Urban Yeti Director's Corner

The Great Improv Debate

There was a lot going through my mind heading into the season premiere of 2 Player last night. We had a quick turnaround after getting back from Austin to get out promotional material and we were running our show off of our typical first Saturday cycle. Some say I did this because I like to promote conflict with our friends over at Scriptless, but that is certainly not the case. With Labor Day and Out of Bounds, there was no way to do a first Saturday show this month and I really wanted to have a three show season for 2 Player to get a full exploration of the format. I'm also not a big fan of standard Friday performances. But let's be honest, I don't owe anyone an explanation. More live theater is better for the community, even if it sometimes runs against one another. Let's also be honest, Anchorage was all about Pirate Pub Crawl. Huge thanks to the audience who came out last night for the premiere, to get around 40 for each show with the crawl was flattering and we enjoyed the intimate experience.

The Yeti's can also attest I took this format down to the wire, which is a bit unusual for me. 2 Player was first conceived back in June as a concept tipping our hat to a lot of duo work we have been seeing in the festival community. Duo improv intrigues me because it is a true challenge in the art form. By limiting improvisation to two players, you strip away all of the typical safety nets and conservative tendancies and you are forced to look your flaws in the face. We ran several rehearsals this summer running this concept. We stripped away the team safety net and stared at ourselves in the mirror. There was even a rehearsal where I gave some direct notes to our players in context of their 'tendancies' that might have shaken the group a bit. I don't regret my decisions to explore duo work or give direct commentary, but I do wish I could get to a bit more stable place in my exploration and rehearsal structure. Although I saw some great talent and content from the Yeti's in our summer rehearsals, I wasn't satisfied with the product of limiting world building to two players for long periods of time. Let me be clear, from what I have seen out of our Yeti's, they can do it and put up some really solid work. The format I ultimately opted for was a modification to allow transition from the team into one of the two player spots to help expand the story. The reason? Nothing to do with capability, all to do with what I consider a great debate consistently discussed in the improv community. A debate reinforced by our networking with others in New York and Austin. What does an  improvisor want to perform vs. what does an audience full of non-improvisors want to see?

Full disclosure, I performed in our 2 Player format last night, so I'll do the best I can in a director-player role. I really enjoyed playing in the show and I'm excited about the rest of the season. I think the first 20 minutes of the set demonstrated where we want to go. It was a good combination of faster paced character exploration while still allowing players to slow down and have fun with their ideas. Whether it be spiders in the dark or trying to make a cut in baseball, there was serious fun going down on stage. The last 10 - 15 minutes, although full of a fun gimmick of using the theater to transition FBI information, was an example of getting lost in plot and explorations failing to yield a coherent story line. I personally had some contribution issues in these last two adventures, my mind desparately trying to balance the desire to straight up plot the course out. I know the entire team felt a bit uncomfortable in the last world exploring the term 'bamboozle', but I will say I was happy to see performers attempting to move away from what wasn't working by expanding their exploration to other content like education and spelling bee's. This reinforces a concept I very much believe in: if something isn't working, don't feel nervous to throw that content away and explore something else. I am proud to see examples of this in the show. I loved the format and I'm excited to hit it again. I would like to focus our next couple of rehearsals by getting some good object work into our scene introductions to spice things up. I want some of our fun to be environment driven rather than only relying on dialogue. A strong relationship is awesome and makes great improv. A strong relationship wrapped in an environment the audience can see is hitting it out of the park. Thank you to the Yeti team for allowing a director to explore a concept down to the wire of opening performance. Thank you for a lot more than that.

I typically don't spend a lot of time in the blog on our After Dark performances. Yeti has our short form in check and this is capped by a team willing to play games they don't have a lot of experience or rehearsal in and still tearing it up. Plus most of our troupe gets plenty of short form work through other performance avenues. However, it is worth noting we had a bit of a wild ride for Mallory's 30th birthday. To the players and audience, thanks for hanging in their with us. There were some things I tried to do as a host towards the end of the show that I don't feel worked out very well and were portraying a little too much 'inside information'. Overall, it was a nice celebration, but I have a rule to never bring personal information on the stage that might leave some of the audience out of the loop. I feel it was limited to the end of the show and I'll take the hit on the slip. The improv throughout, however, was solid.

