competition vs. cooperation (long post warning)

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Postby beardedlamb » February 16th, 2006, 11:03 pm

The test for me is to use patience if these types of situations present themselves again. Upon more reflection, I realize it was a mistake to not take classes at IO or more classes than I did at Second City where I quit because I hated the teacher and he was the dean of the school. I should have been more patient and seeing people I know I can hang with artistically on TV is going to drive me crazy for a while.
Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I'm glad you were able to have a great experience here and I'm bummed you were forced to choose back in the day.
Sometimes I feel like my greatest enemy is my own brain.
My hope is that I can overcome whatever issues I have in the fertile loins of Austin and build myself an empire of towering proportions. Someday I'm going to own the Frost Tower with all of my artistic riches. Not money, mind you. Just pats on the back.

Thanks again. Now back to figure skating.
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Postby phlounderphil » February 17th, 2006, 4:21 am

I have some interesting feelings regarding competition, whether it be competition among groups, or competition among solo artists.

#1 - Competition (or fake competition) draws a crowd. From professional sports (including Poker and Scrabble!) to slam poetry, to Iron Chef! Nobody watched cooking shows before Iron Chef, but those silly Japs and their smarts kicked it up a notch by sticking in the competitive element. I think it's no coincidence that Maestro has been selling out, there's something really fantastic about WATCHING people lose. My guess is it's all schadenfraude. There's also something really fun about rooting for a winner. I ALWAYS ROOT FOR WES. (I dunno why he has to be so mean to me and my innocent little improv troupe! Just because he's AFRAID of losing a silly little cagematch.)

#2 - Competition within a community creates tension. It's going to get tough in Austin, I think, pretty soon when there are enough improv troupes and not enough space, and some definite expansion seems to be on the near horizon. Some people may approach this situation in many different ways, but something I've LOVED about the Austin improv scene since I got into it (even booking my OWN show at the Hideout back in '04 before the Co-op even existed!) was that is was accepting. Now, it seems, the community has become even more accepting in my eyes, with so many different improvisers inviting other improvisers to perform all sorts of shows, etc. In fact, if there's been a great deal of competition amongst troupes in Austin, I'm completely oblivious to it. Yeah, I'm jealous that Coldtowne is doing some awesome things because they are sucking the government's teat for all it's worth...but it's only going to make me want to emulate them and take it one step further, or, god forbid, work WITH them. By our powers combined...etc. In this way, I think friendly competition only helps. There is going to be some stiff competition to catch an elusive spot in OOB '06. Rather than letting that get me down and giving up, I've decided that I'm going to push myself to the point that I (and my troupe[s]) not only DESERVE to be in Out of Bounds, but will feel right at place with almost any other troupe there. It's tough sometimes, but I think all in all it's completely worth it.

#3 - The competition that REALLY worries me is competition for an audience. We're lucky in Austin, most of the theatre-going public (and even general public) here tops the scale of intelligence. This is good, because intelligent audiences won't mind taking risks with us onstage and that's going to push our form further. However, on a larger scale, I feel like a lot of improv panders to an audience that desires simple humor, simple premises, and quick witty improv with very little substance. The problem I foresee is the balance, the fight between improv that (in my opinion) does not challenge the form itself, but draws a large crowd and a fantastic amount of support...and improv that pushes boundaries, but has a harder time filling the seats. This sort of competition is what needs to be avoided. It's fun to experiment with it. I read an article about extreme improv a while ago, and You Me & Greg decided to recently borrow some of its ideas in a Cagematch. To me, sticking clothespins on your face, and whipping yourself does NOT constitute artistic talent. On the other hand, the audience really enjoyed such a simple act, and we won the vote tally (rather, our GIMMICK won most of the vote tally!) So in an effort to balance this, we felt the need this week to challenge ourselves in the cagematch and perform a format that is much less gimmicky and much more difficult. We'll see how that works Friday night. Will the audience respect a challenging format, or will they want to just laugh at a bunch of jackassery?

It's okay though, because what really comforts me is that I'm young, and one day all of you are going to die...and me and the youngins will still be around holding this shit together like glue. Yeah, I said it, I went there. And I'll keep going there until each and every one of you seniors is on a respirator...

THREE WORDS: Power of attorney.

you damn right.

with all my love,
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Postby acrouch » February 17th, 2006, 4:34 am

Competition that hurts improv = bad.
Competition that inspires improv = good.
Cooperation that hurts improv = bad.
Cooperation that elevates improv = good.

