Yes But Why ep 214 Nicole Odell brings a quiet confidence and boundless imagination to the San Francisco comedy scene!
This week on Yes But Why, listen in as I talk to actress and comedian, Nicole Odell.
Nicole Odell has been performing comedy and theatre for over a decade. After graduating San Francisco State with a theater degree, Nicole went to Los Angeles to receive her comedy education from the Second City Hollywood. There, she received the bulk of her training in sketch writing and improv. While in LA, she also performed stand-up and participated in several small theatrical productions.
Othello at Livermore Shakespeare Company
Many comedy shows, a couple of plays and quite a few improv festivals later, Nicole moved back to the Bay Area. She connected with the vibrant improv and theater communities of San Francisco. She is currently teaching and performing improv with Leela SF, as well as teaching, performing, and writing sketch comedy with Killing My Lobster.
In our conversation, Nicole and I talk a lot about adjustments that are being made to performing improv via Zoom. In the beginning of our chat, Nicole provides some excellent advice about performing on Zoom.
We talk about finding the right place to live for you. Figuring out what you are looking for in a lifestyle. Nicole talks selfcare during tough times.
Odell and DeJong
Nicole also tells me stories about her sketch comedy training. I get to pick her brain about the differences between the Second City method and the Killing My Lobster method for writing sketch comedy. I get real geeky.
I had a great time talking to Nicole. We laughed a lot and there are lots of funny tangents throughout our chat!
Support Nicole Odell by watching out for online shows from her improv troupes, Odell and DeJong and La Spazzatura. And check out Killing My Lobster for her upcoming sketch comedy shows!
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.
(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 5/18/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners. This is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Episode 214 with Bay Area actress and comedian Nicole Odell.
But first a bit about our sponsor. This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by Audible. You can get your free audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. When I went to audible today, I was looking for guidance. Just take the first steps toward being a better person, you know. And I saw this book written by Oprah called “What I Know For Sure.” And I thought, well, that’s encouraging. And it turns out you guys that there are tons of books by Oprah available to listen to, most of them narrated by Oprah herself. So there’s something in here for you too. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android or Kindle. Download your free audio book today at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
In this week’s yes but why episode, I talked to improv and sketch comedian Nicole Odell. In our conversation. Nicole told me stories about her sketch comedy training. I got to pick her brain about the differences between the second city method and the killing my lobster method for writing sketch comedy. I get real geeky. I had a great time talking to Nicole. We laughed a lot. And there are a lot of funny tangents throughout our chat.
I now present to you Yes, but why Episode 214 Nicole Odell brings a quiet confidence and boundless imagination to the San Francisco comedy scene.
I’m Amy Jordan, and this is Yes But Why Podcast. Yeah.
Since the stay at home, you’ve been doing more online shows than you have been doing, you know, in person shows, of course, what were the lessons that you’ve learned with the various shows that you’ve done? Like, how are you a better online performer? What are the things you need to look out for?
I think one of the pitfalls that happened with the earlier improv show that I did online, was we had a lot of performers, slated to do a lot of different short form games. Which on the surface, sounds like that might be okay. But I think having that many performers can be kind of overwhelming and feel slightly on focused. In fact, we would never have that many performers on a single stage at a time. I think there were like 12 or 13, improvisers all sort of trying to play together. And since, since we’ve done that we have pared down the number of people. I think they sort of realized that the benefits you get from having more people in the show and thus inviting more people to watch, since it’s a free show anyway, it’s like, Okay, well, would we rather have more people watch? Or would we rather have better improv and I think they sort of went for the latter, which was really good. And the other thing they did that I thought was great, was they changed from an almost entirely short short form format, back to what this particular company does most and does best which is long form. So they have like a couple of short form game, sort of faster paced and a little bit higher energy, you know, sort of fun to play within a structure like that. But we’ve figured out how to do edit over zoom. And we figured out how to do tagout and that kind of stuff. So we do a lot more long form these days. And I think it’s really nice for us to see the format that we’re good at, you know,
it’s interesting that people would do a format that they were less familiar with, but Gosh, I do feel the just sort of push when you’re producing, you know, to be like, Isn’t this what the people want? You know, you think? No, oh, they must really like that. But, but man, you know, I’ve sort of I like this story, because it makes me feel like they’ve just did what they wanted to do in the first place and what they were already good at. And it turned out that was the right thing to do. And it’s like, oh, man, appreciate yourself. Am I right? Like,
yeah, absolutely. I think it’s, it’s interesting because, you know, one’s instinct says that short form, you know, faster, quicker punchy or higher energy. But in a certain sense, you do a short form game for two or three minutes. And then the host has to come back and introduce a new game. So especially with zoom, because zoom has kind of that lag time and, you know, sometimes there can be timing issues. Occasionally, faster, shorter, and punchier isn’t exactly what you want, especially if to keep interrupting the experience to introduce a new game. And so, you know, sometimes if you can figure out how to do edits, which is a challenge, but if you can figure it out, you have a bunch of people who are good improvisers, but are mostly long form. I would say, try doing some long form, you know, because I think that’s been what’s been working better.
Yeah. Plus, you want fast and punchy, you’re welcome to do yourself a sweet little solo sketching. offer that up to your theater, I’m sure they would be into putting you know that that kind of content but the editing required to actually get that rhythm. Like, people don’t realize that, you know, when you watch certain kinds of sketch comedy and you’re like, Oh, it’s so fast paced. They didn’t just do three beats, they did five beats and you’re like, yeah, they didn’t 30 seconds. It was just like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, because they did seven locations but edited it super fast. Like that’s the beauty of that kind of situation like you want to pass or like editing.
