This is a bad-ass, interesting, articulate interview with someone who made maybe the coolest comedy theater in the history of three dimensional space.
This is my favorite part:
The women who are discouraged see themselves as victims and they have to stop that. They say “Men steamroll me.” You just have to make good choices and not allow yourself to be steamrolled. Tina [Fey] and Amy [Poehler] were never steamrolled. They were never victims. You just have to make choices. I see women like Stephnie Weir. Someone when she was performing here said to her — a man said to her — “Honey, I brought some people home for dinner.” And she said “Well that’s fine, but I did ask you in front of people to please call me Madame President.”
So, you see, you can make choices for yourself. You don’t have to be the woman who makes dinner. She would also be willing to lose. She would. I remember another scene that her husband did with her before they were husband and wife and he said to her — he played a thirteen year old boy — he said “I took my bond money from my Bar Mitzvah and cashed it in so I could buy myself a prostitute” and he handed her the money and she said “You’re thirteen?” and he said “Yes” and she said “So am I!” It was the most heartbreaking, beautiful scene I ever saw in my life.
She was never a victim and that’s what I tell women. I don’t teach women how to improvise. I don’t teach men how to improvise. I teach players how to improvise. You have to make strong choices for yourself. There isn’t a way for women to play and men to play. You have to be equal and you have to make each other look good and you have to make strong choices for yourself. I’ve seen men get steamrolled just as I’ve seen women get steamrolled. You have to be out there, you have to be bold, you have to trust and be trusted. Stop being a victim. Just refuse.
Can’t stop, WON’T stop. I just finished a 401 class where I was just one of two females in the class. The 12 other people in the class were guys. Happy to report I was not steamrolled because improv isn’t about being male or female, it’s about playing a game with another player and making strong choices and bold character moves. Some of my favorite improvisers are ladies — Shannon O’Neill, Fran Gillespie, Abra Tabak, Lydia Hensler, Emily Axford, Molly Lloyd (etc.). They are NOT STEAMROLLED. They are not victims. They are great players. They are great improvisers.
"It wasn’t long into the show before the performers exposed themselves as the deadbeat hacks I now know them to be….
What do you imagine happened after I delivered the clever suggestion of a dildo, an object of obvious value to any comedic scene? Did they leap in joy, anticipating what was sure to be a priceless scene, and reach down to high-five me, the man who made it so? No. They ignored it. Worse than that, they gave each other these wretched looks, seeming to imply that they were so much better than a dildo. After an awkward moment some craven fool from the back of the room shouted out “bicycle” and off they went to do a tedious scene that never seemed to end. What comedic potential they saw in a bicycle is simply beyond me. I can imagine any number of delightful ends to which a dildo could be used.”
Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death also.
He was in his late 50s when I was taking classes from him and he had a shitty apartment and slept on a futon and all he ever did was hang around Improv Olympic, watching or teaching, never really performing. His classes were so insane. It was a three hour class and sometimes he would tell two people to get on stage and we would just do scenes for three hours and get notes from him and then sometimes he would come in and say, “Did I ever tell you the time that John Belushi and I did acid?” and he would just tell you stories for three hours and nobody would get on stage. You’d be like, “What the hell just happened?” But it was clear that he just had unfounded enthusiasm for this form and it was contagious. He was a charismatic guy.
- SNL’s Weekend Update head writer Alex Baze on his time studying under Del Close in Chicago in the early 90s. He performed with The Victim’s Family (later shortened to just The Family), a legendary team that featured Adam McKay, Rachel Dratch, Matt Besser, and Ian Roberts, amongst others.
I just learned what my brain does when I improvise
Charlies J. Limb:
"During improvisation, the prefrontal cortex of the brain undergoes an interesting shift in activity, in which a broad area called the lateral prefrontal region shuts down, essentially so you have a significant inhibition of your prefrontal cortex.”
From Improvising Creativity by Douglas Eby. I know he’s talking about jazz improvisation, BUT I THINK IT COUNTS.