Favorite Moments Behind the Scenes: Part 3

Lauren McPherson gives us a peek behind the scenes with some of her favorite moments from rehearsals. This is part two in a three part series.

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I recently wrote two posts about my favorite moments as a member of Comic Science Improv. Since I cannot narrow things down or be brief, I wrote a third as well. Following the pattern of the first two, this is also a behind-the-scenes memory.

Moment Number Three: “You remind me of the babe.”

Some of the most fun we have at rehearsals is when working the kinks out of new games. We generally like to run a new game several times or several different ways to get a feel for it, decide if it would work in front of an audience, etc. In this particular rehearsal, very early on in Comic Science history, we were working on a game which has since become a staple at our shows: “That’s Not How It Goes.” In said game, two actors are given a movie which they have both seen. A climactic point in the movie is named, and then it is decided what happens instead of the climactic point. We see where the change occurs, then fast forward to the end to see how it changed the movie.

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In this instance I was paired with Jason Sims, a master of comedy. We were given the movie “Labyrinth.” (If you, Reader, have not seen “Labyrinth,” look it up and watch it. I will wait. Back? Good.) The turning point in the movie named was “When the goblins come to take away the baby.” The turning point was changed to “When the goblins come to give the baby a lecture.” The game began and I started with a twist on an early line in the movie: “I wish the goblins WOULD come to give you a lecture.” Then Jason stepped forward and, in a rather good David Bowie impression, began, “You remind me of the babe. The babe to whom I’m going to give a lecture,” and continued after a pause, “Baby, you’re lazy.” He went on about how the baby needed to get a job and move out until we were stopped and told to skip to the end of the movie. Jason seamlessly went into a courtroom scene: “And so, Your Honor, you can see why I [the Goblin King] should have custody of the child.” The bell rings, the scene is over, and I am on the floor laughing. “Baby, you’re lazy,” has become an inside joke between a lot of us.

Really, this and the last two articles are only a few of my favorite Comic Science Improv moments. I wish I could list every one of them, but then you would be reading this post for hours. Days. Months, even. I won’t subject you to that. You’re welcome. Just do us a favor in return, please? Come see a show. As much fun as we have in rehearsals, it’s just that much better when all the fun we have pays off in the form of making other people laugh.

–Lauren McPherson

Favorite Moments Behind the Scenes: Part 2

Lauren McPherson gives us a peek behind the scenes with some of her favorite moments from rehearsals. This is part two in a three part series.

Lauren and Jeph

I was recently tasked with writing about my favorite moments as a member of Comic Science Improv. However, I could not pick just a few of the moments that happen onstage; I had to let you all know what awesome things happen behind the scenes. Last week I wrote about an extremely funny moment during which I laughed like a hyena while performing a scene. This one is less funny, but no less wonderful.

So without further ado, Moment Number Two: Commander Biff World-Building

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As many of our audience members know, Comic Science recently put on a full-length completely improvised play, “Commander Biff and the Glaxicon Encounter.” We had thought up characters and a genre (sci-fi) first, but other than that the play was different every time. After we established a genre and the main characters we ran practice episodes of Biff. Through the practice episodes we built a whole universe, from the fact that while most people use space calls to communicate across the universe, Glaxicons prefer to write on space ravens that function as messenger pigeons, to the different modes of transportation: the Universal Space Navy uses spaceships, Glaxicons use space bubbles (which are much faster than ships and might actually be a kind of portal technology), and the President of the Universe has her own personal Presidential Teleport.

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Building up to the main event, the premiere of Commander Biff, my husband Caleb (CoSci’s behind-the-scenes video, lights and sound guru) and I were helping with props and stage decor. We spray-painted a Nerf gun metallic silver for Commander Biff himself to carry onstage and then, while putting embellishments on the gun, Caleb came up with an ingenious, perfect, touch. He dipped his paintbrush in blue paint, then drew a wobbly smiley face on one side of the gun and a wobbly frowney face on the other side. I laughed and asked how he came up with that, and his response was, “What ELSE would Commander Biff have on his gun?” I realized that we had come up with such complete characters that we all, even those of us offstage, knew them and what they would and would not do. That was the moment I knew that Comic Science had done something both big and seriously cool.

