How did you get here?

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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How did you get here?

Postby valetoile » March 13th, 2006, 11:02 am

I want to hear everyone's stories. Where did you learn improv? How did you get into your current troupe? etc......
Parallelogramophonographpargonohpomargolellarap: It's a palindrome!
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Postby Evilpandabear » March 13th, 2006, 1:14 pm

I learned improv from Shana Merlin 4 years ago. I took the class with Andy Crouch & Chad Duffy with the goal of starting our own improv troupe (later to become ED32.) That was a long time ago. The Cabaret looked completely different then. When you entered the room the stage hugged the right wall and the audience sat on the left side - very weird, I know.

It was in Level One where I made my first immortal impact on the Hideout. I was running on stage, due to some elixir that made you super hyper. I decided to run towards the wall and jump off of it to spring into the air. Unfortunately, the wall was not made of stone but of super thin wood, and my foot went straight through the wall. You can still see the hole today as the square hole behind the window backstage of the upstairs Cabaret.

The GREAT Mundane started about a month ago. I originally had the thought of starting a troupe that solely concentrated on "World Building" with elaborate characters and fleshed out environments. This came to me while watching the most amazing Armando I've ever seen in Chicago a fwe years back. About a month ago I hung out with the Level 3 class after class at the Stephen F Austin Hotel Bar, and bounced this idea off their heads. "World Building" transformed into "One World Building," and the GREAT Mundane was born. All that was left was for me to round up a fwe improvisers that were wandering around amosly.
"Anyone can teach improv. It's bullshit." -Andy Crouch on June 4th 11:33pm CST
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Postby valetoile » March 13th, 2006, 1:23 pm

[quote="Evilpandabear"All that was left was for me to round up a fwe improvisers that were wandering around amosly.[/quote]

Jeff Amosly?
Parallelogramophonographpargonohpomargolellarap: It's a palindrome!
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Postby valetoile » March 13th, 2006, 1:32 pm

I was roommates with Curtis Luciani, when he was in on starting up an improv troupe with Andy Crouch and some others. I decided to go to auditions just for fun. I met a nice girl named Caitlin Sweet, and we decided to start a jewelry club. After the second night of auditions, I decided I wanted to actually be in the troupe and make my audition official. That night, there was a party after auditions. We were all dancing and having a good time, and then Curtis dislocated his knee. I drove Andy in his car to the hospital so we could take Curtis home (he'd taken an ambulance). While waiting in the hospital, Andy and I talked about things like vikings. While we were waiting, Andy confided to me that I was "in." When I went in to see Curtis, he confided in me that I was "in." I learned all my improv almost exclusively from Andy Crouch, as he passed on his knowledge from taking the Heroes classes. I took the level two class, with Shana I think. We had SHana and Jeremy Lamb come in at various points to coach/teach us. Mostly we learned from each other- it was great because we were all starting out fresh and learning it all.

The way I got into parallelogramophonograph is funny. Andy told me that three guys were starting an improv troupe. I had been in Mac Antigua workshiop with them and thought they were awesome. So one night when I ended up hanging out with them, I aksed Roy if I could be in the troupe. He said he'd have to talk to Wes and Kareem. Then I saw Kareem and said, "Hey! Roy said I could be in your improv troupe!" And the rest is history.
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Postby kbadr » March 13th, 2006, 1:42 pm

Somehow, the advertising the Heroes did completely eluded me for the first 8 years I was in Austin. I am still angry about that.

My improv start came with a trip to NYC in Spring of '04. I saw my first improv show, The Swarm, at UCB. As soon as the lights came up, I turned to my then-fiancee and said "I must do this."

8 Months later my then-fiancee became my ex-fiancee, and I reacted to this change by doing everything I'd ever wanted to do, but felt I couldn't because of the trappings (both meanings intended) of a relationship. Improv was on the very top of my list. I recruited some dear friends, and we threw ourselves at improv full-boar.

I still think about how much time I lost because I didn't know about improv in Austin. Apparently some of my friends had gone to see shows before, and never even mentioned it to me. To think, I could have been where I am now, developmentally, 6+ years ago. Christ.

