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  February 2, 2015

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 Laura Buskes, who can be seen performing in The Remix and with Harold team Friends at the End (plus a few other projects). She is also an exciting new Level 3 instructor in our workshops program!

Hi Laura.

Hey Mike.

Ready to be interrogated.

[laughs] Yeah. Yeah-yeah-yeah.

Ok first thing’s first. What was your first job?

My first job, ok. I worked at Brumbies when I was fifteen.

Brumbies. Was that just because it was close by to where you lived?

Yeah. It was at the North Ringwood shops, which was like a ten minute walk away. I got the great job of getting $8 an hour whilst…

Slingin’ bread!

Yeah, and my manager actually hated me. I think once my mum went in, I don’ t remember why.

She needed bread!

[laughs]

I think that’s the reason Laura.

Yeah, exactly. But yeah the manager told mum all these things I was doing that I didn’t do.

What were you doing?

I actually had a boyfriend there as well, I met a guy and we started dating. And the manager started saying these things to my mum, "oh she’s really inappropriate at work, they are always cuddling at work", which wasn't true at all.

"Well no customers..." [laughs]

Yeah. "Just head out the back, have a bit of a canoodle in the bread."

Bin.

In the bread bin yeah.

Just a massive bread bin that is the back of Brumbies, just having a bit of a snuggle.

Bread bin slash sex bin. Yeah, so that was my first job.

You quit I assume because of this awful manager?

Yeah it sorta got to a point where it got a little bit ridiculous.

How long did it take?

I think I was only there for six months.

Wow that’s pretty short. Someone else to harass came in, they were canoodling in the bread bin. So on and so forth. Maybe this manager, it was a fantasy of theirs.

Oh yeah! She wanted the bread bin but I got there first, so there was some jealousy.

What’s your favourite thing about improvising?

My favourite thing is the escape. I think it’s the fact that you can be so present in a moment and have reactions or responses to something that happens in a scene that can feel so real and so natural and fun. But there’s no consequences for it. So if you yell at someone or someone says something to offend you and you call them out on it, there’s no consequence to it later on, no "oh now our friendship is ruined".

Hearing you say that, I was watching this documentary about Larry David, and the cast of Seinfeld were talking about Larry and his show Curb Your Enthusiasm, and they were describing Curb as the perfect series for Larry, because he could take all those things from human life and answer back finally.

Yeah, exactly.

The things you would hold in yourself, you could finally give out to an audience. And it sounds like for you improvisation is the same thing.

It is, I internalise so much stuff in my life [laughs], there’s so much social anxiety that goes on inside my head, and improv is like, it’s a bit of a cathartic moment being on stage.

Do you see things in your life, certain character types or people and think “I’m going to make fun of this on the stage”?

Yeah I actually had that recently. There’s a girl who’s in my personal training class who couldn't understand social cues. I would be reading a book or something, and she was always talking to me, and I didn't like her, didn't want to talk to her. I thought I would just avoid her, won’t really answer her questions, give really short yes/no answers, don’t follow it up with another question. Anyway, I didn't like her but I felt really bad because she was really nice but just really annoying, so I didn't know how to deal with that.

So I was in a scene with Nadine, and Nadine played this character who was always up in my personal space, and I ended up having a rant with her on stage about not understanding personal cues and needs to get out of my face, and how she needs to learn something about the world. [laughs]. And I got off stage and thought “wow, that was a real moment there.”

If nothing else comes of the show, at least I have that to myself.

Everyone in the audience you know, you could feel their arms tense.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I don’t know if it’s a talent but I have a bit of an aura sensing ability. All my life I have associated words and sounds and letters and numbers with colours and it’s always been something that comes into my head. Like every word has a colour, and I didn't know anything about it, I thought it was pretty normal until I read a book called The Human Brain or something vague like that. And I read about it and its called synaesthesia if you associate tastes and words with colours. I was reading more and more about it, and it sounds exactly like me. It’s not really a talent or anything, but it actually has meant that I have seen the world in a much brighter way then other people have seen it.

Yeah it sounds a lot more vivid.

So I don’t physically see the colours but places like the Dan [O’Connell Hotel, the home of The Improv Conspiracy] – the Dan reminds me of the colour brown, which is what I think of every time I think of the Dan, its brown. Even with certain people’s names, I have issues remembering certain people’s names if then the colour of the word of their name is different than they give me when I meet them. So it always, yeah, it’s a weird kinda thing.

