Improv

David Escobedo Mega Improv Month – INTERVIEW – Improv Styles and Advice

This month we are very excited to be able to sit down with David Escobedo of The Improv Boost to talk everything about the comedy art form! Over the next few weeks we will talk about everything from performance to writing impro books! Today we talk about different types of improv styles and managing time with improv


Tell us about the styles of improv you enjoy and why?

I started off on really fast pace, bitty short form. It was about shared references and popular culture. I am so happy I had that experience and foundation. It really trained the “who, what, where” in me. It also trained me to be calm and centred in scene that may be anxious – because I’ve been there. 

Lately I have been loving slow moving, discovery based improv.  I find that it surprises me more and creates space to truly find out more about your scene partner. In the fast paced stuff it was about references and filling the silence – fun stuff still happened, but I felt like I wasn’t really finding out anything new about my scene partners (or myself). You just pulled that Voldemort character out of your pocket, or your pulled that same trick you’ve done before a hundred times.  In slower improv, I love the silences. I love the authenticity. I love the emotion. It can still be funny. 

I also find that it’s not about finding the “shared reference” as fast as possible, it’s more about two perspectives coming together which could be abrasive.  I think that nexus at which two perspective (either the characters or the players) come together and we find commonality. 

I also think I find out more about myself. It allows me to contribute my authentic self to a scene with a comfortable speed – not with an anxiety of not being heard..

What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe?

DO IT.

OMG, if someone is telling you not to do it they are bowls full of crap.

I want to say there is a difference between you starting an improv team and you teaching improv classes.  Starting an improv team is part of your journey, it is you practicing an art. You teaching classes, has a different responsibility. Especially, if you are charging others to attend. 

But getting some friends together to do some scenes is literally practicing the craft.  It’s literally putting all these panels, workshops, interviews, videos, ect … into work!  A

and fail. And try stuff. And take risks. And do weird things.  That’s how you learn. And make up “tasks” for yourself.  Maybe one rehearsal all you do is edit, or all you do I establish the location, or all you do is name people… come up with your own challenges.

Start. A. Team. 

And don’t think a team is validated by a public performance. Improv is about the process. It’s about the doing it.

Also, teams can be temporary.  They can go on for like 4 shows and done.  They can do one rehearsal on show and be done. Teams don’t have to go on forever and by parts of several teams, it actually help build your skillsets, experience, and network.

Also (as you can see I have lots of thoughts on this) don’t feel like your team needs to be under the umbrella of an organization.  Invest in yourself. If your community does not support you without their name/logo on there … that leadership is selfish.  They only want you to pump THEIR BRAND up. 

Create your own team and get out there! 

What about extra advice for those wanting to focus on an improv style or format they are creating?

OMG. I love it.

I just did this project called “Improv Ecosystems.”  I sent out a survey and interviewed people around the world.  And one of the major things people wanted was more experimentation.  They wanted to see a greater support for new ideas – rather than seeing the same old duos, genres, and formats. So there is a need for it, even if you don’t find an audience right away.  Lot of us in the improv community talk about the new stuff being done.  And “new stuff” isn’t always “commercially viable … but the biggest impacts are made by the new stuff.

I always feel like I want to rehearse of workshop my improv projects about 6-8 months before I put them on stage (or screen now). It not only helps you refine your end product but it helps build team trust and allows people to feel more comfortable in their expression and collaboration. 

I think also in having a format or style don’t get confusing with it – the format should serve the show. I’ve seen improvisers come up with formats that feel more like an expression of their ego (“look how smart I am”) rather than a format that people would want to do.  Just like in improv, you have to be flexible with what the team brings in.  You aren’t creating something as an individual. 

Also, COMMUNICATION is GOLDEN.  As the coach or leader you need to be able to communicate to your team what the vision or purpose of the style is.  And I distinctly say communication, because that includes not just expressing but listening.  Listen to the feed back your team gives you. And don’t just wait for them to express words – do they look comfortable? Are you setting them up to do their best?  Do they seem like *they* are listening?

New things that come from a community are usually more valuable and more relatable than a new idea from one person. Not to say that can’t happen!  Just to say that listening to your team and your audience are super valuable.

You have your hands in a lot of pies in improv so to speak! How do you manage time to do so much improv at once?

I don’t know.

I am doing a lot more talking about improv than doing improv at the moment.  At least it feels that way. I have a (super fun) team that does a show “Are You Smarter than a Nerf Herder?” and a solo show “Drawba the Hutt.”  Both under the Wretched Hive Comedy banner. Then I have developed my own online improv course – as a student. So I am literally taking my DREAM teachers, with people I have ALWAYS wanted to work with more.  I am so excited about that.  Then every now and then I jump onto 10mins with. Like I LOVE playing with Jess and Sekki from Glossop Improv. Talk about some of my favorite improv. They are so welcoming with their improv, and I feel like I am having fun rather than “executing good improv.”  While performing if you are more concerned with the skills of improv rather than the reason why you’re doing it … you’ve sort of lost hold of improv. 

What is the best advice you can give someone about managing their time with improv?

Once a week is fine!  If you do one class, or one show … or *watch* one show a week.  You’re great!  Don’t compare your journey with anybody else’s.  In fact we tend to overdo improv rather than underdo it.

With Social media there is a pressure to connect around the world! But you don’t have to do that.  You just have to connect to who you want to do the improv you want.  If you’re feeling pressure you need to take a step back and recognize why you feel that pressure.  Is it healthy pressure?  Is it pressure from improv leadership?  Do people expect you to create content or value for *their* project?  If you feel pressure then improv becomes an obligation.  What an icky way to view it.

Improv for fun.

What a weird mantra.

But improv for fun, usually has less harm than “improv for money” or “improv for betterment” or “improv for an audience.”

And to be honest … when people have fun doing improv, they usually have an easier time hitting those other markers.

Do you ever get to give yourself a break from improv? If so why is this important to do?

Oh yeah. At this time improv has not only become the study of it, the practice of it, and the sharing of it … it also has become a social aspect. And I think it’s important to create my identity and my presence outside of it.  I have made my personal FB page private and unfriended/blocked a bunch of people.

I think we can get too involved in the improv community, because the training of improv is so applicable to life.  There is so much crossover!  And that sometimes makes it intoxicating. But that doesn’t mean that “improv is life.” (Don’t even hit me with that guru – reversal of “life is improv.” Because I think all art is either a reflection, comment or expression of life).

Its difficult right now because I enjoy it AND I study it.  I hope to get back to drawing and reading for fun. 

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