And if you want to develop a secondary set of priorities, you can sub in "people" for "improv."
Last edited by acrouch on February 17th, 2006, 4:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby beardedlamb » February 17th, 2006, 4:47 am

it's a constant struggle for artists and maybe this is for another thread so i'll keep it short but, that balance of money and artistic fulfillment.
i've heard of ballet companies who hate to do their yearly nutcracker because they're sick of being unchallenged by how straight they have to keep it. but they make a year's worth of revenue in that two months they run the nutcracker and then have fun the rest of the year.
i think it's alright to slightly sell out in a sense in order to make sure the playground part of the experimentation can remain available. you can even let others take on that part of the sillier, cash hound. it's only good for the gander, right? some folks prefer to only feel that success of a sold out crowd regardless of the content. let 'em.
when the audience gets bored with them, they'll want something new and you'll be right there to provide it.

i love jackassery by the way. it almost sounds like Lick Astrey. That's a real old school comment for you original catch 24 fans.

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Postby Rachel » February 17th, 2006, 10:41 am

I'm glad you started this conversation Erika - I've really enjoyed and appreciated what people have to say and how they feel.

I'm not sure how I feel. So...I'm going to write too much until I figure it out.

Mostly I like the philosophy I learned in yoga too. I remember my first yoga class and I was looking at what other people could do and my brain was chatting away - comparing and being concerned, etc, and the instructor explained that it wasn't about others - that it was between you and yourself. and when I understood that - I felt relieved and excited about being able to put my focus inward. To enjoy, appreciate and be inspired by others but compete, challenge and compare myself with myself - how I did yesterday and how well I can do today.

I feel good inside when I read people's comments about no competition needed - and the benefits of that. That feels right to me. I think we create more when we feel safe - and we block the flow of creative energy when we feel fear. Competition- in my mind, creates fear; fear of being judged negatively, fear of being evaluated by your peers, fear of not being good enough, etc.
Cooperation which sounds a lot more like support is always more favorable (in my opinion). Support = acceptance, love, comfort with each other, an absence of bad vibes, safety, etc and this opens the flow of creativity and an environment of saying YES to ourselves and each other.

I do like competition in games - I think it's fun and I love to win. When I was a kid, I loved that my dad would race me and didn't let me win. People thought it was mean. I loved it. I thought it was so funny - that this 40 year old man was running really fast against an 8 year old, 10 year old, etc girl. I'd run as fast I could. Lose. get mad. and LAUGH. And then when I was 16 I beat him. He went crazy - he's VERY competitive. he couldn't believe it. He called for a re-match/race. I accepted and had my stepmother take a movie of it. I won. It was the best feeling. SO.....I love competition for a game. For a sport. For a skill. That's fun.

I guess with improv - which does have a some sport like qualities - for me - it is more an art and therfore more subjective than a simple - who's faster - who can make more baskets – kind of thing. It 's got a lot more feelings involved and REQUIRES the support of one another – support IS what makes one scene or one show 'better' than another. (to me).

AND - oh my God this is so long but I can't stop - Coldtowne. I remember walking in on them warming up when they/you guys first got here. I knew immediately that I couldn't wait to see your show and that it would be great. Because you were saying yes to each other like children playing. It was YES to EVERYTHING.

Plus whenever I feel completive with another improviser or improv group - it doesn't feel good. Ahha!
There's my answer.

Its coming from a belief in lack. and that's a sucky, fearful feeling. The idealic part of me knows there's enough love, talent, laughter, praise, beauty, money, success, applause, etc., etc. for EVERYONE x 10. Competition comes from a belief in there not being enough for everyone. And the truth is - there is.

And there's always something more I can be doing or learning - and that's where I try to take my focus when I catch myself thinking that something good for someone else means I’ve lost something.

Anyway - I have found my answer for now. Feeling competitive doesn't make me feel good or do a better job.
I don't want to be against anyone and I don't want to feel better than or less than anyone either.
I can be pushed and motivated from inspiration rather than competition. I love feeling inspired and motivated through seeing something awesome. Anybody doing anything at 100% and loving it – is exciting and inspiring to see.

I'm going to try my best to stick with the Yogic and creativity principals for the COMMUNITY and ART of Improv and keep some of the - I want to run as fast as I can - attitude for improving my SKILLS at improv.


We have this quote on our fridge - and while I'm sure there's tons of lovely quotes on the subject - I like this, its a nice one:

You're a Star - and so am I. I'm a Genius - and so are You. Your success encourages my brilliance, and my charisma enhances your power. Your victory doesn't require my defeat, and vise versa. Those are the rules in the New World - quite unlike the rules in the Old World, where zero-sum games are the norm and only one of us can win each time we play. In the New World, you don't have to play down or apologize for your prowess, because you love it when other people shine. You exult in your own excellence without regarding it as a sign of inherent superiority. As you ripen more and more of your latent aptitude and talent - you inspire the rest of us to claim our own idiosyncratic magnificence.

Believe that the whole world is conspiring to shower you with Blessings.
Last edited by Rachel on February 17th, 2006, 12:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Wesley » February 17th, 2006, 10:48 am

Will the audience respect a challenging format, or will they want to just laugh at a bunch of jackassery?

Sui Generis is banking on jackassery!
"And he shall smite them with the jawbone of an ass..." Book of You, Me & Greg Are Going Down 1:1

i think it's alright to slightly sell out in a sense in order to make sure the playground part of the experimentation can remain available.

