Monday, January 19, 2015

You're Going To Meet Some People: Hayley Tantau

During 2015, Improv Conspiracy member Mike Brown is going to have a chat to every single member of the Conspiracy - about life, about improv, and everything in between. This is: You're Going To Meet Some People.

Today, Mike chats with Hayley Tantau. Hayley currently performs with Harold Night team Endless Cash.

Mike Brown: Hey Hayley!

Hayley Tantau: Hey Mike!

First question: What did you do today?

Today I woke up, ate some breakfast, wrote some sketches, then I went to training for the Improvised Movie. I've been doing that every Sunday, Dan's directing us and we're going to Perth in you know, three weeks. Also we'll be doing it for [the Melbourne International] Comedy Festival. So yeah we're training for that. After that I went home, went for a run, tried to write some sketches but didn't, and then I came here [The Dan O'Connell Hotel] to warm up my level two students, then I watched them perform, now we're here.

Now we're here.

We're here.

Do you have a Sunday routine of sorts? It sounds like you do.

It is, yeah yeah. It's usually just Movie training and then Sunday nights with Improv Conspiracy, somewhere a run will fit in, and then the mornings are pretty slow tho, if I'm pretty hung over or something.

Sometimes a sleep-in.

Yeah, I like to do a lot everyday.

Do you like to plan out your day?

Not really. I like to do something comedy related and I like to go for a run every day, I think that keeps me focused.

For me when I exercise, it's like idea time for me. Is that the same for you?

Yeah yeah. I'm usually just thinking about nothing and then oh my god, I have an idea for a sketch. I just run faster home.

Gotta get home to write it out!

Run faster!! And then I get home and type it, and realise that it's not that great. Exercise made it look better.

I have the same thing sometimes in the shower. I'll be like "I need a notepad in here but that can't work."

One day they'll invent them.

Waterproof notepads.


Jerry Seinfeld's writing out his routine in the shower.

What's the deal with shampoo? That's more of a Cosby impression.

It works.

[both laugh] It works. Topical in text.

You mentioned you were looking after your level twos. You've been teaching in the Conspiracy for a little while now, how long?

Yeah it's been a year actually. So I started assisting this time last year, assisting a level one. Then I got to co-teach my own level one. I went to Chicago, came back and assisted level two, got my own level three, and now I'm about to start teaching the next level two as well.

In your time teaching, are their common things that come up that you note to students that you've noticed? Generic, but important improv notes?

Yeah for me so many of my notes do come from like personal experience. If someone is trying really hard to be funny and witty I'm like knock it off 'cause I know that feeling, it's coming from a place of "I have to be funny". I really emphasise the fact that we're not here to be funny, we're here to be engaging. Because when I learn't that I was like "oh my god", it's so much better when you're playing not for laughs but for any reaction from the audience, and I emphasise that so much.

I guess in terms of comedy it's a bit more true to life as well - it's relatable for an audience.


Anything else comes to mind?

It depends what level as well. So for level ones, there's so many things, it's like stop going to crazy town you are enough. Level two is very much trust yourself and trust your scene partner, and know that you deserve to make these bold choices, which is really important to me. I really like level two and level three. And level three you do Harold, so I guess you're just fine tuning some things, scenewise.

If you had one superpower, what would it be and why?

Oh damn. I used to think about this all the time, and I can't remember what my stock answer is any more which is probably good, it shows that I'm growing as a human being or something like that.

Why were you thinking about this a lot?

[both laugh] I don't know! I think it might have been when I was watching a lot of Heroes.

Of course!

Because Heroes was the best. Do you agree with that?

I never really got into Heroes.

Oh man, I was so on board. 

Favourite Hero?

Favourite hero... Zachary Quinto as Sylar, because I had a mad crush on him tho. [laughs]. Which is pretty funny in retrospect.

My superpower. It used to want to read people's thoughts which is now like noooooo. My thing now is like I don't want to care what other people think, 'cause I care so much, so I have to tell myself that. I think being able to stop time would be amazing.

Oh! Justin Timberlake-esq


Just like in that very popular movie that no-one can remember anymore. [In Time]

Yeah I didn't see that! 

Did any see that?

[simultaneously] No.

Who was that Jessica? I love that Justin Timberlake..

He was able to stop time, and that's why he had to be arrested.

It's a crime, Justin. Yeah, don't be so quick to walk away - from the police.

Yeah I'd love to be able to stop time because I'm late to everything. I'm kinda organised but I love to leave things to do the last minute, I'm a bit of an anxiety case. 

If you're in the middle of doing something, you'd rather be doing it then thinking "well I have to be here so I have to stop doing this at a certain time."

Yeah it's like I know I have to go somewhere right now but I'm reading this really interesting comedy article or I'm watching this shitty YouTube video. Usually it's the YouTube video. I was just trying to make myself sound cool for a second but nup, it's YouTube.

Do you have someone who inspires you in the way you improvise? Be it another improviser, someone who is creative outside of improv, or just someone in your life?