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Postby deroosisonfire » March 13th, 2006, 1:45 pm

when i was in high school a lot of my friends were involved with a local youth theater company called orangetree. i decided to audition for the round of plays one summer and i was cast in the improv group, "the traveling tangerines." we went to summer camps in the area to perform, and teach the kids a little bit about improv.

when i got to college i remembered how much fun i'd had with the group and decided i wanted to join a comedy group. i saw flyers for the sketch group, and decided i'd try out for that. while hanging out at an orientation event i randomly started talking to the girl next to me. it came out that i wanted to audition for the sketch group, and she said she was in an improv troupe, and that i should go to their auditions, too. the improv group auditions were chronologically first, so i went to those. i thought i had a terrible audition and an even worse callback, but they thought i was adorable so they let me into the group anyways. i was already rehearsing with my group by the time sketch auditions rolled around.

once i graduated and moved to austin i knew i had to keep improvising. so, i found out about the hideout, saw a "maestro" and decided that the scene was something i wanted to be involved in. i just started showing up at the jams and weaseled my way into the community.
"There's no such thing as extra pepperoni. There's just pepperoni you can transfer to another person."
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Postby kaci_beeler » March 13th, 2006, 2:15 pm

During my freshman year of high school, a lot of the upper classmen talked about this improv troupe "The Well Hung Jury". They were alumni of my high school and apprently did shows downtown a lot. Phil and I had just really met each other and began hanging out when some of our other friends suggested we should see the WHJ, and so we decided to make the drive downtown to see their shows.
While watching them I usually laughed so hard I would fall out of my chair. They set the bar really high for me as an audience member; sometimes I tried to see other shows by other troupes but I never laughed as hard as I did while watching the WHJ.
At my high school we had the class "Comedy/Improv" as part of our academy theatre program. It was kinda lame but I think it led Phil to create and hold auditions for "The Premier Improvisational Theatre Society" or "The PITS". I auditioned mostly because that's what all of my good friends were doing and I didn't want to be left out. I made it in and we all began the journey together, trying to first succeed with games, then scenes, then longform (we even rented out the hideout a few years ago to have a show, we had an ad in the chronicle, but I think only friends and family members showed up). It was weird, we practiced together a lot and I learned all the basics of improv through experimentation with them, not through any class. Phil also used resources online to help us out (we continued to see the Jury as well), and Phil recruited Jeremy Lamb to help us out a few times (which was awesome).
After a time high school drama tore us apart, and the troupe disbanded. Then half a year later, Phil formed "Comedic Amoeba" out of the people he liked the best who were eager to practice improv again. It was mostly a jam between friends on the weekend more than anything else.
Then this past summer Phil and I were really bored and poor. Phil found out about the jam and we decided to stop by and give it try. It was awesome. After performing with a bunch of high school boys (no offense guys) for such a long time, it was really refreshing to work with new people. After attending a few jams Andy asked if I wanted to be in maestro and I accepted, and basically threw myself into the community. "Comedic Amoeba" performed in the Threefer 3 times and it was a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, I was leaving for college in California and had to leave the wonderful community I had just discovered.
Fortunately, I hated that fucking hell hole and came back 5 months later.
Before I left for California Roy and Wes had both said things along the lines of, "If you weren't leaving we would have wanted you to be in the troupe we're starting up." It almost broke my heart to hear that, I wanted to be in a troupe with these guys so badly.
Luckily there was still space for me in "Parallelogramophonograph" when I came back, and now those guys are some of my best friends!
Who-da-thunk-it?
Yay for improv and improvisers! Yay for Austin, too.
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Postby DollarBill » March 13th, 2006, 3:06 pm

We did prov games in my middle school theater class. Then we did games in my High School theater classes. While I went to school there Well Hung Jury was getting started up. They held open auditions about a month before I graduated. I got in along with three other people and I was the only one who showed up for rehearsal.

