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TRUST, and what we can learn from the 1990s Chicago Bulls
From a lover of improv and a Chicago Bulls fan serving his confirmation bias
As I was listening to the Jon Favreau episode of Improv Nerd today, he brought up something that engaged me for obvious reasons. Today of all days, on the day my beloved Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs, he brought up Michael Jordan.
During the late '80s in Chicago the best basketball player of all time entered the league and suddenly the whole western world started paying attention to the sport. Jordan was electric, entertaining and just so damn talented. As Favreau notes - in the '80s, Jordan’s numbers were huge. He nearly averaged a triple double in his first five years around 30 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds. For basketball nerds, this is pretty great. But the Bulls still weren't winning. It wasn't until the early '90s when they did some recruitment and brought on a coach who changed the culture and put the focus on the team rather than the individual.
With this shift, Jordan's personal numbers went down, but the team’s went up. As you may or may not know, they went on to dominate the '90s winning SIX championships.
There are many individuals from that era whose names we may know: Charles "Round Mound of Rebound" Barkley, Karl "The Mailman" Malone, Gary "The Glove" Payton, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, etc. These are still considered some of the greatest players of all time but none of them won championships because they were up against a team they couldn't beat.Continue Reading
Craig steps out of the backline and announces to the audience, 'Cheddah'! Jon follows along with 'Tasty!' Sarah is next, 'Swiss!' Jadwiga is fourth in line and says 'Edam!'. We hear from Gouda and Feta and Parmesan. And then Carl steps out. But Carl doesn't name a cheese like the rest. Carl is a rat. He sneaks around, before taking a nibble out of Sarah, then stealing her offstage.
The rest of the cheeses freak out, running around the stage and changing places in line. Cheddah is suddenly not so proud, announcing itself in a lower volume. Bobby follows with a slightly scared 'Swiss', and the rest follow along until Sarah returns as a rat, chewing on Feta and stealing her away too. The cheeses freak out again, with Craig yelping out a horrified 'Cheddah!". The speed picks up, as cheese after cheese is listed. And I'm there sitting in the audience laughing my ass off, because I know what's coming next.
Group games are the best part of the Harold. Yeah yeah, there's nothing like a well acted funny two person scene but when a group game is performed well, it sticks with you because you're watching magic play out on stage. Think about it: how on earth do eight or so people play a game when they can't establish the rules ahead of time? Oh, and also make it funny because an audience has paid to see this show and want to laugh.Continue Reading
There’s only so much you can do by yourself in order to develop your improv skills, especially on your lonesome. Try shaking it out in front of a mirror and you’ll see what I mean. Lately, my improv development has been watching episodes of the old sketch show Full Frontal.
Yeah, I’ve been watching sketch comedy to improve my improv. I must sound crazy - like telling you that I'm learning how to ride a bike by driving a bus. Sure, they are both forms of transportation but they are executed very differently! The same goes for sketch comedy and improv, but there are lessons we can learn from the former to apply to the latter.
It’s said that a great improvised scene could be written out beat for beat as a scripted sketch. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s approach to scenework is that a scene should have an identifiable pattern that the performers find during the scene, which is then played back and forth. The pattern starts off as something familiar and even relatable, but gets more and more absurd as time goes on. This is known as the game of the scene. The idea is that once we have found this game, we can strip out the specific details from the scene and apply the same game to a different scenario - meaning that we are getting to the funny thing even quicker because we have established rules.Continue Reading
The split-second moment before you step out on stage is a heady one. It’s terrifying. Nerve-wracking. Uncertain. It’s also thrilling. Exciting. Addictive. Occasionally there’s a confidence that goes with it – the notion that this is single-handedly going to be the best thing you can contribute, and the reaction will be insane. Other times though, there’s nothingness – no solid initiation, no clue as to what will happen, no idea. You just hope for the best.
But each time is the same. Each time you’re jumping into the void. There are no guarantees. No certainty. And once you’re out there, there’s no going back.
This leap into the unknown has a parallel that’s scarily similar to my own personal life right now. To make the rest of this post make any sort of sense, I should probably just spit it out: I’m gay.Continue Reading
I have been studying at the Improv Conspiracy since April 2015. In that time I've watched innumerable shows: Harolds, Remixes, Jams, Cage Matches, etc. Each one a delight in its own right, each one making my heart healthier for the privilege. I sat and watched in awe of these performers and a deep desire to join their echelons, to become part of a team and tread the boards of the Improv Conspiracy Theatre as a performer.
I auditioned and had my wish granted when I was assigned to the Fresh Blood program, with the infallible Simon McCulloch as our coach, and training began. Different from studying, no longer a set curriculum to follow, but adding our own influence to how we trained, and with Simon’s wise guidance, a chance to make the team our own.
As we trained, getting ready for our first show, I realised that as an improviser what I needed in my career, in my improv journey, is to perform. It’s important to log some serious stage time. There is only so much, watching, reading and studying you can get under your belt before you have to get up and do it.Continue Reading
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