Recently I have been listening to the podcast hosted by Zach and Donald called Fake Doctors, Real Friends which is a look back at every episode of Scrubs with special guests along the way. I was never a huge fan of Scrubs – I think I have watched 2 or 3 seasons in it’s entirety and a lot of odd episodes here and there. I don’t think I could really connect to it – saying that I really wanted to listen to the podcast because I enjoy the banter between these two best friends.
This week, I decided to skip a whole bunch of episodes to listen to the latest one with Neil Flynn (the Janitor who was my favourite character, episode 121 – My Sacrificial Clam). I know that Neil improvised a lot of his lines and since I am currently re-watching The Middle I thought it would be good to listen to.
It was a really good interview and interesting to talk about improv and going from a show with lots of improvisation to one that was highly structured. The one thing that really stood out to me was something Neil said about his approach to the comedy form. I can’t remember the exact quote but he was basically saying that he was doing improv for himself, not for others to really become known for it. He never invited any of the cast to his improv shows. I thought this was a really interesting point and one I know, probably like others have forgotten along the way.
When you start performing improv with a troupe it is great fun but there is a lot of admin involved such as booking shows, costs and even planning festivals that the magic around the real reason you started improv can disappear. Due to the fact yo put so much time and effort into a group you start to push to be seen, heard and noticed by as many people as you can. Everyone does it, I have done it too. When you live in a world where ‘celebrity status’ and being known is a big thing, you want to jump on board.
I have felt this myself before as well, when I was in Punderstandably whilst I had great fun in rehearsals and in shows with my team there was always the admin to get the shows, prepare for them and organise the shows we hosted. I would always push shows on my friends, colleagues and social media because I wanted my team to have a good audience to play to as they worked so hard. It got to a point at the end of last year where I felt that the side of being shown was taking over the enjoyment.
Taking a step back from the limelight and focussing on producing shows and performing on my terms has helped me to get the love back for improv the way that I used to.
Neil Flynn really brought home to me the simple reasons as to why i enjoy improv. Whilst it can be about getting the audience as well as the ‘fame’ struggle, try and remember why you do improv and why you love it.