Friday, 26 October 2018

Reflection: North Coast Freestyle Rapping (Hip Hop) weekend

I used to freestyle rap for improv. However, at one point many years ago, I said to a casting director in a random audition that I could freestyle rap and I realised that I probably shouldn’t promote that - I do improv, not actual comparable rapping. It was a fun moment to have been in. I backtracked so hard after hearing me say that. In any case, since that moment, I do not think that I have done much rapping or musical improv. This is odd, as I love musical improv; I love doing it, I enjoy seeing it, and I am thrilled when getting others into it. In 2011, a fairly new pal played Beastie Boys rap with me and others in a class or rehearsal for a production that I was creating, and fell head over heels in love. It was a glorious moment. One aspect that I should mention in passing, as it would most likely become a question, is why stop what you love? The simple answer is I have hang-ups on musical improv in general. I need to address what can be seen in the global realm of it by how I present what I would prefer to see onstage. We all, and our audiences, have preferences; I shall address mine over time by doing everything that I can. The reason to state this more so, is due to what that does when you do perform or practice some musical improv, or freestyle rapping. E.g. like a pole up the b-hind. I saw North Coast’s advert for three amazing sounding courses years ago - apparently that could have been three years ago. These were freestyle rapping, beatboxing and looping. In Bristol, I played with beatboxers, sometimes they were looping, and we could rap or sing with the music being created. My interest in these, and sound production, is certainly in existence. I love improv: the live nature of the art creation. It does not matter whether it is Beardyman and him creating music in the moment, or Reggie Watts and his quirky musical mischief, to your short-form type of freestyle rap with Abandoman or MC Hammersmith. To add further clarity, I don’t listen to rap, it literally is the freestyle aspect that I enjoy. So, I wrangled my way into the hip hop weekend with North Coast this year. I was lucky that the person that dropped out had not taken a course before, as I think a gentle route through a weekend of freestyling was enough. What I realised from that course is there are three types of ways to get to a rhyme. As I have said, I teach musical improv and have taught rhyming, so the revelation here was the extra way to it. I have always preferred one over the other too. The revelation was not in the course or from the class, but the day after as I keep doing exercises from the two-day lesson. On numerous occasions I did not succeed. I felt good when I just did what I do, but there is no point in being content with that. I thought that maybe I should step up with personal challenges of stuff I used to be able do, but it was not necessary. I had failed before this thought many times too, but it was an idea of seeing what was in me or not. The reason I didn’t is why the revelation was possible. There was one exercise that I struggled to get into, for reasons I assume that I know and knew (the assumption is that I am correct). The wonderful teacher fixed that, but I still landed in judgement and nonsense - the latter word being a judgement, so it has not gone… my proposition for this blog is presenting practices of three (or so) exercises from the weekend (and as I recall them). Some of them that I shall post of me will be me failing, which shall come with the context of this blog. The three types of ways to get to a rhyme are:

1. Here is the exercise: Click
The Quick Get The quick get is what I teach, but never really used or realised what I meant or how to use it. This is the revelatory one, but it really should not have been. The use of this in the North Coast exercise Pull Up is a good idea. The blank slate that I enjoy being is less useful when the rhymes come fairly swiftly in a set rhythmic flow. Therefore, I messed up a lot and ended in judgement, whether I completed the segment or not. The quick get is simply choosing the rhyming word straight after you hit the end of the line / word you will rhyme with. Some people may perceive this as the main way to free-flow, but it is not.

2. Set up, lilypadding or rollerdexing

The way that frustrates me is ‘rollerdexing’ being taught too soon. North Coast call it ‘lillypadding’. It is not something I enjoy doing a lot, which should be obvious from an above comment. This is about literally setting up the rhyme, so you need to plan out the rhyming word that comes first and then use that spectacular topic word to amaze your au

It is possible to do this in the previous game, but I shall use North Coast’s game ‘I Like Butts’: Click

3. Let it drop in

What I really enjoy and promote is allowing yourself to let the words drop in and playing with the flow. Less planning, but you have moments of quick gets that are natural and the even better moments of surprisingly wonderful rhymes that you would have never thought of. 

