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Once upon a time, there were surprisingly few online resources for improvisers. Now there’s a plethora of awesome podcasts that cater to our favourite cult. Best of all, they’re free! Thank you, internets.

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A.D.D. Comedy with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley

Improv guru David Razowsky hosts this series of passionate chats with friends he’s amassed in his 30-plus-year career. While big-name guests like Colbert, Carell, and Nia Vardalos may snag your interest, less-familiar luminaries are every bit as entertaining. Actors, writers, producers, teachers, and other folks share their stories of life on stage, screen, and behind the scenes.

The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project

Are you ready to laugh? Ready or not, this show will have you in stitches. A staple of New York and LA’s improv scene, Daly is one of the funniest yes-anders out there. Using characters created on Comedy Bang! Bang!, his lightning-fast wit and hilarious guests make this podcast worthy of repeat listenings. There are only nine episodes so far, but fingers crossed he’ll be back for another season.

The Backline with Rob and Adam

In the mood for some in-depth, honest, insightful info, served up with a side of laughs? Rob Norman and Adam Cawley’s real-life camaraderie makes their podcast a pleasure to listen to. Each week they offer a wealth of anecdotes and advice on everything from shame to shortform, friends to festivals, acting, time travel, and much, much more.

Comedy Bang! Bang!

Long before its television debut, Scott Aukerman’s podcast was home to some of the funniest people on the planet: Paul F. Tompkins, Andy Daly, Jason Mantzoukas, Matt Besser, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Silverman, Bill Hader, Anthony Jeselnik, Keegan-Michael Key, Nick Kroll, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen, Weird Al, David Wain, Tenacious D, Jessica St Clair, Aziz Ansari, Fred Armisen, Nathan Fielder, Michael Ian Black, Jason Schwartzman, Jon Hamm, Janeane Garofalo…the list goes on. And on. And – at over 300 episodes – on.

Word to the wise: Callbacks and inside jokes are rampant, so if you’re new to the show, do yourself a favour and start at the first big Bang! Bang!

Improv4Humans

Like an improvised “Bat,” Matt Besser’s podcast creates memorable theatre for the mind. Each week, Besser and his guests improvise based on audience suggestions from the web. Regulars Andy Daly, Zach Woods, Lennon Parham and Tim Meadows, along with special guests like Todd Glass, Jason Mantzoukas and John Gemberling make for some very fucked-up but always funny stuff.

Improv Nerd

Chicago-based Jimmy Carrane’s mix of interview, improvised scenes, and post-improv analysis is as fascinating as it is unfiltered. And like his blog, Carrane isn’t afraid to delve into the dark places of his guests’ souls. With over 100 episodes so far, guests include Mick Napier, TJ and Dave, Susan Messing, David Razowsky, Key & Peele, and Bob Odenkirk, to name just a few.

Improv Obsession

Stephen Perlstein is the first to admit he doesn’t know everything about improv, so he interviews people who do to learn more about the craft. If you’re looking for something that’s more theory and how-to, this is a good one to have in your arsenal. Will Hines, Billy Merritt, Matts Besser and Walsh, and Tara Copeland are among the 50+ guests to date.

Pack Improv with Miles Stroth

In this weekly podcast, Stroth invites someone from the improv/acting community for a live interview at ACME Comedy in LA.

WTF with Marc Maron

While not technically improv, no podcast list would be complete without Maron’s acerbic interviews. With over 500 episodes to date, WTF revived his career and launched him on a new trajectory. And while not everyone’s a fan (see Maron and Michael Ian Black’s twitter feud), there’s no denying his guest list and interview style reign supreme.

Zenprov

Marshall Stern and Nancy Howland Walker host this series of podcasts about the art of Improvisational Acting in general, and how Zen thought relates and helps you as an actor, in particular.

(Tip of the hat to Oliver Georgiou for Zenprov, and Alex Wong for Miles Stroth!)

(Editor’s note for non-Canadians: A “power play” in hockey is when at least one opposing player serves a penalty, giving your team a numerical advantage on the ice.)

I’m officially a Senators fan.