Hey, come next level with me for a second.

If I'm an improviser who spends a lot of time exploring long form comedy, I love the feeling of starting with a completely open mind and building off of something as subtle as a movement, a character attribute, a slight noise. From there, with great trust in my scene partners, we build a beautiful relationship and weave a storyline together. Sometimes we find a game, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we build this really full laughter in the audience and it is worth it. Sometime we aren't able to get there and are forced to wipe the scene away and try again. The risk has a reward, but what makes it a risk is sometimes there is failure. But that's okay, because the audience should have a basic respect and understanding of what improvisation is, the same way no one expects a major league baseball player to have a batting average of 1.000.

If I'm a typical audience member taking a chance on improv comedy, not an improviser myself, I love seeing something funny and laughing. I get that anyone who gets on the stage deserves respect. After all, I'm certainly not up there. But at the same time I paid $10 for a live theater performance, so I get the right to hold standards for how I spend my time. I'm totally in to short form because it involves the audience quite a bit and I feel more connected to the show. If something didn't go so well, we quickly move on and see something new. But when it comes to longer form comedy, I don't quite get it as much. Sometimes a set can go a long time lacking the energy I crave. I can see the performers are exploring, but sometimes they spend a long time exploring. I don't see enough long form to know what good looks like, so I'm left to my previous experiences to judge. Sometimes I don't laugh as hard, sometimes I just don't get it.

Are you picking up what I am putting down? Both views are a bit simplified, but I use this to draw out the struggle ultimately leading to the current 2 Player format we are practicing today. In fact, this great debate in my mind can be found throughout our Debauchery, Love is Blind, even Harold formats. I even experience this when I play with others. My version of 'in my head' is when I make a choice based on my desire to drive the story forward through plot. Some players will come out of that scene with me waiting for some high fives and ass slaps. Others will come out neutral and I find myself concerned that I disappointed someone who wants to go next level in their exploration of the scene. For others, it boils down to the simple challenge of getting laughter out of the audience. Some players crave the energy, others can bask in the silence to experience something greater when the scene clicks. Back and forth, back and forth. We are truly lucky here in Anchorage to get such a large non-improviser audience to support live comedy. From our adventures, we get a sense this doesn't happen in a lot of places. Another distinct adventage: It allows us to explore what improv can and should be. I feel we become well rounded when we don't surround ourselves with audience immersed in the game with us. You, whether you're a Yeti, an improviser or just a fan, I want to know what you think. Stop me when you see me next time and let's discuss.

Speed it up, slow it down. Do what's necessary, play nice with others. Be skilled, be funny. Almost all workshops these days teach you the rules of improv are meaningless as rules. So it goes with trying to find the best product. Ultimately the diversity of perspective coming from every player in your ensemble brings it's own distinct voice to be applauded. In this I find the stability I've been searching for: Work with me to strip away the insecurity and find a true passion for play.     

Author: 

The Yeti was Out of Bounds

I roll my sleeves up all the time. If I’m not wearing a t-shirt, you might as well pin those bad boys up permanently cause they aren’t coming down unless I got a suit jacket going over them and Alaska is not the type of place that gives you the excuse often. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember and I think this gives me a certain style, sometimes even a certain voice. Yeah, not a big deal worthy of a blog but it gets kind of fun to start recognizing the style of others. Bright shoes, crazy long socks, custom tee’s, accenting tattoos or belts, pure flannel, you name it. It’s funny because with such diversity in play, whenever you see something you like, you rarely go out and immediately buy it and incorporate it into your wardrobe. You really just notice, like it, even love it sometimes and continue to use it as motivation to find your own expressive voice.

You’ll recall my last blog post was describing a wonderful experience at the Del Close Marathon in New York City. To this day I still recommend going to DCM for exposure to one of the biggest comedy houses in the world (Upright Citizen’s Brigade) and the industry of comedy. However, after our recent adventure to Austin I realized I was really exposed to a distinct, single styling at DCM. We saw over 30 long form sets and a lot of them done by people taking classes or previously trained in the UCB system.