Or like one of those sort of rotating door group games. You know, where you have different people enter in just blam blam blam playing the same game, but it’s just it goes so quickly. The problem with zoom is that because of the time lag, it can sometimes feel Draggy as opposed to, you know, like a quick percussion field. to it, you know, yeah,
yeah, totally, totally. It’s like what did I see the other day I saw a video made and it was like Jimmy Fallon playing under pressure with the roots on like, every day at home instruments and like all of them are playing or whatever. And I’m, I’m like watching this happen and going like this is not a live zoom that we’re watching. We’re watching a fully edited organized situation like there is an editor who a video editor and a sound editor who worked on this for like two three hours after they get all the footage which took days like come on, this was not a 10 minute that that’s the funny part about it is that like we’re both putting out like we’re using the same medium to some some to put out this like live organic situation and some to put out this like totally polished together situation. I love that everyone’s being creative. And I think it’s really important for everyone to be like using their own, you know, passionate vibe. You know, like, if you love improv great. I love that you guys have worked hard to make improv better. For the medium. It’s like, that’s the way to do it now. So we’ve got to figure out how to use the leg. How do I make the leg work for me in the joke, right, so Hmm, yeah, fun.
Absolutely. Excellent lesson, you know, way to
take it in.
Yeah, and, you know, talking to about settings and the way you can sort of improvised fun camera work, you know, like, if you decide that you’re, yeah, so if you decide that your scene partner is much taller than you, you can kind of get down low and face your phone or your laptop or whatever you’re using to make it look like the audience is looking down on you. I mean, there’s, there’s little shit that you can do to make it really interesting but all of that is going to come with experience. That was, you know, the first couple of shows were choppy, because there were things that we needed to figure out, figure out when people are just getting more and more creative, which is cool. That’s so fun.
I’m glad that we’re sort of at a point where Well, some people are and I applaud everyone who’s trying and even those that are sitting out, but like that there’s a lot of creativity happening and like people are processing with their art and I really, I really, like think that that’s amazing. And, you know, I appreciate everyone that puts things out and that makes stuff and the fact that like, your theater, what theater is it that you’re talking about even doing these online shows with?
So this is a improv Training Center in San Francisco called Lila SF. And I’ve, I’ve been performing and teaching with them for gotta be more than five years now. And they worked extremely hard like once Be quarantine and shelter in place went down, they switched to online as quickly as possible. So there was a lot of learning that had to be done on the ground. Yeah, absolutely. You know, while running,
I’ve seen a couple of their shows, and they do excellent branding as well. That’s the other fun stuff is that you can learn, you know, certain branding things from watching videos or like, even setups like I watch one where like, I appreciate that zoom, like provides everyone’s name sometimes, but I don’t even think about it. And sometimes when I’m doing zoom on my computer, it doesn’t say everyone’s name. So I watched your show, and it had everyone’s name on it. And I was just like, oh, that’s fun.
Like, I was like, Oh, yeah, now I know them
because I’m constantly reminded of their names. You know, I don’t know these people. I know. Like one person. That’s why I got into it. But it was like then I’m watching it.
Oh, yeah. You know,
so yeah, that’s always really nice when you can like, I mean, it’s it’s weird. Because I’m really bad with names, but if I’m Facebook friends with you, and I, if I see your name and your picture, like together, I learn people’s names so much faster. So being able to watch a show, I didn’t even think about that. Like that’s such a nice benefit being able to watch a show where you see the actor’s name. And you know, zoom also has this cool feature where you can temporarily change your name. So if you’re, if you’ve decided to rename yourself in a scene, or especially in a short form game where you kind of know what’s gonna be required of you, like you can rename yourself, you know, Terry from HR,
like on the fly stuff, that’s great. And then it helps you Yeah, I’ve seen
Yeah, remembering them can be really hard.
Hey, man, zoom is somehow helping We
know who knew? Yeah, I mean, there is, there is a certain amount of fatigue that happens. I think a lot of a lot of people are aware of that now, but there’s, after a zoom show, like, if it does, well, I still get a little bit of that post show adrenaline rush. But even a good zoom show, just, it just pales in comparison to the real thing. And so afterward, I’m always sort of left with like, post them fatigue, but also a little bit of this. You know, it’s like a moment of grief, where you just realize that you’ve done something good, and you’ve put something out there, and that’s all productive and gung ho on whatever. But you are kind of mourning, what you don’t get to do. And you kind of mourn it over and over again. So that’s the other that’s the other side. That’s the word.
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I try not to think of it as any sort of permanent change. I try to think of it as new lessons that we’re learning, we’ll have so much more especially for the for like improv schools and stuff like in theater and whatnot, I know that it can be hard to make money a lot of times, and if some of these communities figure out a good way of leveraging the online content that they can provide, it’s possible that some of them could flourish with the technology in a way that they didn’t think about it. Like to the point where, you know, even the technology I don’t think I bet you the zoom, people did not know that they were just gonna end up being the go to for everybody on the earth. Like, you know what I mean? Like, I’m surprised more often than not that it continues to work. No kidding. Yeah. Because it’s like, how would How have we all not been using this every day, if it’s so damn reliable, that everyone on earth at all times can be on it. And it’s not glitching like, it’s not cutting out the way it could, given the amount of people using it, right. But just even that, like this was something but so like it wasn’t invented two days before, you know, there was a epidemic. It’s been around, right. I’ve heard about it. People been talking about it. People have been trying to convince me to use it for at least a year. You know what I mean? Like in the podcast where Oh my god, they’re dying to use zoom zooms all over the place. So like, I can look at you it can record I can record best thing. And I’m like, I don’t want to do it right. Now. We’re forced to get ourselves into this new technology. We got to use it. I mean, I’ve had to use it on like three business meetings and like, you know, my turns out my family all of a sudden wants to talk to me. So they’re like, Hey, you want to zoom? I guess you know, sure. But it’s just this amazing thing. Now it’s a technology that we could use, we could harness, we could make more money with it, we could like, find a new way to create things like, I don’t know, I’m trying to stay positive in a way that is like, let’s use these things as a hardship that is holding us back. But are aren’t with our arm tied behind our back, we’re still able to do a bunch with the arm we’ve got. So let’s see if we can’t learn some lessons. So that when they you know, give us use of that arm back, we’ll be like, dude, do you know how strong I am now? I’m the best.