Seeing Susan Messing at iO [Chicago] really amazed me, and I remember watching that show and someone being "yeah it's alright"

Messing with a Friend we're talking about.

Yeah, Messing with a Friend we're talking about. Also Blessing with Blaine Swen, mainly Messing with a Friend. She was just so, and that's why I came back and was like "I'm going to do two-prov" because I love how free they are, they're not hilarious all the time, they are just super committed to their character, and they're really enjoying their time on stage. So she really inspired me to get out of my head, her quote is "get out of your head and into your heart," so yeah I'm like get out of your head because it's crazy in there!

In the company Marcus Willis is really awesome. He's really calm on stage but his energy isn't fully calm, but I can tell him as the improviser is totally OK. And I'm always like "I wanna be like that," he doesn't seem in his head at all. 

He's just enjoying the moment, just like Susan.

Yeah! He's still making bold choices and smart decisions, they are just 100% in the moment. That's what I aspire to.

What thing do you love today that your parents introduced you to as a child?

It can be anything?

Anything in the world.

Oh man. [long pause]

I think muesli. I'm obsessed with muesli. And our whole family are so obsessed on breakfast.

That's great!

Muesli's delicious!

It's very Arrested Development-esq!

[laughs] It is! What's more important than anything - family. Oh wait, breakfast. I always think of George Michael when i get excited about breakfast, or bananas dipped in chocolate which I've never actually encountered. 

Big Yellow Joints...

[sings] Big Yellow Joint, I'll meet you at the...

Yeah muesli's awesome because it's nutty, but you also get the crunchy stuff, you also get the sweet stuff, soy milk is awesome in it. 

Are you a make your own blend type or off the shelf?

My dad does, my dad makes his own muesli; then my mum started making her own granola as well. It's a muesli wonderland in our house every now and again, it's beautiful. And every time I go to a cafe it's like "I'm going to get the eggs, I'm going to get an awesome savoury dish", but if there's bircher muesli on the menu it's like "welp, guess I'll get the bircher muesli". 

You have to see how they will compare!

And some of my friends are like "that's bullshit, get actual food!" and I'm like "it is food, it's healthy."

Did you ever have diner breakfasts while in America?

We went out for breakfast once or twice and it was amazing. I had a lot of scrambed tofu over there for breakfast actually, that was really cool. That's nowhere you can find it in Melbourne. Yeah it's really cool 'cause you'd get a coffee for like three bucks, and they'd keep refilling it. I really like American coffee, everyone hates it.

You really like your filter coffee.

I love it! 

Filter coffee, bowl of muesli, good start to the day.

Yeahhhhh. [both laugh]

Looking back, what's one bit of advice you would have gave yourself whilst doing level one?

Stop trying to be so witty. Just chill out Hayley, just chill the hell out. I remember just being on the train the morning of my level one show and just writing out all these possible characters and like scenarios [both laugh]

Yeah that's improv!

Yeah! I was a really anxious performer right up until my first Harold team and then I just stopped because all I have to do is just listen and react, but that was always lost on me in class. Because no I have to be funny and I have to be smart and all this stuff.

Listen and react is a really good tip.

That was the first thing, that was the moment - it was during a game of da-do-do.


Yeah! Because that game used to make me nervous, because "I don't want to do say this word again" or I don't know. I see it level ones, they are constantly thinking about funny words or everyone has a stock word. And I remember playing da-do-do in one of my first Harold's at the Dan with my team The Reluctant Sergeants, and I remember being like you know what Hayley, stop thinking of a word, look the person next to you in the eye, listen to what they say, and associate of that, because that's the game? But it was that hard for me to clear my head. Then I did in the Harold straight after that and it was a really great show, and I was like oh! Listen and react. It's all I have to do.

So - you're the biggest improviser in the world. You've sold out Rod Laver Arena.

Oh boy! Living the dream.

The improv dream, forget SNL.

Just me on my own? [both laugh]

Yeah just you solo!

The Hayley Tantau Experience, oh wonderful.

In the round.

[laughs] Oh, beautiful.

What are you putting on your rider, and why?

I'd have like probably, a nice pale ale just sitting there.

Just the one!?

Just one [both laugh]. Just a pint, that's all I can, that's enough. What else would I have... bottle of water, maybe people I like. Just some nice people. I'd have some Beyonce or Nicki Minaj or Schoolboy Q playing to hype me up, for sure. If I can get Beyonce there that would be great, if she could just be there.

If she could be there saying "I believe in you Hayley"

Yeah, watch me rock Rod Laver Arena tonight.

"I'm not going to come out of the green room, I'm going to stay here."

Yeah. I don't know, because you don't need anything for improv, really. I just need the things that make me happy and relaxed. So I just need good people, hydration, and a beer, and... musically music from Beyonce and Nicki Minaj. It hypes me up.

Do you listen to music before shows?

I do.

Do you have a playlist of songs to get you fired up for shows?

