Tag Archives: chicago

Thank you to the Detroit Improv Festival!!!

2013-08-09 20.15.39We went to our first ever festival this past weekend and it was an absolute blast. We went to the Detroit Improv Festival in Ferndale, Michigan and had the time of our lives. Personally (you have no idea who’s writing this but you can guess), I think we became even closer as a group after doing this festival. I know what you’re thinking, “how can you guys get any closer? You slap each other in the dicks on stage?!” Sure, we’re real close, but when you’re running around jumping off of hotel beds in your boxers screaming the Blurred Lines lyric, “WHAT YOU DON’T LIKE WORK”, it takes your friendship to a whole new level.

For starters, the ride down there was filled with screaming, singing, sleeping, and snap-chatting.  If you didn’t notice, every one of those things started with an S. Completely coincidental or was it? Queue dramatic Inception music. We didn’t know what to expect going to this festival. You never know how things are going to go when you’re away from home. However, oddly, we collectively agreed that we weren’t nervous. It was weird. We just felt like we fit in there. Our hats (if we wore them) go off to the people who helped run the festival as they were very kind and supportive and never made us feel like we were outsiders. As soon as we got there, we felt right at home. It didn’t feel like we were doing a show in another state, it just felt like another show.

We had the amazing opportunity to open up for TJ & Dave. A show that one of the heads of the festival said, “sold out 4 days ago.” Needless to say, the place was packed to the gills. As for the show, it was explosive. We were physical. We were silly. But most importantly, we were having fun. Right from the start, we could feel a warm and inviting presence from the audience. They were there to have a good time. They weren’t just sitting at a bar and happened to catch a comedy show on their way to the bathroom. They had left their house to go and see a comedy festival. They were there to laugh. And it was our job to make them laugh. We played fast and we didn’t miss a beat. Some of the characters we played included a boy with a worm arm (who was coincidentally a baseball pitcher), a Mormon hell bent on selling Christ (chasing people on a roller-coaster), an umpire that had no control over his arms and was trapped in a house of mirrors (everyone flailed their arms on stage), and an alien girl with octopus phalanges sent down to Earth by her father to repopulate her species. Yes. We know. Absolutely insane. Yet absolutely necessary.

When we walked back stage, TJ & Dave were standing there to say two words. “Great show.” Together we melted into a puddle of slime. After the show, we were approached by audience members and other groups that had nothing but nice things to say about our show and about the way we play. We were and are so grateful. The support from the crowd, the inviting “right at home” feeling we got from the people who ran the festival and the groups that attended, and those two words made this trip an experience that we will never forget. It brought us closer together as a group and more importantly as friends.

Thank you Detroit. Thank you Ferndale. Thank you to everyone who was a part of the DIF.

You’re awesome.

–          The Boys

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Review: Life’s a Funny Scene by Kiley Peters

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Recently Switch Committee was lucky enough to be reviewed by Life’s a Funny Scene’s Kiley Peters. We have wanted to be on her website for quite some time and are thrilled that we were not only reviewed, but that she enjoyed the show. She’s interviewed and reviewed some of the best improvisers in the game and to be included among them on her site is truly an honor.

Check out the link to her review and her site below:

http://www.lifeisafunnyscene.com/review-switch-committee-donnys-skybox/

A Chance and a Thank You

A Chance and a Thank You

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,
The Boys

The Work of Play

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For this installment of our ‘interviewing members of the group”, we sit down with Dave to discuss his history with improv, what keeps him motivated, and advice he has for improvisers who feel like they’re in a slump.

1. Hello Dave! How are you doing?
I’m great! How YOU doin’? (wink)

2. You’re currently in a pretty good place improv-wise. Have there been any times in your life when you felt you were struggling to make any progress?

Oh absolutely. I think I feel myself going through lulls and plateaus every so often. I think as artists, we’ll always find ourselves in these situations. We are generating so much creative output, we need to remember to recharge and have some input, and as Uhlir says, “Fill our heads with stuff.” I actually feel like I’m in a current lull at the moment, so I find myself evaluating what I’m doing or not doing.