Now I live in the coldest place on earth, Chicago, and I have no money. Actually, Improv Olympic just called me to collect money I owe them for classes. Thanks so much, Well Hung Jury, for ruining my life... and also thanks to Gravy, One Night Band, Catch24, Heros, Sean, Andy and The Hideout... for ruining my life. Anyone listed above can send me money if they feel at all guilty.
They call me Dollar Bill 'cause I always make sense.
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Postby LuBu McJohnson » March 13th, 2006, 3:15 pm

Well, this has little to do with Improv, but you asked no one in particular, so I'll tell. ;-)

Basically, I hated my life. I had just come back to the college after a small, "forced" hiatus following a period of complete and total dissillusionment, in which I discovered that the one thing I had always wanted to do with my life was never going to make me happy. So I took a playwriting class in which I was forced to go to a former Hideout staple, No Shame Theatre. While reluctant, I went ahead and went. I think it was a No Shame that they were having during an Out of Bounds festival, but that might be a lie. Anyways, I perfmored a sketch in which water was spit all over my body, and it SAVED MY LIFE. So I was pretty consistent in bringing a sketch to just about every No Shame over the next two years. And I found the courage to run a couple of shows, one at FronteraFest, and then that Womb of the Pagan show at the Hideout, if you were there that night.

Long story short, No Shame was put to sleep at the Hideout in October, followed by some failed attempts to bring it back somewhere else. I'll bring it back for real eventually, but I should get out of school first. Additionally, Chris Allen was gracious enough to let me into Hoover's Blanket, so that's how that happened.

As far as a story about improv, that's much less entertaining. I just saw a sign for Gigglepants auditions a couple of years ago, and was just like "let's give that a shot."
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Postby arclight » March 13th, 2006, 3:18 pm

When I was 13 I took a drama class at the local arts center. It was odd and I was really too weirded out to pursue it much.

My sophomore year at college (1985) some friends and I went to see Theatresportz(*) at the Pizza Hut overlooking State St. in Madison and I was hooked. Utterly fascinated. Captivated.

"One day I should learn to do that..."

I spent two summers interning in Chicago ('90-'91.) Did I see any improv or take classes? No.

I moved to Baton Rouge. There's nothing going on there but a little music scene and a frightening amount of chemical spills and gunfire so I moved to Austin, worked for a crazy man, got pulled over for speeding, and took a defensive driving class taught by someone who had been in Monk's Night Out. I meant to go back and take actual comedy classes, but somehow I never got around to it...

Coworkers at the business run by the crazy man convinced me to work on Haunted Trails and I did that for a few years, teching, building, acting, directing, guiding. I met Jay Michaels and wound up at his birthday/HT wrap party (I think it was 1999 or 2000) where I learned he was taking improv classes at The Hideout. I was gripped by a voice from the long past:

"One day I should learn to do that..."

So I did and that was that.

(*) Shortly thereafter they changed their name to Comedysportz due to Keith Johnstone/ITI's legal poking at Dick Chudnow.
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Postby beardedlamb » March 13th, 2006, 5:40 pm

it started watching the british whose line on the comedy channel (back before it was comedy central. it split it's daytime hours with a stupid financial channel.) i loved it then.
i went to see comedysportz at the mall with a date my junior year (stacy.) they pulled me up for a film dubbing scene and i killed. at least that's how i remember it. i told them after that i had a great time and they could expect to see me for the next few weeks. i didn't go back but instead i found the much cooler monks night out on 6th street. as a jr in high school, i was attracted to their bluest humor and i remember thinking how funny it would be at the next show if i yelled out gynecologist for an occupation.
i made regular trips downtown to see the show. i went one time with michael joplin. he was a sr. at my high school and some would say he was the bees knees of theatre there. he kept talking about how this one girl in monks was so hot that he wanted to talk to her. he decided he should ask her about auditions as a reason to talk to her. he auditioned and got into an "audition troupe" called code blue. they did some really great shows. i loved going to see them.
one friday i spent the night at mike's place which was a cottage at a co-op on north campus. he was a freshman at UT by this point. he mentioned that monks were having auditions the next day and i said i could never do it. he told me i was definitely good enough and that if he could do it, i could. that was probably the moment improv grabbed a hold of me for good. i went to the audition and got cast in los paranoias with the inimitable shana merlin among many others. when that dissolved and i wasn't asked to join monks night out after a second audition i said fuck you and started my own troupe at my high school; well hung jury.
from there, we grew exponentially through experimenting in rehearsal from short form games all the way to the ridiculously conceptual 27 hour narrative we did in the hideout before it was legal.
i joined austin theatresports which became we could be heroes which became heroes of comedy. sean's cataloguic wisdom of johnstone theory was soaked up by me in twice weekly rehearsals and regurgitated to the kids of well hung jury. i eventually started a one man show because sean said i could do it.
i owe so much of my path to people just telling me i could or should do something. i think that's why i've taken to teaching. i want to tell people they can do it, too. if michael joplin had never said i could do it, i'd be a fucking geolgist, and i can't even spell that.

