The Greatest Moment In Sporting History

Oh man, have I got an interesting for you today.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, known to every other professional snooker player as the most naturally gifted player in history.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, known to every other professional snooker player as the most naturally gifted player in history.

This is Ronnie O’Sullivan, arguably the greatest professional athlete the world has ever known. Not like, he’s an athlete, and he’s arguably the greatest one. He’s arguably a professional athlete, and definitely the greatest ever. He plays snooker, basically the British equivalent of American pool, and just like most British equivalent versions of American things, snooker is stupid-complicated. Basically there’s a cue ball, 15 red balls, and 6 colored balls on a table with 6 pockets.

A snooker table. Don't worry about the D-zone.

A snooker table. Don’t worry about the D-zone.

First a player hits one of the red balls into a pocket, then they’ve got to hit a colored ball in, then a red, then a color, ect. until they miss a shot, at which time the other player gets to try to do the same thing. Red balls (1 point each) stay off the table when pocketed, but colored balls come back out until all the red balls are off the table, then everything stays in the pocket, and the winner is the player with the most points after the colored balls are pocketed in order – yellow (2 points), green (3 points), brown (4 points), blue (5 points), pink (6 points), and finally black (7 points). The table is much much bigger than a pool table, the pockets are much much smaller, and the competition is much much terrifyingly talented. Now you might be in the category of uppity people who does not think snooker is a sport, but try not to get so uppity about it. After all, you’re the one who just found out what snooker was a minute ago.


Okay. Ronnie O’Sullivan is snooker Jesus. He’s LeBron plus Tiger Woods plus Mozart plus a unibrow. He turned pro at age 16, he won the highly coveted UK championship at age 17, and he has been the greatest player in the game for over 20 years. O’Sullivan suffers from plot-thickeningly chronic depression, and his opponents never know which Ronnie they’re going up against. His on-again-off-again drug addiction, his father going to prison for murder, and his volatile behavior on the bow-tie-mandatory professional snooker circuit, culminate in a depression-assisted unpredictability, and makes him an infinitely watchable star in an otherwise kinda boring sport.

Well I NEVER! What a scallion! I shall speak to the constable about this!

Well I NEVER! What a scallion! I shall speak to the constable about this!

Okay, that’s pretty much this whole post. Oh, unless you want to hear about THE SINGLE CRAZIEST MOMENT IN HIS OR ANYONE ELSE’S CAREER.

One last thing you’ve gotta know about snooker for this to make sense, is that a perfect score is a 147. You get a 147 if you hit in red and then black 15 times in a row without missing, and then the colors in order. Since becoming a professional sport in 1927, every single player has had getting a 147 on the brain, and literally thousands of professionals have had literally thousands upon thousands of chances to get one. A 147 is so rare that despite the combined efforts of all these people, there have only been 98 professionally recorded 147s in snooker history. To put that into perspective, a no-hitter in baseball (one of the rarest and best things in a sport that you have heard of) has happened 282 times. I can’t emphasize enough how crazy rare a 147 is. So rare, some tournaments pay £147,000 (about a quarter of a million dollars) to any player who gets a 147.

On September 20th, 2010, Ronnie O’Sullivan was playing against Mark King in the World Open Championship. Mark King missed a shot and Ronnie O’Sullivan steps up to the table. After he hits in one red and one black, Ronnie turns to the referee and asks him what the prize for getting a 147 is. No referee has ever been asked this question before, and the 147 is so pants-shittingly rare that Dutch snooker referee Jan Verhaas didn’t actually know. As the announcers tried to figure out what in the fuck was happening, Ronnie stopped playing and sent the ref away to go and find out. In baseball terms, this is like a pitcher throwing 2 strikes and then whipping out his dick to reveal a tattoo reading “I’m about to throw a no-hitter.” The Jan Verhaas came back and informed Ronnie that in this particular tournament, there wasn’t a specific prize for a perfect score. Ronnie kinda shrugged it off and started playing again.

