May 14, 2014

A common dilemma for performers: when all your friends are performers too. 

OF COURSE Cute Catfish plays the ukulele.


A common dilemma for performers: when all your friends are performers too.

OF COURSE Cute Catfish plays the ukulele.

March 16, 2014
New(?) exercise: Doctor Mechanic

New exercise day! (Except it’s almost certainly not new, so if you know who I subconsciously poached it from, please let me know so I can credit them for inspiring me.)

One of the hardest mountains to get over as an improviser is to keep both things. You enter a scene with an idea in your head, and before you can get it communicated to your partner they say something that seems to destroy that idea. Your first instinct is to abandon your own thing, but it can be so much cooler if you manage to incorporate both your brick and your partner’s.

Jill Bernard tells about a time this happened to her in her Small Cute Book: she went out onstage and did a bunch of silent object work. Her partner entered the scene and said “Honey, I’m home!” Jill had thought she was doing mad science — adjusting Van de Graaf generators, pouring eldritch chemicals, all that stuff — and her partner saw her object work and thought she was making dinner. She decided tokeep both things and put on her best mad scientist voice to say “Come in, come in, it’s almost ready!” It killed.

So here is Doctor Mechanic, a super simple exercise to introduce the idea of keeping both things! Two people are up. Person A secretly decides for themselves on a profession — lawyer, astronaut, whatever. Person B has the first line in the scene, and endows person A with a job to do. Now all A has to do is to play the scene through the lens of their secret profession.

B: Thank you for seeing me. Little Muffles just hasn’t been eating his kibble for the past few days.

A: No problem, sir! Let’s just pop the hood on this baby and check his oil.

These scenes are just the easiest thing in the world and are hilarious to watch. After you do a run with the endowing line telling person A their job, you can have a round where instead of being told what they’re doing, they’re told where they are or what event is happening. Every profession is fun at a funeral!

March 5, 2014
Someone on Quora asked “What are good habits of improv performers?”

Here’s the list I had, which proves that I am indeed no fun at parties:

  1. Showing up at the venue a little bit earlier than the call time they’re given.
  2. Dressing like they knew they’d be performing on a stage that night.
  3. Not performing while drunk or high, unless that’s the schtick of the show.
  4. Warming up with their castmates before going up.
  5. Doing notes afterward and taking them seriously.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a show for no money. You’re still not doing it for no pay, unless there’s absolutely nobody in the audience. Someone showed up instead of going to another show, or a different bar, or just staying home and watching House of CardsTreat their time and attention like the gift it is and don’t be a dick.

3:21pm  |   URL:
Filed under: improv 
February 28, 2014

Having a tablet and a phone and a watch that all receive the same notifications is like being constantly followed by a Greek chorus who have a deadly allergy to you being able to concentrate on anything for more than two goddamn seconds before they beep and chirp and buzz and vibrate on the desk at you.

February 2, 2014

"omg i love zelda too. u r soooo smrt. do u work out?"


"omg i love zelda too. u r soooo smrt. do u work out?"

August 29, 2013

It’s amazing how much less rage you feel when you decide to start thinking some things aren’t made for you, instead of assuming that if you don’t like something it’s objectively bad.

August 12, 2013



Preps to the back and goffs to the front, it’s Dumbledore time.

July 7, 2013

Yesterday, I was flyering at Fringe for Tomes and I thought “Oh, I’m wearing a long-sleeved tee, I probably don’t need to put any sunscreen on.”

Let it be known throughout the land that yesterday will heretofore be referred to as The Day I Got Sunburn On Both My Wrists In The Shape Of Superheroesque Power Bands.

June 30, 2013
New exercise: Cast of Thousands

This one’s still baking, so I don’t really know what it’s about about yet, but I do know I like doing it.

Everyone takes a back line. One brave volunteer steps out and the rest of the improvisers character-paint them with visible characteristics, like:

  • "He’s wearing a neon pink top hat."
  • "He walks pigeon-toed, but with a bounce in his step."
  • "He has on sunglasses with hearts for frames."
  • "He’s wearing a denim vest and this pocket is overflowing with tabs of LSD.”

After you think the character has been painted well enough, ask them to do an in-character monologue. Maybe ask them a few questions, too. Solidify this character. Make sure they have a name! Then have someone else come out and be painted, too, until every improviser has done at least one character.

Now do some silent tag-outs. Someone comes off the back line as one of the characters the group has just created - not necessarily their own! No lines, just being the character. As soon as someone else on the back line knows exactly who this is, they tag in and they become a different character. Do this for a little bit, maybe a minute or two.

Do one more round of character paints, then have everyone do a round of tag with all of the characters that have been created. (If you’ve got five improvisers, they have ten characters to choose from.) Ask them to do different things. “The next tag, I want to see how this person paints a wall. Great! Next tag, you’re using a rotary phone.” Again… no dialogue.

You can also try calling out two people at once, or having someone join the character onstage, and a fun way to end this exercise is by giving an environment and having everyone come out at once and inhabit that environment.

What do I think this exercise works on right now? We love seeing recurring characters in a set. It’s mandatory in most longform formats and it is fun for montage. Part of successfully reincorporating characters is being able to evoke them quickly and clearly - you don’t want your partner to think that you’re Cell Phone Guy when you come in as Balloon Girl. The tag round here helps us nail down what I’m calling tags (ha clever!), the posture and physicality that says unambiguously who we’re looking at. You might not think five people could spontaneously invent ten physicalities that are distinct enough to do the tag round, but they totally can! Even if the improvisers accidentally paint two identical characteristics (two characters both wearing giant-ass belts, for example), they’ll find ways to tell the two characters apart. During the tag round, they’ll nail down the two different sets of tags for these two different people. Being able to do it with a little bit of practice sets it up for being easier to do in the moment onstage.

Second, it helps people out of their character comfort zone. Improvisers who have trouble making big physical choices will be helped by giving stuff that informs their physicality (a guy in a tuxedo will behave differently than a guy in patchouli-stenched cargo shorts) and their attitude (you can literally watch someone’s face fall when they’re painted holding a wilted flower). But we still want to have our own gifts, which is why you’re only allowed to paint things onto other people that you can see!

And third, it’s fun learning that you’re not as restricted as you thought you were. The no-talking rule during the tag round looks like it might be difficult to pull off, and for some people (points at self) who default toward talking-heads, it can seem daunting. But you can do it! And once you know you don’t need words, getting to also bring back characters with their voices and their attitudes and beliefs makes it feel cake easy to do reincorporation.

June 25, 2013

"We must indeed all Han together, or most assuredly we will all Han Solo."

Not many people know Benjamin Franklin invented Star Wars cosplay.