I have mixed feelings about doing interviews. On one hand, I know I can answer any basic questions that come up—what troupes exist, where they came from, who influenced them—and point the reporter to the right people to talk to. On the other, I'm deathly afraid of offending someone. Did I leave someone or something out? Whose names should I provide when they ask for more folks to interview—and whose feelings will be hurt if they're not on the list? Can anything I say be interpreted as snarky or egomaniacal? Am I representing my troupe/event/art in a way that sounds coherent...seems at least vaguely insightful...and maybe won't make the people I play with go, "SERiously?"
Anyway, the whole thing made me think of the very, very first article about improvisation in KC. Ward Triplett wrote it for the Star on April 24, 1992. Here's a sample:
No one knows what the future holds for improvisational comedy in Kansas City, but at least four groups are willing to make it up as they go along. "Improv should be as big here as it is in Chicago, Minneapolis or Seattle, and that's something all four groups are going to have to work together to get," says Trish Berrong, a performer and publicist for Lighten Up! "This is a real exciting thing that could be happening in Kansas City. " ...
One of the members had his first improv experience with Laughing Stock, a 15-member group loosely based at UMKC that can count on crowds of 200 at its shows on alternating Saturdays at the Fine Arts Theatre in Mission.
A few others got started in ComedySportz, which is selling out four of its five weekly shows at the 8th Street Cafe Theatre in Lucas Place. ComedySportz is also where the three members of Out on a Limb met. That group now runs a regular Tuesday night show at Stanford's in Overland Park.
All four troupes are slowly exposing people weaned on stand-up to a form of comedy that launched the careers of most "Saturday Night Live" performers, as well as Robin Williams, George Wendt and Betty Thomas.Brief one-person monologues and entire multiperson sketches are based on audience suggestions. If you want to see Bill Clinton learn how to smoke marijuana, or Elvis doing a culinary show, this is the place to go. Likewise to watch people jump around like Curious George or make up poems on the spot.
There was a fair amount of nastiness in the article. The Laughing Stock director accused another troupe of stealing material; we later found out he meant Lighten Up (turned out a sketch we did felt to him like it was too close to one of theirs we'd never actually seen). Clancy said he wished all of us well, but said we weren't the people he'd choose to socialize with. At the time, I think the guys in Lighten Up were some of the only improvisers in town who actually enjoyed seeing other groups...the vibe was so paranoid that lots of folks assumed you were at their shows to steal games, not watch an art form you loved.
Fast forward to September 1997, and an article on Spontaneous Combustion:
"Kansas City hasn't been exposed to long-form that much,'' said Lighten Up co-founder Trish Berrong, who conceived of Spontaneous Combustion. ``The lights go up at the beginning and they go out 30 minutes later. Scenes morph. The laughs you get out of it may not be as quick, but they're richer. '' Berrong and other forward-looking improv performers would like to see long-form gain wider exposure on television, much the way stand-up comedy did in the 1980s.
"By the year 2000 I want this on Comedy Central or HBO,'' she said.
[Whiny, self-indulgent crap from original post deleted.]