On Monday, the Ottawa Senators (NHL team, for those who aren’t Canadian) fired their coach, Paul MacLean. The day after a great come-from-behind victory, too. Possibly their best game all year. Weird.

Why fire the coach after an amazing game?

When did this become a sports blog?

I mean, what the hell is going on here?!

Listen to the reason GM (General Manager, sheesh) Bryan Murray gave for letting MacLean go.

“I think what happened last night was, it was one of our better games, there’s no question. The good thing that happened for us was that we got behind 3-0. We forgot about all the rules and structure and everything. We just went out and played hockey.

Hockey’s a game and sometimes you just have to go play. Have a little fun with it and chase the puck and do things. We did that and I think our speed showed up. I think some talent showed up and we made some plays and fortunately for us, we won the hockey game. But I think that’s what I would like to see our team be – our players have to have some fun. It’s a game. We have to have some fun playing the game.

We have so many rules sometimes that we take the fun away from it, so maybe now, we’ll play a little different style – we’ll play a little more aggressive style. We’ll try to chase the puck more often and I think that will play to the strength of the young people on our hockey team.

And that’s what I would like to see happen – that we get back to real simple (play). Move the puck. Be in a good position. Help each other and be creative in your way. We have got some very instinctive hockey players here, just play that way.”

I was watching the press conference when it happened (flipping around until Chopped came on), and it blew my mind. It seems obvious that hockey is a game when you ask kids. But when you ask adults, it’s not a game. Nothing’s a game. It’s a business. And you have to win to make money. And winning comes from hard work and doing it right.

It’s a bold statement for a PROFESSIONAL hockey team (meaning playing for money, NOT for fun) to make. But a damn important one. So many “creative” industries try to set up the rules and structures for how to work, instead of promoting play.

The ad agency I got fired from (the most recent time) was implementing the rules of staying late, working weekends, being in the office at all times and a bunch of other old fashioned ways of thinking. None of which have anything to do with being more creative.

So thank you Bryan Murray. Thank you for understanding that even at a professional level, if take away the play, you ain’t got nothin.

Going on the record to say that the Senators will make the playoffs. If I were bolder, I’d say win the cup, but, you know, they’re not that good…. ahhh fuck it.

 

Sens FTW!

(This post originally appeared at playwithfireimprov.com)

While last year’s list still applies, there’s a bounty of new goodies any improviser (maybe you?) would love to open on Festivus morning. First up…

A Load Of Hooey

Bob Odenkirk’s new book is just the thing to get you through post-Breaking Bad, pre-Better Call Saul doldrums.

Like Steve Martin’s Pure DrivelA Load Of Hooey is a pastiche of bits and pieces from one of comedy’s most ingenious minds. As the description says, “Odenkirk’s debut resembles nothing so much as a hilarious new sketch comedy show that’s exclusively available as a streaming video for your mind.”

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Improvising Now

If you want to up your long form game, look no further than Improvising Now. Rob Norman’s book is as entertaining as it is educational, and at 150 pages, it’s the perfect stocking stuffer. (If you have stretchy, rectangular stockings.)

Improvising Now - Norman

Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z

Only six more shows! Thankfully, Sharilyn Johnson and Remy Maisel’s Bears & Balls helps ease the pain. Crammed with memorable moments and “who knew?” insights, this meticulously researched volume is a worthy addition to any Colbert fan’s shrine.

Cover Image © Kurt Firla

Cover Image © Kurt Firla

Pax Vaporizer

Vape to your heart’s content this holiday, with the sexy new Pax Vaporizer. At 300 bucks it ain’t exactly cheap, but it’s amazing how many impoverished improvisers swear by it.

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Improviser’s Clock

Now you can be in the moment, every moment, with our very own improviser’s clock. Click here or below to shop the full range of designs. And be sure to check out our store for cool shirt designs by Rob Ariss Hills.

Improv Clock

 

Few things are sadder than performing to an empty room.

Unless you’re TJ and Dave, you need a little planning to ensure a good turn-out. Here are some tips that can help.

Know Your Audience

Who are you performing for? Is it hardcore improv nerds, or comedy lovers in general?