a lot has happened since then, but i fear i have already written too much about myself.

more specifically i just worked my first shift at a deli in the loop and it was alright. i'd much rather be who i am now and have to work at a deli than some other boring profession like geolgist.

there's not enough bandwidth on the web for me to explain why and how i love improv.
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O O B
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Postby arthursimone » March 13th, 2006, 6:27 pm

I got a degree in acting from Oberlin College, where they had a shortform group called 'Primitive Streak.' It looked fun, but I never really considered myself a funnyman, so I never auditioned.
cut to:
Me taking art classes at Southeastern Louisiana University after I graduated Oberlin, being invited to play with some theater department guys in what would become a popular campus shortform group called 'Nameless'. Some people were deluded enough to call me funny, and I liked that.
cut to:
Me moving to Chicago to pursue acting, feeling burnt out by all the awful nonunion blackbox shows I did alongside people without souls. Frustrated, I took the advice of a friend and wrangled an internship at Improv Olympic. It felt really damn good, so I stopped trying out for regular shows (though I kept up with film auditions). Joined an indie team of classmates called 'Cool Kids Leave the Party,' which now exists as a Harold team called 'Quincy.'
cut to:
Me leaving Chicago as soon as I finished the program there, leaving my friends and girlfriend, returning home to New Orleans, with the intent to relax a few months before going to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. I attend a show that featured one Michael Jastroch and Tami Nelson, and we bonded immediately. New Orleans was telling me to stay, so I did.
cut to:
A world of opportunity following the Hurricane to start over wherever I want, doing whatever I want, deciding for once in my life to stick with something (ColdTowne) and see it through.
cut to:
A community in Austin that totally gets it. A smile on my face.
"I don't use the accident. I deny the accident." - Jackson Pollock

The goddamn best Austin improv classes!
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Postby erikamay » March 13th, 2006, 7:04 pm

warning - long & rambling.

In 2000, after years of straight, fringe and DIY theatre, my 7 year relationship with my then boyfriend tanked. It was the epic break-up type…I lost my appetite, lost a bunch of weight, got pitiful and angry. And, may I say that 120 pounds does not look good on this hillbilly frame?

Plus, the dotcom co. I was working for was also tanking, on account of no revenue and the egregious amounts of money we were spending on undeserving employees with dubious titles (like mine – “Marketing Directorâ€
"I suspect what we're doing is performance art, but I'm not going to tell the public that."
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Postby ChrisTrew.Com » March 13th, 2006, 7:17 pm

I was (am? sort of...) heavily involved in a comedy group at LSU called Studio8.net. We had a sketch comedy show on the college tv station, did plenty of "shows" in the free speech alley most Fridays, wrote columns in newspapers, started our own newspaper, did music parodies, shot a feature length film, blah blah. I lived and breathed with those dudes for years and years. I dropped out of college to pursue that life, determined I could do it. We had a plan to move to Los Angeles.

Then Louisiana was the first state (several now) to pass a film tax cut that made a lot of people move down south to produce their films. All of a sudden we were "Hollywood South" and big time productions were being shot here (several featuring the acting of Mr. Arthur Simone).