As much fun as we have doing these big and seriously cool things in rehearsal, it really wouldn’t make sense to rehearse them for no reason, and the reason, dear Reader, is you: You, the person who might come to our shows to enjoy the fun and funny things we do. If you have not come to one of our shows, I urge you to, and if you have, I urge you to come again. If you can’t make it to one of our shows, hire us to entertain you at your event. After all, what fun will we have without you?

–Lauren McPherson

Favorite Moments Behind the Scenes: Part 1

Lauren McPherson gives us a peek behind the scenes with some of her favorite moments from rehearsals. This three part series will be presented here over the next month.

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When I was asked to write a post about my favorite Comic Science moments, I thought about any number of funny things that happen onstage, during shows.

Then I realized: many of my favorite moments are the ones the audience never gets to see. Poor audience! I thought. They need to learn what it is to be a member of an improv troupe. And so your education begins, Audience and Readers-who-are-Potential-Audience. I am here to tell you what you are missing. The laugh-out-loud and occasionally amazingly profound (or at least hyperbolically profound) moments that make CoSci, especially during rehearsals, one of the best parts of my life. Since my favorite moments are many, and somewhat long, I have broken them into three parts, which hopefully will run in order.

This week, Moment Number One: Skeeny Snaeke

This moment is the most recent on my list, and the most fresh in my mind. We were playing a practice game wherein one person is handed an item, any item, and has to use it in the scene that plays out. I was partnered with Beth Ridgeway, who was handed a three-foot long green rope with frayed ends. Immediately, Beth draped the rope over her shoulders, holding one end in each hand, and began in an (extremely good!) Eastern European accent, “Dis my skeeny snaeke. ‘E say you too chubbeh.”

Thus began one of the most nightmarish scenes I have ever been in. Nightmarish not because it was bad, but because it was so funny and I was not allowed to laugh. I tried to block my ears to the guffaws from literally everyone else in the room as I nattered on about how she and her snake friend could not insult me in my own bakery. I tried to control myself as I saw our director nearly fall out of his chair laughing. But I utterly lost it when skeeny snaeke kissed me (by way of Beth rubbing the frayed rope-end against my cheek) in thanks for a gluten-free cranberry muffin. As I unprofessionally cracked up onstage, all I could think was, “This is one of the best things in the world.”
Audience and Potential-Audience, that moment, while funnyish on paper, is just that much better when you see it live. Really, you need to see it or a moment like it to realize the true comedic genius of my co-improvisers (and, occasionally, of mine). So come to a Comic Science Improv show or hire us for your event. Unless you don’t like funny things or you have an incredibly specific sense of humor (e.g., you only think it’s funny if it involves a sad clown), you will enjoy it.

–Lauren McPherson

So Many New Shows!

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If you look over on our show schedule page, you’ll notice a few new shows have been added.

We’ll start November, we’ll have a show every week, starting with our regular show at Acting Up! If you’ve been to one of our shows, this will be the same great stuff you’re accustomed to. If you haven’t, you’ll have plenty of opportunities the next two months.

The next week, we’re at Broken Clock Gastropub, a new Huntsville establishment with exquisite food and drinks. There’s no cover or tickets for the shows, but we ask that you do enjoy their tasty dinner, desserts and/or drinks while watching us. We’ll be performing here the first and third Thursdays of November and December (and …?).

We’ve had a lot of requests to come back to Madison since we played Blue Pants Pub in our first month last year, and the following week, we’ll finally have something new for our Madison fans. We’ll be performing a matinee show at The Grove Baptist Church, which will be open to the public. Our regular ticket prices apply.

And we’ll have even more new stuff in December.

Our “regular” Acting Up show will be anything but. We’ll be debuting a new improv form, a full-length, completely improvised comedy science fiction play, “Commander Biff and the Glaxicon Encounter.” We’ll be offering three performances, and each one will be completely different, made up on the spot, but starring the same actors and featuring the same characters. We’ll be sharing more as it gets closer.

And right before Christmas, we’ll be performing at Santa’s Village to make your holidays just a little bit funnier.

We’re really excited about all the new shows we have coming up, and feel like there’s really going to be something for everybody on the schedule the next couple of months, so we look forward to seeing you soon!

The Return of “Whose Line”

“Whose Line Is It Anyway” is coming back.

This is rather exciting.

I’m one of the many who first encountered improv through “Whose Line,” originally in passing back when the British version was being aired on Comedy Central, and then became a fan when it started airing on ABC, and watched it regularly.