Is it a monthly show with a built-in fan base, or are you trying to get fresh blood (and votes) for Cage Match?

Just like advertisers, you need to define your target audience. “Anyone with five bucks” is not a demographic.

Before you invite all 2,031 of your “friends,” ask yourself if Aunt Myrna, the guy you went to junior kindergarten with, and those eight ‘bots would really come.

Quality Is Job One

A friend of mine saw a show recently, and was pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed it. “There’s so much bad improv out there,” he confided.

Yikes.

Anyone can have an off night, but when you don’t commit to doing your best, it reflects badly on all the awesome sets other improvisers are committed to.

Have you and your team rehearsed? Are you familiar with the format you’ll be playing?

Learning stuff on the fly with strangers may be fine if you’re a pro, but for many people, familiarity with the cast and structure are key to a good show. Just because they’re called make-’em-ups doesn’t mean people want to pay to watch you figure shit out on stage.

Be professional. Book a rehearsal (or several, depending on the scale of the show). If it’s a one-off (a fundraiser, for instance) or a jam-type situation, at the very least try to get there an hour beforehand, so you can meet and bond with your cast mates.

Quantity Is Job Two

There’s a delicate balance between not promoting your show enough, and promoting it too much.

Don’t create a Facebook event a month in advance, and promote it every day until the show.

Do promote judiciously. If everyone on the team has the same circle of friends, you don’t need all seven of you to mention it in your status.

Don’t post the wrong time, date, or venue. (You’d be surprised how often this happens.)

Comedy Is Visual

Even a well-written e-vite can get lost in celebrity gossip and kitten videos. One way to break through the clutter is an eye-catching poster.

Your poster should reflect the show and/or team’s character. You can use it online, as well as print copies to put up in bars, theatres, and coffee shops.

Keep the messaging simple; it’s a poster, not a blog. The name of the show, date, time, and place are fine. Include a website if you have one (but only if it’s up to date).

Again, keep your audience in mind. Don’t assume everyone who sees your poster will understand what you’re selling. Before you joined the improv community, would you know what the fuck a “Harold Night” was?

Unless your show is strictly for other improvisers, you need to spell things out a little. It can still be a tease though, like this awesome example:

Image © Scott Williams, ScottWilliamsDesign.com

Image © Scott Williams, ScottWilliamsDesign.com

At the other end of the logic spectrum, fans of Standards & Practices love their boundary-pushing style. Kevin Whalen creates promo posters that reflect the team’s surreal sensibility.

Image © Kevin Whalen/Standards & Practices

Image © Kevin Whalen/Standards & Practices

Rob Norman and Adam Cawley are to Toronto’s improv scene what James Franco and Seth Rogen are to…uh…each other. This stunning artwork captures the duo’s brooding bromance and colourful imaginations perfectly.

R&N Cawls Orig

Image © Marshall Lorenzo

One of our favourite campaigns was for Ghost Jail Theatre. They produced a memorable series of posters created by overlaying shots of two different improvisers, usually a male and female. The effect was haunting, intriguing, and completely different than everything else in the community.

The next season, they created hybrid images of three players. The slightly off-kilter results stopped passersby in their tracks. (The posters were so popular, they were stolen within hours of being put up.)

Image © Katie Bowes

Image © Katie Bowes

This poster’s understated, Mad Men cool is the perfect foil for the Bacchanalian beer-swilling orgy that is Mantown. If you’ve seen the show before, the contrast is hilarious. And if you’re a newb, the image is enough to pique anyone’s interest.

Mantown Current

Image © Kurt Firla

Cross Promote

Doing another gig close to the date of your show? Ask the MC if they can mention it when they intro you. Better yet, direct people to your Facebook event page. (You don’t really expect them to remember show details after five beers and some Jägerbombs, do you?)

Set It In Motion

If you really wanna go all out, why not make a video? Kevin Whalen and Matt Folliott created this stop-motion short for Sex with Jeremy, a showcase for teams Sex T-Rex and The Jeremy Birrell Show:

Now go forth, break legs and blow minds!