But let me tell you something: The diversity of comedy can be so much sweeter. I feel I came away from our recent journey having seen much more of the comedy spectrum.

The Yeti has just returned from the experience known as the Out of Bounds (OoB) Comedy Festival, which took place this month in Austin, Texas. We saw different improv, sketch, stand-up and play experiences over our five night adventure, performed our own short form product and took a variety of workshops. I worked duo scene strategy with Sean Cooley out of iO in Chicago, audited an object course put on by Rich Talarico of iO and Annoyance Theatre notoriety and finished big with a master class from Mick Napier himself. I don’t name drop for my sake, I name drop for the festival to give you a picture of what OoB brings to the table. On top of it all, we truly experienced Austin, the Portland of the South, a haven of artistic perspective nestled in a very traditional part of the country. It was hot, it was humid, and I weigh more from all the BBQ I ate. We also came back with more than just experiences, but with new friends in the ever growing improv community.

It’s the diversity that sells it, and I’m not just going to spend all my time in this entry cheerleading the Yeti experience or spending pages on building the Out of Bounds mythos. I’ll do the direct recap succinctly:

  • OoB was amazing and a strong thank you goes out to the Austin community, including theatres, tech, volunteers, publicists, photographers, and most of all producers who made it happen. I can put it no more simply than go to this festival and have an amazing time like us.
  • Urban Yeti had a great set. We had fun, it was a great space, full crowd and we had a lot of engagement. I am proud of our ensemble for being able to put up such quality in such new and diverse environments.
  • Thank you to family and friends who came to see us so far away from home. You know who you are, we know who you are and we won’t forget.

But I think a true testament of this experience is how much it got me thinking about our place in the comedy world, finding Yeti’s style, it’s voice, but even more questioning how much time I was spending on my personal development.

I was challenged a bit by the social aspects of the after parties and networking with folks around the festival. OoB gave us plenty of opportunity and went above and beyond, but it is difficult for someone outside of a vibrant arts community like Austin to find out where to pick up and keep people’s interest. We got better and looser as the festival went on and we met a lot of awesome people with the added bi-product of a solidified strong reputation. But imagine my surprise, as the Yeti’s converge on a patio picnic table to talk about their festival experience, when Mick Napier comes over, plops down and spends 30 minutes getting to know us. Don’t worry, if you don’t know who he is, this story is satisfied by the simple fact I specifically named him and he was nice enough to get to know us. Something I have been very proud of this year is the Yeti team taking a lot of workshops together and coming out with kind performance remarks from instructors, but even more importantly with other workshops participants continually saying we are really fun to play with. Mick capped this feeling off by telling us he was surprised by our talent and thought Alaska improv was doing just fine. I endeavoured in the conversation with him to ask how to find resources for better improv in a community as far away as Anchorage. His message was very unique and unexpected: Take advantage of the fact you are in a market outside of Chicago or New York because it allows you to find your own voice, the machine can often be a lot of bull shit. There was no name dropping, workshop selling or book pushing. There was only a simple message to carve out a piece of that comedy world for yourself. You, out there, I want to tell you I’m a guilty man. I am quick to judge good or bad and label an improv show strong and weak, question the ability of players to put up products worthy of an audience. Art is judgement, this will never go away. But comedy is about style and just because I perceive a struggling set, it does not mean there isn’t an amazing voice to it.

There were several styles I loved at Out of Bounds. My favourite overall experiences were seeing original plays through ‘Everything is Established’ and the New York Neo-Futurists. Just absolutely outstanding, unique and well done with superb acting. Remember those names and go endeavour to see them in your life. I don’t think anyone walked away from Coldtowne theatre on Saturday night without fawning over the style of Whiskey Tango from Portland. I have a close friend in the ensemble from the college improv years and it was my first time seeing this group. I would love to Tango again someday soon. I saw a clown called Honeybuns take an audience to the edge of their seat in beautiful discomfort, I saw some inspiring talent run through the gauntlet of All Star Maestro (competitive short form improv) and I even got a chance to appreciate the growing style of musical improv. Finally, I want to give a shout out to a set by Mark Kendall from Dad’s Garage in Atlanta. I give him my top honors because he took on a tough New Movement venue and won an audience over with personal sketches that he poured his heart and soul into. He worked hard and earned his keep. I hope to travel to see him and the rest of Dad’s Garage some day because I am seeing and hearing great things coming out of this theatre. Festivals allow you to bank styles you like and I will cherish these moments, but I will also be careful not to emulate. We still need to work every day to find our own creation and voice.

