recommended reading

We’re going book wild in this episode, “Books Two Ways!”

Listen to the audio for a detailed breakdown of why each of these books made our list of recommended reading for improvisers.

We also explain the Austin born warm-up “books”, and why we love it.

Recommended Reading for Improvisers

Aerodynamics of Yes – by Christian Capozzoli

Art by Committee: A guide to Advanced Improvisation – by Charna Halpern

Bill Arnett’s Improv Blog – blog by Bill Arnett

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art – by Stephen Nachmanovitch

Guru: My Days with Del Close – by Jeff Griggs

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai – by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre – by Keith Johnstone

Impro for Storytellers – by Keith Johnstone

Improv Nonsense – blog by Will Hines

Improv Octopus – blog by Alex Berg

Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book – by Tj Jagodowski, David Pasquesi, & Pam Victor

Improvise: Scene From The Inside Out – by Mick Napier

Improvising Better: A Guide for the Working Improviser – by Jimmy Carrane & Liz Allen

Jill Bernard’s Small Cute Book of Improv – by Jill Bernard

Long-Form Improvisation & The Art of Zen: A Manual For Advanced Performers – by Jason Chin

The Inner Game Of Tennis – by W. Timothy Gallwey

Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation – by Charna Halpern, Del Close & Kim Howard Johnson

Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual – by Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts & Matt Besser

Zen in the Art of Archery – by Eugen Herrigel

Listen to the episode:
here on itunes
here for direct download & android
or streaming below

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March 25, 2015 Podcast Episodes

Bill SternBill Stern is an improviser currently living and performing in Chicago, whose comedy roots are based in Austin.

He’s also an incredibly charismatic performer that is one of my personal favorites to watch. Bill is a master of getting the audience to buy in…

Normally we break the interview into two sections, but we got so carried away in the first section that we decided to just keep going. We covered a vast number of topics including a revival of the now one year old lost harold discussion with Chris Mckeever drawing on Bill’s experience performing at IO Chicago. During the interview Bill ran K.C. and I through an exercise on air that blew our minds out of our butts.

Then to end the show everything went off the rails when I tried to have Bill play a poorly prepared game where he had to sniff out a fake band name from a list of other real band names. By the end of the game I was so amused/embarrassed that I completely lost my composure and became a giggling mess…it was a true triumph for this medium.

You can see Bill performing in Austin with the Available Cupholders

Commercial in this episode by Wink Planet

Featured song Kuna Matata by The New Mastersounds

Listen to the episode:
here on itunes
here for direct download & android
or streaming below

 

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March 17, 2015 Podcast Episodes

Nathan siteNathan Sowell is one of my good friends, and a much sought after improviser in the Austin improv community.

Nathan is a member of a number of groups including Nice Astronaut, Skutch, Fantastic Buddies and he is currently directing the upcoming My Step-Dad is a Genie.

In this interview with Nathan we discussed his keen ability to make moves during a show that really help to give the show shape and keep things flowing. We also talked about Nathan’s tendencies as a viciously supportive player, and the simple power of supporting your fellow improvisers.

To end this episode we played the official comedy board game of the nationally franchised comedy club, “the improv“. It was a weird look into the past…

Commercial in this episode by Wink Planet.

Reminder that our intro song is “It’s Cool” by Joey Kendall. Who is also this week’s featured artist, with his song “the closest things

Listen to the episode:
here on itunes
here for direct download & android
or streaming below

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March 8, 2015 Podcast Episodes

Hess GYBDavid Hess is truly a renaissance man.

Perhaps you’ve seen him improvising with groups including The Team and Glamping Trip, or acting in a local live stage version of the Ghostbusters, or acting online in something like the trailer for Hell No: The Sensible Horror Film, or even performing with one of his bands Supersonic Uke or Baby Got Bacteria

Hess’ talent is multifaceted and undeniable. So, we were thrilled to have him in the Got Your Back studio for an interview. We discussed his philosophies for his various projects, and how he has managed to stay busy without stretching himself so thin as to dilute his work. We also had a lengthy conversation about finding your voice as an artist, and how that nebulous process can transform assumed weaknesses into unexpected strengths.

To end the episode we brought back our no laughing game, Keep It Together.

Catch David Hess improvising with Elevator Action opening for Bad Boys in May at ColdTowne Theater.

Commercial in this episode by Wink Planet.
Featured song in this episode by Fareed Haque.