AND GUESS FUCKING WHAT HAPPENED. If you answered “he shoots a 147,” you are … incorrect. What? But you lead me to believe …

Truly, you have heard a scary noise and gone to investigate, only to see curtains moving slightly. As you creep up on what is surely a 147 hiding behind the curtains and whip them open only to reveal that you’ve left a window open. Breathing a sigh of mixed emotions, you turn to go back to your pillow fight, only to run straight into RONNIE O’SULLIVAN. It’s actually better than a 147, so don’t get all “you wasted my time” about it. Yes, Ronnie O’Sullivan went on to hit every red, and every black in, then he hit the yellow, the green, the brown, the blue, and the pink in order, leaving himself with 140 points and only a routine black ball shot for perfect score glory and bragging rights for life. But he doesn’t shoot the black ball in.

Instead of finishing the 147, Ronnie Fucking O’Sullivan turns around and forces his opponent to resign, giving O’Sullivan a final score of 140. As Ronnie goes to shake the referee’s hand and head back to his dressing room, the ref refuses to accept the resignation, and demands that Ronnie finish the game in order to appease the fans, (the vast majority of whom have never seen a perfect game in person). Ronnie takes almost no aim, bends to the table, and blasts the black ball straight into the pocket. Then he bails into the hallway as the crowd erupts in applause. Mother fucking ridiculous. A post-game interviewer accosts Ronnie on his way out, but O’Sullivan just acts like a total asshole to him, and refuses to give him any satisfying answers.

If you know of a better sporting moment (you don’t, because there aren’t any), please let me know.

Also, watch the actual game.

All Day, Ereryday

If you want to do something, do it a lot. It doesn’t really matter what the thing is (with the few obvious exceptions of amphetamines, cutting yoself, eating, that kinda thing). If you want to be a writer, write a lot. If you want to play golf, golf a lot. If you want to plan weddings, plan weddings a lot. All the time. Every day.

You’ll get there. Who’s going to say you didn’t? Anyone who knows anything about the thing you want to do is too busy doing that thing to care.

If you can’t stand doing the thing all the time, it’s probably not for you. You probably need to find a different thing. Or accept that you’re just not going to be that thing to the fullest of your ability. There’s no shame in that. I’d like to be able to surf, but I can’t honestly see myself putting in the time. Maybe some day, but probably not.

A Date With A Coyote

Short stories are for dorks.

Short stories are for dorks.

As a rule, cooking can suck it. I’m a busy person, and I can’t be bothered with more ingredients than I can carry. Think the law of the desert. That being said, a deadly cocktail of shopping whilst hungry and being flush with a brand new paycheck created a perfect storm of purchasing power. That financial maelstrom drove me to buy a giant package of Kroger brand bacon strips. The thick kind. None of that hickory smokedness, neither. It was a heart attack wrapped in a medusa and coated in ambrosia. I couldn’t have resisted it if I had packed my mouth with peanut butter.

Cooking is tough. It requires concentration, stomach, and balls. Cooking is like being a parent a half dozen times per week. Not a good parent, mind you. The kind that eats the kid, but a parent nonetheless. Just like a parent, if you are cooking in the kitchen, everyone with something else to do goes and does it, and you’re stuck in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll whip up some bangin’ spaghetti or some delectable stove-seared chicken, but it’s not exactly a complex recipe.