I have to, what’s my colour then?

So Mike is actually yellow, but you are kind of purple.

I have to find out what that means now.

I don’t know if it means anything because one of my good friends I get the colour black. And immediately you think that it’s a bad thing but it’s not at all.

Well you associate colours with feelings right? Like the yellow belly coward right? Blue is regal and royal.

Yeah, but I don’t see black as evil actually. I see black as strong, and this particular girl I see her as strong and intelligent.

That’s some googling to do for everyone on the subject.

Yeah exactly.

And a lot of questions to ask you [laughs].

Yeah I'll be getting a lot of questions on what their colours are I think.

So, we’re always making stuff up when we’re improvising. How personal do you make things? You bring personal aspects of your life to the stage from what you were telling earlier, do you try to bring things that aren’t your life experience?

I guess I try to either map situations or I take a simple aspect of a situation where I have been in, or a character or a person that I know. Because I feel a lot of my own personal life, a lot of everyone’s personal life is very complex and to be able to bring that out on stage in a three minute scenario even though you might know that person so well in your head or that character or situation so well in your head it’s still so complex, so I like to take a small aspect or a small part of that.

So for example the idea of obsession – I do know people who have strong obsessions but they are still very complex characters and have reasons for their obsessions. But I will take that idea of obsession and place it onto a character.

Do you ever try to play opposite to yourself?

Yeah I feel like, I definitely have go-to characters. I feel like I don’t know myself to be able to play myself on stage. I think there’s still a lot of myself I’m finding, so to say I would even play myself on stage, even a heightened version I wouldn't know. I could play aspects of that or take small aspects of myself and say this is that part times ten and you can see that part right now. But I don’t think I would say I play myself.

If you’re willing to share, have you made discoveries about yourself from improvising?

Definitely in training, learning about improv, I have learnt that I'm a control freak because the whole idea of "yes and" freaked me out. I used to think “no I've got the best idea and I'm going on stage and I want this person to agree with my idea and go along with my idea, I don’t want to deal with their stuff.” That’s what I'm like in real life – if I have an idea and I think it’s great, I get very offended if people don’t see it the way I do. So the idea of yes and has made me realise that and helped me to grow as a person, to accept all ideas and situations as opposed to putting them aside.

It’s also something I realised – I don’t yes and myself. I wrote a blog about it recently. When I start writing I'll go “aw yeah I have this idea” and when I get to a fork in the road, go “oh it’s a shit idea, throw that away.” I don’t let it sit or go “aw ok we've got this idea, it’s not amazing, but let’s build on it.” And I feel like I would do that in improv but I've struggled to do it within myself. So it’s something that I'm working on, still agreeing and accepting a truth of an idea that I've had and going “it’s not the most amazing idea, it’s not perfect but let’s add to it and make it perfect.”

And certainly much like with improv, it’s something that you can team up with someone. You can grab someone else and suddenly their spark reignites your own spark.

Yeah exactly. It helps, just to rebound ideas.

If you could come back as any item of clothing in the next life, what are you picking and why?

Any item of clothing. I would come back as… I’d come back as a beautiful lacy bra. [laughs]. I have reasons for that; I’ll give you my deep and meaningful reasons.

List ‘em off.

I consider myself supportive as most bras are, but also I enjoy attracting attention. So something that’s a push-up bra or a lacy bra kinda demands attention. It’s something that’s a little bit, it’s personal. I enjoy having personal intimate dare I say relationships with people, so I think that’s what would make up me. And I'm little bit controversial as well [laughs].

How do you balance improv life with non-improv life? Now you’re fairly involved with Conspiracy.

Yeah – Harold team, [The] Remix, [The Improvised] Movie, Sunday nights, teaching.

Do you have a normal life outside of improv?

I have life. I do a lot, I'm a very busy person but I like it so I will. I'm at uni, I work, I always have a family life, and a love life, and I friends outside of improv believe it or not. It’s hard but it doesn't stress me out because I feel like most of my friends who are within The Improv Conspiracy understand what it’s like. But I definitely wouldn't have it any other way. I hate the idea of doing a nine to five job, coming home, turning on the TV and numbing myself to the world. There’s no way I would change it.

What was the last TV series you binge watched then? Was there one?