Listen to the episode:
here on itunes
here for direct download & android
or streaming below

 

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March 1, 2015 Podcast Episodes

Dave BuckmanWe interviewed one of the most experienced, and (in my opinion) most talented improv instructors in Austin, Dave Buckman.

Dave’s impact on my development as an improviser has been profound. As an original ColdTowne faculty member he taught my final level of classes, and helped me come to understand a number of the resonant improv tenants I still operate on today. In the middle portion of this episode we had a detailed discussion of one of those lessons, “the importance of reacting specifically to the last thing”…

When I started thinking about moving to Chicago, Dave encouraged me to make the leap and go for it.

After I moved back to Austin he encouraged me to teach and direct shows at ColdTowne.

So I feel like I (like so many others) owe a great debt of gratitude to Dave Buckman.

We began this interview talking with Dave about his history as an improviser. We discussed his time spent training in Chicago at IO and Second City, and how that ultimately led to his taking a job at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam.

We also discussed some of the patterns he has come to notice while teaching his popular personal diagnostic workshops here in Austin.

Dave was kind enough to engage us in a segment we called “Back to Neutral” where he talks about a personal improv peeve, and then follows that up by talking about something he loves about improv.

Finally, we played another round of everyone’s favorite guessing game “Lifetime Original Movie, Young Adult Novel, or Pornographic Film” so that Dave could compete indirectly with his lovely wife, and recent guest of the show, Rachel Madorsky.

Featured song in this episode by Gerrin Benfield & commercial by Wink Planet.

Listen to the episode:
here on itunes
here for direct download & android
or streaming below

 

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February 22, 2015 Podcast Episodes

comedy nerd-outThis episode of Got Your Back podcast was recorded live at ColdTowne Theater during our first ever Comedy Nerd-Out.

We invited three great minds from the Austin improv community to participate in the show, and they were kind enough to prepare to speak at length on a topic of their choosing related to improv, comedy, performing, or anything else they might feel passionately about.

The speeches given were:

– “You Suck Forever: Thoughts on Improv Nihilism” by Bryan Lubu Roberts
– “Finding, Feeding, and Chasing Inspiration” by Roy Janik
– and “Who Arted?” by John Ratliff

Personally, I found each of the speeches to be uniquely inspiring in their own wonderful way. Bryan was fiercely honest, funny, and profound. Roy offered a new way of thinking about the physical manifestation of inspiration that was novel and exciting. Then Ratliff finished by making me proud to think of improv as an artform and myself as an artist…I really can’t thank the speakers enough for creating the content for this episode.

The show also featured live music by Justin Soileau.

Join us at 7pm on the first Sunday of the Month at ColdTowne Theater for our next Comedy Nerd-Out featuring 3 new speeches by 3 new speakers.

Listen to the episode:
here on itunes
here for direct download & android
or streaming below

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February 13, 2015 Podcast Episodes

audition adviceAfter our recent episode on how to get stage time in Austin we thought it would also be helpful to compile a list of advice, tips, and best practices when auditioning for improv shows or groups.

In this episode we were joined by two local improvisers and directors who are experienced on both sides of the audition process, Valerie Ward and Lance Gilstrap.

Together we broke down the pieces of advice listed below and went into further detail on each.

Listen to the episode at the bottom of this post to hear the full discussion or check out this article from Jason Chin or this article from Huge Theater where many of these helpful tips came from, and best of luck if you have an upcoming audition!


Advice On Auditioning For Improv Shows and Groups

– The most frequent piece of advice I’ve found when researching this topic was to encourage people to support their fellow scene partners. Try not to look at the other people auditioning as your competitors. If you are cast then some of them will become members of your group. Directors are looking for people who work well with others, and often the best way to make yourself look good (and to take some of the pressure off yourself) is to focus instead on making others look good.

– Do your research and read any information the director has put out about the auditions and the show. This will be their first chance to see that you can follow instructions, and will likely help give you a better idea of what to expect from the audition and what the director is looking for.

– You’ll also need to see whether or not you can make the time commitment to the show. If you can’t make the rehearsals and/or the shows then you likely should not audition.

– Show up on time. 15 minutes before is advised so that you aren’t so early as to be an imposition, but not too late that you don’t have time to fill out any forms.

– Dress like you care. Business casual is a good general guideline, and helps make a good first impression. Also, please don’t wear a hat.

– Listen carefully to the director at the start of the audition. Very often they will tell you exactly what they are looking for.

– If you aren’t sure about something, especially one of the improv terms like “montage” or “sweep edit” then please feel free to ask for clarification.

– Have fun! You’re at your best when you’re having fun and playing.