Something else unexpected emerged from our social extravaganza catalogued above: I started to question if I was in too deep. I try to keep up appearances, I try to be the rock if improv and spend my time deep in the trenches of bringing a diverse comedy experience to Urban Yeti and Anchorage. I try to be the most knowledgeable, the most prepared, put up the best product, get people to the table, give the audience a unique experience and keep a diverse set of projects going that interest our performers. I am, however, starting to see a different person emerge, someone I’m having a hard time tempering as of late, someone that is too vulnerable. I get nervous in workshops and sometimes I overcome to put up some impressive scenes and other times I let it pull me down into a jumble of confusion. I am constantly looking for some sort of reinforcement after performances, which have to be rare if I want to maintain a distinct director/ensemble atmosphere. I keep having conversations with people about wanting more time to get a better improv product out of Yeti when I just need to realize I am projecting my own desire for more of MY time to find a voice where someone would walk away from a show saying I like John Hanus’ style. Why am I spinning this blog so inward? Regardless of vulnerabilities, I don’t seek pity but instead believe there is some learning here. This blog is about bringing you along in our development and even these type of threads can lead to some important lessons. Directing requires you to sacrifice personal voice to find the style of others for showcase and the OoB festival is so awesome and diverse it turns your vulnerabilities into a desire to lean in and figure it out. You, you out there, you and I are going to keep pushing ourselves to be uncomfortable because the diversity is so much sweeter.

Thanks for the renewed passion OoB. I hope we can return and continue the party. Most of all, thank you to Mallory Hanus, John Parsi, Mary Jo Mrochinski, Aneliese Palmer and Erik Dahl for traveling down this road together and working with me to find our path. Let’s keep going, I hear there is always something better ahead…

Here are 10 things I think I know to close out my musings for you:

  1.  Whoever came up with the concept of trading cards at a festival is a damn genius. OoB offers trading card packs for purchase with all the acts of the festival on them. It gets people wanting to collect their own cards and sets they enjoyed. Great social icebreaker as well as we met a bunch of people just from wanting to trade cards.
  2. Thank you Eric Caldwell for helping us navigate Austin. There were several times when I was having a drink and Mr. Caldwell would bring a friend up and say ‘I really wanted you to get a chance to meet the Yeti’s.’ That helped a lot and you are a true gentleman and scholar. Seriously, thanks for being you.
  3. I’m getting itchy to go to Chicago to experience more Annoyance Theatre and check out some of the other big schools. Trigger Happy was a unique experience. I thought the format was downright insane and refreshing to see. Each member of the group understood a secret language in their set that caused them to transition scenes, which they did about 50 times in a 45 minute set. I’m happy to pocket this experience for when my players tell me I put too much structure into some of our show ideas.
  4. OoB used to be a mini golf and improv festival back in the early 2000’s when things were a bit less popular. They continue the tradition today by playing a mini golf tournament. The person on the winning team who lives furthest away gets to take the 1st place jacket home with them, add something unique to it and return it for the next year’s tournament. Mallory took home the jacket and you know something Alaskan and Yeti is getting sewed on to that bad boy.
  5. Saw a silent improv set with soundtrack called Golden. Loved their style and product.
  6. Don’t walk into a festival and question a small theatre. A lot of the times if it only seats 40-60, you’re going to enjoy your experience more.
  7. If you do improv, do Maestro, it’s like eating your vegetables. I did it for the 2nd time and it takes a lot of maturity and can easily get out of hand given the competitive nature of it. But that’s not what it’s about nor is it why I emphasize it. Do it purely for the fact that you have to stand in front of an audience full of people and not have the slightest idea of what you are going to be asked to do.
  8. If you’re out there ‘Ball and Chain’, you get the award for my hardest laugh at the festival. Your scene about training for the Olympic shooting competition and who you imagine when you fire the gun was top notch.
  9. 6th Street in downtown Austin. What a shit show. I’ve never seen anything like it.
  10. We missed Erik and Josh on this trip. Let’s not make this a recurring theme gentlemen.
Author: 

