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 preparing for a show and improv advice.
What three things are you looking forward to about performing in an improv show?
Connecting with new people, making each other laugh, and building tension.
What have been some of the best suggestions that you have been given in a show and why?
Hm. I think I like weird suggestions. Weird suggestions that are interpretative ..I think one of my favorite suggestions was “boom.” What is that? Is that a sound? I would like it if someone gave me a suggestion that was like a physicality or just a sound.
We have spoken about your favourite moments on stage so what have been some of the worst and why?
I think the worst moments come in improv when you don’t feel supported – onstage or in the community.
Onstage if the team doesn’t edit a scene when you need them to, or if you feel like you constantly get interrupted, I hate that feeling. I hate that feeling like not being part of the show. It hasn’t happened a lot, but it really taints my experience with those performers.
Offstage, it can be traumatic. I think that’s why stage time feels so valuable. People make you feel like part of the community, but don’t want you to express yourself to the community. Only certain leaders can do that. That experience also contributes to the “cult feeling.” Or if you are not fitting in with the “cool kids club.”
It’s hard to be brave when others express how little they value you. It takes a lot to step it up. But I hope you do. I hope you believe in your own wings. Everyone I know who is a superstar, stepped away from being validated by their own community and just flew.
What is your favourite warm up game?
Wow. Good question. I like “Sticks.” I learned that from Heather Urquhart.
This sounds cheeseball, but it’s more about the team. One time at Deacon Street arts the SuperHER Midlands group let us (Mischief Managed) warm up with them and we played the FUNNEST version of “Bunny Bunny” I have ever played. It was so playful and silly and we all just made each other laugh. And I’ve played that game a 1,001 times.
How do you warm up before a show?
I may be different than other people but I like to get PUMPED before a show. I like to get my energy level high. Others like to centered, or connect. I like to get super energized. I think it helps put me in a heightened state – it helps with my edits.
How do you wind down?
Again. Good question. It depends on the show. RIGHT after a show … if it’s an AMAZING show, I want to spend time with the team and just laugh and maybe have a drink. But most of the time (even if it is an amazing show) I need to sort of cool down. I prefer to leave the stage and sort of go inside myself. I have a hard time getting the applause and talking to people right after.
I think I would prefer to step down off that stage and almost act like it didn’t happen. Like step down and talk to my friends about the latest Netfix. I don’t want to talk about the show. Which is tough for a leader, because the cast wants to hear how great they did. And I just want to like teleport to my couch with a cocktail and put on TV. There is something about the abruptness of STAGE to LIFE that is hard.
I’ve never wanted fame or attention. That stuff is dangerous and sort of useless. “Fame” is just a lot of people that know you – whether you like them or not, whether they like you or not. You know who’s famous the Star Wars Kid. You know who else is famous? Serial killers have fame. I think people mistake fame for acceptance. Or they mistake fame for love. Acceptance is totally different.
When I was an actor in LA, I didn’t want fame. I think that would be addictive. You would watch a movie you did in the 80’s and be all young and successful and you would constantly compare where you are to where you were at – and others would too.
Do you have any pre-show rituals if so what are they?
HA! I don’t really. For online improv I have an IN-SHOW ritual that nobody knows about. I don’t think I’m ready to reveal that secret … shout out to the original Wretched Hive in Los Angeles!
But before shows I usually recite the “Jabberwocky” poem by Lewis Carroll. I don’t know. I have always loved that poem. I’ve done it ever since I started acting. It’s not a luck thing. Just a habit I think.
“T’was brillig … and the slithy toves did gyer and gimbol in the wabe …”
Describe the feeling you get when you host a show and people specifically turn up to see you?
What?! I think .. what?! I don’t think people ever really show up to see me unless it’s my family.
What advice would you give to for those wanting to focus on an improv style or format they are creating?
I think if it’s a “new” format or style, don’t be discouraged. People will not see your vision at first. Use anything you can to get your idea across – produce movies, use drawings, do a one-person show version, knit it into a scarf … use whatever you can that best gets your idea across.
Sometimes words are not enough.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given about improv and why?
LOL, it won’t make sense coming from me!
Certain teachers have certain styles. I’m currently taking a class from Liz Allen. She has these theories and styles, that I couldn’t get away with. Her “boney finger of beconing” or “interruptiblity.” I can’t teach that! Which is good. We should have different styles and teach from our own unique view point. That way something I say may resonate with someone in a way it didn’t when you said it.
But the best advice I have ever heard from #IKnowJaySukow … he said:
“Do more of that.”
He is soooooo simple and positive in his notes. He blows my mind all the time. When you take a class with him, it seems like he’s not really teaching … like he’s just sort of there, guiding the class. But if you’re a beginner, it’s super helpful. And I’ve been doing improv for 27 years and he still says stuff where I’m like “WOW!” Because he’s super casual about how he says it.
When he says “do more of that” he means, go towards what is fun. Follow the fun. We spend so much time “trying to do good improv” that sometimes we are executing a science rather than celebrating an art form. We are trying to “prove we know improv” instead of connecting with the other person. The first time I heard him say it, we were doing a long form set and two of my friend Corey Taft and Lauren Baumbauer were having a casual conversation (I LOVE when scenes start off like this). I came in and pretended that they were having a conversation in front of my locker so I pretended to get my books out of my locker. Jay said “do more of that.” Because my instincts were to get one book, then to come back and get another one. To sort of build. But Jay was like, “no. Do more of that.” So, I sat there and it got really awkward because it came out that Corey was trying to ask Lauren to the prom while I was in the middle trying to get my books out of my locker. It was hilarious.
It wasn’t funny because of me. It was funny because of Corey and Lauren. Like the aspect I added could have been ANYTHING – fixing my roller skates, trying to get into my car, bird watching … it’s the fact that Corey and Lauren set up such a genuine honest scene, that made nearly ANY addition to it, funny. And Jay’s point was to not get so “improv skill” in my head. Don’t think too much about building. Just do what is bringing the most joy to me, to my cast … and that will bring more joy to the audience. Stop thinking so hard about impressing people and just bring joy.
“Do more of that.”
I think I gravitate towards it a lot, because it’s so simple. It’s four words, that are sort of a puzzle.
What would you like to see happen to comedy in the next 10 years?
To Comedy? Wow. I don’t know about Comedy in general.
Maybe more diversity in the voices contributing to it. Finding more stories, and finding comedy in commonality, not in otherness.
I think the real changes I would like to see would be in the community, not in the actual practice of comedy.