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Saturday, February 21, 2015

You're Going To Meet Some People: Tim Quabba

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 Tim Quabba, who performs with Harold team Endless Cash, and will be seen doing during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival as part of Now Showing: The Improvised Movie.

[Tim turns on Dream is Collapsing by Hans Zimmer from the Inception soundtrack. For maximum effect, play this song on a loop whilst reading this interview]

Mike Brown: You have background music for this. You think background music is important for a successful interview? This is a first.

Tim Quabba: I'm going to put this on repeat.

Do it! [pause] Yeah, imagine when I'm typing this out in like, a week or so, and I'm just hearing music and no talking what-so-ever. The music is just dominating the conversation! It's like I feel like the answers are going to come in those kind of waves, where the answers get more and more dramatic as the music builds.

It's on the soundtrack to Inception. Look it up. Have you looked it up?

No I have never looked up the Inception soundtrack.

Mike. Hans Zimmer.

He did like, The Simpsons right?

I'm not sure! 

Let me look it up. He's done a lot of films, I'm familiar with the name. I'm probably just mixing up the names with another composer [note: The Simpsons was often composed by Alf Clausen].

He did Inception, he's done a lot of the Christopher Nolan stuff. He did Man of Steel, collaborated with Will Ferrell in that. Anyway.

With Will Ferrell!?

Yeah he was on the drums.They had drumsets in the orchestra...

And Will Ferrell's playing them all?

[laughs] One of them.


He's a man of many talents.

Acting and drumming. What's your favourite thing about improvising?

It's fun. It's so fun. It's free and.. you can just free yourself on stage and everyone's just so supportive and lovely. You know that you can do anything, absolutely anything and have 100% support from everyone. That is the best part for me.

You come from an acting background, correct? 

I do.

And you do professional work and such? We can look you up on iMDB.

Yeah when I can get the work. I don't really call myself a professional.

You just happen to work as one sometimes. [laughs]

Sometimes, yeah. When it happens it happens. Whenever I'm on set I just feel like feared, like oh my god I can't believe I'm doing this said thing. It feels like I'm out of place and... what am I doing here!?!?

I guess it that regard, does improv feel more freeing compared to doing scripted stuff?

Absolutely! I started to investigate improv because I wanted to add that spontaneity to my scripted work but I didn't realise just how phenomenal the whole community of improv is. It just swallowed me up. I was just there to investigate technique really.

You just thought "oh yeah I'll do these classes, and ok I'll see you later" and then back to work.

Kinda! It's going to freshen me up and get me a bit more in the now.

Yeah it's just another part of the acting toolbox.

That's right. I played around with some other improvising groups,The Wrong People who met up for a few months, and through them I workshopped with the people from The Improv Conspiracy. And then after the workshops came the shows, and "ok I guess we're doing a show!", and then level two and "I guess I'm doing another show!" Then [Adam] Kangas is like, "So you're going to be in the Improv Conspiracy's [Melbourne International] Comedy Fest[ival] show,"... I'm like "whaaaaaatttt!?"

What was going through your head when you found that out?

It's like "far out, this is crazy! It's only been what, six months that I've been doing this." We were already excited, our group was, by then we were in the Harold team The Wrong Shoulder...

It's just developed since then?

Yeah. I'm so thankful for it. Like it's so great, it's a really weird way to come into it but it was so great.

No regrets?

No regrets.

Great, great. Let's mix it up then - what's your favourite colour and why?

Ok alright ok. So all my life I'm like what the hell is my favourite colour? Is it red? It is orange? Is it green is it blue? I'm like I don't want blue, blue is such an easy thing to say, my favourite colour is blue, I'm a boy, my favourite colour is blue.

It's a good colour.

It's a great colour! So I just mucked around, for many times I'd say my favourite colour is red, for primary school. Then in high school I didn't think about it. It's only just now that I looked at my wardrobe and I'm like "uhhhhh Tim there's a whole bunch of blues in your wardrobe. Lot of denim. Look at your shoes, they're blue. Look at your shirts, they're blue." So I think it's pretty safe to say that I'm most comfortable in blue.

So it's more a subconscious choice?

Yeahhhh! It's just happened that way. Based on Laura [Buskes] interview with her synthesia abilities, I remember her saying "Tim's a blue colour." and thinking "that matches with all the colours of my wardrobe!" So yeah, that consolidated it. Yeah, I think blue is my favourite colour, as bland or boring as that is, I love it.

Would you ever get a blue suit? Like a 70s style, bright blue suit?

Probably. I don't know when I'd wear it. Actually, why wouldn't you buy it? If you had all the money in the world why wouldn't you buy a blue suit? I probably would buy it Mike.

