Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oh, the badness...

And I'm not talkin' about Sarah Palin on Leno.

Though that was bad. From the clips I saw. On the Daily Show.


I'm talkin' about the bad that has been me on stage. I'm going through that phase in my Growth As An Improviser. The one that hits every now and then, when you are capable of doing NOTHING RIGHT. When the badness sucks any potential goodness from a scene, because you are so powerfully bad that no good can exist around you. You (and by you, I mean I) become the Black Hole Of Suck, pulling anything that has even the SPARK OF POTENTIAL to be good like light into the ultimate darkness.

I'm not being self-deprecating here. I'm not looking for pity or compliments or assurance that I'm not that bad. I don't need those things. Because I've got 20 years of improv experience, have seen hundreds of brilliant and good and bad and fucking wretched shows, and have spent hours training with some of the best teachers in the country. So I know two things are true:

1. I recognize bad when I see it and when I play it, and when I call what I've been doing bad, you will not argue me out of it.
2. It's a phase, and I'll get over it. Probably before my next show.

So we're cool.


  1. So, the popcorn/tissue rule is in effect now? Cool.

  2. I haven't seen *all* of your shows recently, but I've seen *most* of your shows recently. And I've watched your troupes for years, so I've seen your super-duper work, and know what it looks like. In recent weeks, I know I've seen some glimpses of that high standard of excellence. The Sexy Snowmobile Rescue Squad scene with Tantrum jumps to mind. I think your contribution was what took that scene from good to great, and it was definitely representative of your best work.

    I have a theory of suck cycles in which they are driven, not so much by the troughs in our own performance/confidence alone (which come and go regularly, sometimes within a single show), but the times when our personal troughs coincide with the troughs in our peers' cycles, leading to whole new levels of combined suck. That being the case, my new approach to the suck cycle is to find someone in my troupe who is in a relative peak and work on my support skills with respect to that person (mirroring, wingmen, etc). To use a baseball metaphor, instead of trying to crank a double, I try to bunt for a hit to get on base for the hot hitter coming up behind me in the order.

    Anyway, I hope you know what a pleasure it is for me personally to watch you improvise. It's good stuff, even if some days it makes you die a little inside. :D

  3. Could you go ahead and write a similar post when you're actually happy with your work on stage? Or does that ever happen?

    Let me know. Thanks.

  4. Pete: Wha?
    Tom: Thanks! That Tantrum show was a blast...
    Josh: Sure. Hopeful it'll be this weekend. It just feels so BRAGGY to do I'll have to work on tone. Not a big fan of "I'm so awesome" posting. But I see your point, I think.

  5. Hi Trisha. I find this post interesting. I feel similar to you alot of nights when I do improv shows, but I think I feel that way alot because I'm not the most confident person when it comes to improv. However, I hardly, if ever feel I "sucked" when doing a sketch show. I certainly don't feel bad about my contribution. But I feel much more confident doing sketch than improv. I wonder how confident people really feel when doing improv. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't know what that was like. Maybe it's because every show is different? I don't know.

  6. Nick: I go back and forth. There are times I feel confident to the point of cocky—I've worked hard on this craft, and I generally feel pretty good about my ability. So—kinda where you are with the sketch thing. When I feel sucky, it's usually because I feel like I've run out of ideas—for characters, for scenes, for directions, whatever.

    I usually try to get a hard-core improv fix once a year. This past year, I didn't—no week long intensive, no big project. The thing that makes me confident is knowing I have a full toolbox...lots of ways to create in the moment.

  7. Chicago is in a month and a half. :D


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