I demonstrate this with North Coast’s exercise on finding your flow with a topic of love or hate: Click

Monday, 22 October 2018

5 ways to instantly have an engaging improv show without performing ‘better’

How many times have you read that you are not good enough as an improviser? There are countless top tips that will make you the best of the best at performing improv comedy. However, do they work and make you better? It is unlikely that a few words will change why you perform. It is not how you perform that needs addressing (most of the time), as you've sat through all those workshops; you've probably gone to tons of international teachers too.
Their value comes when teaching that other way that you haven't done yet… or digging deeper into that field of improv, which you currently desire greatly. Subsequently, this post is not about those still developing into their interest in a specific realm of improv comedy. Although, you are enough too: This is true even when developing, as you're enough to do what form you know (in the way you know it). In any case, there is more to your improv than you.
The top tips of today are about what can be done without addressing your acumen at acting funnily, or performing in general.

  1. Use theatrical lighting

The comedic theatre, or dramatic for some, that you present is a kind of theatre that people watch. Therefore, to make it engaging and the best tip of these, use lighting effectively. A simple white wash state across the stage is not a dynamic and interesting image to look at. The technician of the theatre is talented and can be spontaneous. If you let them play with you and create the atmosphere of the scene through striking visuals, then your production will immediately become brilliant.
If you wish to work out why this is true, find that reoccurring blog bit that asks you to state whether the group photo is a ska band promotional photo or an improv group. Nonetheless, the real topic is not on promotional photos (even though the use of them are advocated too). Have a look at what photos are thrilling to see of general scripted theatre and compare then to captured improvised theatre. The expectation is that improvised theatre misses what those glorious lamps create for the audience. It is a generalisation that does not fit every improv comedy production that has ever been made, but the point being made is what is being endorsed.   

  1. Have musicians

It is obvious that if adding great imagery to your work is useful, then putting in sound too would be wise. Using multiple musicians for a strong, textured, sound adds quality to the production by bringing about an atmosphere. The American history or modern improv comedy used pianists to add to their sets, which worked well. In the modern world, some use electronic music. Either way, the additional sound supports the improvised scenes. For example, a horror film without the music and sounds behind the action would not be scary at all. Onstage, a strong silence is stronger when there has been sound. The musician can set so much about the scene, including scenic details as well as the ambiance.
The contradiction to this is that it must fit the production being offered. This only means using the right musicians. The other issue is that musicians aren't always available and costly. There was one production that used a odd instrument as the sole music to the production and the guy ran off with most of the profit of the run… and didn't really do a lot. Unfortunate, but the point to take is to use the right instruments and reputable musicians. In that production, it was a random find that was gambled on. Create the work, don't let it create you: as the fools’ world suggests.

  1. Use appropriate staging and sets

When you enter a theatre, what do you see? The auditorium might be gorgeous and stimulating the brain. However, if you're not in an old or fancily designed space, then you will need to alter what else your audience sees. They look at the stage. What does that tell them that is relevant to your production? You could have a full-scale set, if that's the design of the show, or something more simple… and the word keeps appearing… an atmosphere. There is no reason to not add something for your audience to get intrigued by to start with. They came to see your production, you might as well congratulate them on doing so by giving them a night to remember.

  1. Have an audience that came for what you are presenting (less ambiguity)

Do you know what production you're performing? Will the audience, which may love that production, be aware what it is? It seems simple to say, but how frequently do improv comedy companies set the audience in the right frame for their events? The answer, even for someone who is well aware of such, is not often and rarely. This is also on the thought to create your work, the ‘why perform’.
Many people rely on that marketable gimmick that alludes to what they are performing to sell their tickets. It works, obviously. A sustainable production on the back of a well understood genre, famed cultural classic or person will enable the new spectator to improv to instantly feel acquainted. However, there are a lot of them that exist, and they are not all the same. How do production companies frame their version of Hamlet? Audiences mostly know what the play is, but if you are setting it in 1930s with WW2 - I am certain (not only due to recently hearing about something similar) that they want to know. The purist Shakespeare fans will not want to come to be disappointed. This is the same for improv purists with what you may be doing with your productions.
Therefore, sell your production and not just the gimmick. Furthermore, do this so as to get your audience that you deserve and who would love to see your production. Know what you are selling and tell people what it is and not a vague overview of what a Harold is. Of course, everyone has done it and probably will slip into doing so still; however, let’s try to be clear.