Yeah, that’s my hopes. I think that’s a great way. Yeah, that’s a great way to look at it. I definitely am sort of the same camp as you whenever people are like, you should really try this new technology. Like I think there’s a small percentage of me that’s actually 90 years old. Because I already feel like I have too many apps on my phone. Like why do I need this extra thing? But it has been useful, you know? Yeah, totally. Oh my god. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I’m always like, Ah, you know what I got is working. But I guess good enough. Yeah, I mean,
yeah. Oh God, wow, what a way to think I am with you. Except for I think I’m actually older. So
I was like, Oh no, I’ve just entered into the crowd. What were my parents age who were all like, Listen, I can’t learn it, figure it out. Tell me what it is. Yeah. I remember when computers came into the house, my my dad worked for a computer company, but he still brought it home and was like, aim. I was like, six. He was like, figure out how it works. And I like immediately figured out how it worked. And like, showed him different games and stuff like that. And he was like, oh, okay, great. Cool. glad it worked out. But he was just like, you guys. You really need this but have you ever you know? press the buttons. No,
He was just sales guy. Hey, you know what’s amazing? Is Apple two we
get it. People were like, that’s great. But he was like, I don’t know, where’s the on button? Right here? Oh man so suddenly on my parents, how do we get here? Let’s so let’s um, let’s I want to ask you a question that I like to ask a lot of people which is so you are currently involved you know, doing creative stuff getting involved in acting and and producing shows and whatnot, but, and teaching, but what was the sort of first show or theater thing that you did in your life? That made you really feel like this was the thing that you wanted to do forever?
Well, I had done you know, your usual school productions. I remember my first big part, big for me was post input booth, which was pretty cool. I got to wear some dope boots. But the moment I knew I wanted to do this forever is actually recorded in my diary from when I was 11 years old. And it was a movie. Namely the movie, there’s no Business Like Show Business with Ethel Merman and Marilyn Monroe. And, weirdly, that movie, if I remember correctly, is all about how so business is actually really toxic and destroys families. But when I was 11, all I saw was like glittery costumes and beautiful people and like getting to stand on a stage in front of a crowd. And I’d already you know, because of my school productions that I’d done, I’d already experienced that to some extent, and I knew that I liked it. And then I saw that movie and for some reasons something clicked. And I just kind of knew I wanted to be an actress. So from there, I started doing use theater and my mom was very sweet and diligent about getting me signed up for all the little extracurriculars I could do and I just kind of never stopped. I mean, I think a
lot of us watch those movies about things going terribly wrong and thinking like I’d be fine if that was what happened to me.
Like it still looks amazing.
Yeah, I remember watching Postcards from the Edge and being all like, I don’t I feel like I could be the mother or the daughter. Oh, why are they sad?
Why are they so they should be grateful to bigger houses like I’m pretty sure my entire house the stairs,
so what’s happened
toxic way to realize The dream you know, though, I mean,
part of me always wonders if there’s, I like to think that like what we are and what we like in our lives is sort of a spectrum. And it can be used you can use the talents and the interests that you have in life for good or for evil. Right. So it can go badly. And I think Well, I think in that in that movie and in in movies, like Postcards from the Edge, there’s also a like, Hey, be careful. It can get crazy. People are really intense to you. So watch out for that. Maybe you watched it and you were like, like me, you’re like, that’s not gonna happen to me. I am gonna be fine. I’m gonna have the gorgeous dresses and I’m gonna be perfectly mentally stable and there will be no drugs and every man will be very respectful to me and I would always watch movies and like, everything bad that happened to them, I’d be like, well, that, except for me, that’s not gonna happen to me.
And that’s actually a really interesting point because I think what like Junior High me, thought my career was going to look like, could have easily gone in a really tragic direction. Like, I thought, when I was in middle school in like early High School, like I thought I was immediately going to move to New York, and I was going to pound the pavement and be a chorus girl. And I was going to work my way up and eventually I was going to be a star on Broadway. And this was just the narrative that I had been said that this is what it looks like to work in entertainment. If you want it to be a performer, and I look at Yeah, especially as a woman and I look at the direction that things have gone and I’m you know, I’m performing in plays, but not very many musicals. Although I can sing I do like to sing. It’s not kind of my main main area. But I’m also doing all this improv and this sketch comedy where I get to play any kind of character, you know, not just an ingenue or not just a mother, like I can be whoever I want. And I get to write material for myself and for other people, and I get to teach and I’ve been working with some incredible like drag and queer performers in my career. And when I was in eighth grade, I had no idea that I could be funny or that I wanted to do comedy that was like never part of my narrative. My narrative was always like, you’re almost blonde, so you should probably try out for musicals, that was always the thing. And so I’m just so grateful. Like I think my world is just full of so much color and I work with wonderful people who I respect and who I think respect me. And it really could have gone a different way.
