Yesterday, I (Walt Frasier, Artistic Director) laid out some notes for new cast members on our professional team. Here are three things to do for EVERY show, to ensure today’s success and long term growth. This is similar to how I train Stand Up Comedy.
In short, spend your entire life trying to better yourself EXCEPT when actually in the show. In the show JUST BE, JUST DO, JUST LISTEN WITH YOUR EYES AND RESPOND AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME IN THAT MOMENT.
BEFORE EVERY SHOW
Individually, remember your training. Prepare your self – mind, body, soul – for success. After 20 years of improv I know how easy it is to be lazy. A trained opera singers I started to pose my voice after my first ten years. I went back to singing in churches to find it again. That took five years. Now I’m back to vocalizing every day. I wish I did that physically too. Yikes I’ve let myself go. But I do stretch before every show now (again for about ten years I was very lazy). Yoga, Dance, Alexander, martial arts, etc, whatever is your thing. BREATHE, center yourself. Bring your best self to the stage every show. Life happens. So you won’t always be at 💯, but be the best you can be in that moment. Do some tongue twisters, don’t assume you got this until you know YOU GOT THIS!
As a team support each other. Always make time for some bonding moment. Sing a song, do a circle game, somwthing. Be honest. You don’t have to share all your business, but if you need consideration and support your team is there for you. We have your back. If you have energy to spare, share it. Depending on the situation, you may need to help set up the space, sound, lights house management. Don’t be that player that lets everyone else do all the work. Don’t be bossy either. Lead by example.
Set yourself and each other up for success.
Be in the moment, focused, listening with yours eyes, for the entire show, on and off stage. HAVE FUN TOGETHER!!!
Remember, in Improv, your job is to make your team look good. Drop ego and insecurity, as they equally DESTROY team. Suspend judgement of self and your mates. Welcome every offer (YES!). Give your team fun stuff to work (AND…).
ALWAYS BE CREATING
Avoid the bag of tricks. We all have our safety net of ideas. But I see folks going to those too soon. To me, that’s a sign you have given up on the seen. Discover new from every game. The most mundane / trivial short form game has room to grow from new ideas. Going to your bag of tricks takes you out of the moment, missing opportunity for something new. Improvise. We often go to those bag of tricks because they worked before. But did they work because they are brilliant comedy OR because they were spontaneously new to you in that moment. That spark is the awesomeness of Improv, not any joke / idea in and of itself.
I have played WORLD’S WORST, maybe 10,000 times in the last 20 years in classes, rehearsals and shows. Sure I have repeated certain jokes, a few 100 times. But every round I try to do a least ONE new thing. If I’m stuck I have plenty of options.
As MC or player, I am relieved every time I hear something new. I love performing for kids, as their imagination is inspiring. I am challenged by TV show names, new books etc. I’ve never heard of.
Be curious. Never let an idea scare you or otherwise shit you down. YEARN for new and different and exciting.
AFTER THE SHOW
This is the most important time of your growth as an artist. What do we do after a show. As.much as ego and insecurity destroy creativity, Don’t beat your self up or overly celebrate. Neither rewards you with a better show next time.
OBJECTIVELY Take a moment to focus on what could YOU have done better. What’s a better rhyme, better offer, better scene starter, better movement choice….
In the first two years of EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH, 2002-2004, I just coasted. Around 2005, when we started doing 6-10 shows/week, at times 20), I started paying more attention to the quality of my work. After every show thinking of better ideas for WORLDS WORST (doctor, teacher etc). Better Rhymes for musical improv. Better ways to play piano/guitar. Better ways to MC.
I do this less now, but still always trying to improve. These days I catch myself being lazy. Taking my experience for granted.
Improv is truly great when you treat every moment with wonder and awe. Our characters can have apathy, but not us. Explore possiblity. Crave new experience. Don’t get comfortable with good enough. And always remember:
- International credits include costar roles on Billions, Blue Bloods, Royal Pains, Lilyhammer, Naked Brothers Band (NICK); sketch comedy on Friends of the People (truTV), Letterman, MTV, and HBO.; commercials / industrials; 25+ years of live theater, music and comedy.
- SINCE 2002: Artistic Director at the New York Improv Theater (EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH, LMAOff BROADWAY, ABSENT MINDED COMEDY, Improv 4 Kids) with shows & classes LIVE from Times Square, Touring Nationwide and online worldwide. Off Broadway Weekly, Corporate Events, College Comedy, K12 Educational outreach, Team Building, Professional Development, Murder Mystery.
- AUTHOR/EDITOR of various Improv & Stand-Up Comedy Text Books.
- EMAIL for more info, booking etc