Mitch Hedberg was an incredible comedian and this short documentary does a wonderful job of capturing his writing process. It’s incredible to see how filled his notebooks are and his simple philosophy of “always make sure to write down what you think is funny” is something any writer should hold on to.
Showing posts tagged with “comedy advice”
How To Dry Your Wood
Recently, Will Hines posted a fantastic interview with Chris Gethard on teaching improv. Something that rang especially true with me and my improv philosophy (my improv philosophy and me?) was this quote:
‘You have a right to feel like you can try anything; you have a responsibility to make everyone else on stage feel like they can try anything too.”
I feel like the latter half of this cannot be overemphasized. It is our responsibility as improvisers to foster a fun, judgment-free environment in our shows and on our teams. This is just another way of saying “support” (as is almost every improv quote). So often, the focus is placed on the choices performers made to create a great scene (game moves, characters, specifics, etc.), but we rarely examine the conditions that made those choices possible and enticing in the first place.
A fairly common analogy for building a scene is building a fire (“Build a big fire, not lots of little ones”, “Don’t smother the fire”, etc.), so to put what I’m talking about in FIRE TERMS (dibs on band name), it’s easier to build a big ol’ fire when our wood isn’t wet. Yeah, you may make great moves and have great ideas, but are you doing everything you can to create a nice arid climate in your group so that raging fires happen on the reg?
Here are some concrete, so-simple-and-stupid-we-forget-why-they’re-important ways I believe every team can improve their shows/scenes/email-bits by fostering the prime conditions for inspiration and playful improv (aka HOW TO DRY OUT YOUR WOOD):
- If you’re doing the pattern game: smile, gesture, laugh, force yourself to enjoy it. But most importantly, make eye contact. We all know what shitty pattern games look/feel like: SO WHY DO WE KEEP DOING THEM?
- Laugh/smile on the backline. Enjoy the scenes that are going on.
- Clap after scenes in rehearsal
- Compliment your teammates after rehearsal and shows. If you can’t think of something to compliment them on from an entire show/rehearsal, you suck.
- You will not immediately love every move people make. Pretend you do. Attack all ideas with the same enthusiasm. ANYTHING can be fun if you treat it like it is. Fake it until you make it.
- Along those lines, pretend like you’re having fun in scenes/shows you are not having fun in (these happen from time to time and will continue to happen). It’s more important to communicate to our teammates that you enjoy being on stage with them no matter what than it is to communicate to the audience that you also don’t like what’s going on (which is never important).
- If you always meet weird moves with straight manning, do more matching. Straight men are a great and necessary part of improv but sometimes it’s done of out fear of wanting to fully commit. If we want to show our teammates that we’ve got their backs, let’s jump into the abyss with them every now and then, as opposed to always pointing and saying, “Why the hell are you jumping into that abyss?”.And MORE! (but this is getting long and my boss is getting suspicious)
In conclusion, I’m not preaching some wishy washy kumbaya improv mysticism here; doing the above will have a tangible positive impact on your group’s scenes and shows (in my humble opinion). You and your teammates will be less hesitant/obligated and more playful/inspired.
My favorite thing about improv advice is that it’s extremely valuable to anyone, even if you don’t practice improv.
ON A RELATED COMEDY NOTE, my buddy Amos is going to be in town next week for the San Francisco Sketchfest and you should go watch his show.
Advice from Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson: “Never be afraid to rewrite?”
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to write a screenplay this year. I’m still in the process of trying to figure out what I want to write about, but I decided one of the best ways to probably start would be to study films that I really admire and inspire me.
Therefore, every week I’m going to watch a film and pull from it the most inspiring points to me as an aspiring screenwriter and post them here. My goal is by studying these films and finding out what it is I like about them, I’ll be able to find my own style of writing. It also provides a nice break from all the cat pictures and geeky photos I reblog.
I don’t have a concrete way on how I’m going to determine what films I watch, but I decided to start this project with the films of my favorite director of all time: Wes Anderson. But before I start posting my studies, I wanted to share some advice Wes Anderson gave me.
