There's a caricature of me that used to be in front of the Comedy Warehouse. In it, I'm playing basketball. When the artist drew it he was pushing the thought that comedy is a sport, and make me seem more butch. He had a good point with the sport analogy, with my masculinity? Not so much.
Comedy is a muscle. Exercise; get stronger. Take a break; get weaker. Technique suffers without reps. Comedy should look effortless, but it takes a lot of discipline. Like any group effort, the individuals have to bring their best for the entire team to succeed.
There’s no blaming the audience. They can be won over. You’ve got to be available to the signals they send. If they’re not laughing, it’s probably your fault. It’s a continuous cycle of first dates, with no hope for a second because no two audiences are alike.
How do you prepare the best game? Here are a few general thoughts:
LET GO OF EGO
Is someone else having a great show? Don’t seethe. Celebrate! In an ensemble each laugh is shared. The best laughs I will get will find their foundation in the work of the people with whom I share the stage.
LET GO OF NEGATIVITY
I’m not going to lie. There are times we get on each other’s nerves during a show. My personal ethic is, so what? The audience doesn’t care. There’s no time to solve interpersonal dynamics during a 90-minute show. You should be too busy creating content, characters and stories to notice you’re annoyed by someone.
One of my first & certainly greatest comedy teachers, Mark Bergren of the Brave New Workshop, suggested taking a few seconds before each show to tell yourself that you’re with exactly whom you’re meant to be. The reason why will reveal itself on stage. I can’t think of a time that’s not proven to be the case. It’s a great way to live your life onstage and off.
Laughter is inspired by truth. If you don’t believe what you’re saying the audience can tell. If you ask for 90-minutes of an audience’s time you better have a message worthy of their attention. That comes from knowing who you are and sharing an informed, developed point of view.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ALL THE HEAVY LIFTING
We’ve all seen performers who don’t leave room for the other people on stage. They’re exhausting and lonely. Improv is built on the premise that you will be affected by the ideas of others. Allow that to happen and be delighted by the unknown.
Broadway's Next Hit Musical is an incredible combination of live music, stand-up, short form and long form improvisation – even dance. There’s literally something for everyone. The 90 minutes we’re doing our show is exhausting, because we're trying to find the potential each moment.
I’m trying to keep fresh eyes while drawing on 25 years of improvisational experience; never accepting that how I’ve done it in the past is how I’m going to do it today.
It’s an honor. Thanks for keeping me in the game.