You'd wear it down the shops.

I'd wear it down to the shops! I'd probably like to wear that blue suit, go to another shop that's selling a very similar blue suit, have a look at it and sort of  um and ah a little bit, ask out loud "oh I don't know, would this look good on me?" and be there for about half an hour to an hour with the shop attendant and wouldn't buy it, and do that over and over again. 

How would your teammates describe your style of play? Do you think you have trademarks that seem to pop up when you're in a scene?

I scream a lot. How would someone else describe me though... that's a tough one. Yeah I guess I always worry what other people think which I'm always actively trying to stop. But you know, but not stop, like..

Not let it dictate how you play.

Yeah, because we have a really skewed perception of what other people think of us.

Yeah, someone says something, and you think of it as if they are saying it because it's a bad thing. 

Yeah! But someone describing you... I don't know. I scream so much, it was much worse when I was a student because I'd play that card all the time, just scream as often as I could.

Personally from watching you, I'd say you are a very bold performer. You suck up the spotlight when you're on stage.

Oh geez.

And I mean that in an extremely positive way.

Sometimes it can be a bit much and like, the screaming can be unnecessary. And I'm conscious of it, because I think is this too much. I don't want to take spotlight, because that's not what improv is about.

It's about sharing.

You want to share, you want to add. You want to make sure the piece is not being filled up by one person.

I guess in that regard, I'll watch your object work, I'll watch your use of space and I guess that's what I mean by sucking it up - you're not just doing everything in the scene yourself, you're setting out this world and it's incredible to watch, I really love it.

I enjoy using a stage, as much as the space as possible, it's so important. Because it's there for a reason. Like it's so boring to just to stay in one spot and do the whole elevenses - chat chat chat no object work no nothing.

Just two talking heads.

It's great to chuck in a little bit of a lunge here and there. 

What do you do when you want to relax?

At the moment I'm working on meditation. Trying to put some time away every day just to sit still and listen to my mind and think, and just let it settle. That's what's been really, really helpful. Or I read a lot, just have a bit of a read. 

Do you do those things before shows? Do you try and meditate before shows?

Like before shows my thing to relax is a lot of deep breaths. Really long slow deep breaths, and sometimes we do that as a group, out on the [Canning and Newry St] roundabout before a show. Whenever we've done that we've felt really calm and ready, like high energy in the warm-up and then really deeply before I got in a show, that really grounds me. 

I don't really have a set routine before a show, basically just seeing where everyone else is. Even before I turn up to The Dan?

Yeah maybe, yeah. Like on the tram there, in the car-

Oh I don't drive, I don't-

In your limo.

[laughs]. Limo, Jesus Christ...

Yeah in the limos we all catch to our highly paid improv shows. [laughs]

I'll just call up Roger, the driver, my driver. Roge, what a man, what a man.

What a champ.

I never drive with the divider up. He's a man who needs a chat, and I'm happy to chat to him before a show.

You have to find out what Roger is up to, besides driving a limo.

Roger's got a life, my god, that poor man. He's got his two kids.

I don't drive, I have a car but originally I was skateboarding, I was skateboarding heaps more when I was living up north. But like I would have a massive board ride before a show, most of last year, it was soooo good. So warm, even if it was raining I'd be like "this is great," I'd be all warm from the skateboard ride. 

You're trapped on a desert island with two members from the Improv Conspiracy. Who do you pick, why do you pick them?

Mike, my god! Who came up with this?

Me! [laughs]

Mike. It's a good question. I'm trapped on a deserted island. So I gotta stay sane, so I would require someone who would really call out the bullshit, so that's Dan, Dan Pavatich. Who's like "listen guys, cut the shit on this desert island, let's survive." And he's also a great person, so you'd have some great... alright.

I want to think... [pause] Fucking [Andrew] Strano. He'd hunt some fish with those toned legs. Get Strano's body in the water and he'd be a great hunter. In his tight pants you can tell that he has some really toned legs. He wouldn't even need like a spear because his legs would just spring forward and all he'd need is a like a spike in his hand to just.. catch a shark and we'd be having a feast for at least, at least a week on a delicious shark. I think I'm sorted. And Strano's like great human. So yeah, glorious. I'd have a good time on that deserted island.

You'd have a good time, hopefully get out.

Yeah that's the thing. Hopefully. I'd be fine, oh it's you two, I'm fine! This is going to be a great bunch of time that we undetermined amount of time we are about to have guys.

You mentioned reading before as a relaxer. What have you been reading lately?

I'm reading about lucid dreaming at the moment, techniques on how to achieve that lucidity.