3. What keeps you motivated and working?
Seeing shows is incredibly motivating. It can be the best show ever, or just a complete disaster. They both have their own way of motivating me and driving me to work harder.  The friends I work and perform with are also amazingly motivating who keep things fresh and feeling new. Excitement is contagious, and once an idea or a sense of play enters the room, it’s the best thing in the world, and everything else gets blocked out. Focusing intensely on a project with people you love being around doesn’t feel like work – it’s like fun playtime.
I honestly can’t picture my life without theatre. This is something that I absolutely love and when I’ve tried to picture it not being there, I honestly get really sad – and that, in turn, motivates me to work harder so that I don’t ever lose it.
4. Any advice for improvisers who feel like they are struggling or are currently in a slump?
We are our own worst critics, and though that can be a good thing, we also need to learn how to give ourselves a break. I think it’s great to analyze rehearsals and shows to figure out what’s going on, but after a while, you just need to just put it down and walk away.
When I’m in a slump, I like doing non-theatre related things – tinkering with and riding my bike; writing, reading; working out, playing music…I’m a huge movie buff, so either throwing one on or going to see one. I find simply stepping away for even a day or two can be a nice reset. Also, just getting away from all the distractions of life and over-stimulation of being a creative person is important. I love taking some “Dave Time” and just holing away for a few hours, or just being silly with friends. Also, it’s important to surround yourself with strong, supportive, and understanding family and friends that will help you get through the trying times.
5. Anything else you want to add?
 I feel that this is a life-long journey and lifestyle. You should do this because you love the work, the people you’re working with and admire, and absolutely can’t see yourself without it. This can be a viciously draining and mentally painful life to have… to be an artist. We’re constantly rejected and told we’re not good enough, or not what they’re looking for… But at the same time, it is the most rewarding and fulfilling thing in the world. We should treat it, and our fellow artists, as such.

Support Within the Improv Community

We recently sat down with Switch Member Alan Linic to discuss a topic of support within the improv community. Us improvisers work together and see each other night after night at different venues, but do we actually support one another’s efforts? Alan chimes in on this. trust-fall

1. Howdy

G’day sir. 

2. Lets get it. How do you feel about the improv community?

It is certainly a strange place, but nothing else really compares. It is a collection of individuals driven by
love and compulsion—we love each other and the art form, and feel compelled to do the work of play.

3. Do you feel supported by your peers?

Like all of us who have gone through training programs and/or are on independent/house teams
in Chicago, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented improvisers in the
world. These folks have made me a better improviser, a better person, and have given me a million
opportunities. Of course, the relationships I’ve built are not all equal with each other, but overall I feel
very lucky and supported.

4. Why do you think some people (improvisers) are unsupportive?

I don’t think people are unsupportive, but I do think that sometimes the “eye on the prize” mentality
can blind us to some degree. There are times when I feel like it’s easy to feel competitive with each
other, but I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to allow that to get in the way of remembering that the
people we compete with are also all people we play with, and that playing well with others comes first
and foremost in terms of being a good performer.

Another thing I sometimes see is people avoiding seeing shows or playing with specific people if they
feel that they are inexperienced or not as strong. First of all, I strongly believe that everyone we meet
has something to teach us one way or another. Secondly, none of us would be wherever we are now if
not for people around us—stronger than us, more experienced than us, with different perspectives than
us—helping out. They could be anything from a coach to a teammate to a favorite performer. Seeking to
elevate others is a powerful way of working muscles in yourself that would otherwise be neglected.

5. What are your suggestions on strengthening the community we belong to?

I think it’s important to remember that since we’re all in this together; taking care of each other extends
beyond what we do in our scenes. First and foremost, I would suggest going to your peers’ shows
whenever you can, and go with the mindset that you’re in the show. Want your friends to succeed, and
celebrate when they do. Fail with them from your seat when they fail. I believe we learn more easily
from watching and being there for each other when we are watching our teammates and friends.

Also, whenever you have a positive thought about someone as a person or as a player share it with
them! I feel like we keep our complimentary thoughts to ourselves too often—it feels good and brings
us all closer together if we know that our fellow improvisers are watching us and appreciating our styles
and moves. It takes almost no time or energy to tell someone that the character they did or the callback
they made or the scene they initiated made you laugh/surprised you/taught you something.

6. Check ya later home slice?

G’bye. 

The ABC’s of Naming

Hello-my-name-isToday, we sat down with Switch Committee’s Ryan Nallen to discuss a new philosophy he’s created to help his improvisation.  It’s interesting to say the least. It’s something he’s personally been doing.  Jeez, let’s just get to it already.