Tonight was no exception. Perhaps it was the bacon just begging to be eaten, or the knowledge that a mere 10 minutes of low-impact cooking was the only thing standing in the way of my innards and these innards, but the mood had fully entranced me. The bacon strips fell neatly onto the quickly warming pan. There was momentum. Molecular collisions were happening more frequently now. Soon, my delicious bacon. Smoke poured from the pan and a deftly applied finger soon told me that the exhaust fan was no longer in business. Having burned more than a few bags of popcorn and once even made pot brownies so potent that our house smelled of marijuana for a week, I was extra sensitive to being ‘that roommate’. I turned and opened the patio door as wide as it would go and cracked cold fusion to make that little metal around that piston thing keep the door open somehow. The rest of the cook went off without a hitch. The smoke went (mostly) out the door, and it was time to devour the spoils. I walked to the eating nook and sat in one of the directors chairs that allows the occupant a fair shot at  using the stilted table like a normal person. As I brought the fork down hard onto the plate of freshly cooked, soggy bacon, I saw a coyote. It had poked its head into the kitchen for reasons (in this writer’s opinion) likely related to the bacon smell. I wasn’t particularly afraid of the coyote because I wasn’t processing it on very intelligent level. I should have shouted, gotten big, anything, but I was just thinking about how crazy it was to see a coyote in the house, and that if he was someone’s pet, they should be more careful with the doors if they’re going to own a coyote. Eventually the coyote and I felt awkward from looking at each other, but instead of leaving, the coyote lept onto the other directors chair. There were two chairs there, and only one was being occupied. In the coyote’s defense, it probably looked to him like I had made bacon in hopes of making a coyote friend for whom I had set a seat out.

And really, what kind of human would I be if I didn’t give the coyote any bacon? Jesus Christ, it’s a coyote after all. When is he going to have another chance to eat freshly cooked bacon? Bacon? I don’t want this to turn into a Jim Gaffigan, but come on now son. Here I was, having just made far too much bacon for a normal person who wants to end the day with the same amount of functional arteries as he started it with, and I couldn’t give this coyote just ONE piece? No, at that moment I made my decision. I would treat this as a fully respectful date, and this coyote would get half. Call it a prenup, but I got up to get another plate.

The sudden move startled the coyote, as is consistent with the effect these types of moves have on wild animals. It did not jump ship and run away. I sensed that it wanted to, but maybe it felt that would be rude. Perhaps it had realized that since I had not set a plate out for the coyote, I was also not expecting a wild fucking toothed creature to come into my house. I half expected the coyote to cut his losses, hoover down the entirety of the bacon deposit, and high tail it onto the front page of the coyote newspaper. “Coyote Steals Best Human Food On Record.” That could have been the coyote. But when I got back to the table with the extra plate (a pretty nice one by the way), the coyote was sitting there as if it had been dead. It wasn’t. This isn’t that kind of story.

I used a pair of salad tongs to pass the coyote his plate. I’m a good host, but I’m not some kind of idiot. The tongs had a touch of bacon grease on them from when I used them to precision flip the strips, so the plate-table-slideoff was pretty well-lubricated. I have made 12 slices because I thought it was as good a night as any to have a heart attack, and splitting them in two actually made me feel respectable. I ate my bacon slowly and the coyote did the same, both of us savoring the impossible temporariness of this moment. We didn’t talk much. He wasn’t a sports fan, and I didn’t know any words in coyote language. I was considering howling, but I figured that would have been roughly the same as if I had asked a Native American person over for dinner and unleashed an Indian war chant a la the lone ranger at him. I bet he would have been offended heap big time. The same goes for the coyote. And pregnant women. If you’re not absolutely sure, don’t say anything. It’s a simple rule.

I wanted the meal to last longer. I wanted something more to happen. I was waiting for him to talk or spell a word out in the bacon like “HELP!” The ‘P’ would have been tough, but I probably would have gotten it by H-e-l, and we would have worked out some other way of communicating. I wanted to get attacked a little bit and then fight the coyote off. I wanted a baby coyote to come by and I would be its uncle or something. I wanted a female coyote to come by next and be a totally boss wingman for my coyote bro. I would give him some bacon to him to give to his lady and she would be down for whatever with him after that. I’d be the coyote version of Cyrano de Bergerac, but I wouldn’t be all ugly like he was. I got a little sad thinking of all the crazy things that should have happened that I barely noticed the coyote jump off the chair and land neatly in front of the open door. Without so much as a look back it bounded out into the night and I never saw him again. And he didn’t even pitch for the bacon. What a dick.