– Remember that you are in a room of your peers who likely want to see you succeed.

– Speak up! Make sure you can be heard clearly.

– Be as supportive as possible. Try not to be judgemental  or treat anyone else as though they’re a bad improviser. Again, if something weird does happen and you support it and help turn it into a positive that is going to make you look great.

– Listen and work line by line off of the last thing said. That’s my practical advice for how to work in any show, style, or setting.

– Unless you are specifically asked to do so please do not pre-plan bits, characters, or opening lines for the audition.

– Be aware of how many scenes you’ve been in. “If you’ve been in 6 scenes in 15 minutes then you should consider hanging back. If you haven’t been in any scenes in 15 minutes, what are you waiting for?”

– Mix it up if given the chance, and show your range so you don’t come off as one dimensional.

– I know it might be hard, but try not to worry too much. A lot of factors go into the final decision, and ultimately the director will likely only get to see you for a few minutes total. The director often wants something specific, and you should try not to take it too personally if you aren’t cast.

– Audition more! You’ll get better at it the more you do it.

– Some directors are willing to give feedback about why they decided not to cast you. If they offer, feel free to take them up on it but try to be polite and realize that the decision likely wasn’t an easy one for them.

– Again, if you weren’t cast try not to beat yourself up about it. Feel free to consider what you did, and what you perhaps could have done better, but once you’ve had the chance to learn from it try to let it go.

Best of luck at all your future auditions!

Listen to the full discussion on advice for auditioning for improv shows and groups
here on itunes
here for android and direct download
or streaming below

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February 5, 2015 Podcast Episodes

RachelIn this episode of Got Your Back we interviewed Rachel Madorsky.

Rachel is an original ColdTowne faculty member who I personally am particularly thankful for because of how overwhelmingly supportive she has been to myself and others in the community. I have also been lucky enough to travel with Rachel while teaching improv corporate training for Whole Foods, and I can attest to the all around greatness of her character.

In addition to teaching and performing Rachel works as a licensed psychotherapist, and was kind enough to engage us in a conversation about a number of topics including the intersections between therapy and improv.

In the second part of this episode we dove deep into talking about the importance of vulnerability in improv, and did our best to break down and better understand what I believe can sometimes be a scary and misunderstood topic for improvisers.

Finally, we played a round of a new guessing game called “Lifetime Original Movie, Young Adult Novel, or Porno Film?”.

Featured song at the end of this episode “Nostalgic For Nowhere” by local Austin comedian & musician, Justin Soileau.
Listen to more of Justin’s music on his website.

Listen to the episode here on Itunes
or below for streaming & direct download

 

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January 29, 2015 Podcast Episodes

Stage timeOne of the most common questions I receive as the artistic director at ColdTowne is “How do I get stage time in Austin?”.

Whether you’re new to improv, or just new to Austin, in this episode KC and I have you covered. We discuss how to put together a group or show, and how get that show on stage. Even if you don’t live in Austin, the general ideas explained in this episode likely apply to the city you live in as well.

Simply put, if you want to perform somewhere you need to find the right person at that venue to talk about performing there. This post and episode (listen below) details that process for Austin, but for any city if you think you’d like to perform somewhere just ask. If you look on the venue’s website they likely have information posted about how to perform, or who to contact about submissions. This question is a welcome one.

We’ll get into more detail about how to submit in Austin specifically, but first…it’s time to have that talk.

Where do shows come from?

Most shows/groups happen because someone wants to do a show. They then either invite people to play with them or hold auditions. So, if you’re wanting to get started and no one is asking you to play then you can always start asking other people to play.

Austin regularly has auditions for improv, and sketch shows. Announcements about these auditions are typically sent out in the theater’s emails to their mailing lists which you can subscribe to on their websites:

ColdTowne GreenRoom (sign up on the right)
The Hideout Theatre

The Institution Theater
The New Movement

or you can stay up to date by joining the appropriate performer facebook groups listed below:

ColdTowne Students and Performers
The Hideout Performers, Students and Alumni
The Institution Theater Students, Alumni, and Staff

The Austin Improv Forums are also a great resource for finding other people’s audition notices or posting your own.

If you’re putting a group together you then need to decide whether or not you want to work with a coach. If you want to work with a coach but aren’t sure whom to ask, your improv teachers are a good resource who can likely direct you to some reputable coaches in town. There’s also a website,  austin.improvcoaches.comwhere coaches list their availability.