Instead of doing Los Angeles, we all moved to New Orleans (where I lived before my college days) to do film work.

I said, "But wait! How are we going to have time to keep making sketch comedy and film another movie if we are working on "real" movies all the time?

They said, "Shhhh, it will work out."

It didn't. I was doing shitty PA work and set dressing work on shitty movies, getting paid a lot of money, but having little creative outlets. I was working on the shitty VH1 show "Motormouth" where I met some fancy L.A. types, traveling the country to film episodes. One of them told me that I should consider doing improv, that he thought I would be good at it. I looked up "improv" in New Orleans and found the theatre where Arthur, Tami, Jastroch, and others were training. I was in Omaha when I registered for the classes and when I got back to New Orleans, started taking them.

I was a little confused at first but then I saw my first show and it dawned on me that this is what I was cut out to do. I quickly started soaking up everything I could, attending extra classes, etc. Meanwhile, the Studio8 guys are moving up the production ladders, I quit and started waiting tables so I could do more rehearsals. They didn't get it and started hating improv. (read: stopped supporting. notice: support is important in improv land. realize: our improv minds spill into real world minds. so: we started splitting apart, slowly)

Pretty soon I was passing on going to afterparties with Jessica Simpson and Johnny Knoxville (in town doing Dukes of Hazzard) to do a Comedy Sportz show and hang out at the bar with what would eventually become ColdTowne and have improv dreams. They didn't get it. I did.

I went to Chicago last summer to do the IO intensive. We all started to patch things up a little bit while I was gone and one of the other Studio8 guys even started taking improv classes himself. When I got back things would all be better!

Then the Hurricane came and they called me and said they were all packed up and moving to Los Angeles. I was currently in Dallas and they were going to be passing through. Jastroch, Tami, and Arthur were all about to meet in Austin to figure things out.

I passed on Los Angeles, chose to play with ColdTowne and then Out of Bounds happened and then more things happened and then everything happened and I haven't seen those guys since.

We still collaborate on Studio8.net, since I own the company, but it's weird because they are all in Los Angeles in one house.
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Postby Mo Daviau » March 13th, 2006, 7:46 pm

I went to a performing arts magnet high school in San Diego. SD Comedysportz had a "high school league" where they would send a coach to your high school for afterschool short-form coaching. I thought it was the coolest and I joined. I think our high school troupe was called "Spontaneous Combustion." We did a lot of freeze tag. It was during a show that I learned the meaning of the word "phallic."

My beloved alma mater had a troupe. I auditioned for it a few times and was rejected. I patently believe that I was never allowed in because I wasn't Lezzy McDykerson enough for that crowd. Smith was like that sometimes--if you weren't munching muff, forget it. Go sip tea with the Repug legacies up in the Quad, straighty. I forgot about improv for the subsequent three years.

During my semester program at Wesleyan U., an 18-year-old girl with a mohawk, a leopard coat, and stack of comics knocked on my door and asked if she could be my roommate. While at first I said no, I didn't want a roommate, I soon realized I wanted to be friends with this girl, so she and the comics moved in. This would be Dyna Moe, now of UCB fame. We improvised radio PSAs to Serge Gainsbourg songs, warning each other of merry-go-round dangers and such. Two years after this, we were roommates again, in NYC, where I'd follow her to to the UCB theater most weekends to see her shows. While I was too broke-assed to take classes there at the time, I now kind of regret not immersing myself into credit card debt to do that.

I moved to Austin in 2000 in what was the absolute worst career mistake, but the best lifestyle decision ever. I lived at one of the west campus co-ops, which often sponsored little educational thingies, and one of them was "Improv With Shana Merlin!" Shana told me about classes at the Hideout, so I went.

I was asked to join GGG in July 2003. Amy McCurdy called up Bob to ask me for Danu Uribe's phone number to ask her if she was interested in joining the Girls and I said something like, "But what about me????" And so Amy said I could come to rehearsal, too, and GGG kept me. It's been almost three years, so I guess they like me. I like them, too.
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