Oh wow you're actually trying to get lucid dreams?


What brought that upon?

I've always been really interested in that, and I've always been looking up techniques online and they work to some extent but this book that I recently got, would have been last year, has really got some phenomenal techniques on how to maintain lucidity when it's achieved. It's always exciting when you read the techniques, I love it.

Do you tend to go for non-fiction type reading?

Yeah lately, lately I have. Reading the improv stuff, or stuff for film acting. I read a few books at the same time which isn't great.

Do you balance reading performing stuff with reading stuff that isn't about performance? I do.

Yeah. You kind of get sick of some books. Even this lucid dreaming book, I've been reading it for a while and going to performance books and coming back. Yeah, that's what I've been reading.

Ok let's go into the next question then - if you could recommend one improv book, article, podcast, blog post, whatever - what are you recommending?

I haven't really jumped on the whole podcast thing yet but I will, I need to, because everyone's got so many recommendations but I'm kind of like with all those recommendations WHERE DO I START!?!

Where's the time?

WHERE DO I DO THIS!? Books obviously Truth in Comedy. Ohhhhhh, so important, such a great book.

The beginners guide to long-form improv, yeah.

Yeah really important! Such a satisfying book to read on the techniques that people, especially the Improv Conspiracy, the principals that it is focusing on is all in that book and it's really great to see.

Any principals in that book you read and had a bit of an "oh!" moment? I have a bit of an "oh!" moment sometimes when you read something in a book that you've been trying, and suddenly it all makes sense now what they were trying to teach for so long.

That group mind bit, I don't know what chapter it was but like talking about the group mind phenomenon that happens in a Harold team that's really, really checked in to each other, that stuff was like oh my god that's what we're trying to get all the time and sometimes it happens. But really, that group mind chapter is amazing. Really loved it.

When it happens it feels amazing, doesn't it?

Ohh yeah! I can't say I've really felt it to the extent that the book describes. Because they talk about it in a really interesting, almost spiritual way. I feel like I've touched on it - just a little bit in certain Harolds, where it just felt so easy, everything just worked together, obviously yeah there's Harold's like that. I guess that's always the goal to be at that level. I love that chapter, that was amazing.

What would be your theme song when you enter the room?

When I went to which room?

When you enter the room?

The room?

Any room. You enter a room and your theme song starts playing - it doesn't matter where you are.

It's definitely,it's definitely Michael Jackson. It's definately... what's that song.

[laughs] Remember The Time. Black and White. Thriller.

It starts off with...

Beat It.

Oooooh! Do-daaa-do-daaa-do-daaa-doo.

[Mike and Tim make noises to the tune of the song]

Baa baa, ba baa ba ba, don't stop 'til you get enough

[claps] Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough.

Yeah-haaaa-yes we did it! [high five, both laugh]

That is my song! That song. That, oh my god, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough. Every room that I enter in, if I could set it up.

You hear the ooooh! bawhhhhh-

Oooooh! [both laugh]

I'm just so glad we got it together [both laugh].

Yes. Yes yes yes.

So I've always got questions from the Improv Conspiracy Student Group...

This music is intense.

It just keeps on building! Alright, here we go. Here's a question from Daniel P. He asks: Why no love for the food based suggestion pineapple?

Oh well it comes up a lot, I guess. And there's this idea that it's an exhaustible item to get inspiration from.

Have you had a pineapple show? Have you had a pineapple Harold?

I can't even remember Mike, we probably had, I honestly, I do not know, I can't even think back that far. It hasn't happened recently.

Are you a person who - we all get suggestions that we don't like, I've had suggestions that I don't personally like. Are you like "I guess we're playing with it" or are you full throttle?

I think if I got pineapple now I'd be fine.

Pineapple is a suggestion because it's a funny sounding word. And you want it at a comedy show because it's funny, right?

It's the most random looking fruit probably in the audiences mind. "Oh pineapple's a funny looking fruit because it's spikey and sweet!" Maybe. But like the worst suggestion we ever received and I shouldn't say that because there's no bad suggestions, right? 

There are certainly offensive suggestions or hacky suggestions.

Sure. Yeah well the one that The Wrong Shoulder got was "Taliban". 

Ooooh boy.

Yeah and it was an "ooh boy" Harold, let me tell ya. It was one of our earlier Harolds and weren't really, I certainly wasn't ready, we weren't stripping the suggestions to some kind of theme in the opening so basically all our scenes were very hard to be in and probably watch. And the Wrong Shoulder when we, the "Taliban" Harold, we all just cringe when we hear about it or talk about it.

Do you remember any scenes that happened?

Oh there was a school for suicide bombers.

