Tag Archives: improvisation

Switch Committee’s final show at iO!!!

The final show of Switch Committee’s year long run at the famous iO Theater in Chicago.

Thank you to everyone who came out and thank you to Adam Kurschat for filming!

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Thank you Eau Claire!!!

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Thank you Eau Claire Improv Festival! We had so much fun this weekend! This festival was truly a special, unique, and freezing cold experience! Here’s how the days went:

Friday

The whole trip was insane, starting with the 5 hour drive to Eau Claire Friday night through the snow! David booked us a minivan, and when we showed up we didn’t know it would be a candy-apple red, tricked out, Chrysler Town and Country, with TWO TVS IN IT! Xzibit himself would have been proud. Alan laid in the back row and slept through practically the whole car ride; Collin couldn’t stop snapchatting; Dave was continuously working on his Indian Chief impression; David couldn’t stop grumpily coughing and sneezing; and Ryan couldn’t stop coming up with ridiculous Italian names…It was a typical “Switch” car ride. During the drive we stopped off at the Pine Cone Restaurant, in De Forest, WI, which served you unlimited chicken and fish. Alan got the Porcupine Meatballs cause he’s disgusting, Ryan got a chocolate milkshake because he’s a child, and David got the only vegetarian thing on the menu…plain eggs. We also attempted to do a podcast, but things went to hell once the food came to the table.

Arriving in Eau Claire during a storm at 12:30 am is the ONLY time to arrive. We walked into the front door of what would be our home for the next two days. The best way to describe it is to have you picture a frat house in a movie after some crazy college party: Couches displayed in a Tetris-style fashion, art-deco pieces built from empty beer cans, an old school N64 plugged into a TV (despite there being 2 newer gaming systems behind it), and a vinyl record collection deep enough to insulate the house. When we asked if we could get the playlist because the music was so good, we were directed towards the record album which was, fittingly, playing The Animals. We were told to head downstairs where there was an Improv Jam going on. The basement was decked out in lights and rugs with a small space for a stage, and people were sitting and laying about, just having a good time. It was so awesome to see people performing because they love it, in a basement at 12:30am.

After the Jam was done we were shown to our room. It was one large room with three large air mattresses on the ground. Literally, the entire bedroom was mattress; if you stepped off your bed, you were on someone else’s. Naturally, Collin and Alan slept while spooning together, David got his own air mattress because he was sick, and Ryan and Dave were able to share a bed without laying on top of one-another. This has naturally morphed into the “Switch” sleeping arrangement. Leaving us in a small room like that may have not been the best idea, because it took us a few hours to fall asleep, as we were constantly jumping on top of each other and cursing. “Vincenzo Velucci, Velucci Fixtures!” was shouted as we dog piled on top of one another. We didn’t find out until the next morning that we kept the whole house up with our antics. But being amazingly nice, small town Midwesterners, they were incredibly polite about it. “No we heard it. All of it.”

Saturday

We woke up Saturday and our wonderful host Elliot was making us Blueberry Pancakes. Dave said they were the best blueberry pancakes he had ever eaten. Ryan agreed…they were the best pancakes that Dave had ever eaten. We then taught our Hyper-Play workshop down in the cool hybrid basement/ theater space. It was awesome to see people show up to take our workshop even though it was snowing and 10am. The workshop was awesome. We had them killing each other and slapping one another right from the start (just like how we warm up). After our workshop, we asked some of the students where the best pizza place is, and so off we went to JimBob’s where they have a deal – Buy One Pizza, Get One pizza free! Are you kidding me!? Is this real life!? We got a Smotherella pizza which was basically a giant cheese stick, it was disgustingly delicious.

After filling our bellies, Rick Andrews of the Magnet Theater  in NY, was nice enough to offer a workshop with us, so down we went again to the basement. It was so great to work with Rick, as there was an instant connection. Though we had never met him before, it felt like we knew exactly where he was coming from and he knew what we wanted. We screwed around for 90 minutes, learned some new games, then took turns taking naps or playing Super Smash Bros. and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey with the boys of the house until showtime.

SHOWTIME!

Wow! What an awesome job the festival producers did! The performances were held at Pizza Plus, a large pizza place/bar/ theater in downtown Eau Claire. On our way there Ryan thought he saw a little kid in a tattoo parlor peeing in a plant, but it was just a statue. The theater space was huge, probably had 250 people packed in, and the energy was amazing! This pizza place was one of the coolest pizza places ever. They had arcade games like Terminator and Big Buck Hunter along with a stereo system so you could hear everything that was said on stage even if you were in the way back. The crowd was so excited to see comedy and were incredibly inviting. The great people at Pizza Plus even offered us a free pizza! If you’re counting at home, that’s three pizzas in one day for the boys of “Switch.”

Our show was amazing. It started off with us lifting Alan up as a scarecrow and tying our ties on him to look like dead snakes to scare the kids away from stealing our pumpkins. Of course, in “Switch” fashion, the scarecrow came alive and killed us all, including Collin who wasn’t actually an adult, but two of those pumpkin-stealing kids on top of each other dressed in a trenchcoat. This led to a homicide scene where Alan the Forensic Analyst, and Dave the Detective, needed to get their hands up the bodies butts, to check for exit wounds, which led to a lot of “downstairs” touching. It was a series of scenes where they shoved their hands up Ryan’s ass. “This reminds me of that other murder a week ago, I think we have a copy cat! We cut back and forth to the ‘other’ murders, each one with Ryan laying face down ass up…BUT IT ALL MADE SENSE! The show was lunacy after that, with David having flashbacks to his days of getting stabbed at Miami Clubs, to all the guys shrinking down to go into Dave’s Rectum to find out who killed him, and meeting David, the Cinnabon-eating Ass Troll as well as Collin, a stripper who’d been eaten because she was inside of a cake for a bachelorette party. We also got to see behind the scenes footage from Slumdog Millionaire with Ryan, Dave, and Alan. The reaction from the crowd before and after was incredible.

Sunday

We rose to the gentle sounds of sickly Schwartzbaum snores. It sounded like the engine of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. We gathered our things, as quietly as the five of us were able to do, and said goodbye to the sleeping bodies cluttered around the house. The sleepy car ride home was filled with hilarious memories of the weekend, the newfound love for Wisconsin cheese, and the appreciation for the art we love.

We’d just like to take a moment, one more time, to thank the Boys in The House on Chippewa Street –  Alex Raney, Elliott Heinz, Mack Hastings, and Lucas – for being such great hosts and offering up their home to us; to Amber Dernbach and the entire Eau Claire Improv Festival for their hard work putting such a fantastic festival together; to Rick Andrews for the super fun workshop; and to all who came out and supported live comedy! Yes, it was cold and snowy, but I think the performers melted some cold hearts with warm improv performances…well, everyone’s hearts except David’s. We can’t wait to go back next year!

Thank you Eau Claire Improv Festival 2013!

 

Warming Up For An Improv Show

warming up for a show

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.

NEW PODCAST!!!

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.

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/

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…