Christian Capozzoli is an actor/improviser/instructor, member of the fiercely funny 4Track, and author of Aerodynamics of Yes: The Improviser’s Manual. We asked him a bunch of stuff, and he was nice enough to answer.
P&C: Why did you decide to write Aerodynamics of Yes? Is there a specific audience you wanted to reach?
CC: I’ve been touring and teaching for about five years now, and often I’ll come into town and have three hours to squeeze in an entire methodology. It’s a pretty big undertaking.
I know that my workshop is all about moving and reacting, but that leaves very little time for the students to take notes. It’s hard to read a billboard on a bullet train, and I’m asking them to play Where’s Waldo? So I wrote the book primarily to supplement my teaching – go back and unpack each lesson with time and care.
I suppose I did it because I also like to write. By no means do I think I’m saying anything new. I’m saying the same old stuff, just I’m saying it my way.
As a Master of Ed and Lit, I try to take into account all types of learners. Some need to move on their feet, others need to hear it explained, or tether it to a metaphor; some just need to see it written down pickled in prose.
P&C: Your book covers a wide range of topics, from improv fundamentals to scene work to formats. How long do you think it takes to truly master these things?
CC: You don’t. It’s forever. The more you do, the more you realize how much more there is. Or how choices can be made in minutiae: from sentences, to words, to syllables, and the gaps between when we speak, the heat and weight of what we say, every second, gesture, eyebrow lift can be filled with choice, colouring our scene.
And just when we learn to react in the now, moment-to-moment or second-to-second, then there will always be nano-seconds.
Improvising with Peter Grosz, I was amazed at how fast he was. How quick and textured. Speed is relative of course, but I don’t know that we ever master it. I think we just get comfortable with that speed, more familiar with these synapses, and we get more comfortable being present and making choices. So comfortable or Zen that it looks like mastery to others.
The less hippy dippy answer: 10 years of time, discipline, performance, rehearsal, and failure would be a good foundation to feeling competent.
P&C: Who were/are your mentors or heroes in the improv scene?
CC: Susan Messing – she uses all of her brain to be funny.
Heroes, in this order: Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Brian Huskey, Zack Woods, Jason Mantzoukas, TJ and Dave, John Lutz, Peter Grosz, Dan Backedahl, and Scott Adsit.
P&C: What’s the one thing you see being taught today – or not being taught – that irks you most?
CC: Anytime improv comedy forgets it is on stage, it irks me. Live theatre should be theatrical.
P&C: You say “Improvisers would rather be right than foolish.” How can improvisers get over that need to control?
CC: They have to be willing to fail. Unfortunately, we hold stage time and scenes so precious that we put too much pressure on ourselves.
Repetition is key. Let yourself be wrong. Scenes are a sine wave; they don’t have to start a specific way, they need only begin and invest in information and it will work.
P&C: You cover 4Track form in the book. How did it come about, how did you develop it?
CC: I was in a master class with Kevin Dorff. We hit on the idea of making scenes grow, [of] protecting energy.
I was also really into The Eventé, so I suggested we do a high energy-matching scene, followed by a character extraction to a series of tag-outs. It worked and evolved from there.
P&C: Many teams come and go, but a handful stay around long enough to become almost legendary. What makes a great team?
CC: Confidence, connectivity, trust, exposure to new things, agreeing to play a piece the same way!