Up the Mountain

Up the Mountain

I’m starting to realize that I’m finally treading the path of the improv master, walking up the steep climb on a mountain to which I can’t see the top, but I’m happy to climb it because I know that each step up is ‘closer’.

Part of this never ending journey is finally realizing a lot of the flaws and faults that I have as a player, chief among them is that I’m afraid of my scene partner, and thusly, I don’t trust them. That’s right, I’ve finally owned up to the fact that I’m afraid of my scene partner at times. I have the arrogance to think that I have a better handle on the ‘story’ or the ‘pattern’ of the scenes I’m in and thus, I’m fearful to trust my scene partner to make wild choices.

As a reflex of this, I’ve created the bad habit of soft-steamrolling a scene sometimes. What’s that? Well, if steamrolling is forcing the premise of the scene, then soft-steamrolling is presenting an obvious choice for your partner to take. It’s the equivalent of waving a big shiny choice in the air and spouting “PICK THIS ONE YOU DUMBASS!”.

It displays an inherent distrust of my scene partner and makes my work seem stilted and shitty. So I’m working on it. I’m working on doing scenes with less of a bias and more trust in my partner, no matter their evident level of improv-fu. I need to treat EVERYTHING as a genius’s gift and not be so fearful of the unknown or things deviating from ‘the plan’.

Here’s an excerpt from an email exchange with my UCB 101 teacher Ari Voukydis:

Quoth Ari:

My first improv class was with Ian Roberts in 1997. Almost once a class he would wait until the best student was playing with the worst student and the scene was struggling. He’d then tag out the good improviser half way through and finish the scene with the bad one. He would inevitably make that shit improviser look like a fucking GENIUS, and that was the thing that inspired me most about UCB: That an improviser’s #1 job is to make their partner look amazing.

The mark of a veteran improviser is not that he gets All The Laughs. It’s that everyone else somehow magically seems to do their best work in scenes with him.

Back on the Mountain:

That’s where I’m at in the work. Right back where I began, at trying to earnestly listen and be open to my scene partner. I’m at Square One again, because maybe that’s how this art form works, once you gather up enough concepts, you start back at re-acquiring them, because it’s impossible to master.

Yet, it’s one more step towards the top of the mountain.


(Also, I highly recommend Ari Voukydis for UCB’s 101 class. He was very helpful in my improv-fu)