Yeah, yeah. And there, you know, there could certainly have been a lot more sad stories along the way of like, well, I tried to do it that way. And it turned out to be pretty terrible. Like, I lived in New York for a while, they’re not like walking around the streets asking you to audition for stuff, you know, like, the barrier
to entry is so
high. You know what I mean? You have to get into and then the other thing about New York is, people there think it’s the best thing in the whole wide world, but then so does everyone else. So like, if you are want to do something in New York, you you can’t even have experience from any of the other, you know, 49 states. Like they don’t care. You know what I mean? They’re like, if you’re not doing it here, you’re not part of our insular team. already. We’re not interested in giving you more things right? And to break through such difficulty, certainly in our lifetime for sure. I don’t know what it’s like right now. Maybe everyone’s cooler and better and happier with one another. I don’t know. I don’t know how what it’s going to be like to be honest with you. All sorts of things are different there now, but like, the idea of there are opportunities for us now. You know, we could go different places, and there are different cities. You’re right. When I was a kid, I thought New York City was the only thing either. And then when I went there, I was like, This is not my crowd. This is not where I want to hang out
with. I mean, those were the exact feelings I had when I was in Los Angeles. I mean, I’m, I’m from the Bay Area. Originally, I was born here, went to college here, you know, got a lot of my training here. And then I moved to LA. And I, I kind of had my doubts about la in the first place. So really, I didn’t give it the full college. Try. But I really got a sense of how hard it is. I mean, everything that was available to me to audition for was just stuff I simply wasn’t interested in. The only thing that was real that I was doing on a regular basis was the comedy. I went through the conservatory at the second city in Hollywood. And after I graduated, that program, me and a bunch of my students, or fellow fellow students, formed a true and did improv and sketch comedy around LA and we actually did the out of bounds Comedy Festival in Austin. Austin is awesome. Sophie had the best time. But that was really the only thing sustaining me in Los Angeles. And you know, if we were lucky, we would get together once a week, to write and to rehearse. And that was the only artistic thing I was doing other than that I was waiting tables and dragging my butt through traffic to try to get to audition for stuff I really didn’t care about. Coming back to the Bay Area to sort of be in a smaller pond has been one of the best things I’ve ever done ever since I moved back. I’ve been working steadily the entire time, which is not something I could say, for being in a bigger marketplace like Los Angeles.
Yeah, it’s definitely it’s definitely like you have to choose the lifestyle that you’re looking for. You have to choose the sort of vibe that you want your life to have, you know, even even like, my husband and I talk about like moving far out, like into the country when we get older. And, you know, very recently we like, are looking at a new rental house and we’re like looking it up, and we found one that was super far out and we got there and it was just forever to drive. There. We’re like, Oh, it’s so beautiful, so great. And then I was like, are we trying to be 70? before we’re even 45? Like what’s happening right now? Like, is this too much? But it’s like, you know, you have to open yourself up to the fantasy of like, what do you really want your life to be like? And it’s like, if you want if you are a competitive person, and if you love the drive of like, trying hard and like, doing a bunch of extra stuff, if you’re into that, because I know a lot of people that are into that, that are into like, Oh, yeah, fight, fight, fight, fight. That’s your thing. Absolutely. You should definitely go to New York or LA, they’re available to fight with you. They’re happy to provide difficulty in your path that you can surmount and be the best, right? And if that’s something that you’re into, that’s probably the kind of people that need to be in those markets, right? The people who are like, I’ll never stop, I’ll fight forever. You’re gonna give me what I want. This is what’s gonna happen. You have to have that you can’t be like, I don’t know, I kind of like it. It’s like, No, no, no, no, no, you know, if you kind of like it go to another city, because if you kind of like it, then you can go to the other city, it’ll probably cost less. You can do it as often as you feel like and maybe have other interests, right? There are a lot of places where there aren’t other interests. Like, I’m so entrenched in Austin theater stuff.
I didn’t realize for a long time, I’ve
lived here about 10 years, but for maybe the first three or four years, I just did not even know the breadth of other activities there were in town. You know what I mean? Like, didn’t occur to you because I was so deeply entrenched in my own thing. And then I took a step back when I, you know, got married and started to, you know, when I got pregnant, you know, I was not going as much out to the theater and then I was like, Oh, my God, you guys, did you know that there’s like a whole like, cyclist community and they are just riding bikes around the whole city. And they’re like, Yeah,
what what do you mean?
Guys, did you know that there’s a whole hiking thing? And people like to walk around the greenbelt? And look at nature? Yeah.
Yeah, of course. What What do you how do you not know these things? I’m like, I didn’t know.
Did you guys know we had museums? They’re like, get out of town. What’s happening right now? Like, I moved to town went to a theater. That’s all I did, right? If you keep yourself limited, or if you keep yourself, you know, the vibe of what you’re looking for, you got to find you got to go to a place. I like my small city. Sounds like well, I never I don’t think of San Francisco as a small city. But maybe it is. Maybe that’s how it feels to you, like, much more comfortable than Los Angeles for artistic stuff. Like you said, You’re working. You’re doing stuff like that. That’s what matters to me. I’d rather work
yeah, all the time. I’d rather have projects that are probably like,
like, I don’t know what the current projects are going to be in the future. But there are enough people in this town that I could call 20 of them and get 1000 projects going in a minute.
Yeah, right. That’s a nice thing. It was. It was hard in LA I would go for long periods of time with out anything really going on except for the occasional practice with my troop. And that was pretty much what I had. You know, I did like I did a staged reading. Once I did some dinner theater, one, you know, and
I did I mean, I was yours was fun times.