  1. Stop clenching the buttocks about achieving the form

Once you have sold the production, you must perform it… however, there is little to nothing worse that a bunch improvisers trying to do their production. The form is just the ‘house you shit in’ (as per Messing; the year I first heard her say this is forgotten, otherwise I would state it here). Hence, the need to not be overly concerned with it. Leave the process of building and guiding your production to your director, or coach (the person in the audience, hopefully) watching you. On numerous occasions, there have been shows that did not meet the performer’s desires - this gets in your way: it is a greater problem when you are performing and the director and/or producer and have so much hope and aspiration for the production.
So, remember that you are onstage to improvise: improvise first and let the form exist based on rehearsal and not mental capacity to recall what you ‘should’ be doing. No one wants to see you ‘should on yourself’ (Razowsky; I am sure I first heard this from him before meeting in person).

The obvious problem with all of these tips is that you may not have the facilities or resources to do them. On the other hand, you can manage something. A small stage can still be lit well. A empty room above a pub can have an audience knowing what they have come to see. Fundamentally, it has to fit your event. If these don't work due to your audience type, your production, then the reality is that all the above are being used the way your production requires. Engage in your art and theatre with your audience, in the way you design it. Lastly, remember that not all of your improv can be improvised.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Culture of the city

There is improv comedy and theatre in many towns and cities across the United Kingdom. The few that shall be included in this discussion are ones that have a personal connection. We can question how much the culture of the city affects the art, the theatre and how we improvise. The ever-growing community in these local areas bring themselves, there background and their surroundings. There shall be four towns or cities that shall be investigated.

In Canterbury, Kent, improv comedy began many years ago. It has had a lot of comedy and improv, specifically, historically. Noise Next Door, who tour the UK stand-up comedy venues performing hilarious improv, started their careers in Canterbury. There has been improv in schools in Kent due to the work of such people as Lucy Fennell. Similarly, there has been some in the universities too. 

Students still have improv comedy. Nowadays, it is solely focused on doing improv. The growth in the group has developed splendidly. Not only do they perform, or have done, long-form (30 minute non-linear, thematic productions or improvised plays), but they have been a member of Theatresports (iTi; short-form competitive full-scale evening of a myriad of emotional theatre that is very funny). 

What is the impact on the theatre created from the culture of Canterbury? It would be thought that what people must want from their art is improvised Chaucer or other literary-based creation. However, with a student population in the improv community, there are younger politics involved, as well as their sensibilities. Nonetheless, that relatability and human nature is still at the core of the comedy in Canterbury. From the funny of love to the hysterics behind rivalry in the office, Kent seems to offer a wide variety of laughter.  

The local community can once more engage in improv comedy with the Canterbury Improv classes. There are weekly drop-in classes and weekend intensive courses. 

In Basingstoke, Hampshire, the arts world is quite small, and yet the improv comedy community is growing. There are two theatres that are now one organisation, and one company that have their own arts venue near the top of town. Nonetheless, this does not affect the desire for comedy in Basingstoke. 

Hampshire, in general, has had some fantastic improv. In Havant, near Portsmouth, there was a theatre company that ran improv productions and classes. Unfortunately, they have stopped now. The wonderful and aforementioned lady, now working in Southampton, has been teaching improv in a school that has performed recently. Also in Southampton, the students there run comedy events that include improv. So Hampshire seems fertile for more improv. 

Basingstoke is a commuter town, so it can be believed. There is a lot of business and computer-related occupations, and holistic therapy too. The impact of this on the comedy and theatre created seems to be fairly minimal. It could be the teaching that has been provided, but there is silliness, with physical comedy, and once more a human connectedness to what drives people to laugh. 

The local community in Hampshire can take advantage of the Basingstoke Improv weekend intensive classes that occur. Likewise, the improv comedy nights that happen may continue, so you can see performances and chuckle thoroughly.  

In Cardiff, Wales, the history of improv has a fair amount of lineage. Rob Brydon, for example, although he should be mentioned in the next city - due to it being group in Bath. There have been a number of groups in the past, anyway. Cardiff loves its comedy. There is a strong focus on stand-up comedy, with some sketch. 

