Part of the format for learning level 1 improv at UCB is all about monologues. After we get a one word suggestion, such as ‘skeleton’ or ‘rebellion’ or if it’s an actual audience ‘dildo’, one of us goes on stage and thinks of a story from their life that might relate. And then we do three scenes inspired from the suggestion + monologue, which is a kind of very basic start to what is called a ‘Harold’ which is the improv format that UCB specialises in. But I’m over-explaining improv – I have been living and breathing it for the last week, I’m sorry.
Doing all these monologues is an amazing way to get to know your classmates in one intense, overwhelming week. There’s a guy who talked about his time in rehab, his experiences in the pretentious art dealing world, his apartment in SoHo – he didn’t say it out loud, but he’s super rich. There’s the slightly creepy older dude, Pensive Bob whose scenes are always about dicks and toilet humour and hammy ex-wife gags, who tells monologues about taxes and owning a business, and then about his wife dying and trying to recreate his life as an actor. I feel like I know more about these people than I do some of my close friends.
The star of the monologues has to be an Irish chap named Declan, whose every story was not only super interesting and funny, but was told in a captivating and charming way. Perhaps a typical Irish gift of the gab, although his experiences are anything but typical. One of his monologues was about working at a summer camp in Germany, and having to rescue a small girl who fell down a tiny crack in the wall. Another was about being dressed as a giant dog and arguing with the police who were shutting down the party he had very legally organised. It’s funnier when he tells them.
But the story that got me, was when he talked about being on a reality TV show called ‘The Colony’ in Australia, where his family and a British family and an ‘Aussie’ family and an Indigenous family all lived in the outback in simulated conditions of the first days of the British colony in Australia, ie old timey clothes and bad food and farm work. He was eighteen years old at the time, and said ‘it was horrible and amazing’.
As he was telling the story, I suddenly said ‘oh my god’ because I remembered watching an episode of this. At first I assumed I must have captioned it, when I worked as a captioner, because otherwise I don’t really watch reality TV, but it was on back in 2005-6, and I remember watching it at university as part of a class about post-colonial Australia.
Apparently one of the contestants, or participants, I’m not sure if there was a prize or even goal for the show, was acting strange and the producers pulled him out. They realised he was actually a criminal, a diagnosed sociopath, and they kicked him off the show. Then a few weeks later, they all realised that he’d trekked his way back out into the desert, and was living near their camp again.
Anyway, it’s a great story. I goddamn love having the opportunity to fly across the world and hear these people’s weird stories.