September 30, 2010

1986 Cable Access Interview of Del Close

Brian Stack (most recently a writer for Conan) shot this interview with Del Close in 1986.

Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America says:

When [Brian Stack] was 19, he was an intern at a public access station, and he made this video report. The subject is Del Close, with whom Stack had just started his first class at the Improv Olympic. [...] The video is in black and white, because Brian accidentally set the camera to "monitor" mode, but it's a totally amazing time capsule and about 10 minutes of wisdom from the greatest guru of improvisation.

In included footage of performances caught glimpses of Dave Pasquesi and Mick Napier (with hair!).

(via Boing Boing)

Posted by Fuzzy at 5:37 PM

February 18, 2009

Trust Us, This is All Made Up


Trust Us, This is All Made Up, a feature length documentary about Chicago improvisors TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi -- stars of the long-running show TJ and Dave -- will premiere in March at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. There is also a showing scheduled for April at the Independent Film Festival Boston.

(via Coudal)

Posted by Fuzzy at 10:26 AM

July 7, 2008

Mick Napier

Time Out Chicago interviews Mick Napier.

Posted by Fuzzy at 4:12 PM

June 5, 2008

TJ Jagodowski

The Chicago Reader profiles TJ Jagodowski.

Update: The Time Out Chicago blog points out that Time Out Chicago did a similar profile last year.

Posted by Fuzzy at 8:49 PM

June 2, 2008

Paul Sills - 1927 to 2008

Paul Sills, son of Viola Spolin and co-founder of the Compass Players, has died at age 80.

(via Time Out Chicago)

Posted by Fuzzy at 4:52 PM

April 4, 2008

Del's Last Party

The cover story in this week's Chicago Reader is an account of Del Close's deathbed party, excerpted from Kim "Howard" Johnson's new biography of Del, The Funniest One in the Room: The Lives and Legends of Del Close.

Posted by Fuzzy at 5:45 PM

January 15, 2008

Vice interviews Asssscat

The latest issue of Vice Magazine -- the "Second Annual Fiction Issue" -- features interviews with improvisors Amy Poehler, John Lutz, and Jack McBrayer in the context of UCB's Asssscat.

Improv comedy is the bravest, most immediate form of making up stories that there is. It’s not always the funniest, or the smartest, or the best, but it’s always the bravest. The dawgs who do this shit have big balls, yo.


The basic theory of good improv is, we think, about letting go, accepting looking stupid, and making mistakes then turning them into gold at the drop of a dime. Most people who are great at improv, like Asssscat, learned this stuff first- or second-hand from a man named Del Close, who is to improv comedy what George Washington is to America or Thomas Edison is to, oh, you know, quadruplex-telegraph repeaters.

Anyway, on a good night, watching Asssscat perform is like being in a car speeding downhill with no brakes—in a funny way. They pretty much know the secret that unlocks the enchanted world of laughter, so we decided to try and get them to tell us…

Two minor corrections: it's Schaumburg, not Schomberg, and ImprovOlympic, not Improv Olympics. No S, no space. (Well, and it's iO anyway, now.)

Posted by Fuzzy at 11:39 PM

August 20, 2007

Susan Messing

Time Out Chicago has profiled improvisor Susan Messing:

Students in Messing’s packed improv classes at the Annoyance Theatre and I.O. admire her way of making any word seem endearing (even fuck you and whore are lovingly dispensed) and benefit from teaching methods Messing claims were crafted while high in her bathtub. Almost everybody in Chicago improv has sought Messing’s guidance at one point; at 43, after 17 years in the biz, she’s become a genuine guru.

Posted by Fuzzy at 5:37 PM

May 1, 2007

Del Close Notes

Clipping of Del Close notes

The Applied Improv Network has a 140 page PDF of Del Close workshop notes, courtesy of Joey Novick and Kate Ritter.

Posted by Fuzzy at 2:05 PM

November 9, 2006

Liz Allen Interview

Liz AllenI was able to meet up with Jimmy Carrane, co-author of Improvising Better, because he lives here in Chicago. The other co-author, Liz Allen, is currently in Las Vegas, working for Second City, so I interviewed her over email. The full interview is after the jump:

Fuzzy: If I read this book, do I never need to come to your workshop?