1. Hello?

Hello…

2. What’s something you’ve been focusing on lately?

Names. I’ve been actively forcing myself to name my scene partners. 

3. What brought that topic to your attention?

I’ve never been good at names. Even after doing 31 straight days of comedy, I find myself scrambling for a name when I’m in scenes. I recently did a show where a call-back went askew because I never named my scene partner. We handled it by playing it off as a game (multiple people coming on stage responding to the random name I gave in the call-back), but this could have been avoided had I just given my partner a name right from the beginning. It was a note that our coach gave us at the end of the show and I have been kicking myself in the ass thinking about it ever since. It was one of those moments where I knew I did something wrong as soon as it happened. 

4. What strategies have you found most effective for working on giving and using names?

I’ve been trying something on my own that helps me to make sure I have a name for my scene partner right at the top of the scene. I call it the ‘ABC’s of Naming’. What I do is come into a scene already thinking of a letter in the alphabet. For example, let’s start with A. If I walk into a scene I immediately know that my partner’s name is going to start with an A so I can say something like ‘Alan’ or ‘Andrea’ right off the bat. I always have two options going into the scene. A name for a male and a name for a female. 

5. What if there are multiple people in the scene?

The same mindset follows. So, let’s say we have a 4 person scene including myself. Already going in I’m thinking one scene partner’s name is Adam or Allison, the other is Brandon or Bianca, and the third is Carl or Claire.  I’m going in knowing exactly which letters of the alphabet to pull from rather than thinking about it too much. 

6. Do you always start with ABC at the top of a show? 

No. I carry it over scene after scene and show after show. So let’s say I did a show tonight, my scene partner’s names might start with A, B and C. The next show or scene (unless it’s a specific call-back to a previous scene), my partner’s names will begin with D, E, F and so on and so forth. You go right up until you get to Z and then you start over. You just have to remember what letter you left off at for the next show. The more I’m doing it the easier it’s becoming. Repetition. 

7. Real quick, X,Y,Z…GO!

Xavier, Yolanda, and Zach. 

8. How has an improved tool-set for character names affected your scene-work?

It’s forcing me to name my partners, which is essential for the piece  If you’re going to call back a scene or character, one of the easiest ways to do it is by saying that character’s name. Otherwise, you have to point at your partner to come out again, which can take you out of it and might come across forced. The amazing thing I’ve learned about this is that I’m not in my head trying to think of a name for my partner because I already know that it’s going to start with a particular letter going into the scene. This way, I can focus on what’s going on (the relationship) between my scene partner and I without anything else in my mind. I like to think of it as an obstacle course. Naming people is just one of those obstacles that I’m able to jump over quicker now. 

9. Anything else you’d like to share?

Obviously this approach isn’t for everyone. Some might read this and say, “that’s ridiculous, just name your partner” or might be extremely critical of this approach. That’s fine. Different strokes for different folks. It’s just something that I’ve been trying out and it has been helping me tremendously. It’s something new that I’m actively pushing myself to do in every show. My goal is to get through one continuous cycle (A-Z) and reevaluate it. If you’re someone, like me, who has a hard time naming people then give this a try and see how it works out for you. 

10. Goodbye?

Goodbye…

Taboo Topics

Here the guys (Switch Committee) talk about some of the suggestions we (improvisers) get from the audience from time to time. Some times they are vulgar and down right WTF! We discuss different approaches to handling these situations and talk about times where suggestions like these have come up.

Improv Gladiators Competition

The Switch boys had a blast at the second week of the Improv Gladiators competition this past Friday, where they finished the night in 2nd place but managed to hold onto their lead overall going into the next set this Friday. Something to note is that despite a hilariously bad performance during the short-form portion of the competition, Switch was given a perfect 45/45 score by the judges for their long-form set!

 

Be sure to catch the rivalry between the boys and their friends of the Instant Specialists as the competition continues this week!

First official podcast – 31 days of comedy

Randy_NewmanCheck out our first official podcast. We talk about Ryan’s current journey of doing 31 days of shows for the entire month of January as well as the support people have for one another doing comedy in Chicago. We also all do Randy Newman impersonations at one point. It’s ridiculous.  We start off with a spot-on impersonation of Ryan from Collin as well.

[audio http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/8yg1jap64n/talking_about_31_days.wav]