If you don’t have fun…

Kurt Vonnegut's asshole
Read this, but don’t be this.

You’re the asshole.

Susan Messing’s quote is one I have to keep bringing back to the forefront of my mind as I grapple with the ways in which I want to improve in my improv. While focusing so intently on what I want to make better, the work can often start to feel like work instead of like fun. And if that’s the case, what’s the point? I get my work in doing the 40 hours a week for a paycheck. Improv, as Susan so succinctly puts it, is supposed to be fun. So here are some reminders of that for me from the past two weeks:

  • Regarding the 10,000 hours?! post, Chris Allen said this:

    …I don’t think the 10,000 distinction is that important. When I first starting improvising a few years ago was also when I first started reading Malcolm Gladwell. I started thinking, yes, 10,000 hours, that’ll be my goal. Then I immediately forgot about it. For the last couple years I’ve probably averaged 15-20 hours a week either rehearsing, performing or writing comedy. But I hadn’t thought about Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule once until about a week ago when it randomly popped in my head. I wasn’t spending time on it to get to a certain amount of experience, I was doing it because I fucking love it. And I suspect that’s why you do it too… I don’t think you can ever hit 10,000 hours at something unless you absolutely love doing it. And the doing it is the goal, not the tally of hours that you’ll have at the end of your life. Like sports or any other activity the more time you spend on it the better you get, and the better you get at it the more fun it is, but it’s the joy of doing it and no other reason that makes us keep coming back…

  • Speaking of Chris, he’s in the current Wing-It production, Final Transmission, which I saw on opening night, and which is incredible. Such an amazing cast: Chris Allen, Graham Downing, Nick Edwards, Brandon Felker, Adina Gillett, Jana Hutchinson, Mandy Price, and Elicia Wickstead. Huge amounts of tech-prov, far more than I’ve ever seen in a show before. Was an absolute joy to watch.
  • Speaking of Chris and Mandy, they’re also both in Wing-It’s Quiz Show (as am I), which I meant to promote, but didn’t get on over here to pimp it in time. We just did a live audio-taping of the show, which is now in editing before being sent along to KUOW, in hopes that they’ll add it to their programming. Taping went really well, and if KUOW likes it, look for announcements of tapings in the future. Love this show, and really missed it and the cast.
  • Also in the “Quiz Show” cast is Ian Schempp, whose improv blog you should go read.
  • Devoured two great books on improv in the past two weeks as well: “Improv: Scene from Within” by Mick Napier and “Whose Improv Is It Anyway? Beyond Second City” by Amy E. Sehan (whose chapter on Annoyance was what caused me to seek out Mick’s book). Mick’s book is pretty much my new improv Bible. I carry it with me everywhere, and am constantly delighted to find how many other Seattle improvisers I love are either reading it right now or have already read it. Amy’s book is a feminist take on Chicago’s improv scene. Some of the reviews for it HATE the feminist slant. Me? I dig it, and think it’s right on the money. Plus, it’s the only book I’ve found that has so much of Chicago’s improv history in one place. If feminism pisses you off, the book probably will, too; if you’re a feminist (and yes, I am one, brash exterior aside), you’ll get a ton out of it. Mick’s book is by far the more useful of the two for actually DOING improv, but Amy’s is great for nerds like me who want to know where we came from.
  • I’m also directing Interrobang for two weeks in preparation for several October shows. Directed last night’s rehearsal (which Becky blogged about here), largely driven by the ideas of taking care of yourself first that permeate Mick’s book. Got very toolsy (which is useful from time to time) and not that much flat-out fun. Next week, I’ll definitely be gearing more toward fun. For our performances, we’ll be pairing with four great groups. Schedule of shows is here.
  • Sticking with Interrobang, probably the single time that I most had to remind myself of the “asshole” rule was going into last week’s rehearsal. Randy ran a workshop centered around object work and mime. I appreciate good object work, but I don’t love love love it. And I found myself kind of cranky about it as I parked my car heading over to the space. On the walk there, I just kept telling myself to have fun and engage fully. And y’know what? Randy ran a fucking awesome workshop. And fortunately, I was in the right headspace to appreciate it, largely because I talked myself out of being the asshole before arriving.
  • Going back one last time to Chris, it seems like he and I wound up in more than one improv nerd conversation the last couple weeks. After one such conversation, he pointed me to the Improvised New York podcast, specifically the episode featuring Joe Bill and Mark Sutton. First off, awesome podcast that I’ll be checking out regularly now that I know it exists. Second, whattayaknow, Joe and Bill spend a decent amount of time talking precisely about the fun factor of improv and how sometimes they have to be reminded of just how golden this thing is that we do.

“If you don’t have fun, you’re the asshole.” My current mantra.

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