Last night I did my level three grad show at ITS, the improv school in Sydney that I study at. It’s taken me a while to get here, as I keep taking breaks between semesters. The first break, between level 1 and 2, was my trip overseas to Newwwww Yawk.
It was such a good night – I’m really hungover right now, and not because I had a crazy party. I just have this weird thing where after I’m on stage, the switch in my brain that says ‘stop drinking’ just doesn’t flip, and I sat in the pub afterwards and drank four beers really quickly. Because I’m a light-weight.
Anyway – performing was great. All of my classmates were spectacular, and from the teams that I watched, it was clear that everyone was having fun. Nobody was being a jerk. At UCB in New York, there was one guy in my class who I desperately didn’t want to perform with. It wasn’t because he was un-funny, although he was. And it wasn’t because he was “bad” in the sense that there’s some kind of natural talent, which you do or don’t have. It was because he was selfish, and in improv that really sucks. He had designs on being a stand-up comedian, and a film writer, and he was a few decades older than everybody else, so he had that easy entitlement when it comes to cutting other people off, and interrupting. It meant that every time he took to the stage, you could see everyone tense up, waiting to see how he would twist the scene to be all about him.
In the monologue, he told a long story about swapping someone’s cremated remains with that of a cremated family dog in order to pacify a crazy ex-wife. It had to be a lie, or else he’s a bona-fide psychopath. It went for such an incredibly long time and was so clearly a horrible mixture between a fib and a stand-up routine that it seemed to stick out and make everyone uncomfortable. During the scenes that followed, he would bust in and override everyone’s suggestions, trying to act out the crazy fantasy he’d just talked about. It mightn’t sound like much, but it’s the difference between having fun, which makes the process more enjoyable for the audience, and having a shit time.
Anyway, I was thinking about that experience last night, while having the opposite experience. And then, we got on stage and I realised I was wearing literally exactly the same outfit, down to underpants and socks, that I wore on stage at UCB. Then, we asked for a word suggestion and we got ‘San Francisco’. I took a step forward and said ‘when I was in New York…’