us we could go in there for rehearsals when they weren’t having acting classes for free. They just kind of toss this the key was very laid back. And then when we came back from New York, that guy had been working with john Keane said, okay, we’ve proven we can break even at theater. Let’s, let’s do a movie. And so we started getting together to write a script that we were going to do clerk style. JOHN had already started raising some money, we’re going to do it for $200,000. So we put this little script called kill for man, which was about this copy shop called long shot copies. And King coast copies opens up across the street. And they realize they’re going to go down but they decided to go decide to go down fighting. That was it. And john said the script is from friends of his one of them was a guy from his acapella troupe in high school, and who was worked at a place called Summit Entertainment that was looking into getting they’ve been doing distribution. They wanted to start producing films, and they liked their script, and so they produced it. So we produced killed the man and had Luke Wilson and Josh Malina as the stars. parrikar was in it, Michael McKean was in it. And it was the first film by summit who later went on to produce Twilight. So you’re welcome. And, and I went to Sundance Film Festival in 1999, which was a lot of fun. Oh, and how was that? That was great. It was it was it was great, because I’d also been doing a lot of commercials I’ve done about 80 commercials. And so I had some money in the bank. I was doing a
legion commercials that good commercial time to
Yes, I Did
like now they’re like, Here’s 100 bucks. Good luck to you. And back then it was like contractive. For real?
It was Yes, it was it was very nice. Great. Yeah. Uh, yeah. So, but that was great. It was it was a lot of fun. I stayed up there for almost the whole time set up there a while, and fun. And then I started teaching at the second city Training Center in 2001. Because they, the level five second city, you put on a sketch show, and they didn’t have a lot of teachers at that stage directly in experience. And Dave Rizal ski was the artistic director and charger the dean of the school at the time, and he’s an old friend. And so he asked me to help out with, I was lucky enough to be I don’t want to say he asked me, he invited me to help out and and start doing level five shows. And I found that I really love teaching. And I went through a very difficult divorce and I needed to make a change. And someone suggested Austin. And that’s when I moved out here in 2007. And I always wanted to open my own theater and improv school. So I always wanted to do.
Man, that’s crazy that you’re in 2007 the weird breakup, I was telling you about the gamida Austin was like 2009. So like, so close together, weird. breakups send you to Austin to get a lot.
That’s true. Or this probably happens to you when you know your first day of class. When you ask someone. You know, you everybody’s meeting everybody, like what brought you to Austin? Well, there was this guy, or Well, this was there was this girl, and then it never works.
Yeah, man. If you’re I mean, I appreciate moving somewhere to be with somebody else. That’s great. If you need a reason for an adventure, hop on it right? Clearly in your story and in mind, you know, when I traveled it was because there was a new show or a new thing or like, oh, there’s this theater that I want to go be part of. So let me go there. Only once did I move for a guy and even then, when I think of it, I’m like, I shouldn’t have done that. That’s okay, because it led me here. And that was the right that was the right move.
I had a post divorce girlfriend who said you’re in such a deep rut, you need to go somewhere where you can be a big fish in a small pot. Sure, that’s what that’s what Gabi cost. Sounds pretty arrogant. But yeah.
Well, no, I mean, and I will tell you, if you go to a place where pee, you know that the people there are going to appreciate you and if you have a skill, and you know that the town seems to be into that skill, why not?
Right. And that was it’s the best move I ever made. And the thing is, I was not that nice of a person before I moved Austin. And like, you can ask people when I first moved here, I was so scared and so nervous, that all I did was drop names. All I did was drop names. And, and, and, and people just kind of stared at me. And it was kind of like, being Tom Cruise and Rain Man. You know, like, there’s stuff that I thought maybe a hot shot, no one here cared about, you know, they just like, we we like you already. Shut up. Yeah. You know, teach us how to have fun and, and, you know, it and I, I needed a place to hit the reset button. And I spent the first six months just kind of laying on the floor crying because I didn’t know what was going on. And to good place for that, too. It certainly is. It certainly is. And also it’s you know, and like I said before, it’s a place where you can no one’s watching. So let’s try. Let’s try new stuff.
I mean, I would say yes or no like sometimes the shows where I try the weirdest things are the ones that become most hotly attended. Like I’m like, why did all of a sudden this many people show up? Like we needed extra space for Patrick to flip over in the front row? Like, you know, I expected seven people now there’s 40 What the heck like creating shows for expect that when you’re when you’re doing stuff for
you? Yeah, you know, I would like to see this while there are a whole lot of other people that would like to see this because you want to see it because you’re going to be surprised. That’s what they want. No one wants to see another improv show. They don’t. They want to see a special improv show. That makes sense. They want to be there at any event, they want to be surprised. I’m not saying they don’t want to see improv shows. Just another improv show. We’ve seen that we laugh when we’re surprised. What’s next. That’s what we want to see and we want to be there for it. We want to support that person.
Yeah. Plus, I feel like what you came from the creation of shows through improv and then sort of like letting them exist on stage and ebb and flow with the, with the production and whatnot, you know, there is something to learning in that manner. And there’s something to creating in that manner. That feels less scary than some of the other improv things. And when improv is scary for the performers, it is new fun for the audience.