The Most Urban of Yeti's - DCM 2015

NEW YORK CITY! SEEING THE BIGGEST NAMES IN COMEDY. INVITED BY THE UPRIGHT CITIZEN’S BRIGADE TO PERFORM IMPROV. BRINGING A TASTE OF ALASKA TO THE BIG APPLE. HEEYUK HEEYUK HEEYUK.

Don’t be a douche Hanus.

We have returned from the 17th annual Del Close Marathon (DCM) with an awesome experience to remember and a lot of perspective gained. But before you prepare your submission for DCM18, read on and hear how Alaska’s own Urban Yeti journeyed to the Alpha ++ city of New York with their passion of improv comedy. I aim for the truth and steer from the sugar coating, so enjoy the account.

Don’t know DCM? Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to nerd out on this stuff like we do. Let me bring you up to speed. Improv started with folks like Viola Spolin and Paul Sills, but was ultimately guided by a gentleman named Del Close, who started out directing at the main power house of improv and sketch: The Second City in Chicago. But after ten years with Second City, there was a difference of opinion on whether improv in itself was a marketable art form, which led him to develop long form and the Harold format with Charna Halpern at Improv Olympic (iO). Sure, Del Close discovered the Harold with his improv team ‘The Committee’ a lot earlier, but it really wasn’t refined until this point. This training ground yielded other improv organizations, including what is arguably the biggest in the business today: The Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB). Del Close mentored a lot of people, but four of his students came together, learned from his teaching and took the product to New York City. These individuals, Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, became the notorious ‘UCB Four’ and created an improv empire and methodology which has become a force in comedy. Every year, the UCB theatre in New York (they now have two theatres in New York and one in LA), celebrate their late mentor Del Close through the Del Close Marathon, which brings troupes together from across the nation to perform improv comedy in a 52 hour marathon in 7 different spaces throughout the city. Amongst so many people, improv sets, press conferences, celebrity sightings I think it is important to remember the main purpose of this festival is to celebrate the legacy of Del Close and his refinement of long form. Any other intent of networking, exposure and learning is a secondary benefit and a little harder to achieve in this festival format.

 There are three types of show at the Del Close Marathon:

  • The Marathon Shows: These shows run at spaces which include the actual UCB theatres in Chelsea and the East Village and include sets from around the country. Our Urban Yeti set took place at the original Chelsea theatre as part of this category.
  • The Premium Shows: Each evening between 7 pm - 1 am, tickets are sold to shows which include some of the biggest names in the industry. We saw sets with the ‘UCB Four’ and other performers like Broad City, Ellie Kemper, Zach Woods, Thomas Middleditch and writers from successful shows like Daily Show and Key and Peele.
  • The Bit Shows: Two theatres run sets all night long and from 1 am - 7 am, bit shows are accepted and include formats that push the boundaries. It’s hard to describe these shows, but let’s just say people have very creative minds. More on this category of show later.

 A few words on our set for those who have not experienced the festival. We had a 20 minute time slot at 9 am on Sunday morning at the original UCB Chelsea theatre. We arrived at 6 am to support the other morning sets and got acquainted with the space. We went to the green room 30 minutes prior, warmed up and walked on to stage. 20 minutes is 20 minutes at DCM. The lights go up as the previous set performers are leaving, the lights go down right at 20 minutes and the next group goes on. It is that fast and I thought we did great! The audience in the seats enjoyed the Alaskan themed suggestions. Performers got some energy out of the system with some quick cuts at the beginning and then settled into developing some great games. We were cut at the right moment with some good energy. But I also don’t want to bull shit you either. We don’t know many people in New York and we went on at 9 am, so we had an audience of around 30 people and a couple were sleepers in the back trying to brute force the marathon. Don’t misunderstand me here. The UCB gave us a great experience and treated us well, they owe us nothing, but this leads me to the bigger message of our festival experience. Apply to DCM and go to experience the INDUSTRY of improv, don’t go because you think you are going to have a life changing set. Don’t over-analyse what you put up. Be realistic about what others can provide for you, especially in a city like New York. Our DCM experience gives us great appreciation for people like Eric Caldwell and his ASIF festival and hopefully what we will see in Austin with Out of Bounds.