Oh, yeah. Yeah, it was, um, it was interesting. We would occasionally get crowds of people who had been gifted this as a, like a company outing, and I don’t think they knew that it was going to be dinner theater. They would just walk around to the other tables in the middle of scenes and have conversations. I mean, that was that was rough. Oh my god I’ve had those one
time we I did a thing and it was like a murder mystery show one time this couple hired us to do it at their party at like a family party like they’re like all of our families coming to town we’re gonna have a we rented out this house and we want you to come and do that show for us at the house. Oh my god hilarious so like they rented out this big house bunch of rooms all the family members staying upstairs blah blah. They got like barbecue delivered there’s like a great spread. They’re about to sit down for dinner and then we they like hit us in a corner in like a corner cottage in the background. And then our host appears and is like Hello ladies and gentlemen. We’re here to put on a show like and then we did this show for like 25 people in this like cabin and it looks
like they did not want to
be part of it. And
I was like, who’s part of the thing and so
they knew that we were not part of the thing cuz we weren’t in their family like
hilarious. Wow. Was it very sweet but very misguided events to plan for your fucking family get together so funny. Like what are you thinking? Oh my god,
dinner theater though funny. people listening do do not discount dinner theater if you can get a gig doing it do it is a hilarious and fun experience it will teach you so much about acting and dealing with an audience that doesn’t want you there. It is so fun, though. That being said, I would say that 90% of the murder mystery shows that we did were a hit. People were into it. They’re like you know, loved it. Super fun. It’s just occasionally you’ll Find a person or a whole crowd, where they’re like, No,
you know, 90 90% of the time, it’s like a couple who’s signed up for this. And they’re actually really excited and they really want to be there, you know, but occasionally, it’s usually, it’s usually when someone has had the brilliant idea of hiring, you know, hiring out the whole company for one specific private event. Those are always dicey. But it is it’s a regular gig for a while. And basically, as long as you want to do it, you can do it.
Right. It’s performing. It’s getting out there. It’s money most of the time. So that’s nice. You know, it was the first book I ever got paid for. It was like the first acting I ever got paid for. And I was like, okay,
cross it off the list I think it might have might have been the first thing I ever got paid for.
I mean, it’s a nice thing to do to get on your list. You can cross it off, you feel better. It gives you the confidence to then get the next thing to do like like, I don’t think If I had done that I got I worked there, and I got those paychecks. And I thought to myself, I’m a working actor, and whatever that means, but it meant that to me, and in that moment, like it was right, and I was confident in my abilities, and I think that gave me the confidence to, you know, audition for certain commercials and other things that I wouldn’t have done. That actually ended up paying relatively well, you know, but without that first little bit of giving myself that chance, I don’t know if I would have made it.
Yeah. Yeah. Great. A great stepping stone. So hey,
you mentioned a second city Hollywood, was that your first foray into comedy classes or at you? Because you mentioned like, Oh, it was unusual that I was doing comedy. You had been doing dramatic stuff, plays and whatnot. But how did you even get in the door? And I don’t mean like, audition wise. I mean, like, what made you go Yeah, I want to do this at second city, Hollywood.
Well, interestingly, that was the first time I gotten any real formal training in improv, but I did do improv before that. I actually started doing improv in high school. My high school Yeah, they had an amazing drama department. Shout out to my old teacher, Christine Manny, who was basically spearheaded the entire thing. But they also had a student run with, you know, teacher advisor, a student run improv club. And this was short form improv and competitive improv kind of like Whose Line is it Anyway, and we would compete with other high schools in the county. So it actually from what I remember, I mean, I might be blowing up, you know, the glory days, but from what I remember we would pack the house and people would actually really get into it. We had like t shirts and All kinds of stuff I, you know, in our in our high school yearbook there’s a hilarious picture of me getting kicked in the side by a team member from the other school. We were playing party quirks and he was a raptor. That was the first time I’ve done improv and I went into it without really any training, like we had tryouts and I passed the tryouts. But the first couple of practices I had, I was so nervous and so in my head because I didn’t really know what I was doing. We had a team captain, but he didn’t really have any experience in actually teaching anybody anything. We would just practice the game. And the first few practices, I ducked, I sucked so hard, and I would drive home and just kind of want to drive my car off a cliff because I suck so bad, but Just from having people around me, most of whom were my friends, and at least half of them were also doing drama in the drama department. So I just had a really, like supportive group of people and I just kind of kept doing it. And by continuing to do it, I just got better at it.
I think that works to be honest with you like,
I don’t think Yeah, I need one on one. And I’ve never seen great improv scenes in the first couple classes. So don’t feel bad.
Oh, no, absolutely. I mean, I think I probably would have gotten better faster if I was actually being taught some of the principles but sure, you know, everybody sucks. Everybody sucks at the beginning whether or not you have a teacher.
Yeah, right. It’s trying to grasp it an idea and you get there but it takes time.
Take some time. Exactly. I did end up sort of taking a break from comedy when I went through college college was, you know, focused on getting my BA in drama. And, you know, I did the musicals and plays. And once in a while I would get together with some friends. I went to San Francisco State University, okay. And they had an improv team, but I didn’t really have my eye on it once in a while, I would get together with just some group of random friends from the theatre department. And we would just do improv for fun. But, you know, it’s very, very informal. And it wasn’t until I got to LA and I sort of thought to myself, you know, trying to think of a way to insert myself into a scene, some kind of performance scene, and I thought one of the easiest ways to do it would be to pay money to do it. So I got in touch with the second city teaching program. And I told them that I had stomach experience. So I didn’t want to start With the very, very first classes, but that I didn’t know which classes I should sign up for, I was just like, I’m not sure where to start. And they said to come to the auditions for the Conservatory, and from the audition, they would know where to me. I didn’t have any of the prereqs for the conservatory. So I went in, and I did the audition for the conservatory thinking that maybe they would place me in like a mid level improper actors class or maybe the higher levels of the very beginning improv classes. But from that audition, I actually got to go straight into the Conservatory, which was something that surprised me, but I was also very proud of. And so being able to do that I was really grateful because it hooked me up with some people who, you know, from us, being in a troupe together, became dear friends and I also saved a boatload of money. So I I guess
I don’t know how it works like so is the conservatory isn’t the classes part the conservatory is what happens after classes. How does it work? Like?
basically have? Yeah, they have a few different tiers of classes. They have sort of like beginning improv, and then they have, which I think is about six levels. And then they have improv for actors, which is a little bit more intermediate. And I think they start you off assuming that you know, some of the terminology and you know, some of some of the basics. And I think that is about six classes as well and then they have the conservatory. And in order to audition for the conservatory you have to have completed improv for actors or a similar level at like a different improv institution. And I didn’t have that I just had, you know, my high school and college. mess around improv. But so I was fully expecting, you know, sort of hoping that I would get into maybe mid level at the improv for actors stage, but I got to skip a few levels. So that was cool.