We would, we’ve did shows for years before the four they were written down, like coed prison, slacks and mass in the musical work written down for a long time, we knew the beats, you know, we knew there was going to be a song. If you ever, you know, Mark Sutton and Joe bill with the bass prop. Bass prop came about because there was a part in that dark antichrist where Mark session and I were on stage. And Joe bill was up upstage, right, dressed as a pig smoking cigarettes. And, and so Mark played a character that he would be given me advice, I was a character that I can’t even I did a lot of shows in the 80s that you can’t do right now. And I can’t even tell you about this character. It wasn’t black. But there was a song I’m special anyway. But yeah. And, but we would have, we would have the scene together. And it would go on and on and on. So at the annoyance theater scene that went too long, was called a fishing scene, because we were both fishing and, and then a once in another show, Joe, Bill and Mark set, and we’re mathy not mad, but jokingly so wanted to mess with the other members of the cast. And so they decided to do a fishing scene. And I think they took up the whole hour. And that was the beginning of basspro. But it was you know, if it was fun, and I think out of hand, Mick would say something. But it was a lot of and that’s what the audience liked him. And it was an environment that fit. We weren’t doing it at the long center. You know? Yeah. And so I think that’s like when I had the institution theater, looking back, I really loved our first space. It was it. At the end, I think, are you still working with the fallout?
I’m everywhere. Now they’ve done with that space, too. Yeah, I love all all of Austin spaces. So if anybody’s up, I love your face.
They’re lovely. They’re nice staff.
But to me, the performance would begin the moment you set foot in the theater, even even when you drive up. And what I loved about the institution theater spaces, you had no idea what to expect. In fact, you thought I’m not I don’t think that I’m over staving it when I bet there are some people who thought they might be killed. And it you know, it’s not an accident when in a bad neighborhood. But it’s just like, Oh, this looks like a place where people go in and get murdered. Am I wrong? But then you walk in and all of a sudden, you just get hit by this big red paint. You know, this big bright red. There. We’ve got popcorn, we’ve got music playing. There’s a weird bald guy walking around. And you know, and we just like we’re here for a party. That’s what I used to say about the art institution, not our institution theater, show theater. goco shows that we have a party and there just happens to be a show going on. Yeah. And then even with the when we were doing the Brady Bunch, we would talk about we would do when we’re doing Off Broadway. And in LA, we would do seven shows a week. And I used to save it. We do seven shows a week. So we can try to get one right? Because we never knew what was going to happen. And but there were a troupe of people and an audience that really loved that. She also when you say Oh, why are these people showing up for why these people showing up to see us do Brady Bunch episodes on stage. They can watch it on TV. All they want to see what’s going to happen. Yeah. You know,
that’s why it’s utter faith in the like future of theater and stuff it like right now. Yeah, we’re all sort of sitting in our homes, not doing theater, but there is a need. There is a like natural need to want to go see what that thing is. I hear that’s cool. Let’s go see it. Or like, yeah, you could watch it on TV. But these people are fun and funny and I want to be near them.
Yeah, it’s all it’s all about connected artists all about connected. And I remember a couple things a day We used to talk about the group mind. And when I was studying with Dell, I thought the group mind were was just the people I was on stage with, you know, just bluebell PETA that we were trying to get the group mind. But then when I another thing Dale said, he said, there’s some things that I’m telling you, that won’t make sense to you for 10 years. At about 10 years later, I’m teaching at second city and I realized, and I’m not saying I was the first to discover this, just saying, This is what I discovered that like I was no, it was a eureka moment for me, not for the world. But I realized that the group mind is everyone in the space. You know, and there’s there’s a connection, there’s connection there that we when people see live theater, they’re going to see it, this is the great thing about improv, you’re going to see a snowflake. You know, but I think a big part two performers slow it down. So you can tap into that energy. Hmm. You know, with the nerves and everything with Get up. Just ride it like a wave. It doesn’t mean. I mean, it’s, it’s, it doesn’t mean you have to slow down physically. But Slow, slow your energy. Listen. Just make sense. Rest in the rhythm of the scene. right the way. Oh, and be honest about truth.
Do you think that that’s your? Like, now you’re, you’ve been in charge of a couple of theatres, you’ve led classes you’ve taught stuff? Is that your style of creation? Your vibe, as a as a creator? Is that? Is that what you think about connection? That kind of thing?
Yeah, I do think it’s, I think it’s, it’s i i think that i could be wrong, too. I want to preface this. This is just my opinion at this moment. He’s just you. Yeah. And if yes, it’s about connection, there’s something special and it doesn’t have to be it doesn’t just connect with life theater, like there are a lot of people that are fans of pulp fiction, and they love to meet other fans of pulp fiction, the movie or even the the literary genre. But it’s nice to make a connection and a shared love. It’s almost like being on the same team. Makes sense? Yeah. Yeah, I think my my big part to my is, you know, get out of your head and get into your heart. Stop thinking and feel. And then listen, because when you’re in your head, that’s where the fear lives. When you’re in fear, you’re in the future and you’re not in the present. Be in the present and be willing to make mistakes, through my experience that people that are willing to make mistakes. Don’t make mistakes, because we’re willing to make mistakes. Mistakes don’t exist. They’re all gifts, but the love notes, everything’s a love note, if you treat it as such.