Getting Caught Red-Handed

Ivanhoe. Look that shit up.

Ivanhoe. Look that shit up.

I took a workshop from this guy named Greg Tuculescu, and amongst other beautifully well-phrased improv thoughts, he said one thing that hasn’t been as big a part of my improv as I should have made it. We were doing a scene where one character was obviously the Zodiac killer, and the other character wasn’t aware. Both the actors totally understood that character A was the Zodiac killer, but character B was saying things like, “we’d better lock and soundproof the doors and windows so the Zodiac killer can’t get in.” That kind of thing. It was a really funny scene, but Greg stopped it and said this: “Kill the coy game.”

“Kill the coy game.” What an interesting thought. The coy game, as far as I understand it, is where the improvisers on stage know what’s happening, the audience knows what’s happening, but the characters don’t seem to understand. It can feel fun to play, and the audience will sometimes come along with you on the ride, but every coy scene is basically the same one. The scene is about trying to misunderstand what’s going on or justifying why your character doesn’t get it. This will often feel okay, but if you build too much of the scene around not getting it, that becomes the height of the scene. You’ve set the upper limit of your scene before you even really get into it, and no amount of hilarious character acting or great one-liner-sizing is going to get you past this arbitrary bottleneck. You’ve added an element to your scene that collars your character.

I'll buy a drink for the next person to do a scene where someone is trapped in a bottle.

I’ll buy a drink for the next person to do a scene where someone is trapped in a bottle.

So, what’s the solution? Get fucking caught. If you’re trying to pretend to be your twin brother, get caught! If you’re actually the Zodiac killer, get caught! If you never get caught, we’re left trying to heighten around the premise of never finding anything out. If, however, you get caught right away, you get to play in the beautiful pond of psychology and character discovery. You get to find out why one twin would try to be his other twin. You get to find out what that twin thinks of himself and his surroundings. Maybe he was always second place, second best, and not as loved by the parents. Then the scene becomes about something real but you can still play with the game of people mistaking one for the other. You’ve expanded your bottleneck. Now it’s a bottle ass, and you can give it a nice hard, open-handed slap. The Zodiac killer reveals himself and now we’ve got a nice scene about a person trapped in a room with the Zodiac killer. We get to learn so much and it’s so much fuller and more emotional now. Get caught, kill that coy game, and you’re on your way.

One more element of this: There’s a lot of ambiguity to the concept of ‘playing to the top of your intelligence.’ Some people think it means don’t do poop jokes, some people think it means always know about your surroundings, some people think it means if you’re playing a doctor, use as many real words as you can. These are all both right and wrong. According to Joe Bill, Del Close only used to say that to berate people who didn’t know enough things. Del Close, I have heard, read more books than any man alive, so I bet people were getting that a lot in Chicago. Playing to the top of your intelligence means being the most real you can be. As always, words end up being hollow shells of what they try to mean. The best way I’ve heard it described is that a word is like a sign post pointing at what it means. Okay, enough bullshit, I’ll say it again: Playing to the top of your intelligence means being the most real you can be. This makes all those other things different threads of the same sweater:

  1. Don’t do poop jokes: Get real. People are paying for this show, if they wanted to hear poop jokes or otherwise lowest common denominator bullshit, they’d stay at home and watch Family Guy, or pick up some 7th graders and make them bare-knuckle box. Respect the audience’s intelligence. They are real people who wanna see something real.
  2. Always know about your surroundings: Be real about this. You are acting. If you’re really trying to be a character, you’ll take the time to know what’s around you, because your character is REALLY where ever your dumbass is pretending to be.
  3. If you’re playing a doctor, use as many real words as you can: Do your best to actually act. A doctor who doesn’t know shit is hard to react to, especially if the other character is being real (which they should be).
  4. Know things: Take things you know in real life and apply them. That way you don’t have to invent a bunch of bullshit, and you’ve already got things people can react to.