There is not a lot of improv comedy in Wales, overall, but the reoccurrence of it says a lot. Wales lusts for more. It is a great principality for wonderful theatre. Amazing circus, clown and musical productions. Specifically in Cardiff, this description still works, as it has NoFit State circus and Hijinx Theatre - and many more. 

Cardiff loves its weekends and rugby. The impact on improv is more likely, however, to come from the theatre practices. The prospective faster-pace of stand-up seems to drive those that dabble to short-form games - not that long-form cannot be fast (it can be faster, more often). 

The wider community, and the local, can benefit from the Cardiff Impro weekend classes that are run in the capital city of Wales: Cardiff. The potential for monthly improv comedy nights with a variety of productions is available. Hopefully, Chapter Arts centre shall host these when all the puzzle pieces are aligned. 

Lastly, Bristol has a vast amount of improv comedy and theatre now. This is many thanks to the graduates of the university there. Specifically, it is thanks to one man: Andy Yeoh. He is a remarkable guy and has formed the foundations of the community there so that the growth can be exponential. Every few years, the boom happens and there are more possibilities. There has been improv there for many years, not just from the university, as there are theatre companies that do improvise and nearby, in Bath, there was the group with Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones. That was lead by Paul Z Jackson (from the Applied Improvisation Network, these days).

Bristol has a lot of arts. The glorious dancers, circus, clown, fools, magicians, musicians... The weekly events that no one can keep up with is why Bristol is an amazing city to live in. The impact on the improv there must be true. Nonetheless, the funny does come from the human qualities; whether they are presented through a more clown perspective or emotional theatricality, they are accessible. 

The local community have the weekend intensive classes to support their development and drive the improv comedy and theatre scene into a wider range of production styles. We seek to connect, we wish to play. 

Let’s find the funny together!


Thursday, 21 September 2017

University Improv Comedy Society Manual book on Amazon

Books! Books! Books!

From the first to the second, not yet the third... My first book published can be found on Amazon. My second is about to begin its process from mind to paper. As it must be clear enough, I have an interest in autism. The next book will be about the autism spectrum conditions. After completing a master's degree on autism, I am most certainly eager to write more! I am looking forward to beginning the writing for it. I have a publisher in mind for this one. I will keep focused on completing a high-quality book, then submit my next masterpiece.

The first book, University Improv Comedy Society Manual, had a long process of looking at my teaching discoveries and then adapting it to suit universities or colleges. As the blurb states, the curriculum works for the limited time that students have each year. It helps guide students through the needs of scenic improv comedy art forms and give them the necessary chance to continue the society further on. Once complete, the students will be highly talented in the general improv comedy world.
So much joy can happen in society groups. The experience can really help in life and academia, as Alex Newson writes about in the book. I thoroughly enjoy his solo show that popped into existence during my year with that society. There are a lot of funny times and crazy wonderful moments that can occur in improv, in hanging out together and touring around to gigs; I advocate it a lot, so get the book and begin your improv comedy society!

This one time, at improv comedy soc, I found a new way into a trance state using the students' focus. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Master and Veterans

It is nice to be inspired to write an article. It is equally as nice to note the hypocrisy of the articles. In this, the topic shall be what has been written against previously. There are terms in improv that are not productive; common agreed terms that are not useful are 'should' or 'supposed to', because they put pressure and impossible for improv has definites: Obviously nothing has to happen, it is improvised. Nonetheless, the terms that this discusses and have a long-lastingly dislike for are master and veteran. The following will discuss, in a less referenced level than usual, the reasons that link to the previously used words.