Onto the rest of the festival. So we got a little star crazy, but can you really blame us? Wouldn’t you have done the same? The Del Close marathon was full of UCB performers who are now working full time in the comedy industry. Don’t worry, we try not to be pretentious idiots.  Watching famous improvisers and taking quick pictures in the lobby after a show doesn’t mean we are any more special than other improvisers out there, but what it does demonstrate is experiencing the wider community of improv comedy and getting a bigger picture view of the INDUSTRY. You can see a wide range of people from those who are working and famous in the craft, those who are obviously trying to reach that status and putting up some great stuff, those who are trying to reach that status but struggling to put up great stuff and the hobbyist just happy to be there. Personally, I will always regard myself in that hobbyist category. We had an opportunity to listen to a ‘UCB Four’ interview at the 92Y institute prior to the festival beginning. One of my favourite moments of the trip was listening to Ian Roberts and Matt Besser discuss a defining moment in UCB history being when the group switched from one rehearsal a week to three. I think a lot of people take for granted the improv art form and don’t put as much emphasis on rehearsals as other scripted stage performances. But I believe the UCB history supports the notion that if you want to get better and take your hobby to the next level, you have to be as fully committed to a rehearsal process just like any other show, if not more. I have now helmed three improv organizations to date and I continue to struggle with balancing a desire to be better and working with what we have, settling into the hobbyist mentality. If I had my way I would rehearse with our ensemble weekly and put up more shows, travel to more festivals and spread the Yeti brand. But this just isn’t reasonable with family, career and performer availability. The DCM taste is sweet, but don’t let it poison the well. Be happy with the opportunities afforded and make the best with what you have. The most important thing will always be just to have fun with a group of friends committed to the craft.

Let me expand on the use of the term INDUSTRY a bit. I encourage all people out there to attend this festival at least once in their improv careers. Come out and experience New York City. Experience your ensemble being meshed together with 500 or more shows, each with their own sets of expectations and dreams. See what other people are doing. Some of the best parts of the festival for me was experiencing the work of Harold teams put on by UCB students. Some were great, some were not so great, but it gave you great perspective on the types of people paying to participate in the UCB institution. In Anchorage, we don’t have the luxury of established comedy/improv training programs. We have to make do with the talent and curiosity of the director’s willing to do a bit of study to lead their teams. But what I found particularly remarkable is it seems everyone experiences the same things we do. That awkward moment at the beginning of the set when someone has to step forward and bring along an audience not knowing what is going to take place. Those moments when plot is controlling rather than pure instinct. That time when a performer reverses the direction of the team with an unsure audience and the team has to commit 150% to make something from nothing. It was a liberating experience to see that all teams experience what we do, whether they are trained by the machine or not. For those out there who wonder how Alaska stacks up in the improv world, we come back to tell you we stack up well and we have the talent. Don’t let anyone tell you different. With over 500 shows, don’t just go to watch amazing improv, go to watch struggling improv and realize there are people out there trying to navigate the waters of ‘Yes, And’ and ‘If, Then’ with similar difficulties.  

