improv tips

David Razowsky’s Secret is His Service to Others

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Sick Puppies Comedy had another great show with guest star and improv legend, David Razowsky, last night.  This was the 4th time Razowsky has been to South Florida in as many years and the 3rd time he’s performed with Sick Puppies Comedy.  In the past, we held workshops for cast, students and the public, but I asked this year that he coach just a small group of us to drill in some concepts that might not be possible in a larger group setting.

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It’s not my place to try to put into words the concepts that Razowsky taught us, but there were moments where I wanted to disagree with everything.  I felt uncomfortable and sometimes frustrated.  It’s a tough pill to swallow when you realize your fundamental theory of Improv is wrong.  “Say NO all the fucking time.  Talk about people not there.  Ask Questions!  Is there anything more fun than talking about people not in the room?”  He’s been saying these things for years, but I clearly let them fly over so I could pay attention to other skills and techniques.  This year it landed.

I had moments yesterday that made me want to rewrite our curriculum from scratch and other times I said to myself “This is it.  This is the last year we have David here. He’s lying to me.”  It’s the first time in 2 years I felt uncomfortable improvising.  I was lost and unsure.  It was an incredible feeling.  I had some moments during the coaching session that provided more clarity to my work and the mission of our company.  It was the best improv experience I’ve had to date.

Watching Razowsky serve everyone is the real treat.  It’s what makes him such a fascinating character and good friend.  I witnessed him interact with those around him with care and precision.  He wanted to know as much as he could about all of us individually as though it was his job.  Each time he visits, he makes deeper and deeper connections with us and sets the standard for improvisers in general.  Be present.  “We get to be the Santas of Nowtown.  Be the problem not the solution.”  Be generous, serve others.  David Razowsky’s secret to success is his service to others and the unlimited amount of passion he has for the art of improvisation.

We can’t wait to see him here again next year.

If You Get Offended, Don’t.

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It’s one of the first things we say in our classes.  Being offended is on you, not me.  Taking offense is completely 100% your choice.  The only person who suffers when you are offended is you.  I take that back.  Some people get offended by how other people live their lives and try to create laws that prevent them from pursuing happiness so it negatively affects them too, but in general, your choice to be off put by someone is only harming you. It is a choice.

Improvisers say things that are racist or dirty or violent or flagrant at times.  More often than not, it’s truthful for that character in that moment.  The intent is never malicious.  When it is, the laughter subsides and audiences just stop attending. Not because it’s offensive, but because it’s not worthy of their money.

You’re totally welcome not to laugh.  You don’t have to watch that gritty show.  You can choose to avoid a particular stand up comedian.  Do it because you don’t find it entertaining, not because they cross some imaginary line that was likely drawn FOR you; not BY you.  If you choose to be offended by things, it means you are looking to be offended.  It means that you are sacrificing your sense of humor because you refuse to listen to some crude language or you think some subject like 9/11 or Aids or Ebola is off limits.  How will you expand your mind if you aren’t willing to consider the context?  Instead of looking for hot button words, consider what the joke is really exposing.  Are we making fun of the cancer patient or are we picking on society’s inability to deal with sick people?

I wrote a post on Facebook the other day:

“I’m guessing ALS is cured now.”

Referring, of course, to the Ice Bucket Challenges that are non-existent 45 days after the peak of awareness.  Poking at the short attention span of human beings and the ridiculous passion for a cause they knew nothing of 3 months ago and now have already forgotten.  Of course ALS is awful and of course the challenge raised good money for the cause, but the self-serving nature of the videos were a little much.  We did one, by the way.  The best of jokes are the ones pointed right back at yourself.

Someone commented that my post was not funny for people who have the disease.  In other words, offended that I’m being insensitive to a group of people in a tough spot with a terrible disease.  Looking at the hot button word “ALS” and ignoring context, they just didn’t see the humor.  This is their choice.

Sick Puppies Comedy rarely uses foul language, nor do we try to be sexual or “edgy”.  We just try to be honest.  Sometimes we approach tricky subjects, but we never try to offend.  We try to entertain.  We work from our gut.  We probably aren’t going to improvise a school shooting scene any time soon, if ever… but it doesn’t mean that we absolutely won’t.  We try to live our truth on stage and sometimes we offend audience members.  It’s never our intent but I don’t apologize either.  If we tried to keep everyone happy, we’d keep nobody happy. Comedy is that thing that helps us heal during our toughest of times.

I’ll leave you with this.  Jon Stewart and the Daily Show.  The first episode after 9/11.  This says it so much better than I ever can.  Fucking great. Don’t let stupid shit upset you.