Words! In improvisation, the training provides a freedom; it gives opportunity to explore yourself and your language (specifically in context of this article). The words that get uttered are the greatest, even if they are not. Improvisers build on whatever is said and done. After improving from the basics, further courses could well expand this into wider awareness of tone, phrasing and physical speech (any communication that is physical). Essentially, as improvisers that are building more experience and trust in ourselves and each other, people then get to own their words. Therefore, the word improv means something exact. In the Oxford English Dictionary (, 2015), the definition of improvise is clear, “Create and perform … spontaneously or without preparation.” However, it also states for improvisation (ibid.), “The action of improvising”. The more appropriate of these definitions that works for the people in the art form is the one for 'improvising'. Due to one needing to refer to the other, as defined by O.E.D it is required that improvisation is in action of something in order to improvise. Therefore, that 'something' can be any action, anything. The word improvisation is a noun, a thing, and the definition relates purely to the action. Therefore, it is fair to suggest that improv is not a thing, but a doing of a thing. Another commonly agreed part of defining improv is by observing that it is all in process. All of humanity, and others, are in process: Our lives are improvised and are a process of birth to death (if not birth to death, then a to b). Improv is not just doing scenes or group games, or any other limited perception. To see further than this we can look at Forced Entertainment, Improbable, Fluxx, Geese Theatre Company and no doubt more.

Improv is an action and not the form. A form is seen to be, “The visible shape or configuration of something.” (, 2015) Therefore, the form of improvisation can be scenic, dance, music, art, clown, fool, mask; however, then that is looking more into the subgenre of ‘scenic’, which is fact a subgenre of theatre. It is possible to improvise anything. Even scriptwriting is based in improvisation. A writer could have learnt and use as much structure as the person requires, but in the end the idea has to spontaneously come from somewhere. Once more, that seems a little too pedantic to continue this dissection with. Other verbs have form. For example, walk; when we walk we can walk in various shapes and configurations; it is possible to be in the form of a catwalk. This form has various conventions that can require the way you complete your verb, walking, can be restricted. Similarly, another verb is run; in this action we can run in the form of 100 metres or a cross country race. This is the exact same as improvising, as the forms we can use are numerous.
A master of an activity, skill or area of study has its acknowledged definitions and uses. The common understanding of a master is a person that has the most knowledge on the topic in the room. Therefore, every time one steps into a space, a survey would need to be taken to determine who the master is in that moment. The statement is hyperbolic; however it makes a sensible comment on the use of the term. In accordance to this, it is not wise to call oneself a master, because one cannot know that for sure. On the other hand, The Oxford English Dictionary ( states the definition as “a skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity.” This offers a looser use of the term; anyone could be a master in one given location. Nonetheless, for various areas of expertise a master may not well be very skilled. When does one know that they are skilled? It is subjective, as one person's mastered skillset is another's student development.

To use these ideas in more of a context, improv being a process and not a thing means that being skilled at doing so is not possible. Can one master life? Life is also a process. To claim that an improviser has mastered the art form would be stating that they stopped improvising, alike stopped living; no one can currently know if the dead died due to their mastership. Improv is built on risk and change, or purely the 'not knowing'. Phelim McDermott (McDermott, 2008) once said, and this is paraphrased, that if improvisers stop taking the risk and do what they generally do, then they should stop improvising. There is no point in performing the art form if you are no longer learning and discovering because it is visible to the audience. Therefore, not being able to use the term master for improv, as it is subjective anyway, could allow people to rephrase the word's use. An improviser who is skilled at what they do could say that they are a master of what they do. This makes more sense. However, if improvisers master themselves, then we generally call this using their defaults. Using one's defaults is not seen as a positive.

Likewise, to look at the term veteran, The Oxford Dictionary ( states, “A person who has had long experience in a particular field” and it must be mentioned that the other definition is the major connotation that was known. To be “An ex-member of the armed forces” seemed like stating that improv is a battle field. Improv is not the art form where we serve our country. It is important to own this ridiculousness. On the otherhand, an improviser who has had a long experience onstage improvising could be anyone. Once more, this term holds a lot of subjectivity. How long is a long experience? There is no answer. Even moreso, someone new to the art form can have more and better insight into the art form than a 'veteran'. Purely out of not knowing the teachings, the person can see clearer as they have nothing to obscure their view. Fundamentally, to use the term on oneself seems like ego. People have them, for sure, but it is not useful.

Hierarchy in improv seems pointless. Anyone can make a comment that holds value, which happens; therefore being a master or veteran is overvalued. Inside the structure that improv generally has around the world, teachers need to offer their students confidence. Along with being a teacher, ego would enter as segment of their trusting atmosphere. Contrastingly, training can hinder and ruin the untainted person when they enter improv. It is possible to look around and see untrained improvisers doing the job. In Bristol there has been various untrained improvisers that have gotten onstage and had an easier or more relaxed time than people that trained and still struggle.