So, that’s it. Either someone asks you directly, or indirectly via audition, or you ask someone else. Take the plunge! Don’t be afraid to ask people to join your group. It’s typically a flattering thing. Try to be respectful if someone says no for whatever reason, be it that they don’t have time, or just aren’t interested. You can’t force it, and don’t want to play with someone who doesn’t want to be there. If you’re having trouble finding people ask your classmates, or go to one of the weekly jams. There is a jam on Tuesdays at ColdTowne at 9:45pm, every other Wednesday at the Hideout at 7pm, on Sundays at the Institution at 8pm just to name a few. Going to a jam is a great way to get some stage time as well as a way to meet possible like minded performers.

Once your group is ready to perform then you need to submit for stage time by filling out the appropriate form, or talking to the head of the show you want to perform with.

We detail the process in this episode which you can listen to at the bottom of this post, but every theater in town has a different process. ColdTowne and the Hideout take submissions every two months for some general spots. Many of these spots are half hour improv shows, but there are spots at all theaters for longer sketch, improv, stand-up or whatever high concept shows someone might want to put up. To sign up for regular ColdTowne submissions join the mailing list on the right of our student greenroom page, and talk to performers who headline regular shows about opening for them. On Mondays at ColdTowne there is an open mic for stand up comedians hosted by Maggie Maye, and on Fridays at 10pm Live at ColdTowne puts together a currated stand up set.

For info on how to receive the hideout’s submission form email Roy Janik, or again join the facebook groups for audition announcements and other stage time opportunities.

Several performance opportunities in Austin are also cast by the groups that headline a regular weekly slot. Again, joining the above facebook groups is a great way to make sure you see announcements by groups looking to schedule their own opening acts. For example, Jeff Whitaker schedules the openers for Good Fight at the New Movement. Sam Malcolm helps determine the opening acts for Bad Boys at ColdTowne.

So, to submit to these shows you’ll need to talk to a different person at each theater. This can seem a little daunting, but its actually a blessing in disguise. Its a chance to get to meet a lot of great new people, and make helpful connections.

The common thread seems to be that if you want to perform you just need to find the right person, and doing so is usually as easy as asking. Improvisers in Austin are very friendly in my experience, and will likely guide you to the right person if you just ask. A lot of stage time is given out in advance so people can’t just give it to you on short notice, but if you find your way into the loop the process should become clear to you.

At the Institution Theater if you want to perform you can talk to the people in charge of the shows you’re interested in and they can give you info on submissions, or you can contact the theater directly.

At the New Movement, the same thing goes. Several people run their own show. You can talk to Rob Gagnon about stand-up, or Megan Simon or Chris Trew if you have an idea for a show that doesn’t exist yet. Their contact info can be found on their website as well.

Zach Theater’s students perform a graduation show after completing level 3, and otherwise they invite performers to join their troupes or shows. However, anyone wanting to pitch an idea for stage time still can by emailing classes@merlin-works.com.

That’s how it works for Austin at those 5 theaters. Establish a good relationship with the time slot’s director, or the person at the venue who handles submissions. Be respectful, detailed and punctual with your requests.

and if you end up being told no by everyone, or can’t find a space then just do a show in someone’s backyard or basement or somewhere. If you’ve read this far you’re likely motivated, and chances are good that things will work out for you if you keep at it.

Listen to the full episode on how to get stage time in Austin:
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January 23, 2015 Podcast Episodes

KareemOn this episode of Got Your Back we were joined by Kareem Badr.

Kareem is a co-owner of the Hideout Theater in Austin, TX where he also teaches and performs regularly in a number of shows including the Big Bash on Friday evenings as well as with his long running and world touring group of 9 years, Parallelogramophonograph.

Kareem was kind enough to stop by the studio and spend some time talking with KC and myself about a number of topics ranging from the nitty gritty of his approach to narrative improv to the parallels between improv and the way of the samurai.

Also in this episode we continue our conversation from the previous episode regarding process vs. product in improv. Again, Kareem had a tremendous amount of thoughtful insight to offer on the subject, and ultimately left me questioning where the boundaries of each are.

In the final part of this episode we do our best to help out the community at large and “let go” of some characters we feel may be showing up too frequently in recent improv scenes.

Kareem can be seem performing weekly with his group P-graph on Fridays at 10pm at The Hideout Theatre.

Featured song in this episode Joshua Tree by local artist and recent ColdTowne graduate, Leah Nobel. Visit her website and follow her on facebook.

Listen to the episode below or:
Here on Itunes
Here for Direct Download and Android.

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January 15, 2015 Podcast Episodes

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