Okay, I’m listening to Justin Timberlake’s new album and it’s pretty good. Go listen to it. Remember to be real on stage. The audience has the best seat in the house. An audience member who’s paying attention will pick up on more than the actors. If they’re bullshitting around and avoiding doing something, it becomes painfully obvious and painfully painful. Put real in, you’ll get real out.

If you wouldn't bang this couple, we're no longer friends.

If you wouldn’t bang this couple, we’re no longer friends.

The Secret To A Great Scene

The UCB Four who pioneered this jazz.

Pre. S.  I’m not going to proof read this, so if you find a grammar mistake either lemme know or don’t worry about it.

There are a lot of rules of improv, but there not so much ‘rules’ as they are consequences of a great scene. One rule is to agree (also known as yes, and, also known as don’t deny). This is a vitally important thing for a scene to have because telling someone they’re your daughter and then having them come back and say “no, I’m your husband! You’re my wife.” really hoses a scene. Good comedians can joke their way around it, but the damage is done. Another rule is sticking with your character. It’s a kind of denial I guess, but if you’ve got an accent up top and then it melts away into regular you (a thing that I do almost EVERY time I try an accent), it can take an audience out of the moment and you’ve lost the momentum. Hmm, in writing the words moment and momentum, I genuinely never realized one is just an unsure version of the other. Reacting honestly is another important tenet, and so is “show, don’t tell” and so is blah blah blah. They’re all indirect results of exactly one thing: Everybody being on the same page.

Now right off the bat that sounds stupid or trite or unhelpful, but it isn’t, and if you still think it is, you’re a damn fool.

What does everybody being on the same page mean? Well, it’s the mutual understanding of what the scene is about. Not what the scene is, but what the scene is about. If everyone fully understands what the scene you’re currently doing is about, you are in the money. The difference between what a scene is and what it’s about is simple.

What a scene is: A collection of factual statements that can be gleaned from the dialogue, movement, and body language of a given scene. If you ask a robot to tell you what a rose is, he could say it’s a carbon based perennial plant. People seem to like them. They are exchanged for sex or forgiveness.

What a scene is about: The 1-sentence, deeper meaning behind the scene that carries with it inherent elements that can be acted upon. Here’s an example:

Example: A boy gets in a taxi and asks to be driven to the countryside. The taxi driver asks him why. The boy responds that he can no longer take care of his tax accountant, and wants to let him run free in the hills and meadows. He then pulls his tax accountant out of his pocket and the tax accountant says he’s sad to have to leave the boy.
What the scene is: A boy who owns a tax accountant. The tax accountant can think and talk normally. The tax accountant fits into the boy’s pocket.
What the scene is about: This scene is about treating tax accountants like pets instead of people. The inherent elements that can be acted upon are almost unlimited.
Elements to act upon:
The boy: do pet things to the tax accountant (feed him kibble, discipline him, take his collar off, ect).
The tax accountant: do actions that are pet-like. (Always be looking out the window, spin in circles before you sit down, short attention span, ect).
The taxi driver: It would probably help is the taxi driver also acted as if tax accountants were normally pets, but it’s kinda ladies choice here.

If everyone on stage in that scene understood what the scene was about, they’d never go wrong. They all must be fervent about the reality of that universe where one (and only one) thing was different, and that one thing was that tax accountants are pets. The scene can evolve and change and grow as it needs to as long as that ONE element is always agreed upon by the actors. You could cut to the accountant in a field with a few other ferrel accountants, or a bunch of accountants could get into a big fight and have to be broken up by a farmer, or you could have Michael Vick come kidnap the accountant from the field and put him in an accountant-fighting ring. All of this is fine as long as it fits into what the scene is about (A.K.A. the universe of the scene).

This scene is about a snake and the guy with the biggest balls in the world.