And then is it like masterclasses? Is it like specific style classes? Or is it more like, let’s get you into a troop and then you work with that troop on techniques.
So the conservatory is specifically so that you can learn the second city, sort of sketch writing format. The way they do that is they teach you some more advanced improv skills. And then you improvise a scene and if you like that scene, you re improvise it and re improvise it and re improvise it and every time you, you know, make some tweaks, try to find better laughs all that sort of thing and Then finally, you have something that you’ve done enough times that you remember it. And you can, at that point write it down. It’s a very sort of specific process. And so the conservatory has you go through all of their more advanced improv training. And then in the last, I believe, two levels, they have you started working on improvising toward sketch comedy. And then when you graduate, you actually have a graduation hour long sketch comedy show and you get I think it was like a to two or three weekend run. And they invite they have like an industry night where they invite agents and stuff to come watch you. It’s a very cool, very interesting process. Oh, yeah. Cool. Yeah.
I, yeah, that makes sense. So like, as soon as you were like, well, then they teach the second city thing like, Oh, yeah, of course. When else would they mentioned? You’d have to know how to do some improv before you can go. Alright, let’s take this improv. And let’s turn it into some sketch comedy. super fascinating. I’ve only ever I’ve never taken classes directly with Second City, but I’ve definitely taken workshops, like sketch writing workshops with people who have done Second City. So I’ve like gleaned a bit of the process, but How was it for you? Like do you still use it as a writing style? Is it regular for you in your improv? Do you like take notes as you’re doing improv about like scenes that particularly like, you know, seemed to resonate with you or anything like that?
You know, I, I don’t use it as much as one might think. I do. Occasionally take a note of an improv scene that I think is a really strong sketch premise. But the sketch comedy company that I work with now, doesn’t do that kind of process. All it’s a little bit more of a traditional process where they have the writing team. They have a number of writers meeting, and they have the writing team come in. And each writer is expected to have, you know, three to four sketches. And the actors do a table read, and then the writer receives notes. And if the sketch showed promise, then they bring in a rewrite for the final read, which is basically like, here are all of the best rewritten sketches. We’ll see which ones hit the best in the room. And out of that we make our final cut for the sketches that go into rehearsal. What’s the name of the group? It’s, this is killing my lobster. It’s a sketch comedy company. It’s been around for 23 years now. I think it’s the Bay Area’s oldest sketch comedy company.
Yeah, I’ve heard of the teaching sketch, like workshops and whatnot. Do they have their own style for writing and as well that you have learned while working with them.
They do in a way. So I also teach sketch writing with them, as well as sketch, sketch acting. They have themes for their shows themes that they write to. So that’s sort of what is a little more unique about them a lot of sketch comedy that I’ve seen, you know, if you think of SNL, it’s sort of just a conglomeration of funny scenes and often don’t really have any kind of overarching theme. But for killing my lobster shows, they will often set their program in advance. So through the year, we’ll know which shows we’re going to be writing to and it’s not until the writing process for that particular show actually starts that we know exactly what it’s going to look like. But we do have sort of a concept that gives us some good lines. So the show that I am supposed to direct in September, hopefully it doesn’t get canceled is a concept that I pitched. And it’s the sex show. And it’s going to be called let’s do the sex. And it’s sort of like a sex positivity show. And one of the things I really wanted for this particular show is for us to use sketch comedy to take a look at human sexuality through kind of a positive lens and, you know, think about consent and think about things like rape, culture, etc. But what I really wanted to focus it on is like sex can be fun and Goofy and pleasurable, and it looks so different for everybody. So, let’s explore some of the funny stuff that surrounds this part of human life, you know, so that’s going to be the concept for that show. There. There’s another show that I was the head writer for, called game of nerds. And that was all like a nerd culture show. That was a few years ago. And so we sort of did like, like a bunch of different aspects of nerd culture. We did you know, sci fi and fantasy, but we also talked about like, Ren faire and technology and like all the sort of different areas where people could be nerdy
so that they are finally writing stuff for that, like, Is that is that like, they’re aware for a couple of months that they’re going to be writing that so that like they can do research on nerd culture, maybe that they’re not part of and stuff or is it all? Exactly,
yeah, so we have a fairly large pool of talent that we pull from for the stones so we have like the acting pool and the writing pool. And if you if you’ve auditioned and got accepted, you are in the acting pool and if you’ve gone through the writing classes, And the teachers recommend you then you’re in the talent pool there. And so basically, in advance of the shows, usually a few months in advance, we will reach out to the people that we want. And say, you know, we would like to offer you a spot on this particular show. And here’s the schedule, and can you make it work? And if they can, then they know they’re going to be part of that show. They know what the very basic concept is going to be and they can start doing their research.
Awesome. Yeah. I like prep. I find it like, yeah, like not like extra work. But I mean, like, I like having the time to let ideas roll around in my head.
