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As a person who loves writing and always wants to maintain a positive attitude, even when not everything goes PERFECTLY, so helpful to read something like this from someone who knows what they speak of. And this isn’t just true about sketch writing or acting or improv, but I think it’s true about life.
You should never feel entitled to anything and should always be ready to keep on working for your goals and dreams and hopes. And it is work, but it can be really awesome work that you can be proud of even if you don’t get this opportunity or that opportunity. Keep on doing what you love to do always, whether you’re doing it for the world or doing it for your awesome pet cat who looks at you funny and hates strangers.
Life is awesome. Remember that, and go make and do cool things for the world, for your friends, but most of all, for yourself.
Maude actor auditions were this past weekend and Maude writing packets were due recently. Any time UCB has auditions, it can be a shitty, disappointing time for a lot of people.
I wrote a version of this post in response to a post on Facebook from someone who was disappointed and upset with the theater following this weekend’s auditions. I’ve redacted it a bit, as there’s no reason to include the person’s name here, and I do want to stress I do not bear that person any ill will. But I thought it might be something that was worth putting out here on Tumblr as well. So, here it is… slightly edited and still far too long.
I don’t speak for UCB the school OR UCB the theater, which are two linked, but entirely separate entities But I’m chiming in as someone who obviously is very involved in the theater, as someone who has been a teacher there for a number of years, and as someone who has taken part in the past 4 or 5 years of Harold team auditions. Also, I apologize for what I imagine will be a pretty un-smooth post here, as I’ll be jumping around a bit.
UCB is a theater. A professional one. I’ve been involved there since its first year in LA. And its main goal has never been to just welcome everyone on to the stage. Nor should it be. The shitty truth is that there will ALWAYS be many, many more people who want to be on a Harold/Maude/Beta team than there is room for. It’s a sad fact. And many of those people who don’t get on teams ARE talented. But hey, that’s the way it goes. And it sucks.
You say “every time you audition and don’t make it, the only reasoning they have is that you need to do more.” I promise you that is never the case. At no point in any audition I have taken part in has that been the reason. Maybe it has been that the people watching felt like an auditioner wasn’t ready. Or that they had talent but needed to expand and grow that talent. But it is never a blanket “do more.”
Auditioning sucks. It’s the suckiest part of this industry. But it is part of it. And I suppose I fully disagree with you on “Doing comedy is supposed to be fun.” It can be and it is. But I dont think, professionally, that’s it. Just like writing or directing or acting or playing music or etc etc, it is something that people do that many many people take seriously and approach as a job. If it were just a “lets all have fun out there” type of thing… well, that’s not the professional side of it. Anyone can do that… online. Rent a space. Start an indie night. Etc. And no one ever prevents anyone from doing that. But it’s not what the UCB stage is for. Yet UCB does give opportunities left and right. If you feel like your talents aren’t a good fit for Maude? Ok. Do a spank show! Do the best spank show possible… blow it out of the water. And you’ll get a run. Anyone can do that.
You say you’ve been doing improv for two years… I haven’t seen you perform much, I don’t think, but I can say that two years is nothing. And I don’t mean that in the context of UCB, I mean in the context of doing anything worthwhile. When I had been improvising for 2 years, I was crap. When I had been writing for only two years, the shit I wrote was unreadable. Maybe it still is. But 2 years is not a lot of time. I know people who have gotten onto harold teams that I had literally never seen before on their first try. And I know people who got on teams after auditioning over and over and not getting a slot. You know these people too.
I’m very sorry you feel so discouraged. And I’m very sorry you don’t feel welcome at UCB. That is a bummer. It IS the theater’s loss whenever someone gives up for whatever reason. But, every single person I know that has helped run the theater (The ADs from Seth to Berg, the heads of the school, everyone who has read maude packets or watched auditions) literally wants one thing: to create the best teams possible and have the theater have the best shows as it can. That’s it. This place has done so much for me, and I don’t mean that in shitty Hollywood way, but rather in a emotional and personal way. It has helped me through hard stuff and has supplied me with many of the people I am closest to in the world. But in the, end, what you’ve described here is NOT a theater not welcoming you, but rather the theater not putting you on a house team. Those are different things… wildly different things. I’ve seen you at many shows, many indie nights, surrounded by people who want to do the same thing as you and who want to talk about the same stuff. A bunch of comedy nerds in plaid shirts and glasses. All those people, that shared community… I still think it is a welcoming place for weirdos and nerds and whatever the hell Dan Lippert is. And I’m very sorry you haven’t felt that. But it’s there, for you and anyone else who wants to be a part of it.
I love my buddy Andy’s comedy goals for 2013, with metrics to go along with them. I’m totally going to steal some of these.
My old tumblr is dead. Long live the new tumblr.
Hi, I’m Andy Boyle, a guy trying to be funny in Chicago. I do professionally things for my job and the other industry I’m in, but this will be the home for my comedy-ings.