In conclusion, the terms are unproductive. Improvisation is a process and being a master of it would merely determine that person as having stopped improvising. One can only master one's own improvisation and then be a default and predictable, offering the same as usual; this is called devising, therefore. Similarly, being a veteran is subjective. An improviser who needs to be a veteran wants their ego to inflate. Improvisation requires us to be equal, as anyone can give insight anyway.


McDermott, P. (2008). Cooking Chaos., (2015). improvisation - definition of improvisation in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jul. 2015]., (2015). improvise - definition of improvise in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jul. 2015]., (2015). master - definition of master in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015]., (2015). veteran - definition of veteran in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015]., (2015). form - definition of form in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Oct. 2015].

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

So Razowsky: Live Life in the Present

To continue the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. After some immense moments with the man, it has led to a lot of great results. Unlike the previous semi-season of articles, this completes this half of the series with aspects that are congruent with his thoughts. In this article the topic is about living life in the present.
Ambition drives people, but it controls people too. The drive is useful, but it is painful when you end up battling reality with desire. The persistent desire can blind the real, the present situation. As the moral of a Buddhist tale states fools get trapped by their desires. (, 2014)
What is happening is no doubt great. This offers a focus on the present moment. If it is possible to accept the opportunities that surround us, it is viable that the sense of happiness is present. Furthermore, reaching the space where living in gratitude happens it will stop misery from the 'future'. Live in the present, in the now, and be grateful for what is. Razowsky states, on his podcast (Razowsky, 2014), to replace ambition with gratefulness (Victor, 2012). Pick the Brain's editor in chief discusses how seeking more implies that the current is not good enough, there is unhappiness. Also looking to the future, to the ambition is deeming now as unsatisfactory. (Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement, 2007)
In a similar way, Razowsky, (ibid.) says how he felt he would be happy if, at any moment, the job ended. For example, for Razowsky, on 'Main stage' at Second City with Steve Carrell and other such well known names, if it had just stopped he would have been happy. This comes from the happiness in the fact that it happened in the first place; it is not about it having ended. As with all process-based approaches, it is a practice. Everyone fails at some point. Like the aforementioned mental adjustment to that special something stopping, failure is an opportunity to remind ourselves why do it in the first place.
A positive approach to life will be more useful than a cynical perspective. A car could die in the middle of a long journey. However, it got the person that far; what adventure, new experience, will it lead to and become useful or important for later? Steve Jobs states that after dropping out of college, the skills he decided to learn are now our norm in computing. Jobs took classes in calligraphy and without that our fonts would not be anything like they are now. (, (2014)
The origins of the phrase 'every cloud has a silver lining' comes from John Milton in 1634 (Martin, 2014) in the book Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle; the term silver lining is used to offer the better side, the silver side of the moment. In 1840 the proverbial form arrived, which ever since has been a reminder of the positive side of a situation. In improv, seeking the new perspective is taught. In Charna Halpern, Kim “Howard” Johnson and Del Close's book Truth in Comedy they write about perspective with an analogy: "'You've got chocolate in my peanut butter!' The other replies, 'You've got peanut butter on my chocolate!'" (Halpern, Close and Johnson, 1994, p.3) What this gives insight into is seeing anything fom a different view. Everybody has a different look on the same thing, in improv we take advantage of that by putting it onstage. Not only that but being positive and supportive is taught too, hence the reason why the practice of a positive life is more apt. Everything has a purpose, maybe not in the moment or perhaps not directly relating to another era in life, but, as with improv, it builds to a total result, with all aspects accounted for.