Liz: First, thanks for reading it. Second, after reading it, please continue going to any and all improv workshops that interest you. My guess is that reading this book will only enhance your learning in a classroom environment.

Fuzzy: Conversely, can I really fix my own blind spots with a book?

Liz: You can get started fixing them. Obviously, as an improviser, you need at least one other person, but preferably an ensemble, to help you improve, since improv is group art. But awareness of yourself is a big step. There's that saying in psych circles -- you can't change something about yourself until you acknowledge it honestly within yourself. So maybe our book will help you acknowledge or admit something to yourself. And then, within a safe ensemble, you can challenge yourself to grow.

Fuzzy: Aren't I blind to them?

Liz: Probably not. I think most people know their own tricks and bs, but pretend they don't. Also, I'll bet you've been given a note from a coach or teacher you didn't like or made you uncomfortable or you disagreed with... that just might be your blindspot.

Fuzzy: I asked Jimmy if, after you guys sent out the Ten Blindspots, anyone ever came into your workshops saying, "Number six, that's my problem, help me fix it." He didn't seem to think so -- did you have the same experience?

Liz: I agree with Jimmy's recollection. I will add that many people came to us outside of the workshops and declared which blindspot they related to most. In the workshops we generally heard, "I came here because of the Top Ten Blindspots. Please help with them all."

Fuzzy: I don't mean this series of question to be a confrontational "why'd you bother writing a book", but rather I'm really interested in your perspective as someone who both teaches in person and has written a book about a) the value of books to our live performance field:

Liz: I think, as I suspect most people do, that reading books help you learn about any field. It's always good to read about something you're trying to master. You'll take from the book what you're ready to take from it.

Fuzzy: b) how self-aware people can get about their own problems.

Liz: I sort of touched on that above. I think improvisers crave self-awareness, which is why they liked individual attention in a workshop. Hopefully our book will trigger something to help improvisers see themselves clearly, and see that there's hope for every bump in the road they experience while learning to improvise. Improv is such a personal art form -- it's you exposing yourself under the loose veil of groupwork and characters. But ultimately, you're out there unprotected by any pre-written words of a script, so it follows that the journey of discovering improv is also the journey of discovering yourself.

Fuzzy: Can you talk a little about the experience of co-teaching a workshop and how (if?) that influenced the co-writing of this book?

Liz: Co-teaching is great in the same way improvising is great -- I enjoy collaborating. Because of our time teaching together, Jimmy and I knew what each of us wanted to say in the book, and that really helped us write together.

Fuzzy: What's your favorite part of the book that's Jimmy's contribution?

Liz: Jimmy initiated writing the chapter, Love the Process, which we put at the end of the book. I love the message of that chapter, and it's such a great reminder about how to approach improv. It's especially good to remember the message of that chapter as you become a more seasoned improviser.

Also, I like his quote on page 25, "React to your object work like it's the third person in the scene," because it's so concise and accurate. It boils down object work perfectly. Object work is tough to teach, and to explain exactly how object work should enhance scenework. Also, it can be boring to teach -- the exercises tend not to be emotional. And, frankly, some people aren't very coordinated, which is awkward to watch! I think this quote is a good one and I've used it a lot.

Fuzzy: Who has influenced you as a teacher, and how?

Liz: Good grief, so many! I'll mention a few. Del. Del. Del. He just took no crap from us and wouldn't settle for crap in scenes. He'd stop any scene and tell you that what you were doing wasn't ringing true. He stressed that if you were going to portray someone or anything -- a busdriver, or a dad, a paper bag -- you better really portray them as they might really be. He taught me about the dangers of stereotyping.

Miles Stroth was a huge influence. He showed me in my level 2 class, then later on Frank Booth, that if you were open to seeing it, the whole scene resided in the first line or two of a scene. This is not scripting, but truly investing in the beginning moments of a scene. Also, he used to quiz us upstairs at the Wrigleyside during a show -- he'd asked us what a character in that particular Harold could do to raise the stakes of a situation. He was very analytical about the work, and I appreciated that.