I tried it previously with another tumblr. That was a failure. But now, I have a plan. Do you want to hear about my plan? Here is my plan:
- One post a day with 15-20 television monologue-style jokes
- Three posts a week wherein I try and write something funny
- 15 more cat spoiler videos this year
- Make five sketch-based videos
- Go on stage at least 150 times
- More funny on Twitter, less over-sharing-everything-about-my-life-that-isn’t-funny
- Continue to dress awesome
Okay. Wish me luck. And happy new year.
Beating yourself up is easy and natural for an improviser. You must learn to see the good in the scenes you do and hold onto it. It is an essential tool of getting better and an emotional survival skill.
You will do many scenes like this:
Suggestion: “dartboard.” Already, you’re panicking. Should I just play darts? Is that too obvious? No, you decide, you’re in a bar. Phew. Okay, I’m playing darts in a bar. Quick, start playing darts — oh my god, I’ve been standing here for too long —- you start playing darts, you throw like 10 darts in a minute and you think: I’m playing darts.
Scene partner enters, and he’s smoking a cigarette and taking a drag every two seconds and you think you have to say you’re playing darts so he/she knows and you say “I’m playing darts.” But before you’re even done saying that the other person says “Aren’t you supposed to be bartending?” and the other people in your class laugh. You want to say “yes” because that’s what improv is, so you say “Yes, I’m bartending but first I’m paying darts. Would you like to play darts? Come on, play darts!” And this other person has started to play darts with you. And three seconds which feels like three hours go by and then you say “Good dart game.”
Then the other person goes “We suck at darts” and maybe one person laughs and then you say “I’m fucking your wife” and the other guy goes “That’s cool I don’t care about her, let’s just play darts!” and the teacher says “Okay, two more, notes later.”
And you won’t remember the notes because your brain is full of this thought: “I am terrible.”
Bad scene? Yeah. But actually, you did a lot correctly. Can you see it? You got a suggestion and made a clear who/what/where. You interacted with a scene partner and you agreed with each other’s reality. You each said yes to the other at least once. You started to build a history together.
You got up out of your normal life and came to an improv class and got up in front of people and were brave and vulnerable. You put yourself out there. Your brain started to blaze trails of making choices, and those trails will be quicker to travel next time.
You did improv.
You must appreciate the good in what you do. No one else will ever pay as much attention to you. So learn to be a genuine but generous audience for yourself.
You are good. You wouldn’t have wanted to do this so badly if it wasn’t a good fit for your brain. Keep going.
Such a good post. Exactly what I needed to read with where I’m at with improv right now. (Billy has a way of doing that.)
Short version/my takeaway:
* When someone gives you criticism, listen to it and don’t dismiss it, even if you instinctually disagree with it.
* You can get opposite advice where both notes are correct; find the golden middle.
* Lots of improvisers have gotten the “don’t argue”/”you really should have argued there” notes.
First off, take the note. Don’t waste any of your time [or the class/practice] trying to fight the note in your head or with the teacher/ coach.
You will, at some time in your improv training, get a note you disagree with. Or a note that is the opposite of what other teachers and coaches might have given you. This is to be expected. If you disagree with the note let it slide, you don’t have to act on everything said. BUT if you get the same note three or more times from different sources, you have a problem that needs fixing.
Sometimes when fixing a note we receive, we can overcompensate. For instance: One of the first notes given to me  was I improvise like a stand up comedian, jokey, full if ironic detachment. [I know, ME?] This hit me hard, I didn’t want to be that guy, and then I found that I overcompensated and played every scene too serious, taking whatever fun that could be had, out of the scene. The note given to me then was, lighten up, your doing comedy. Both notes were right, and both notes were about the same player.
These are called Pendulum Swing notes, you go back and forth with notes about a certain issue that seem conflicting, but in the long run, you will settle down right in the middle. [unless you fight the note]
Sometimes notes can stop a bad habit right away, but most of the time it takes time and practice. Be patient, surrender yourself to the process.
Sometimes a note is the polar oppisite of what another teacher has told you. Know that there must be a reason for that, find the justification. [You shouldn’t do argument scenes, they tend to stall/ You should of argued in that scene, it would of called out the unusual]
Sometimes a note is given to get something out of you at that moment, but doesn’t apply to the rest of your improv career. [Do that same scene, but like your an animated cartoon]
A note to the note givers: Relax with all the notes. If giving notes on a Harold takes longer then the actual Harold, you’ve gone too far. Know that if you wanted, you could give a note on every word uttered in a scene. Pick and choose. Decide a theme, for instance, tonight’s ‘note focus’ will be on justifications, or “If that then what else”.
Best notes given to me:
“Everything you are doing is wrong, move to New York”
“Did you really need to be a tornado?”
“Play the Horror”