Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yeah, whatever.

Thunderdome has started up again, and with involvement by new people has come the same thing that reared its head in the first round—online critiques of the shows by participants.

I have very
specific theories about the wisdom of doing this. It’s based on years of training in communication and relationship building, mostly on the corporate side. (People, I used to write greeting cards. This desire to enhance relationships didn't come out of thin air.)

But why does it bother me personally? Why does it irritate the living shit out of me (and it really, really does—like sputtering, eye-rolling, saying ugly things irritated) when I see improvisers using forums or blogs or comments to slam other troupes?* 

Time to put myself on the sofa.
  • Maybe because my first thought after reading the critical comments is almost always, “Yep. That comment right there is the first thing they hit in notes. But there, they had to take a step further and actually talk about how to fix it. Congrats. You noticed the obvious.”
  • And maybe it's because the most experienced improvisers in town—the ones who’ve studied, watched and performed the type of work being critiqued for years and years and might have a clear, beautifully expressed, helpful insight if they chose to write about it—are never, ever the ones who pipe up. (They know better.) (And they probably play more because they haven’t torpedoed their relationships with other improvisers.)
  • So maybe it’s because my second thought is “Dude. Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” I'm not saying they're bad improvisers or bad people, but really...until you kick serious ass all the time, do you want to go there?
  • Maybe because the criticism is rarely constructive. Most of it strikes me as coming from the need to self-express, process out loud, make yourself feel better about yourself or your knowledge as an improviser, or the desire to pull others down. None of which is evil in itself…
  • But maybe it’s because now something crappy about a group is out in the blogosphere. And it may not be legit criticism, but civilians who happen across it when they’re looking for info don’t know that.
  • Maybe it’s because sometimes they're slamming improvisers I know—and even if it’s dead on, I don’t like thoughtlessness. (And because if they had a crappy show, I know they know it, and rubbing salt in the would is just bonus thoughtlessness.)
  • Or maaaaaybe it’s because I have, several times, made a big stink about Why Unsolicited Criticism Is Evil, so no matter how much I would looooooooove so much to write long, detailed, sometimes extreeeeeemly snarky critiques of every show I see and have considered creating an anonymous blog to do just that, now I can’t. So I'm forced to only talk about it over beers after a show.
Of course, it’s probably almost completely because of my deep and abiding belief that I am always right and that if I feel something strongly you are an idiot to disagree with me. An idiot, I tell you.

*After my last rant, one of the parties implied wrote this: I read this and thought, "Hmm. I understand but don't really agree." Then I thought "Boy, Trish Berrong really hates me. That's too bad." I don't hate anybody. My irritation isn't at the person—it's at the behavior. It's kinda like the way I feel when I see an otherwise brilliant improviser playing blind line and prefacing the audience-provided sentence with something like "My father always said..." THUS STRIPPING IT OF ANY CHANCE IT HAD OF INFLUENCING THE SCENE AND, IN THAT SECOND, SINGLE-HANDEDLY UNDERMINING THE POINT OF THE WHOLE GAME AND BREAKING IMPROV AND MAKING ME WANT TO RUSH THE STAGE AND COLLECT ALL THE LINES UNTIL THE PLAYERS PROMISE TO JUST PICK UP THE LINE, READ IT AND SHUT THE EFF UP.**

**Lots of troupes do this. So this isn't a masked criticism of a single troupe.***

***Yeah. I know I take this shit way too seriously.****

****But I just critiqued critiquing. Is that totally meta, or what?


  1. Oh--and I think I found the words that sparked this post. Beam in the eye indeed.

  2. Steaming: The cats. But it was my fault—I left it on the counter.

    JJSKCK: Oh, there's more than one...past and present. I just don't get it. Is this because I grew up in a world where, when we passed notes to our friends, we didn't want anyone else to read them?

  3. I think my original comment got lost or deleted, but the point was: don't get too upset. Why?

    1) The petty/jealous/sore loserdom happens in every performing art, right or wrong.
    2) No one trolls these blogs except improvisers anyway, so it's not going to scare away prospective patrons.
    3) (And most gratifying of all!)These things have a way of taking care of themselves.

    I would only add that a lot of troupes are decidedly NOT self-aware, so I don't think they know what didn't work let alone why something didn't work. Of course, no one asks for real feedback either, so it's a bunch of generic "good shows" being distributed. And then we're back to everyone being "too nice".

    Aside from that, I agree wholeheartedly. It's one thing to tell a troupemate what you really think, but most people are too dense to realize that posting stuff online means anyone can see it, and if it's inflammatory enough EVERYONE will see it.

    On the bright side, I just formed an absolutely glowing first impression of someone.

  4. Must be comment before that first one is showing up.

  5. Hee. EXACTLY.
    /shakes fist

    I'm going to start wearing a house coat to the grocery store, I think.


New rule: I'm not approving anonymous comments. If you want to sit at the grownup table, you have to sign your name.

Now c'mon. Pick a fight.