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Posts from the Other Cool Stuff Category

Every once in a while something comes along that makes us go, “Fuck yeah!” Case in point: The Yes And Journal. It’s a new way to bring a little improv joy into each day, with exercises and affirmations you can do at home.

Since not everyone can perform or take classes on a regular basis, it’s a great idea for keeping creative wheels greased and freeing yourself of judgement.

You can pre-order now on Kickstarter. With just five days to go, it’s almost fully funded. Kudos to Matthew Beard and everyone involved for making it happen!

Image © Matthew Beard

Mick Napier’s Improvise and Behind The Scenes are two of our favourite books on improvisation. They’re not just packed with brilliant insights, they’re also laugh-out-loud funny.

Now he’s written a new tome on creativity and collaboration, and he’s sharing it online. Says Mick:

“Over the past few years I wrote a book about creating. It covers all aspects of creating, from meetings to brainstorming to how to drink coffee. It’s a large book that I haven’t published. I decided to get my site up, and use it to publish a chapter every once in a while on a blog. I would love comments, as I’m going to cut the book in half and publish it. If you are interested, it’s at micknapier.com.”

Photo © People and Chairs

It’s Say Day. A chance for improvisers to show our gratitude for the teachers, mentors, teammates, friends, and classmates we’ve had the joy of knowing, playing with, and watching perform. Wherever you are, we hope you take a moment to think about and thank someone who’s played a role in your improv journey or community. We’d like to thank our readers, guest writers, and everyone we’ve interviewed over the past five years, and a special thank you TJ Jagodowski for creating Say Day.

Photo © Sharilyn Johnson / BCIF

Confession: I’m a Beatlemaniac. As a teen I attended Beatlefests in Chicago and New York, toured Fab Four shrines across the U.K., and decades later my love for them hasn’t waned.

I’ve often wondered what made them so different from hundreds of other groups. According to Malcolm Gladwell, the answer is 10,000 hours of hard work. While that definitely helped, I believe something else was at play. Namely…

The Beatles Played Together

Not just instruments; they played games. Silly ones. They laughed and joked and had fun together, and that playfulness infused every part of their lives.

Even when they worked crazy hours, they still made time for play. It helped them cope with stress, and kept their brains open to creative input. Here’s John in Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn district after playing an eight-hour set. One of the other Liverpool bands dared him to read a newspaper while wearing his underpants.

They didn’t follow the rules. In the early ‘60s, up-and-coming artists were expected to leave songwriting to “the pros” of Tin Pan Alley. And while their first albums included cover songs, The Beatles always wrote their own stuff.

None of The Beatles could read or write music using traditional notation. Instead they viewed music as a process of discovery, listening to records and mimicking them, or creating their own sounds. Their Producer, George Martin, transcribed and translated their ideas in the studio.

They also weren’t afraid to challenge convention in other ways. When The Beatles toured the southern U.S., they were stunned to learn venues were segregated. Having been influenced by artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, they refused to play segregated concerts – and the laws changed as a result. They also spoke out against the Vietnam War, considered a no-no for mere pop musicians.

They were curious about everything. The Beatles weren’t just fascinated with music. They were also deeply interested in art, fashion, film, photography, writing, comedy, and other cultures. That curiosity spilled over into everything they touched, from clothes to cover art. Before The Beatles, pop albums looked like this:

The Beatles changed all that, pushing the possibilities of what an album could be and turning each one into an event. By 1965 they were so well known, Rubber Soul was released without their name anywhere on the front cover. The “White Album” went even further, with each edition numbered like a work of art. The Butcher cover, meanwhile, is so legendary it deserves an article to itself.

They treated everything as a potential instrument. Paul’s shoe tapping in Blackbird. Ringo playing a packing case on Words of Love. George’s guitar feedback at the beginning of I Feel Fine. Their improvisational, “anything goes” attitude changed how people approached and listened to pop music.

They also preceded mash-ups, smashing together two completely different songs (A Day In The Life), and speeding up and slowing down the same song in two different keys (Strawberry Fields Forever).