Being in the present enables better insight into the moment; internal reactions; people's behaviour; the state of actions in the surroundings. It is these qualities that can start the long process and practice in self-realisation. To realise the reason for an anger impulse will calm it down quickly. Nonetheless, we can be present with the emotion; knowingly live with it or willingly release it. Razowsky uses the phrase, “lose what no longer serves you”. (Razowsky, 2014) A negative emotional state does not do any use, so lose it. It is understandable to be locked into an emotion, but once it is realised it can be dropped. A challenge is to be angry when the reason behind it is fully understood. Along with not externalising issues, obviously, then the emotion will deplete itself. This is what Steve Wells and David Lake (2010) call the dark side. Wells and Lake suggest that people wish to want the problem to exist. (p.144) It seems true that people avoid acknowledging and cannot connect with themselves, which hinders all realisation potential. Razowsky (2014) lets people have there emotion as it is not to do with him, even if it is at him.
Many people get stuck with themselves and are unable to release their capacity to achieve. Everyone has many reasons they tell themselves. A favourite saying Razowsky has from what he says is 'if you says so.' If the individual stops telling themselves these statements, which they hold on to, they will be what they say they want. This is one way procrastination happens. Craig Ballantyne says that people tell themselves these lies that they cannot do this or that. (Ballantyne, 2012) It is a stopping factor; it will stop someone from changing that thing that they want to. Many factors come into the problem, like Ballantyne suggests, such as social re-inforcement and societal pressure. However, we can look at the circumstances of various statements that are made: For example, 'I cannot stop eating chocolate biscuits.' The response to this is 'If you say so.' All these statements derive from the place of avoiding a task, i.e. cannot or can't, and labelling ourselves in judgement, e.g. I am too clumsy. The facts behind these statements are historical and not present. People that wish to change can. Holding onto the past means you are not present with what is. The phrase, 'if you say so' can free people from their lie. Ballantyne (ibid.) states the biggest lie we tell ourselves is we can't do something: we can.
Likewise, Razowsky also says to lose the why and the how of doing a task. Lois Holzman (2014) explains that we are trained to seek the causality of all situations and moments. Holzman describes the cause-effect thinking that most, even in psychology, hold to be useful. This is furthered by the example of how a therapist could open the possibilities of non-causality response by suggesting that the reason for the effect is seeking the cause or the resolution to the effect. The example (ibid.) is the patient is depressed and stayed in bed; Holzman suggests that the therapist states the potential that the reason the depression arose is due to seeking the cause and resolving it with staying in bed. Clearly in the article, Holzman is querying the use of asking why. Another perspective can also be to query why to do this or how to do that will merely be a procrastination to the actualisation of the event. Jenny Maryasis (2002) wrote, “procrastination thrives on a cycle of blame shifting and avoidance.” When people ask why to do a task, they miss the opportunity to find out. Although in generalisation the question is to avoid or judge the activity. A constant shuffling around the next step in the path that is available will only lead to it staying still. Improvisation teaches us to move forwards. If an improvisers hides in judgement or is asking why improvise the scene or how to improvise the scene, that scene will not happen. An improviser lives in the present; they live with what is present; they treat everything as gold, including the people around them.
So the important lessons from what Razowsky has found and speaks about, and linking to improv, is to replace ambition with gratefulness. The happiness this brings shall improve the quality of life, like not holding onto negative emotions; release the anger by realising why that exists. Similarly, procrastination comes in forms of judgement such as asking why to do an activity or how to do it. When it ends, it ends; remember that it at least happened.

