Sadly, an improv show has been canceled. We would like to take a moment to thank Rusty Petersen who hosted the THORprov (formerly Good Times) improv show for the past 4 years at the Horseshoe Pub. Anyone who has performed in Chicago knows about the Horseshoe because it was a place where you could regularly perform every Tuesday night. Finding a venue, securing a time slot, and maintaining that in Chicago is a pretty damn hard thing to do. For someone to do that for 4 years in a row is an amazing accomplishment. A lot of independent teams owe thanks and appreciation to Rusty for creating this show because this was where those teams got their start. We are one of those teams. This was where we had our first show. We remember the moment we first got there like it was yesterday. It was a dimly lit bar with shudders (literal shudders on the wall). There were album covers on the wall outside the bathroom, which of course was after you went through a ‘horseshoe door’ to get to them. There was a sick PBR/Chicken Tender combo deal that was a steal. There was a giant bar on the stage that provided a visible blockade between the performers and the audience (which was mainly the other performers and a few townsfolk at the bar). To us, though, it wasn’t a blockade….it was something to climb on. More importantly, it was an opportunity to perform. It was a chance to get on stage and play with one another for the first time ever. That night we had our first show and we loved it. So much that we stuck with it and came back to perform there regularly. This was where we got our start and we thank Rusty for providing us a place to perform and grow as a group. There are a variety of places to perform in Chicago, but this was a regular spot for us and one that we enjoyed playing at every single time.
Thoughts from the guys:
Collin: Rusty Petersen is one of the reasons groups better themselves in this community. I believe that becoming proficient at performing comes from taking classes, watching shows, and most importantly, doing shows. I was able to perform my first week in Chicago because of Rusty and independent show producers like Rusty. I’m very grateful for all he has done for so many, and all he continues to do.
David/Alan: The Horseshoe, the Underground Lounge, Upstairs Gallery, Bughouse, the Playground and more were not just “spaces” to perform in. They were homes. People like Rusty ran shows that welcomed and encouraged performers of all levels to come in and grow. Whether it was them asking us to perform or us asking them and always receiving a yes, knowing you had a place to perform consistently and with support is an incredible experience that is too easy to take for granted. We had 31 shows in April 2012, all of them booked through the independent theaters. If you want to perform, they will let you. They don’t give you an excuse, they give you the playing time and they help you by offering a nurturing environment. We are happy to have taken advantage of the huge opportunity Rusty and others provided, and will never forget where we came from.
Dave: The Horseshoe was where we got our first start performing as a group together, so I’m incredibly thankful for all Rusty has done. He’s worked incredibly hard to organize and host those shows, week after week, for four years. Rusty was always so accommodating for us, and we played there frequently while we were trying to figure out who we were as a team and to get our legs under us. And he’s just so incredibly nice and supportive.
Ryan: I remember the first night I stepped into this place. I was terrified yet so excited to perform. It was my first improv show in Chicago (I’d done improv in college, but never in Chicago). When I read the email from Rusty saying the show’s been canceled I said to myself, “well this sucks.” Why? Because I know the power this place has and how it has helped to fuel the independent community for years. I’ve done a ton of shows at this place because of what Rusty created and I’m sad that I won’t be able to do it again. This is where we had our first show. It was where Switch started. When I did 31 shows in January, Rusty was one of the people who helped me schedule some of my Tuesday nights. He has been an asset to the community and gave countless groups the possibility to hop on stage (for free) and play with their friends. Not to mention, he’s a damn nice guy and a joy to talk to. I’m grateful for everything he has done for not only me but the countless number of improv groups that have come and gone through the weekly independent show that he produced.
In the end…
Thank you Rusty. We’re sad the show has been canceled, but you’re awesome for putting it on for so long. It was a major accomplishment and springboard for a lot of people’s success. With every show, we grew closer together as a group and it is because of you and people like you that we are where we are today.
How do you warm up for a show? Every improv , sketch, theater, or team in general (ex: sports) does something before a show to get themselves mentally or physically prepared. It is entirely different for everyone. It’s even different on an individual level. For improvisers, groups typically do a warm up of some kind to get their brains working or to untangle their tongues so to say. Like saying, “tip of the tongue, teeth, and lips.” It’s the same process for the beginning of a class or a rehearsal. At a basic level, it’s something as simple as Zip, Zap, Zop and it can ramp up to a Beastie Boys rap. For this post, we thought we’d share what exactly Switch Committee does before a show to get ready. If you’ve ever performed with us or been at iO in the alley prior to our Thursday night shows, you’d know it’s pure and utter insanity. There’s a lot of screaming and jumping all over the place and all over each other. It looks like a bunch of wild animals in ties running around aimlessly without any plan or action. However, there is somewhat of a game plan going on. Specifically, this is what we do:
1. We immediately start killing each other once we step into the alley. No joke. We start slaying each other left and right in every possible way imaginable. Why? Because it’s hilarious. Really why? Because it’s big and physical. It’s a fun way to get out of your head. Getting to strap a rocket on Schwartzbaum’s back and firing him into the dumpsters or stabbing Ryan with a Katana sword and throwing him under a tank that Dave’s joyriding while Collin snipes Alan who’s juggling molotov cocktails is…glorious. We beat the living hell out of each other yet we love the living hell out of each other. The fun here is that anything is possible (duh it’s improv). Really though, if I wanna have panda hands (literally hands that are snarling pandas) than I’m going to do it. More importantly, I’m going to kill my friends with my panda hands and they’re going to love it. In short, find the people you can kill with panda hands before you go on stage and you’re set for life.