Oh boy!

It wasn't, it wasn't pretty. It was below the cuff. Below the cuff, is that even a term?

It is now.

Yeah. I think political suggestions are always, I don't like them that much because I feel like whoever is suggesting them will have a lot of current affairs news items in their mind and I'm not, I'm not really. I don't really watch the news that much. Not because I don't want to be informed I just feel like the stuff we're informed about is so depressing and unnecessary for the masses. It doesn't really make people happy to be alive today, when it's amazing to be alive!

A lot of fear mongering.

So whenever we get a suggestion of some kind of political person, alright it's some guy who's in politics or a policy in general it's uhhhh. Obviously I'll work with it, and we'll all make the best of it, because every improviser will try to make the most out of everything.

I guess it comes down to easy and hard, and that's something that you find hard.

I would find that difficult, yeah.

We always have a question from the last interview as well, and that was with Patrick Rehill.

I love Patrick, I just want to put that on the record.

He's a good dude! Patrick asks: If you could be in a show with anyone else in the world, what's the show and who are you doing it with?

Ok so the show is impr-

Improv or otherwise.

Anyone who is alive or dead?

Yes. So for Patrick it was performing with Patrick Stewart.

Amazing. I would, oh my god it's... like I would love to work with Robin Williams I mean it's so sad that he's not here anymore but it's like, if I could do something with him, holllllyyyy shit. That guy, hollllly shit alright he-

Was he an influence on you as a performer?

Oh yes! Oh so much so! Robin Williams was, yeah, very influential on me. He's so free - all this stuff from his mind just coming out no filter and it's all brilliant, like holy shit. It would be with and.. it would be an improv show. My god I don't know what the fuck we would do.

Does that really matter? You would just do stuff. It'd be fascinating to watch I'd enjoy it.

It would be amazing. I've never thought about doing that, but if I could do that, oh my god. I'M JUST HAVING A MOMENT! Yeah, it would be great. Very sad very sad.

Before we go, is this just real life?

Is what real life? Improv?

Is this just real life.

Great question.

Interpret it in whichever way you want. 

I think whatever we think is real life... aw shit. [pause] Like even in this lucid dreaming book it's always asking you to question if you are dreaming or in the waking world. Constantly, constantly asking. Do a reality check, check if you're awake or asleep, even if it's stupid. So is this the real world? Let me do a reality check. Look at my hands. Everything seems pretty solid. [smacks table with hand]. I'm not putting my hand through a table or anything like that.

Not yet.

But yeah like, what is, what is reality Mike? Our perception or... well our perception is reality Mike that's a, that's a question I guess consider. Because if this isn't real and it's just our perceptions then we have a huge responsibility to make it the best reality, not just for ourselves but for everybody.

So I think this is real, but we make it real with whatever it is that we're doing or projecting. I know, it's silly. It's a very big, bold question.

Freddie Mercury 


Asked it about twenty years ago.

To who?

To the listening public. 


In Bohemian Rhapsody.

Right, fuck. What a song. That song is almost a Harold as well. 

I want to see you break that song down into a Harold form now.


That's a blog post waiting to be written.

Oh yeah. I'm sure anyone can work it out themselves, you just listen to the song and hear it.

The various beats.

Yeah. And that last bit is a third beat where it all comes together.

What question would you like to ask to the next person being interviewed?

What was the last dream you can remember having?

What was the last dream you can remember having?

Ok. Kinda weird. It was last night, it was like a spectator dream, so I was in it and I had stakes in what was going on but I was a spectator and nothing really affected me physically. But there was a women playing my mother, but it wasn't really my mother. And she became.. This is such a weird dream man. And she became zombie like suddenly becoming intent on killing my brother. But it wasn't my brother, it was someone else playing my brother. And like she'd be pointing the gun at people without looking at where she's aiming because she was possessed or something. It was messed up! I had been watching a lot of Buffy lately so-

It influenced your mind.

Characters just doing really strange things suddenly when they're influenced by some sort of external force. And there was aspects of water contamination in the dream as well-

Oh yeah of course! 

"Don't drink the water because there's bubbles in it." Someone was telling me that and I'm like "It's ok it tastes fine." "No it's contaminated!" So yeah, that was my last dream. That's that, work that out because I don't understand why I had that.

I'll put that dream to the next person and see if they can deprogram it.

Alright, cool. Because I need to know what the hell is doing on in there.

I'm going to turn this music off. Dream is Collapsing. [laughs] Hey let 'em know at the start, Dream is Collapsing, Hans Zimmer, Inception soundtrack. It's such intense music man, but I love it. Hans Zimmer man. MM!

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