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Monday, 17 November 2014

So Razowsky: Economic Words

This continues the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. Having spent some immense moments with the man, it has led to a lot of wonderful results. However, unlike the previous articles, this one shall be aspects that tie tightly with his thoughts. On the podcast, “ADD Comedy with David Razowsky and Ian Foley,” (Razowsky, 2014) the topic of words comes up. In previous writings this has been discussed, although not precisely on the economy of words. Razowsky believes that words are powerful and has various thinkings about the area of discussion that shall be explored. Economic words are an enabler for people.
The exaggerated end, and a bit that appeared in conversation on the podcast, of being economic with words is the concept that people die after x amount of words. The idea is that anyone that talks aimlessly or pointlessly will be taking up their life quota of words. Razowsky speaks about how someone driving around chatting a lot may just suddenly die mid-sentence. The overall message that this can offer is summed up by Steve Job's (, 2014), “Your time is limited, so don't waste it... .” Words will stop at some point, maybe not the mystical cause of the definite end, but it shall all stop. Treating words like they matter is important; be concise with your words.
Every word matters. To begin with writers, Melissa Donovan states, “Finding the right word can breathe life into an otherwise lifeless sentence. When we choose words carefully, our writing is clearer and more meaningful.” (Donovan, 2014) Training ourselves to become clearer and more meaningful is a productive task. In comedy, someone once said to put the funny word on the end of the sentence. Obviously that would make sense, as the laugh in the middle will stop the sentence. Even with a statement that is deemed funny; the laugh needs a spark, an end term or conclusive moment to instigate it. Annie Binns (2008) describes it as “...applying the funny word, phrase or sentence at the last possible moment.” Seeking out the best wording is a practice and can be beneficial to general communication.
The term eloquent exists for a reason. From the late fourteenth century Old French eloquent and Latin eloquentem (, 2014), which means to have the faculty of speech. The act to truly be heard, understood and cause purpose comes from having the capacity to speak. Therefore, being mindful of what is being said will ensure the words found are the best suited to the purpose of what is being communicated.
“Be careful what you say and protect your life. A careless talker destroys himself.” (, 2014)
Following on, the proverb given in the Good News Bible offers a further development on the mindful ideal. Words matter and can hurt. The consequence of what you say shall last in memories. Our memories do not help this either. As Kantor created plays about, memories are forever dying (Kantor, 1990). Northwestern medicine proves this:
“Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. Thus, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time.” (Paul, 2012)
As our brains betray us and transform our memories, as Ian Chant (2012) mentions, we will deepen the origin feeling about what someone has said or may have said. A good reason to communicate clearly.
Stopping a sentence mid-sentence can also embody the whole sentence. As long as the half sentence holds the complete meaning... Another thought Razowsky (2014) played a bit about was being able to stop mid-sentence and still be understood. Completing the communication of the sentence being spoken without finishing the sentence can be possible. It is clearly doubtful in writing; however it is a reduced array of tools used in this medium. Through using the listener against themselves, it is viable to make the person assume the rest of the sentence. In embodying the whole meaning in half the sentence the speaker is creating their point with the minimal effort. This does happen in reality, but it goes unnoticed due to being in friendships or with people that know each other well. Something unsaid could be communicated that can also happen in these circumstances. However, when speaking we desire clarity.
Say what is meant. Clearly it is important to be mindful of what is being said and be clear. Subtlety is prone to obvious interpretation. All language is, but when someone is only hinting at the meaning, the problems arise. As improvisers such use of subtleties will ensure the scene partner more work. Improvisation is not work, it is play. Therefore, the contradictions prevail the point that improvisation requests clear meanings. Say what you mean and the other improviser shall be in a better position to react and respond. Often improvisers 'waffle'. It is a tedious trait that is sometimes taught due to the need to get a lot of detail out at the top of the scene. Spolin's theories on using the 'who, 'what' and 'where' are a useful training tool that will capacitate the scene. A frequent error in teaching is that these are spoken. Physicality beats words. As Jeff Thompson (2011) breaks the old percentages of communication down to the reality; Thompson recapitulation states seven percent of certain situations are the words themselves. Fifty-five percent is body language, which means the details of an improvisers scene are best from non-verbal creation. It also does not bore the audience with 'waffle' at the top of a scene. Johnstone's theory of 'nothing, nothing, something' (Johnstone, 2009) asks the actors to do nothing until that something organically arises. Furthermore, the statement, “...I mean...” is another attribute that improvisers can be prone to develop. Similarly to the 'waffle' issue, this one has been available to read about and hear on podcasts and similar; however, only recently has it been able to witnessed locally. The need to use the phrase “...I mean...” means that the improviser is not endeavouring to be clear. Improvisers definitely wish to portray people onstage, but in everyday life it is not possible to hear it as much as onstage. The potential reason to why this has arrived is the judgement or expectation that is linked to playing in a more complicated manner. Certain methods may put performers into thinking and due to that, they talk without being mindful of what they are saying. Beat the issues by purely saying what you mean.
To be mindful of what we say is important onstage. Talking too much maybe leads to death. If we do have x numbers of words before that moment, then we better be careful; live and play like that is true and real and the words will always be clearer. In doing so we find that the words matter more and we don't just say something for the sake of saying something. Perhaps even getting to a point where we can stop mid-sentence and have a complete … So mean what you say.
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