And I find it vastly helpful to have some kind of framework because for me, if you just like, I’m also like a very collaborative person. So I find sketch writing alone. fairly challenging as it is, but if you just like put me in front of a computer, With like a blank page and the blinking cursor and just go like, write a sketch, it can be about literally anything I’m going to freeze up, right. But if I’m, if I’m given something to brainstorm on, I can start coming up with concepts. And having a framework instead of feeling limiting. It is very freeing for me to have a jumping off point.
Well, one of the, one of the sketch experiences that I had, I did a show for many years, but it changed how it worked as the people in it changed, you know, moved in and out. And there was one time when we were doing this format, where like, we’d come in, everyone would pitch like a premise. And then we would decide we would vote on what premise we were going to go from, and we liked it. And then we would try to brainstorm various different things out of that one premise like, so it’s like it’s premise. It’s like hospitals or it’s like Like people who are obsessed with shoes or but then from the larger premise, we would pull different things. And then we would create like, little groups, three groups and set up the show almost Herald, like, where it was like each one of the groups wrote three sketches in their theme, and there was the overall theme, but then they had their smaller theme. So it’s like people obsessed with that. And then there’s like a guy who’s upset there’s like a series on like, casual soft shoes. And then there’s ones on like people who are selling like, fancy Jordans and stuff. And then those people get together and their job to work together was to write three different scenes that went together or didn’t, but were heightened. So like as we presented the show, it’d be like one from Group A one from Group B, one from Group C, and they would generally dictate because you know, the first one would be kind of a basic And then it would get more and more absurd. So the last three scenes and everyone would be totally crazy town. And we’d sometimes try to overlap them. Like they’d send emails to each other and they’d be like, Hey, could your guy who, you know robbed the liquor store come in and take the slippers off? Or grandma’s feet in mind? Like, yeah, yeah, or stuff like that.
That’s incredible. That sounds like such a fun process. But
it was a fun way to have a theme that didn’t feel because themes can be limiting, and in a good way, but they can be limiting in a bad way. And I’ve certainly done shows where people are like, I can’t, I just can’t I don’t know anything about this. And I was like, Okay, well, what is this make you think of? And they’re like, I don’t know, blah, blah, blah. I’m like, great. Write a scene about that. You know, and it’s like, it’s related because you thought of it. Like it’s adjacent. Yeah, that’s enough. Right? Yeah. So I don’t know. I love that stuff. brainstorming. Oh, God, my whole life could just be brainstorming.
I know. I love love love like when everybody’s in a room and just starts like saying funny things that compound on other funny things, it just keeps getting better. And those are the moments when I like look around at the people in my life that I work with and I just go I am so lucky to be working with such smart funny people like this. Like this is my life right now. Like those are my moments.
I like those those are always good. I appreciate that as well. When you have somebody or a group of somebody who you can really just vibe with, it just makes everything feel so much better. That you can create something and it’s it feels easy and fun. The days of easy.
Ah man and I also credit give KML a lot of credit for basically feeling like someone who can Take up some space in a room and feel confident and okay about it. I think this is something that I was reflecting on a little while ago, which is that I think, especially in comedy, and especially as a woman that can sometimes, you know, feel like, like I’m expected to take up a little bit less space. I think that’s something I definitely felt when I was younger. Partly because I had less experience. I don’t really think it was like the fault of any particular group of people or any one person or anything like that. But with killing my lobster. There’s so many women in leadership positions in that group. And they work really hard to create gender parity in their writing rooms and in their caste. And just Since I’ve started working with them, I’ve just been getting more and more confident in my voice. Which is incredible. I mean, it just feels so good to be working with people and saying something or you know, not saying something, but knowing that if you have contributions, that they are worthy contributions and they hold weight, it’s just really nice to have that kind of community to turn to. Totally.
And it’s nice when you feel like they have your back. Like they’re really there. Yeah, I care about your process.
Yeah, and, you know, also caring about making sure it’s good. I mean, you know, there’s, there’s companies who are supportive and then there are companies who are supportive but still maintain the ethics of the quality of the work. And with Lila ss, I think you know, Jill Eichmann, who’s the artistic director, having them be a huge part of my comedy career in San Francisco and then having killing my lobster and both of them with women in leadership positions, Allison page being the artistic directors killing my lobster. It’s just, I mean, it’s, it’s an incredible duo of support I have from a fantastic comedy community. I feel very lucky.
That sounds great. I mean, yes, you’re correct. I do know Jill. I don’t know, Alison. But I’ve heard wonderful, wonderful things about killing my lobster. So it is great to know that it is, you know, run by women and that, you know, you feel, you know, both the freedom to do what you want and the support to make sure that when you’re making a joke, they have your back not only in like, yeah, you can make that joke even though it’s weird, but also like, hey, let me help. Do you make that the best it can be? That’s great.
Absolutely. Yeah. And you know, it’s, it’s what’s funny. And what’s interesting is what wins in the shows. I mean, I think that’s, that’s a big part of, especially with sketch writing, something that I really respect is at the beginning of each of the shows that we do. They always, you know, kind of as part of their there’s always like an opening day spiel where they tell everybody the rules and what’s going down in case, it’s somebody’s first show. And one of the things they always say is like, Look, it is possible that if you’re a writer on the show, that you won’t get a sketch in the show, like, it doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. And that’s a bummer. But here’s the thing is when we’re working on sketching the room, all of the writers are contributing to make that sketch better. So you’re still on the comedy team. You’re comedic voice is still part of this show. But, you know, the thing that’s important to remember is the funniest is what’s going to go up? You know? Yeah. So like, it really helps prevent any sort of weird politics or anything like that when you’re just kind of like, Don’t take it personally. Everybody is valuable. Everybody gets paid. everybody’s name is on the program. You know, it’s just, we just got to make sure that we’re doing right by the show.