2. We pass some patterns around after everyone is good and dead. We do the word association game or theme association through patterns. So with word association, for example, if I point at you and say “Holidays” you may say “Christmas” and then the next person may say “Santa” and then the next person may say, “Gifts!” and the person after that may say, “Birthdays.” You see what we did there? Yes, us too, it was magic. So, we do that, and we try to do at least 3 patterns. That’s the minimum. The more you do it the better you get at it though (just like anything in life). At the moment, we can do 5 patterns without all hell breaking loose. It’s tough, but it can be done. Tip: Try to increase the number of patterns you do. Not only is it fun, but it’s also challenging. It’s tough as hell but hilarious when everyone is rapid fire throwing patterns at your face. If you don’t keep the pattern going, the game is over and all the patterns will be waiting on you. You fail. You die. You’re a disgrace to the group and your family back home. Just kidding, it’s not that serious. It’s just a fun way to get your brain ready for anything that is thrown at you and the ability to juggle multiple mental balls at once. It helps you focus on what’s important at the moment.
3. We find out what’s up our butts… (LONG DRAMATIC PAUSE FOR THE NON-IMPROVISERS WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY JUST READ). Well, ‘up your butt’ is a rhyming game and it goes as such:
Ryan: I’ve got a bat up my butt
Dave: I’ve got a cat up my butt
David: I’ve got a hat up my butt
Alan: I’ve got a thermoSTAT up my butt (this one actually makes sense)
Collin: I’ve got an aristoCRAT up my butt
Ryan: I’ve got a diploMAT up my butt!
We got around in a circle and everyone starts and finishes a rhyme. So, as you can see from the above, Ryan started and ended that sequence. You get it. Duh. Why are we explaining this? You’re probably sitting there thinking, “I’m getting too old for this shit” with the voice of Roger Murtaugh in your head. Right? Nope? Just us?
Tips for your Pre-Show Activities:
- Do something. Anything. Seriously do anything to prepare yourself for a show. It doesn’t matter what and you shouldn’t be worried about people judging you. If you wanna lay down on the floor and kick your feet into the air like you’re riding a unicycle, go right ahead, that’s your thing. The hell with anyone who think’s that’s ridiculous. If you wanna sit in the green room and watch inspirational or motivational speech videos like this on YouTube than do it. If that’s what gets you ready for your show than by all means do it. The important part is that you’re mentally prepared. The green room is the calm before the storm.
- Be physical. We’re not saying run a marathon and make the stage your finish line, but get your legs, arms, and groin (especially your groin, wink wink) moving so you don’t end up walking on stage later that night and just standing there like a scarecrow the whole show. Talking heads…the worst. For us, we kill each other. That’s our thing. If you wanna do that too go right ahead. Whatever you need to do to get your blood pumping. Then, pump your friends….wait what?
- Connect. Right before we get on stage we huddle up like we’re the Permian Panthers. We each look into eachother’s eyes, touch each other’s backs and simply say, “I’ve got your back.” So simple. So basic. Yet this is ESSENTIAL. It might even be more important than everything else we’ve done prior to that moment. It’s the time where we all know that we’re on the same page together and that no matter what we’re going to support one another. You need to connect with your partners before you step on stage. Even if you’re on stage and just got a suggestion, take a second to look into your partners eyes to express “we’re in this together.” Too many times (usually during auditions), Wally Wackadoo will just run onto the stage without connecting with his partners and just start doing his own thing without even acknowledging or listening to anyone. He’s just sitting in all the seats, breaking the fourth wall, and throwing out one-liners galore. Don’t be that asshole. Connect with your partner. It will change the entire way your partner and you work together (stress work together) to create art.
We’re getting back on the podcast bandwagon after a real long hiatus. Here the guys ramble about the upcoming Star Wars films, customer service, violence in video games, football/soccer and the astronomical cost and uncontrollable power of cable companies in Chicago. They even agree to kill each other via a ‘euthanasia pact’ should the time come. Nonsense.
From our very own Ryan Nallen! Thanks again to everyone who came out this past weekend, donated, or helped get the word out about this fundraiser!
This past Saturday, Switch Committee did a trial show at iO Theater in Chicago. As a result of that performance and the support of the audience, we will now be appearing at 8 PM every Thursday of June at iO, with an open possibility for extension. This is in addition to our Saturdays at Midnight with the mind-bendingly talented Lethal Action Force.
More than any other feeling, what we feel as a team right now is gratitude. Without your support and care, we wouldn’t have this opportunity. And there is nothing we could ever achieve that would feel as good as having a theater full of people celebrating this win with us as it was announced live at the end of the show.
So thank you. We will do our best to deserve the amount of support and love that you have shown us. As a matter of fact, we may have some news on a token of our gratitude upcoming. Stay tuned.
With love and respect and victory signs,
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.