Comedy Advice From Angela Kinsey
Angela Kinsey: ”Say ‘yes’ and everything in your path will change for the better. Oh and wear spanx!”
I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while since it happened two months ago but I finally just got around to it. I met Angela Kinsey backstage at the LA Improv Festival and she was incredibly nice and sincere when I spoke with her.
I actually met her several years ago when I went to the Fracas! Improv Festival with my undergrad improv group, jericho! Improv. She and Melora Hardin were a part of panel talking about improv in the entertainment industry. However, I didn’t really watch The Office back then and so I didn’t really know who she was.
“Work as hard as you can. If you aren’t working as hard as you can, someone else is out there working as hard as they can. Those people who are working harder than you deserve opportunities more than you do, so stop making excuses for why you aren’t working hard and just work hard. When you feel like you’re working as hard as you can possibly work, work a little harder and you are probably getting close to how hard you actually have to work. Do more shows. Take more classes. Watch more shows. Meet more people. Challenge yourself. Don’t expect anyone to hand anything to you. If you aren’t exhausted all the time, you probably aren’t working hard enough.”
Comedy Advice from Jemaine Clement
Following up from my last post with Eugene Mirman.
Jemaine Clement: “It’s all luck.”
Continuing from my last comedy advice post (with Eugene Mirman), I saw Jemaine standing around with a lot of people in the backstage area. I really didn’t want to interrupt anyone’s conversation with him because I knew everyone backstage was either a big fan or an actual friend of his.
Finally, I had an opportunity to speak with him after I took a group photo for some people. I told him that I was a big fan of the band and I really enjoyed the show. He told me thanks and I asked if he could sign my screenwriting book and give me a bit of advice.
“Sure,” he said. Usually people take a few seconds to think about what they want to write but Jemaine signed his name and returned it back to me. At first I thought he didn’t hear me when I asked if he could write a piece of advice, but I took a closer look and saw what he wrote and looked up at him and laughed. He was pretty tired so I just asked for a quick picture and said my goodbye.
Comedy Advice From Eugene Mirman 2
For the first time I met Eugene, click here.
Eugene Mirman “Do what I said. Do it.”
I ran into Eugene again! I went to go see Flight of the Conchords this past Friday at the UC Berkeley Greek Theater, which was an amazing show and probably the best performance I’ve seen them do yet.
Afterwards, I decided to hang around after the show to see if I could meet the guys. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where the stage exit was at the Greek and so I ended up wandering around for a while before deciding to wait in the front of the theater. I knew there was a 0% chance that anyone would be leaving through the front, but I figured it was better than wandering so I stuck it out.
Comedy advice from Eugene Mirman
Following up my post on comedy advice from John Hodgman, here is part 2 with comedy advice from Eugene Mirman.
Eugene Mirman “Do it for 10 years and then you’ll win.”
I met Eugene the same night I met John, at the bar where the after party was held. I knew he was performing at Sketchfest, but I didn’t get to see him perform (something I now regret). When it was closing time, I approached Eugene to get a picture with him and asked if he would sign my screenwriting book with some advice for me. He told me, “my advice is the correct one.”
When I found out that there was going to be an after-after party at the Eureka, I also discovered that several of the comedians including Eugene and John were coming back with us. At the Eureka, I spent most of my time talking to the other volunteers and staff of Sketchfest. There was a moment when I went to the lobby to get a new beer and on my way back I noticed that Eugene wasn’t talking to anyone, so I took the opportunity to sit down next to him
Comedy Advice from John Hodgman
Today marks the last day of the San Francisco Sketchfest, the most glorious comedy event to ever come to the San Francisco Bay Area. This has been my fourth year as a volunteer and possibly my most memorable year. Not only did I bond more with my fellow volunteers and staff, but I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to two great humorists. Here are their are stories and what I learned from them.
John Hodgman: “Just start writing.”
I met John on Saturday night. He had come early to watch the Theme Park Improv show and was planning on staying for Kasper Hauser, where he was going to make a special appearance in one of their sketches. Although known by most for his appearances in Apple’s commercials as a PC, John is a fantastic and superb writer. Between shows, he came over to the concession stand to ask if we could store his books somewhere.