WARNING! Being on the same page has deeper implications. When you all know what the scene is about, you can’t focus exclusively on it. Take what the scene is about, and filter it through your characters so you can make honest choices that are both true to who you are on stage, and the scene. If you discover what the scene is about and just do bullshit nods to the audience about the scene, you’re going to run out of steam quickly. You know what the scene is about, but your characters probably don’t. That means you’ve got to internalize what the scene is about and show it through what you’ve got on stage. If this seems really heady and difficult, that’s because it fucking is. Governor Jack has been working on this for over a year and I’d say we’re on the same page under 50% of the time in scenes. Basically, it’s a big balancing act.

I hate to burst my own bubble, but this is harder than I ever thought it would be 2 years ago.
I hate to burst my own bubble, but this is harder than I ever thought it would be 2 years ago.

I want to close with something Mike Malayar said on the Denver Improv Podcast (a podcast that will hopefully get going again soon once I stop being a whiny idiot and start being more productive). We were talking about those magical moments of crystal blue improv that we’ve all seen. He said those are born from a beautiful balance between the internal acting and the internal directing. Imagine yourself on stage in character. That’s the acting. Now imagine yourself watching from above deciding what the next move should be based on what the scene is about or what the scene needs. The balance is when all the people in the set live in that space in-between. Like the weirdo on 16th street spinning plates. Everything has momentum and direction, and you are just making sure nothing falls. And that no one comes up and steals your plastic bucket full of change.

You may be thinking, “Hey Rollie, that was an awesome blog post.” Is that what you were thinking? Thanks! I really appreciate that. But if you want to read an actually awesome blog post, check out literally anything from The House That Del Built written by Rachel Klein. The girl makes writing about improv an art. Okay, I’ve wasted enough of your time. Lemme know if you have any bones to pick or questions to bone.

Carpooling By Myself

This morning in my car on my drive to work where I work, I had a few ideas that I wanted to write down. I’m doing it here because there is a higher chance that they’ll actually come to fruition if I feel a little bad that I told people I was going to do something and then I didn’t do that thing. It’s not the best choice for everyone in the world, but I certainly need something more than just me to hold myself accountable for doing things.

  • An album featuring 3 artists. The Aristocracker, DJected and DJ Murder Bullet.
  • On the album: Mothafuckin’ Opposite Day, We Didn’t Have A Chorus, Rap Fact-Check, more
Aristocracker. Rather well-bred.

Aristocracker. Impeccably well-bred. Rather.

DJected. He's a pretty sad sap. Born with an erection that never went away.

DJected. He’s a pretty sad sap. Born with an erection that never went away.

DJ Murder Bullet. Hardest mother fucker alive. Seriously.

DJ Murder Bullet. Hardest mother fucker alive. Seriously.

Sleeping With The Fishes


No sleep 'til Brooklyn.

No sleep ’til Brooklyn.

It seems like sleep is a waste of time. When my friend asked me how my day was, I responded with “Good. I got a lot of things accomplished.” What could be less fucking productive than laying in a dark room and doing nothing. Literally nothing. As a result I’ve developed an aversion to going to sleep that’s compounded by the fact that the Internet and a laptop allows any amount of curiosity to completely take over. As a point of reference, last night I learned that one Captain François Mingaud was the inventor of the leather cue tip, and that he was put in prison but was able to bribe an official to put a pool table in his cell. He then mastered – and I mean mastered – pool before he got out. Pretty interesting, right?

Right. Or at least it is to me. That’s the problem. If I let my mind dictate my sleeping schedule, chances are I’m not going to sleep enough. But isn’t that just a personal problem? Or is it even a problem at all? Every goddamn person I know is sleep deprived. It’s even a conversation starter for some. “Oh man, I got X hours of sleep last night. I am BLASTED today.” “I bet, dude. I got like Y hours of sleep and I feel awful.” It’s kind of a badge of honor. A subconscious reason to minimize the personal impact of mistakes and maximize triumphs. Much like that kid in class who didn’t study for a test. If he gets an F, of course he got an F. He didn’t study. I say ‘he’ in this instance because girls always study for tests. No exceptions. If, however, he aces the test, what a badass that dude becomes. I bet the egoic mind correlation is stronger with something that measures intelligence (such as a test) than something that represents an indirect force multiplier of analytical prowess, BUT I’m sure there’s some kind of connection.