In fact, “Whose Line Is It Anyway” is, in a very real way, why I’m in Comic Science.

For those handful that don’t know, “Whose Line Is It Anyway” was basically a television version of what we do. Short, funny, games-based improv scenes. The host gets the suggestions from the audience, the players act them out. “Whose Line” had its gimmick that at the scene points were given out, but that the points didn’t matter. The ABC version was hosted by Drew Carey, but neither the British version nor the new version are. Stars Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady are returning, however, and some of the fourth-chair players may be back as well.

Like I said, I loved watching “Whose Line” on television.

So when I moved to Huntsville over 10 years ago, and saw a poster at work for this thing called “Face2Face Improv,” it was the most amazing thing in the world — a local group that does the same sort of thing as “Whose Line,” but live! (Hey, I’d been living in small-town Mississippi for years; we didn’t have such fancy things where I was.)

Attending a show, I realized it was even more fun than I realized — not only was it like watching my favorite show live, but … I got to give suggestions. There were not only being funny, but they were being funny about things I wanted them to be funny about. I became a fan, and I became a regular at the shows.

Eventually going to the shows turned into auditioning and auditioning turned into acting and then hosting and somehow that led to being the director of Comic Science Improv, all because of a show where everything was made up and the points didn’t matter.

It’s been a while since “Whose Line” was last airing original episodes, and that’s actually been a negative thing for us. Anytime someone asks what it is exactly that we do, the easy answer has been “Did you ever watch ‘Whose Line…'” When I started, the answer was almost always yes. Today, the number of no’s is increasing.

So I’m hoping the new “Whose Line” is more successful than ever, making more and more people aware of the joys of improv comedy, and serving as a gateway to Comic Science and inspiring them to want to see their own suggestions acted out.

Welcome back, guys!

“The Night You’ll Never Forget”

Guest artist Justin Ledlow will be joining us for our show on Friday, April 5, at Acting Up! He shared a few thoughts about the show.

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On Friday, April 5th, I plan on leaving work a little early. When I do, I’m headed home to Huntsville, Alabama, where I’ll be getting together with Comic Science Improv to bring you what will forever be known as the best night of your life.

You read that correctly. The best night of your life.

I know you got married, and that was probably a great night. The night your kids first said the words “I love you” was also a pretty great night. And that one time you saw your favorite band and they played that one song you like; you know, the one that goes “da da da, da daaaa daaa da da” – that night was surely amazing.

Forget all that. The night of April 5th, that’s the night you’ll never forget.

We’re gonna hit the stage at Acting Up theater on Whitesburg at 7:30 PM, and we’re gonna do an improv show full of fun games, odd characters, and quirky scenes, and you’re going to laugh like hyenas watching a Mel Brooks movie.

I’ve been away from these Comic Scientists for too long – see, I’ve been living in Atlanta since June of last year, having moved here for work. Just before I moved, I improvised with some of them when Face2Face was still making you giggle on a weekly and monthly basis. Since I’ve been in Atlanta, I’ve performed improv in the now defunct Relapse Theater, and will soon be involved with the Village Theater. While my improv experiences in Atlanta have no doubt been fun, they don’t compare to the times I shared with my Huntsville improvisers.

I spent over a year with them, and in that time, excellent memories were made. I remember being with Steve Lambing and Morgan Wilson in a scene, and I had no clue that we were delivering cow babies (is there a term for that? Cow midwife, maybe?). I remember being Batman while reenacting The Dark Knight in 1 minute, then 30 seconds, and then 15 seconds. I remember being an old man who drove a Porsche, built the Hoover Dam, and had one too many girlfriends.

Most importantly, I remember having fun.

I can’t explain to you what it’s like being on that stage and making this stuff up. But, I can tell you what it’s like to hear you, as an audience, laugh your heads off. That’s an amazing feeling. It sticks with me, and makes me want to get up there and do it over and over again, and it makes me never forget what it’s like to hear a room full of people having fun.

On April 5th, I hope you’ll come out and join us for another night of laughs. I know you’ll enjoy it, and I know you won’t forget it either. I can promise you’ll have a fun night, dare I say the best night of your life.