Of course my coach on Frank Booth, Craig Cackowski, was hugely influential. He really taught us to take everything as it is at the very beginning of a scene. For instance, if a scene began in the front seat of a car that was obviously in motion, and several seconds into the scene you wanted to join it and be in the backseat of the car, you couldn't just go and jump into the scene and drag in your own chair from the side of the stage. He'd say something like, "You can't pass through speeding metal unless your character has magical powers or this is world has different laws of physics from our own!" From that we learned to deal with everything literally which inevitably led us to slow, real moments.

Also, I want to say that watching groups over the years taught me a great deal. When I first started at iO, I'd watch The Family improvise, and they were inspirational. Their support work was amazing. Teams like Mr. Blonde, The Lost Yetis, Jazz Freddy, and Faulty Wiring, to name a few, taught me tons. For example, watching people listen and respond to one another taught me better listening skills. You can really learn about group work by watching it. All groups as a whole can be teachers, whether they play together seamlessly or are still struggling to figure it out.

Fuzzy: By writing a book that not for beginners, but rather people that have been improvising long enough to have developed bad habits, you're making some assumptions about the maturity of the improv world -- that there are enough experienced improvisors out there to make a book like this useful. Care to make any bold statements about The State of Improv?

Liz: I've watched improv grow from a small community in a few places to a vast community worldwide. I'm thrilled by that, and I'm thrilled it's continuing to grow. I keep thinking that the wave has crested and improv can't possibly get any bigger, and then it does. My explanation stems from what Del taught us -- that our current American society stresses the individual over the whole -- and we humans are seeking groups that our ancestors couldn't live without. He taught us about early American Indian ensemble societies, where your view of yourself depended on how you fit into your tribe and how you supported the survival/success of the group. Your contribution could mean life or death to yourself or someone else in your group. I loved it when he'd talk about all that stuff. Improv is permission to be self-less, and to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Del said that we couldn't help but want to be a part of a group, and I think he was right.

Posted by Fuzzy at 5:53 PM

October 12, 2006

Del and Timothy Leary

Chicagoist received a photo from Jay Friedheim of himself, Del, and Timothy Leary all hanging out in Del's apartment. Jay also shares in the post that Del began to talk about having his skull used for Yorick in the early 1980s.

Posted by Fuzzy at 3:35 PM

July 21, 2006

Interview with Charna Halpern

The Bastion has an interview with iO Theater owner Charna Halpern.

Posted by Fuzzy at 2:49 PM

July 18, 2006

iO Blogs

The iO Theater has added blogs by owner Charna Halpern and improvisors Bill Arnett, Michael Balzer, Jason Chin, Rachael Mason and The Wilsons.

Posted by Fuzzy at 4:45 PM

January 27, 2006

Second City Radio tribute to Jim Zulevic

Second City has posted mp3s of the Second City Radio tribute to Jim Zulevic.

Posted by Fuzzy at 2:21 PM

January 8, 2006

Jim Zulevic

Jim Zulevic

Veteran improv and sketch actor, writer, and director Jim Zulevic died yesterday in Chicago of a heart attack at age 40. He will be missed.


Second City has posted information on memorial services:

Thursday, January 12 - Wake

McGann Andrew & Sons Funeral Home
10727 S. Pulaski (@ 107th)
2:00 - 9:00 pm

Friday, January 13 - Funeral Mass

St. Thomas More
2825 W. 81st Street (@ California)
10:00 am

A Tribute - this Saturday, January 14 on WCKG Radio (105.9 FM) from: 5:00 - 7:00 pm

Chicago Tribune: Jim Zulevic 1965-2006
Chicago Improv Network: Jim Zulevic

Posted by Fuzzy at 12:17 PM

December 9, 2005

One Trick Pony interviews

Ben Kharakh at One Trick Pony has interviews with, among other comedians, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood (Whose Line Is It Anyway?), Mike O'Keeffe (Improv Jam), Paul Scheer (Best Week Ever), Bob Wiltfong (Neutrino, The Daily Show), and mc chris ([adult swim]).

