COMEDY NERD-OUT SEASON ONE
Got Your Back podcast hosted 4 live shows where we invited 13 of our favorite improvisers, teachers, and other great comedic minds from Austin, TX to speak at length on a topic of their choosing.
Here are links to the full length videos as well as clips of each segment. Audio of these episodes will soon be released as podcasts on this page and on podcasting services like itunes.
Episode Four (full episodes)
– “Conspiracies, Meaning, and Hidden Messages” by Cody Dearing
– “Unconditional Support” by Jericho Thorp
– “The Career Comedian in Today’s Industry” by Will Cleveland
– “Western Theatrical Tradition and Moving On” by Arthur Simone
Jericho is a member of Midnight Society who perform weekly improv shows on Saturdays at 10pm at ColdTowne Theater. Midnight Society is one of the longest running groups in Austin (the second student group created out of ColdTowne conservatory). They’re masters of improv, sketch on stage and on screen, commercials for this podcasts, and seemingly anything else that comes their way.
I find Jericho to be a tremendous actor whose commitment and ability to believably portray characters both big and small is inspiring. He always seems to be having a good time, and his skill and energy often reminds me of why I love doing improv.
In this episode we talked with Jericho about character, commitment, and much much more. Then to top it all off we played a great game that KC created where we improvise short scenes, and then talk about the process and why we made certain choices.
Midnight Society can be found on the web here:
This episodes featured song is “Smiling Like A Buddha” by Railroad Earth. railroadearth.com
Also Don’t forget to subcribe to and rate/review our sister podcast Victrola!victrolapod.com
If you’re thinking about putting on an improv show, or any kind of show, our opinion is that you should go for it!
Particularly if you’re new to the process or new to a city you might not know the ins and outs of exactly how show comes together or how they wind up on stage. Don’t worry though. The process isn’t so complicated once you break it down…so, come on…it’s time to have that talk about where improv shows come from.
We had a lot to say about the benefits of reacting to the last thing said, and really trying to “use the whole buffalo”.
In part our theory is simple; if you react to what is already going on (ideally the last thing that was said or done) then you won’t have to work to invent something to do next.
One thing we didn’t talk about on the recording is how this reminds me of a Jason Shotts lesson I heard of second hand.(**EDIT: My apologies for remembering this incorrectly. Corrections at the bottom)
Someone would say an opening line and then as a class they would ask 3 questions about that line:
– What was just said?
– What did they really mean? (subtext)
– What else can we infer from that line?
If improvisers really took the time to use each line (or offer to include information added through physicality) they might realize the abundance of information in each move…and perhaps slow down some to use more of what is already there.
I feel that in the classes I teach that this is the concept I end up covering more than any other.
Often times an offer will be made by someone, but will get no reaction at all from the group.
I had someone in a recent class say they felt like “nothing was going on” in a scene. I felt though, there were all kinds of things happening, and offers being made. I agreed however that no one was really reacting to and using the information in those offers. Digging in to them to do more of what was explicit, implicit, and inferred…it was just sort of unused offer after unused offer. A “denial of omission” as Bill Arnett might say.
Again, I agree with that student that even though there were things happening the group didn’t seem to make an attempt to get any of those things going. Which seemed to indicate that people were more in a mental space of “what’s next? What’s next?” instead of reacting to the last thing.
The conversation in this episode goes deeper and deeper into this metaphor of “eating the whole pizza”. Bon appétit.
Also please download, subscribe and listen to our sister podcast: Victrola! Sketch Comedy Podcast! Produced and created by Micheal Jastroch, it features many of the great comedians and performers we’ve interviewed on GYB podcast.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
After 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!
– 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!
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