What were some of my other learnings? An Alaskan in New York, a director in a sea of professionals, the hobby vs. the career:

  • This art form is worthy of its own platform. Premium shows were worth it, improv groups traveling from their homes across the country are worth their ticket price. Comedy from truth and scene work is a show worth supporting. Sure, there are groups out there that do it better than others, but never tie it to a thought that the art form of improv comedy can’t stand on its own. Although Del Close was a complicated man, he did the right thing by leaving an institution that didn’t appreciate the beauty of improv.
  • Watch good sets and professional sets and you see a common theme you should try to develop in your own product: slow down, let the scene initiators develop something to work with and figure out how you can elevate / contribute appropriately. Watching marathon shows, there were a lot of groups prone to people walking all over each other. Watching those who have been established in industry, they are much more likely to let their partners establish a scene reality, really listen to the scene foundation and find the appropriate place to contribute and elevate. Put more simply: slowing it down is the key to success.
  •  I’m very excited to keep this party going in Alaska. The more we see and perform, the stronger our art becomes. We are going to take the rehearsal and show opportunities we have and improv the shit out of them. You get to benefit Anchorage, we’ll see you in the fall.   

As the festival winds to an end and you walk out from your set, up the stairs of the legendary UCB Chelsea theatre’s box office, you can turn around and look at a prominent picture displayed of the UCB Four in one of their first shows ‘Virtual Reality’. I look at that picture, in that space and have a different feeling than a lot of other people. I suspect a lot of folks look at it as something to aspire to, a devotion to art and the desire to make a career out of it. I don’t fool myself. Perhaps life will take a weird turn, but it’s more likely I’ll continue building a life with my wife and kid(s) and developing as an engineer. I look at that picture and I’m just thankful, for a moment, that I got a chance to intersect my hobby with a piece of entertainment history. I’ll remember it fondly and I know those in Yeti will share my sentiment. This is the core of my recommendation for other improviser’s to submit to this festival. Go share in this moment with me.

There are a couple of thoughts that I couldn’t successfully weave into the themes of this blog that I still want you to know. I’m going to take a page out of my favourite sports writer, Peter King, and tell you a couple things I think I know:

  1. We heard a lot about the bit shows prior to attending the festival. After watching a couple throughout the festival, I thought I was going to leave DCM without the promised experience of crazy improv that pushed the boundaries. Instead, I saw a lot of performers taking for granted free stage time to do sets confused with dozens of performers and lack of story building. But then came ProvCore to save my festival. ProvCore, the penultimate bit show. Short improv scenes interspersed between heavy metal music with positive messages of humanity like ‘Have safe sex’ and ‘Recycle’. If by some random chance you are reading this and you were in ProvCore, thank you, thank you for saving my DCM bit show experience, thank you for being awesome and keep on being you.  
  2. We did not participate in any workshops during the festival because we were loaded up in Juneau and feel we will see better opportunities with Out of Bounds. We also spent a lot of money to get to New York and it was tough justifying more expense and less opportunity to watch other groups perform. Could this be a DCM gold mine untapped? Yup, but you’ll have to talk to someone else who knows more.
  3. You could convince me right now the best improviser in the world is Zach Woods of Silicon Valley fame. Between watching some of his material in the Del Close documentary and seeing him perform live in an ASSSCAT performance, he has so many skills to aspire to, at the foremost having an intelligence that comes from a masterful ability to listen and internalize.
  4. I think the UCB Chelsea theatre and the SVA Beatrice theatre were the most beautiful spaces I have ever seen to perform improv comedy. Seeing Fwand in the Beatrice was awesome. Gives me chills thinking about other cool things you could do in that space.
  5. I feel like my desire to produce hosted sets makes better improv comedy. I watched over 30 shows during the festival and I felt a lot of them could have benefited from a host controlling the pace and the energy. Yeah, I get it, the experts can do it themselves, but I hope our performers feel like hosting makes life a bit easier for them.
  6. The human condition teaches us to compare experiences and I need to work on settling down and enjoying what I have in front of me. Who went to the best set? Who went to the best show? Who went to the best restaurant? I need to work on enjoying the moment and get out of the curse of comparisons, because it quickly becomes apparent that your opportunities, no matter how perceived, are a lot more than others have.
  7. Improvised podcasts are becoming a big thing and it was fun to see the Hooray Show and Improv4Humans in action. Think about listening in sometime, the art form translates well.
  8. Go to New York to experience the beauty of scripted theatre as well. We saw an immersive theatre experience called Sleep No More and Broadway spectacles like Book of Mormon and Something Rotten. Every production in New York is so much more intimate of an experience, just absolutely amazing.
  9. We missed Josh on this trip...
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