Hey, all-of-my-fans! I’m sure you’ve been waiting these past four months with bated breath, and for that I deeply apologize for the negative health effects attributed to long-term bated breathing. What have I been doing that’s kept me from writing? Well, I was hoping you’d ask…
I’ve been on an improv binge. Since July, I’ve taken UCB improv classes through level 2, PIT through level 2, and Magnet classes through level 3. I’ve also taken the level 1 Musical Improv class, an “Accessing Emotions” workshop, and a independent class about “Getting to the Funny Faster” in scenes, all through Magnet. Within those four months I’ve also taken two days of classes for the UCB level 3, before withdrawing because it felt like a waste of time.
All this I’ve done in New York, while continuing to commute back to Boston on weekends to bartend our Howard Johnson award-winning comedy room. “But Tom, how could you be in Boston and New York at the same time?” Great question again! Since August, I’ve been subleting in New York, crashing on couches in Boston, and taking one overnight bus back to NY per week.
Has it been helpful? Absolutely. I’m definitely improving (no pun intended). The improv has helped punch my brain into dealing with hecklers better. I’m a sensitive boy, who’s only slowly starting to grasp the scope of trying to make a living at comedy. Most of the time in Boston I avoided any room that didn’t book me immediately or would heckle me. Even two, three years in, I would panic and almost tear up, not from being hurt so much as the intense pressure I would put on myself, to not only shut this guy up, but also show him the error of his ways so he didn’t heckle in the future, and finally, make him my friend. I’d basically give myself an impossible task and hate myself for not achieving it. On several occasions, an audience member has tried (and usually succeeded) to buy me a beer as an apology for hurting my delicate feelings.
Improv has helped me stay calm in the face of someone saying something stupid, because that’s mainly what you deal with in low-level classes. Here’s a typical level one scene: A stranger and I stand facing each other on stage, and I’ll say, “It’s great to be hunting on these hunting grounds!” and they’ll say, “My dick is a flamingo!” And then you have to stay in character and try to work with it. Incredibly similar to heckling. Before improv, I’d say, “What? Um…let’s get these deer!” Now it’d be more of a “…Trust me, it’s clear it’s a flamingo. No one can not tell it’s a flamingo.” And I would gesture at his crouch indicating he had a flamingo sticking out there. Not amazing, but deals with the situation in a way where’s he’s a crazy person I’m dealing with respectfully, and we’re moving on. I’ve listened and accepted his idea, and now it’s his responsibility to remember he lives in a reality where he has poultry genitals. Every time he forgets he has his member gets it’s pink coloring from all the shrimp it digests, he’ll look stupid. I’m not making him look stupid, I listened to him and respected what he was saying something necessary, and by forgetting, he’s showing he was actually just out for attention. It’s not the best ideology for improv scenes, but it’s great for hecklers.
That’s all for now. There’s a lot more in my brain I need to dump into this blog, and that will come over the next few months. Expect another spurt of blog posts before I go on another long hiatus!