Also, I plan to sell out the second I'm able to. Sure, you'll all sit around and complain I'm a sell out, but I'll be driving a Porche, so what do I care?
"I do."
--Christina de Roos . . . Bain . . . Christina Bain

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Postby illades » February 17th, 2006, 1:02 pm

Hello, I am Ed. I improvise and live in Chicago.

First off, the Chicago improv community is both competitive and cooperative. I think that to the extent that it is competitive, it stops itself from being as creative as it could be. When you compete, you pit yourself against someone else, and you by necessity compare yourself to them, which means that you adjust your own work according to what they are doing. To beat them. This means that you are shutting yourself from your own creative path to some extent. I'm not saying that all competition is a terrible thing, but it certainly does not directly help creativity, and when it gets out of control, it definitely impedes it.

Hypothetical question: If you have based your creative path on competition and you get to the point where you're better than everyone else, where do you go from there? My answer: There's nowhere to go. Nothing to drive you further. You stagnate.

In addition, in competition, you are always competing for the favor of others. Either for jobs, or for popularity. You can't help, in competing with someone, looking to outside arbitration, however vague that might be (and the more vague, the harder to feel satisfied. Unlike with sports, there are no medals, no decisive victories... you end up depending on your own popularity as a gauge of how well you are doing).

Conversely, if you base your path on growth and cooperation, there's always somewhere to go. There's always someone who can use your help and guidance, you always can find ways to grow. You can always set new challenges for yourself that you have not yet achieved. Over time, you develop an internal gauge for how you're doing. You stop needing other people to validate you. The work itself feeds you. You feel your accomplishments, rather than waiting for others to feel them for you. Your goals become more clear. Your path becomes more decisive. You become more secure. This is called vision. It is different from skill, which can definitely be acquired through competition, but which will only take you so far. There is no limit to vision.

Vision doesn't require prizes. Competition does.

Vision creates lasting and worthwhile art, even in an ephemeral art form such as improvisation.

Vision looks at arriving further rather than arriving quicker. Cooperation is long-term. Competition is limited to specific goals. Art, at its best, has very little to do with goals. Goals are banal, limited by design. Art, vision and improv and more about an overarching direction than a goal. It is open to change and growth, whereas goals are not.

Cooperation, Vision, Art and Inspiration have more to do with the spirit of improvisation than does competition, which is a game for people with little or no imagination, who must look to others to define their goals for them.
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Postby illades » February 17th, 2006, 2:15 pm

I also want to point out that cooperation isn't a lack of a certain amount of honest, constructive criticism. Just the opposite. A supportive community isn't always all positive. Honest dialogue, helpful critique, a commitment to vision and quality while accepting that not everyone's vision is the same. These are all things that can go hand in hand with cooperation, as long as we are constantly keeping ourselves in check and making sure that our intentions in criticizing others are to be helpful, rather than to make ourselves feel intelligent or to make others feel like shit.
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Postby valetoile » February 17th, 2006, 8:27 pm

It's such a beautiful feeling to really trust the people around you, to trust that they will support you and accept you. And its such a beautiful gift to be able to give that to others. Reading this makes me so appreciative of all the people in AIC. I feel so glad to know that so many people are open to being vulnerable, and letting themselves be supported by the community, and that so many are there to support. I've found that most of the time when I assume anyone is too "cool" for me, they are actually just uncomfortable in a situation, are trying to feel out the landscape, are keeping to themselves until they know what to do. When I can overcome the same feelings of uncertainty and just remember the truth of every person's humanity, every person's need to be liked and loved and appreciated and accepted, and give a little bit of that, the sooner we can all get to the part where we're telling stories around a table full of beers and smiling at each other and being gosh-darned human beings with each other. And that's the point of life, really, I think.
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Postby Rachel » February 20th, 2006, 12:07 pm

Well said, Val. WELL SAID

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Postby arthursimone » February 20th, 2006, 9:27 pm

I still don't know how I feel about Austin- it's intolerably dry and the thought of crossing paths with some of the maniacs that call themselves conservative politicians terrifies me. Hippies are only slightly less upsetting.

That being said, I do love Austin improvisers. You guys really get it. There's so much to be said in how welcoming you've been to a team of displaced strangers without feeling threatened.

That's precisely how newcomers should be welcomed, not as yet-another-someone to compete with for Fortune & Glory, but as a potential friend and partner to become "bigger" and "better" using definitions that are yours alone.

An arts community that breeds resentment and grudges is one that ceases to be joyful, and I'm glad that you guys see that. Nurture that playful attitude and only good things can happen.

We're happy to be here!

That being said, we leave in a few hours for the dirty south festival. We'll bring back moonshine for all our pals.

"I don't use the accident. I deny the accident." - Jackson Pollock

The goddamn best Austin improv classes!
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