Orange Is The New Black. That would have been my binge watch. And that’s the thing, I only ever binge watch, I don’t have that much of interest in television, but when I have one thing that I really like I'll binge watch it. American Horror Story is another one. I like gory and weird and paranormal genres. Yeah, that’s me.

Any one blog, any podcast, any book about improv you would recommend to them if they want to get some more improv study into them?

Yeah anything by Charna [Halpern, founder of iO Theatre, co-author of Truth in Comedy and Art by Committee] or Mick Napier [found of The Annoyance Theatre, author of Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out]. And the UCB book [The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual] is so so helpful, I've lost it [laughs] and I'm really sad that I've lost it because it was a really great thing to jump into and have all these examples there for you.

Yeah a lot of illustrations, they spell out concepts.

Exactly. Also another thing I really enjoy is The Small Cute Book of Improv by… what’s her name?

Jill Bernard. That book is brilliant.

Yeah. And also watch the TED talk by Susan Messing about improv. It makes you feel proud about being improviser.

That’s a lot of stuff for people to get started with.

Yeah just a couple of things. [laughs]

So we always have a question from the student group. Amruta N asks: Five things to do with a selfie stick – go!

What? Five things to do with a selfie [laughs]. There’s only one thing to do with a selfie stick and that’s to shove it up your arse.

[laughs] That sounds painful; you wouldn't throw it in the bin first?

hate selfie sticks. Nunchucks if you break it in half. You could use it to kill a spider that’s far away. You could use it as some sort of self-defence when you’re in a dark alley way. And you could use it to unblock your toilet.

Like a makeshift plunger.

Yeah just wrap some cotton wool around it.

Cotton wool?

To clean it I don’t know.

I want to test that out to see if it works.

Well, sometimes you gotta improvise, hey?

Hey.

[simultaneously] hey-hey-hey-hey.

Yeah. Anything to plug before we go?

I just do improv. I’m now a PT, so if anyone needs any personal training, come to me. I need some work. [laughs]

Hey that’s a plug!

Yep that’s my plug. It’s a sports plug for sporty types.

Hashtag sports.

Hashtag sports forever.

And we always finish with a question from the last interview. The Sparrow Men ask: All improvisers have a click moment. What was your improv click moment when it all started, or at least some of it started to make sense?

I had that at the end of my time in Chicago. In a way now that it’s a bit sad because it involves Jason Chin [an iO Chicago instructor who recently passed away]. It both came from Dan [Pavatich] and Jason Chin, their advice had come together as one. Dan said to me at the end because I was hating my improv class over there, I hated everyone in there. Well most of the people, not everyone.

Anyway I was annoyed at my classmates because I felt that they were always making terrible choices on stage or not making choices at all. I remember speaking to Dan and he said “Assume every choice made on stage is an actual character choice.” Don’t assume that it’s a stupid choice, that there was a purpose behind it. And I sorta went “ok, that’s a good point.”

And then I remember Jason said to me afterwards, I contacted him he was my teacher at the time, “I'm really struggling, I feel like everyone’s gone to crazy town, and we spent these last five weeks trying to do grounded scenes.” And he sent me back a message saying that “I've noticed that you tend to withdraw when you see everyone go to crazy town. The best advice I can give you is to actually get on the bus.” He’s like “No-one’s going to kick you out of class, no-one’s kick you off stage if you also get on the bus to crazy town. The best thing that can happen is that we all have a laugh, and wouldn't that be fun?” And it just reminded me of like “that’s right, I'm here to have fun, I'm here to have fun.” And so since then I think I've had much better improv shows because I've just had more fun with the people on stage and forgotten about the, you know, the critique of improv.

And what question would you like to give the next improviser being interviewed, improv or otherwise?

I feel like it should be a non-improv thing. What’s their biggest regret?

And of course how this works is that you have to answer that question. So what’s your biggest regret?

Oh what’s my biggest regret. My biggest regret is not sticking with performance when I was a bit younger.

So when did you give it up?

I pretty much gave it up straight after high school, and then kind of like tip-toed in and out of it for a while until I found improv again. So yeah, I wish I stuck with it.

Do you think you would have been a stronger improviser for it?

I don’t know. I think I would have given less fucks about what people think about me. I don’t know why but for me the two go hand in hand. I get very self-conscious about my acting, my singing as well and I wish I had just kept going with performance, gotten used to being on stage much more and I feel like it would have made me a better performer.