Yeah, I mean, absolutely. Show the quality of the performance comes first. Because without that the, the work that you’re doing and the cloud of the work that you’re doing is less than, so you got to pay. Absolutely. How many years have you been active in the comedy community in the Bay Area?
Um, well, once I decided to move back to the Bay Area from Los Angeles out was About five and a half years ago. And fortunately I had connected with Jill Eichmann, when I was still living in LA, my improv troupe was invited to the Bay Area to perform at a Leela show, actually. And so I met Jill that night, and I knew that I might someday be coming back to the Bay Area. And I asked her for her card. I said, Look, you know, if you need any teachers, and she’s like, yeah, we’re always looking for teachers. So I got her card, and maybe a couple years later, I called her and she’s like, Yeah, come in for an interview. It was like the minute I got back to the Bay Area. I started working with Gil. And I was also lucky enough to be able to audition for killing my lobster while I was still living in LA. So I’ve been working with both of those companies. For as long as I’ve been back in the Bay Area, which is about five and a half years.
Great. What a great community that you have around you. And I’m so glad that not only are you Supported by, you know, great people, but it seems like it’s a pretty tight knit hard working community, which, you know, I, I have great faith that, you know, communities that work hard and stay together will weather any sort of storm that we’re currently and encountering. So I’m really excited that you you have this family of performers and, you know, hopefully soon you can do more shows that are not on zoom. But for now, I’m excited that they have zoom and that, you know, you guys can start writing and whatnot. I’m excited for your upcoming show in September. It should be great.
Yeah, I mean, I there are still some gaps like I don’t know if you’ve spoken with any musical improvisers since the Korean team started, but I don’t know that I have zoom. Yeah. So that that’s sort of a unique challenge with zoom in with improv. Because of the lag with zoom, it is very difficult to do any kind of musical improv. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen anybody managed to work the kinks out yet. So people are like, you know, they’re recording funny songs or they’ll they’ll record their part and then send it to someone and they’ll record their part on top of it, etc, etc. But, like, for example, my opera improv group la spots a tura, which is an independent group we from all different training centers and stuff in San Francisco, but we haven’t been able to practice at all since it started, huh? Yeah, no, I just, I miss being in a room with those ladies. Yeah,
I like want to suggest to you to like go to a large field and be with those ladies. But then
so So Mike To get his keyboard out to the middle of a field, I mean, you know,
or like bells or something like it doesn’t have to be a keyboard, keyboard. And a little, you know, Speaker Whatever, man, that’d be terrible.
Yeah. I mean, you know, I don’t know. We’ll see what comes to it. Exactly. Who knows what the future will hold.
If you guys PS if you do at any point ever do a rehearsal in a field really far away from each other? Please film it, please.
I know. It’s like that sort of sounds like a mid 90s album cover. Yeah, it’s like a bunch of bunch of people standing moodily in the middle of a field.
Well, not only that, but like really loud. Like, also like opera and like loud, big singing, you know, could be great for a field. It’s all I’m saying. He’d be a beat. I don’t know. The bass you have. I don’t know anything. Maybe you’re Listen, you don’t know anything about the bay area we don’t have fields I get it I don’t know. But large spaces you’ve got to have those right rooftops perhaps. I’ve only been just once I spent a very I was in a very small like three or four blocks, so I don’t know anything about it.
There are fields you just have to drive. Okay,
good. I’m glad I’m glad I would like legitimately as I was saying a lot. I was like, You don’t even know if there’s field stop offering. Oh, like not only that way, you know, like, for instance, like I’m in Texas, some some places like it’s just like, oh, there’s a dirt patch, but I don’t think I’d call it a field like there’s a lot of like, there’s some brambles, but don’t hang out in them like, Oh, you know, we looked at the other day, and it was like, my husband was like, it’s a great area or whatever, but it’s literally covered in like low brambly, cedar bush trees like the baby wouldn’t have anywhere to play. They just like come and attack him everywhere. And it’s like, oh, I guess you’re right.
I guess the woods isn’t great if it’s attacking you like, but
so yeah, I was just like, well, I don’t know. Maybe that’s a good way. Maybe it’s a good thing to say to do. But maybe I’m like, people are like, She’s so naive. She doesn’t understand when San Francisco has. Sorry.
But yeah, I hope that soon that you will have the ability to connect with them and and hopefully, you know, in the in the interim, the via phone and zoom connections that you’re making can still be a little fun.
Yes, thank you. I do too.
Well, thank you so much for sharing your stories with me on the podcast and just being with me and chatting with me. I also miss people. So I appreciate you chatting and connecting with me and all So full disclosure, and I’ll say this even for the audience to hear, like, it took me a little while to schedule this with you. And I appreciate your patience with me, not only because I lost the first file, but also because then it was sort of like mentally tough to talk or get connected. So I appreciate your kindness to me. in getting this scheduled, it’s been a wild ride.
Thank you so much for having me. And, and I think it’s, that’s been something that’s been true for both of us and for a lot of people. A really weird time. And I think one of the things that I’ve been trying to be mindful of is, you know, it can, it can be really easy to think to yourself that all of a sudden you have all the time in the world and that you should be accomplishing a bunch of stuff and scheduling a bunch of stuff and I’ve noticed that there are some days when I’m capable of doing more than I am on other days, I’ve just been trying to remember that and make room and space for that. And also, as hard as it is to forgive myself for the moments when maybe I just can’t do as much. So thank you also for your patience and your kindness. I think it’s really important for us to be kind to each other in ourselves right now. Yeah, and plus, you know,
we’re all part of one big community Still, we need to find a way to continuously connect and be there. have each other’s back across the country. improv unite. Yeah,
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