It's not a playlist, it's just in my recently play list. It used to be I had to listen to Man of the Year by Schoolboy Q before I'd get to the Dan, and now it's Flawless by Nicki and Beyonce, and I have to rap Nicki's verse twice. Over the last few week's I've stopped doing that but that was something I had to do, because it would get me in the zone.  So good.

I'm not going to ask you to rap it right now.

Because all you'd be doing is like typing out the lyrics.

I can go to Genius and copy it.


When I first started I would listen to Watch The Throne - N*ggas in Paris.


On a loop! Just like in the concert.

Yeah Kanye's another great person to listen to before you go on stage. I've been listening to a lot of Graduation recently, I'm revisiting that.

Good album.

That and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are so good, and I remember it was a beautiful day two weeks ago, I'm going to listen to Graduation because that's the happiest album Kanye's ever done. I just put on Good Life and Flashing Lights, and I'm like... jammin'.

Good times.

Yeah. Happy.

So we have a question from the Improv Conspiracy Student Group. Dan P asks: What is one scene that you won't forget?

I think one show me and Andrew Watt were doing the Deconstruction, and we were in the master scene. I wasn't feeling too confident about the Deconstruction, it was at Comedy Festival and it was just... I don't know. It's still one of my favourite formats tho. We were doing the master scene and in one of them my character made this shock revelation and I remember the audience just going "hoooooooo!" Because master scenes, they are not funny and you don't really get much from the audience at all. To not have laughs for a long time, I was not used that and I thought "oh I'm losing them." And then when I got that gasp, they've been listening the whole time, they are engaged. And I just remember being "shit, if they are captivated I don't have to be working my ass off giving the audience what they want, I can just tell them what they want."

Anything on Foggy Windows that was such a big growth period for me, for sure.

We also have a question from the last person interviewed. Simon McCulloch asks: What was the worst thing that happened when you were completely honest with someone?

Oh no. I can't think of the worst thing because when it comes to my deep feelings about people I'm not very honest about them. But I do remember once, I met my current best friend on a park bench at Monash University Clayton Campus, it was my first day of uni and they have two campuses, but I was more of a Caulfield student, but I had to go to Clayton that day for a theatre class. I remember just sitting on the park bench just so scared because my friend had left me and thinking "I'm alone, I don't know where the theatre building is, I can't be bothered finding it." And then this girl sat next to me and I recognised her from one of my Caulfield lectures. And I remember thinking "this is totally weird but you're in one of my classes and do you know where the theatre building is?" And she was so wonderfully nice and we've been best friends for four years now ever since then.

And I remember that working out for me so well two weeks later, I got a friend out of being weird and kinda stalkerish. So the next week I actually see this girl from my theatre class, another person, and it turns out that she's in one of my other classes and I'm like "oh hey you're in my other class" and she's like "oh what?" and I'm like "don't act like you haven't seen me," because we've had eye contact, I didn't say that out loud but we'd had eye contact so much and I was like "oh yeah", I was just trying to reach out I guess, and make another friend, and she was like "oh yeah I don't like know you, I don't recognise you," and I was like "grrrr...."

That's harsh.

And it was like totally fair as well, but I was like "I know you have seen me"

I don't believe you but I don't know how to call you out on it.

Yeah and then for the next ten weeks, we just stared awkwardly at each other. And I was like "I'm sorry for being honest!". Sometimes it's a delightful thing, sometimes it wasn't and it wasn't.

Before we go, anything to plug that you're working on?

I'm doing the Improvised Movie with the Improv Conspiracy for Fringe World, so if you're a Perth person go to that! Also my number one baby at the moment is my sketch team Trillcumber with Simon and Mario, fellow improvisers. Our Melbourne International Comedy Festival show is called Is This Intimacy?

Great title.

And still haven't answered that question.

And there's a great photo where you all are kinda touching each other but not really.

[laughs] Yeah it's great. I'm in the middle sorta staring off into the distance, and Simon and Mario are on each side but awkwardly touching each other. And one of them looks disgusted and one of them looks quite content. It's just the weirdest photo but it's brilliant. 31st of March til the 5th of April at the Catfish in Fitzroy, it's a cool venue.

And we always finish off by asking: What question would you like to ask the next person being interviewed?

Damnit, I didn't think of this. 

What would your life be like if you hadn't found improv?


Yeah. I think about that a lot.

What would your life be like if you hadn't found improv?

It kinda scares me. I'm so happy and I found these wonderful people who I have so much in common with. I had been at acting school, before improv I had been doing a lot of theatre, I was doing a lot of writing, and that was a lot of fun, but I found really out of place. And then I found improv and it had opened up so many doors for me, it feels like I don't have to do any of the work. But we are, we do perform every week, we do train every week.

You mentioned putting on a sketch show with Trillcumber, with two people you met here.


That's the community at work.

I had been looking for a writing partner for like, ever since I read Bossy Pants by Tina Fey, where I read about her and Robert Carlock, and I was like "I want a writing partner!" I didn't realise I'd find two! So, improv's been such a good thing for me for sure.

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