Viktor Frankl improv.
So you’ve had quite a journey, you’ve created lots of things, lots of different people and performed all over the place. been the leader of a couple of pardon the pun institutions? What What advice do you have for anybody who would want to follow in your footsteps running a theater or performing? Wherever you feel? The advice is coming right now.
I would say a couple things. One, be willing to be wrong. You know, that fear gets in the way, fear and expectation will certainly stifle your creativity be willing to be wrong, because even if you’re wrong, it’ll teach you one thing that you need to make some adjustments, you know, but there’s no such thing as wrong. Right? And you’re wrong. If you look at it as it’s not an ongoing, lifelong process. That makes sense. And trust yourself. Trust yourself and listen to the audience, not just for the last last, but listen to see if what are you doing that they connect to? and build from that? That makes sense? What are my talents built from what you are built from your talents rather than your strengths, rather than trying to improve your weaknesses? Because that’s where your gifts are? Totally.
Sometimes I think people are often trying to, you know, reject the things they’re already good at, in lieu of some other thing that they want. And it’s like, Yeah, that’s great. You can do that too. Maybe, but the thing that’s gonna really get you moving is what you’re already great at.
If I went back in time, I think it was a really strong am a really strong director. I think that also helps. I think I’m also a good teacher is I would have focused more on directing rather than performing And but my head was in a place where I had to be the star. And rather than support someone and work work in a group, but and and and who knows, maybe the director would have bled more support. But at that time, my strength was really undirected and creating.
You know what, though, I really feel like being a performer is kind of a masterclass for directors, that when I meet a director, I see somebody who’s never taken or been never taken an acting class and never tried to perform in a show. It’s like, yeah, you’re gonna want to do that. Because you need to be able to navigate the cacophony in a way that like, you speak the language, you know what I mean? Like, you’re never gonna talk somebody off a ledge in a language you don’t speak like, you need to really be like to know what the vibe is, right? Like I taught this. I taught this intensive, and it was a week long, intensive, and it was every day, eight hours a day. And the first time that I did it, I wasn’t the direct teacher, they just asked me to be sort of like the coordinator and like, sit in the back and be with them the whole time. But not directly teach, just sort of like give people notes after and like, care for people and like, keep an eye on everybody and like, make them go to lunch, stuff like that. I’m perfect for that. That’s me, for sure. Yeah. But being able to watch them and see this and be part of the experience with them, really helped me when I was able to be part of the teaching staff. Because then I knew the vibe of the journey for them. I knew that we can, that we can’t teach them the hardest things on Thursday, because Thursday’s burnout day, they’re gonna be mad at everything that happens. So give them a simple lesson on Thursday. On Friday they can they’re going to be over the moon, they’re going to do amazing things. They’re going to take leaps you never thought they could. But on Thursday, they’re a waste of space, just because of the journey. Right? Same with like a play, or like putting on a show. Yeah, they’re not great. When we first start doing the technical aspects, they are disjointed, and they don’t know what they’re doing. No one has their props or their costumes, but two days into it. They figured it out. They’ve worked it. So I don’t get mad on the first day when everybody shows up. And you’re like, Wait, are we doing tech stuff today? And you’re like, yep, and on the schedule the whole time? What’s up? How’s everybody ready? Ready. And I’m not mad, because I know, that’s just what happens, right? So I feel like the experience that you had long story short, the experience you had as a performer actually makes you a better director actually means that your experience that you put in, doing it, trying it being in front of audiences and learning what that is, helps you to communicate better with other people who are new to the experience who don’t know what to expect. You know what I mean? So you’re lovely, and your journey is great. And I’m glad that you’re here with me. So when Austin comes together again, where we’re at we can be, we can be united together in a like, let’s be creative and lovely together.
I’m building a stage in my backyard. You. We will
Yeah, for real. I mean, I’ve definitely done performances in a lot weirder places. When I went, I had an internship at Portland Stage Company in Maine. And they had like a storefront in front of that they owned and it was a store that no one was renting. And I was I had an off period and was like, Hey, can I put on a play in that empty space? And they’re like, I guess so. And I was like, great. And I turned it into like a whole theater and like had audience and everything and they’re like, Wow, I can’t believe you did this. And I was like, You let me use a room. I’m gonna turn it into a theater. That’s me.
Yeah. I think sometimes people, they, there’s just a lack of imagination. I think a lot of times they’re people. Well, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be done. Like, what isn’t the point to think of a different way to use use the resources you have available?
Right. Tom, thank you so much for being on the podcast and chatting with me and telling me all your great stories. I really appreciate it.
You’re welcome. Thank you for letting me do it. I really appreciate it. It’s good to see you.
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