This time around, we put David Schwartzbaum in the hotseat to discuss his feelings about the theatrical elements of improv and how he applies them on a personal level.
1. Hello David! How are you doing?
Honestly, I’m pretty tired.
2. I bet! You had a show late last night–do you find yourself playing a certain way? How would you describe David’s “style” of improv?
I think it’s pretty uninhibited. I like to just walk into a scene completely open to any emotion that may just hit me and just take that and go nuts with it. I’m always trying to take even the most ridiculous and ground it in truth, like real emotion. There’s nothing worse than watching a show and someone is doing the old “improv crying” or “improv anger” schtick.
3. So what kinds of assumptions do you make for yourself as you edit or begin a scene?
I come from a theater background, so one of my first assumptions is always “how is this next scene going to fit into the piece we’re making.” Is this a callback? Does it continue to expand on our theme. Is it just a tangential sort of gamey refresher for the audience? It’s important to me that an improv show isn’t just 25 minutes of people jerking off on stage (though Switch Committee does seem to jerk off a lot on stage). The best improv is a piece that says something, so my first initial thought is “where is this going to take us as a whole”, once I answer that question I drop it, open myself up emotionally and immediately invest into that scene until I’m back on the sidelines. I have no idea if any of this makes any sense
4. Since you started in a theater background, how do you feel about the differences between improv and scripted theater?
Oy. Ok. I think the best theater uses the best elements of improv: it’s uninhibited, it’s emotional, the audience feels truly invested, they feel like it’s happening for the first time right in front of their eyes…and I feel like the best improv uses the best theatrical elements. Strong emotional and character choices, a full ensemble piece and not just a bunch of funny dudes doing bits, the use of stage space and stage picture, and the overall reason this piece existed tonight. Both theater and improv have a ton of similarities, and if you can bridge the two together, you’ll put up your best work in either medium
5. Anything else you’d like to add about yourself, the art form, or the community as a whole?
Yes. I’d like to just say…None of us really knows what we’re talking about. I’m 23…my views will change and will probably continue to change until I die, but the wonderful thing about improv comedy is that it can be so many things, that when I do change, it changes with me, like the “ditto” pokemon, it can be whatever you want it to be, and it’s the same for the community. If you want to focus on improv, you can do that. Sketch or theater? You can do that too. It’s the flexibility and ease to move from one medium to another that makes Chicago such a great place to be.