What does that mean to the average person? 2 things. First, sleeping enough allows you to recharge and perform on a level that is more consistent with your potential. This isn’t always what everyone wants. A lot of people are afraid that their best isn’t good enough, and never having to perform at their best and so judge their own ability realistically, they can hang on to an ambiguous self image. To give yourself everything you’ve got is both dangerous to the ego and probably really good for you as a person. Second (and finally according to the ‘2-things’ statement made above) going to bed when you know you should creates a habit of successful living. Everyone is capable of doing the easy thing immediately. It’s easy, and it’s a thing. Checkmate. The problem is, the human brain isn’t really built to properly react to delayed gratification. Seriously. You know how playing Halo 3 for one hour pales in comparison to being able to get into Colombia University? Well right before a test, for some reason the brain doesn’t quite get that. Why is that? I’m not sure. On some level it understands, but there is a level that actually decides your actions. And that level wants to play some fucking Halo 3.

What does this have to do with improv comedy? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it has some applications with staying focused on stage during your set. Maybe not. I’m not really sure. The fact of the matter is, even as I write this at 11:13 p.m., I have plans to go on a run and maybe do some more writing after that. Even after WRITING AN ENTIRE POST ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEPING, it’s not really on the agenda. Luckily I’m also writing this sentence. Where I realize that the Halo 3 part of my brain is trying to convince me to stay up and keep learning things. Now the Colombia University part of my brain is talking. It’s saying go to bed. I think I’ll just go on a short run.

This is your spread when you get sleep.

This is your spread when you get sleep.

This is your spread when you don't get sleep.

This is your spread when you don’t get sleep.

Black In The Saddle


I meant back in the saddle. After a long absence that I imagine no one at all noticed, I’m officially back to inundate the 7 people who read this with inane yet somehow loveable text. It’s late, and I promised myself I’d go to bed at a reasonable hour which I’ve now clearly not done, so I’m just going to write down the biggest things I learned about comedy in the last few months.

  1. Full and unabashed commitment is the only way to go. If you’re half-assing a joke, a scene, a line, or a script, chances are whatever that is isn’t going to be your best work. There’s not really anything wrong with not-yo-best-work since pretty much 99% of everything done is not someone’s best work, but magic isn’t going to come from no where.
  2. There are two places intelligence comes from. The most obvious place is the mind, the human’s on-board computer. This little genius gets you out of tight spots, and can typically be relied upon. The not-so-obvious place is your consciousness. I say not-so-obvious because up until January 3rd 2013, I didn’t really understand the distinction. Then I read a pretty awesome book and started experimenting with meditation and learning about Buddhism. Now I’m becoming aware of a new place to derive intelligence from, and I bet the two combined are gonna be pretty slick. If you have some free time, read that book and prepare for a mind fuck for life (mind herpes).
  3. You get what you put in.
  4. Take time to do the things that you really want to do. Otherwise you’ll end up doing things that you don’t really want to do.

The doctor has spoken.

It’s All In The Fist


I’ve been struggling with something recently and I’m not sure if it’s a real thing or just a sexy excuse: what if doing a bunch of shows isn’t exactly the right thing to do? I think improv application is mad important – and if you’re not doing shows you’re probably not really growing as fast as you could be – but I can’t help but think there’s a huge piece I’m missing: reps. 10,000 hours of something means you’ve got 2 things: 1) way too much time on your hands, and 2) mad skills at that thing. Look it up, it’s science. I guarantee you that if you do something for 10,000 hours you’re going to be an absolute baller at that thing.