      Plenty of interesting things could happen that night to define it as the best night of your life. Those things include, but are not limited to:

 

      An alligator learning how to speak Cantonese

 

      Two circus clowns debating the meaning of life

 

      The history of how hopscotch was invented

 

      A game show featuring Marlon Brando, a Civil War General, and a rabid wolverine

 

      The first date between a couple of people who share a mutual hatred for breakfast

 

      The complex yet true story of how former President Richard Nixon once went to Japan and became a Samurai

 

      Tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes

 

      Audience participation, wherein one of you may or may not get your text messages read aloud (with your permission, of course)

 

      A yoga lesson brought to you by Sammy Davis Jr.
      And the game, “how much money is in Justin’s wallet?”, where if you guess a number within 1,000, you win the money in my wallet!

I’ll see you on April 5th, you beautiful comedy lovers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my Cantonese lesson.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Despite our best intentions, we forgot to celebrate it last night, but in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday today, here’s our tribute from a recent rehearsal to his least-known book, “Green Eggs And ‘Nam”

Dr. Seuss – Vietnam from No Life Films on Vimeo.

“My First Performance”

Comic Science Improv was honored for Friday night to be the stage debut of our newest member, Kirk Salmond, who did an awesome job in his first show! Kirk’s written up an account of what the experience of his first stage appearance was like:

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For months now I have been developing and refining my craft. Only one night a week, but months of one night a week. They say you can’t teach funny, but I’m living proof you can practice it. Last night convinced me that I would like to be to funny what a doctor is to medicine, I’d like to practice it the rest of my life.

When I first started with the troupe, I didn’t know that you could rehearse for a show that is entirely made up. Part of rehearsal is simply learning the games and how they work. It’s also learning to respond quickly to situations that you are placed in. It’s about helping you overcome your own shortcomings and fears of failure and just letting the funny flow out. It’s about learning to contribute something to the moment by listening and responding to what is going on around you. It’s about reminding me that I’m not always funny, my fellow improvisers aren’t always funny and nobody always has a great line. But also teaching you that you can always trust your costars to help make you funny and they can trust you to help make them funny.

Rehearsal is one thing, actually stepping out on the stage in front of a sold out crowd for the first time is something else entirely. The nerves started really building about fifteen minutes before the show. Standing back stage the fear kept coming up that I would get out there and fall flat, or worse, freeze and have nothing at all to contribute.

We each went out one at a time and started a new scene when we arrived on stage. I was the last one out. That probably wasn’t smart. I almost didn’t open the stage door three times. In the end, shame won out over fear. There were people in the audience who came just to see me. Once that door slammed behind me it was like fear got locked out and I was just in the moment. It was like rehearsal, we were just being funny. But better than rehearsal because now there was an audience to laugh with us.

Was everything perfect? No. I’m my own worst critic and I’m sure I’ll always find something I could have done better. I hesitated once or twice. Fear did come back a couple of times. But I was funny.

In rehearsal you always have that moment where you doubt yourself.  I find this funny, but will anybody else? It was great to get feedback at the end of the show and realize that this isn’t just all in my head, people really can enjoy watching me do this! I can’t wait for the next show.

–Kirk

 

Congrats, “Noteworthy” Jason Sims!

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Anyone who’s been to a Comic Science Improv show knows that we have some amazing talent in the troupe, but it’s nice to have that verified officially by one of the world’s leading arbiters of awesomeness.

In addition to his work as an improv actor with Comic Science, Jason Sims is a podcaster extraordinaire, currently producing two brilliant podcasts, “Jason Sims is Calling You” and “Jason Sims Puts You In Your Place.”

In a well-deserved honor, Jason’s awesomeness has been confirmed by iTunes, which featured “Jason Sims Puts You In Your Place” in its New & Notable section. If you’re not already, go subscribe to Jason’s podcasts. Now. Done? Good!

And it’s just another example of the reasons why you should be coming to Comic Science Improv shows. We’re funny, and iTunes knows it!

Come see for yourself at our next show on February 8!

Comedy Meets Reality

AGTAuditionBack in December, Comic Science Improv tried out for America’s Got Talent. CoSci director David Hitt wrote an entry on his blog about the experience:

According to the agreement we signed, we’re only allowed to talk about the aspects of the event that are public domain.

My improv troupe, Comic Science Improv, auditioned recently for the America’s Got Talent television competition.

That’s in the public domain — possibly because we were shown briefly on Birmingham TV news, and definitely because the AGT folks tweeted about us by name.

Read the rest of the post on David’s blog, “Stories In My Pocket.”