Posted by Fuzzy at 12:26 PM

July 8, 2005

David Shepherd on Chicago Public Radio

David Shepherd, co-founder of The Compass, was on Chicago Public Radio to talk about the 50th anniversary of Chicago Improv and that show is now available in WBEZ's online archive: The Birth of Improv (RealAudio).

Posted by Fuzzy at 3:46 PM

January 14, 2005

Del's Skull makes stage debut

Del Close's skull, which he bequeathed to the Goodman Theatre just before his death in 1999 for use in Hamlet or other productions at "the theater's discretion," is being used in the just-opened I Am My Own Wife. The play's star, Jefferson Mays, was Del's understudy in a California production of The Misanthrope and requested that Del's skull be part of the set.

Bring Goodman cast the head of Del Close [Sun-Times]

Posted by Fuzzy at 4:10 PM

October 26, 2004

Brad Sherwood in Virginia

Brad interviews Brad Sherwood (Drew Carey Show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?) before a Virginia performance of An Evening with Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood.

He acknowledges that "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" does have its cynics -- people who believe the comedy is staged, not spontaneous. "We absolutely don�t know what we are going to do," Sherwood said. "We take suggestions from the crowd. In one sense, when people say the show is not made up that it�s scripted, it�s a compliment. But it�s also an insult, saying you can�t be that good."

Posted by Fuzzy at 11:00 AM

September 13, 2004

Newcity's "The Players" 2004

Newcity Chicago's annual list of the 50 most influential theatre personages in Chicago features several improv figures on this year's list: Second City's Kelly Leonard (#9), T. J. Jagodowski (#22), ImprovOlympic's Charna Halpern (#41) and Chicago Improv Festival's Jonathan Pitts(#43).

Posted by Fuzzy at 11:53 PM

July 9, 2004

Harvey Lembeck

Harvey LembeckThe Toronto Star profiles Harvey Lembeck (who starred as Eric Von Zipper in six Beach Party movies from 1963-66) and the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop he founded in 1964:

The school's Web site lists the names of many of its celebrity grads, including Robin Williams, John Ritter, Sharon Stone, Penny Marshall, Jenna Elfman, Kim Cattrall, Donna Dixon, John Larroquette, Penny Marshall, Mary Kay Place, Marilu Henner and Scott Baio.

Lembeck taught them the virtue of improv comedy, which was fairly new when he started teaching it in the 1960s.

"You can't teach an actor to be funny," Lembeck says in an old quote posted on the site.

"If the humour is innately there, we will give him the tools and nourish his own abilities to grow."

Von Zipper stole Beach Party movies [Toronto Star]
Harvey Lembeck [IMDB]
Beach Party [IMDB]
Beach Party [Amazon]

Posted by Fuzzy at 4:58 PM

July 7, 2004

Alex Borstein interview

Alex BorsteinBack Stage West interviews Alex Borstein, formerly of MADtv: Improvised Madness

While I was working in advertising, my brother Adam said, "Hey, let's go take an improv class together at ACME Comedy Theatre here in Los Angeles on La Brea." We did. I ended up loving it, auditioned for the troupe, got in, and started doing improv and sketch with them for a year and a half. Then I got five of us together to go to a comedy festival in Austin, where we all got auditions for MADtv. It's hilarious because the people who cast the show are about a mile and a half from the ACME Theatre, and we had to go to fucking Texas to get an audition.

Posted by Fuzzy at 4:07 PM

June 7, 2004

Colin Mochrie profile

Colin MochrieColin Mochrie is profiled by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix: Comic flexes improv skills.

Posted by Fuzzy at 5:36 PM

May 13, 2004

Shrek stars stop by Second City for improv set

Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz sat in the Monday improv set with Second City's TourCo. Tribune article (free registration required).

Posted by Fuzzy at 5:06 PM

October 29, 2002

TJ Jagodowski profile

Chicago improvisor TJ Jagodowski was profiled in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times.

Posted by Fuzzy at 9:36 AM