Bottom-line: I need to practice more. I think practice (rehearsals both coached and uncoached) is a combination of application and learning that is really going to help. I heard this great story about an improv group from Chicago called J.T.S. Brown. They decided that instead of 3 hours/week they were going to spend 9 hours/week together. 3 hours of coached rehearsals, 3 hours of just doing improv, and 3 hours of some obscure other thing. Anyway, they’re almost all working comedians now. Obviously only a time-traveler could say for sure, but I imagine they wouldn’t have gotten quite as far (in aggregate) if they hadn’t spent all that time together.

Anyway, it’s something I’m going to try to do more often. I’ll keep you updated with the results. Yes, both of you.

Finding the Game in the Scene: Part 3 of 4

Step right up and see this netsuke-crushing monstrosity of luminosity.

So there’s been a lot of blathering on about the ‘definition’ of game, but what about when game didn’t really have a definition?  One of the best parts of getting into improv now is that it’s a relatively new art from.  Things are still being discovered, and YOU might be the one to figure out the next great thing.  Or YOU might be the one to accidentally do something so horrifyingly vulgar that no one ever does improv again (much like impressionist painting or gobstopping).  Now think of the improv climate when it was just getting started.  When game was still this abstract thought that made some scenes inexplicably hilarious and made other scenes feel like dropping a chandelier onto your netsuke (the autocorrect for ‘nutsack’).

There was a time and a place when long form improv teaching was mainly aimed at making short form improvisers do long form improv.  In short form improv, the focus is on trying to be funny and a lot of people got really really good at doing just that.  Crazy characters, hilarious one-liners, acknowledging the audience, scene reality destroying jokes, ect.

Whoa whoa whoa. Where you going in such a hurry? The DRUGstore?

Now when you try to make those people into long form improvisers, their instincts are all wrong.  They go for the joke, they have flat, 2-dimensional caricatures that are unsustainable, and their wheelhouse talent of thinking of clever things is practically useless.  They are being coached to slow down, make real choices, and let the comedy come to them instead of seeking it out, and for the most part this was very frustrating to recovering shortform comics.  But then the clouds of organically discovered character interaction parted and down came ‘game’.  Game was a breath of familiarity to the short form converts because it was like being able to be funny again.  Suddenly they could use their wit again, and their scenes could go in a direction that they chose.  And then game broke into a bunch of different pieces again, but I want to talk about the Matt Donnelly definition of game for this post.

Matt Donnelly is kind of a hybrid between organic improv and the UCB.  Game is important and well-defined to him, but the definition takes a bit of an organic turn.  According to Matt Donnelly, game is “the mutual exploitation of one player’s emotional vulnerability.”  What does that mean?

The thing I like best about this definition is the inherent dualism that the players must show: basically playing and thinking as a character while simultaneously thinking as a performer.  But this definition also holds sacred the idea that emotions drive the scene.  You and your partner are feeling each other out, and suddenly one of you shows vulnerability (I hate my job, I feel unattractive, I love you, ect.)  The way to play the game in the scene in this case, the partner could try to be there for the person but actually make things worse.

<A: I hate my job. B: Me too! The models wouldn’t stop taking their tops off>
<A: I feel unattractive. B: Nonsense!  Only 6 people I know think you’re ugly>
<A: I love you. B: Yeah, as a friend, right?>

But I simply MUST take my top off!

This all might seem very prescribed, but the idea isn’t to just say the thing that would most frustrate the other character.  The most important thing in this version of game is to find the character who isn’t good at understanding and honoring the emotional vulnerability.  Don’t just play yourself saying the wrong thing, play the person who thinks he is saying the right thing.  That way you’re still acting and improvising, but the scene has a definite direction.  If both of you are listening and working to pick up everything the other person is saying, this style will lead you down an avenue that will ALWAYS be interesting.  Maybe not immediately groundbreaking or hilarious, but always interesting. Instead of letting your impulses be guided exclusively by some subconscious thought, have your performer’s brain be a consultant in your scene.