And it wasn’t just sounds that inspired them. John wrote lyrics based on a circus poster (Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite), newspaper stories (A Day In The Life), and things he heard in everyday conversation (She Said, She Said).

They were constantly learning. In the movie Help!, The Beatles needed to ski downhill in one scene. None of them had ever skied before. Director Richard Lester gave them one day to learn…and filmed it. The result is a lot of shots of them falling down during Ticket To Ride, one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

They were really, really connected. Look at any live performance, and even though they’re playing to the audience you can see their eye contact and checking in with each other.

They collaborated with others. How many lead guitarists would ask someone else to play lead on While My Guitar Gently Weeps? And yet George did just that, giving Eric Clapton’s superb slide guitar centre stage.

The Fabs also enlisted George Martin to play harpsichord on In My Life, Billy Preston to play organ on Get Back, and Brian Jones to play sax for You Know My Name (Look Up The Number).

When Revolver came out, they could have got anyone to design the artwork. They asked Klaus Voorman, a friend from their Hamburg days, whose B&W ink-and-photo collage earned him a Grammy for Best Album Cover.

They also supported emerging artists of all kinds, including one Yoko Ono.

With the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I’m still in awe of their talent and contributions, and still a Beatlemaniac at heart. Their lives and songs have inspired my writing and countless improv scenes. I hope you’ll be inspired to put some of their principles into play.

Portrait of the author as a young fan. © Sally Smallwood

Hey gang, it’s time for our most popular posts from the archives, 2017 edition. It’s raining cats and dogs here in Toronto, so grab a blanky and snuggle up indoors with our best of.

How-To Posts

Eight Ways To Be Good With The Improv

Eight More Ways To Be Good With The Improv

How To Succeed At Anything by Being Yourself

Audition Tips From The Other Side Of The Table

How To Write A Kickass Performer Bio

Performance Anxiety: How To Dissolve Pre-show Nerves

How Cameron Got Over His Anxiety (And So Can You!)

Harold/Long Form & Scene Work

Openings: The Good, The Bad & The Funny

Somebody Edit This, Please

John Lutz on Keeping It Simple

Enjoy The Silence: Improvising Without Dialogue Part One and Part Two

On Coaches, Chemistry, And Finding Your Dream Team

Specificity: Why Pabst Blue Ribbon Beats Whatever You’re Drinking

All By Myself: Solo Improv

How I Lost Interest In Game Of The Scene And Found Something Way More Fun

Great Guest Posts

12 Tips For Festival Organizers by Amy Shostak

12 Tips For Improvisers Attending Comedy Festivals by Matt Folliott

7 Tips For Surviving An Improv Jam by Laura Bailey

Now’s The Time To Know The New by David Razowsky

How Not To Get Sued (A Guide for Canadian Comedians) by Rob Norman

Never Give Up by Jimmy Carrane

How To Avoid Being A Creep by Conor Bradbury

Improv Community & Insight

For The Love of Art, Pay People

Why Improv Is Good For Business

The Art of Comedy

When “Yes, And” Becomes No

Comedians, Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Random Fun Stuff

Improv Explained In Venn Diagrams

What’s Your Improv Persona?

It’s An Improv Thing

When Improvisers Date

An Illustrated Guide To Improvisers

Improv Forms That Don’t Exist (But Should)

When Ralph Met Becky

Web Series: Inside The Master Class

Stick This In Your Ear: The Improv Podcast Round-up

Video: How To Spot An Improviser

No need to hunt for the perfect Easter music: Second City alumni Adam Cawley, Rob Baker, and Jordan Armstrong have created an entire album of egg-cellent songs, with It’s A Great Friday.

Christmas has carols, Halloween has The Monster Mash and Thriller, and Adam Sandler slayed with The Hannukah Song. Now It’s A Great Friday takes Jesus’s ascension to new heights, with hilarious and beautiful harmonies the whole family can enjoy.

You can listen to the whole album for free here.

Photo © Lyon Smith

This video is the comedy equivalent of finding a Beatles “Butcher” cover. Whether it’s your first time seeing it or your 101st, enjoy Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, David Razowsky and Paul Dinello singing The Obvious Song.