We loved this photo by Rachel Mischke from David Razowsky’s recent visit to Europe. What better message as we approach the holiday season? In scenes, as in life, presence is a present.
Posts tagged David Razowsky improv
I’ve been asked by several people what I think about what’s going on at Second City (http://tinyurl.com/jy6ajlf). I’ve been waiting to see if any other info has come out, but it’s mostly the rehashed story attached.
Here’s my take: There are parts to this story, and there are parts of this story I don’t know about. There are events that took place backstage that I don’t know about. There are events that took place in producer’s offices that I don’t know about. There are internal politics involved that I don’t know about (which doesn’t make SC any different than any other business, and, yes, SC is a business).
When I was told that I was cast in the Second City National Touring Company, the first place I went to was The Old Town Ale House, to, yes, have a celebratory cocktail, but also to tell my friend and teacher Donny DePollo that I got hired. His response to my hiring stuck with me for my entire tenure (1989-2012) at Second City: “Do your job, don’t get involved in the politics.” That missive became a talisman for me. I left Second City before I got bitter, feeling SC never owed me a dime, and that everyday I was there I was grateful for the experience. I still feel that way, all things considered.
In regards to the audiences spewing indignities at the actors: Satire is subversive. We ask the audience for suggestions that come from their hearts. More often than not the suggestions from the heart ranges from mundane to beautiful. Oftentimes that heart is cold and closed and quiet and scared and ignorant and mean. When the heart is allowed to speak honestly under those conditions there’s bound to be an awful shattering to all those within earshot. It’s an awful sound to hear. It’s a terrible noise. The actors who heard that noise were understandably shocked, rocked, stunned, and temporarily paralyzed. It happened. It really happened. The question then becomes, “What do we do with that which just happened?” That question was asked on 9/11 and 9/12. The answer then was: We take it and we use it. We use it as a cudgel, we use it as a sword, we use it as a firecracker, we use it as the tool for change and awareness that made it appear in the first place. We take that suggestion and we build on its bones, covering it, creating a structure that does not deny its foundation, but rather shows that hate received in the right hands can help create, that truth inspires, that expressions of hope dilutes the rantings of the desperate. That humor can teach.
There hasn’t been an issue that SC has been afraid to tackle. Satire, like rust, never sleeps.
Wishing SC another speedy recovery. I can’t wait to see what they’ll create.
One of the great reasons to love improv is its fleeting nature. There’s no record of it. It comes, it goes. We’re left with our memories of it. Our memories. It’s a nice gift we let ourselves have. It helps if you like you.
One of the great things about performing improv is that we aren’t able to watch ourselves improvise. We have a vision in our skull of what we look like when we’re in the act of unfolding a character. It helps us unfold and evolve that character, for there’s no evidence as to whether we’re “doing it right” or “doing it wrong.” Because we don’t see it, we give ourselves the opportunity to just create without self-judgment.
That is, until someone does something that puts our process smack dab into our eyes.
When I was the Artistic Director at Second City Los Angeles we had a very small space that was our theatre. Just a black box, a small riser of a stage, and flat black walls. One day our stage manager, all on his own, decided it would be a good idea to put mirrors up on the walls. All the walls. Covered ’em. Now every interaction was brilliantly reflected, every action apparent, every movement mirrored.
I hated it. I’m long gone from that event and I still cringe. When I was on stage living a character that was a beautiful woman, now I could see that I wasn’t. I was me…a man. When I was on stage being a young boy character, now I could see that I wasn’t. I was me…a man. When I was on stage acting all suave Daniel Craig-y, now I could see that I wasn’t. I was me, Jewish David Razowsky.
That mirror invited my ego in, my “self” in. It trumped my imagination, it heavily challenged my suspension of disbelief, it brought “me” in, when I didn’t need “me” to appear, nor to be an arbiter of how I was doing.
Over the years I’ve learned to be mindful, to be in the moment, to give focus to what serves my joy and my scene partner. I’ve learned to stop looking into a mirror, realizing that so often that mirror isn’t literally a mirror, rather it’s a mental reflection where we artists sacrifice the joy of the process for the “thrill” of falling down the rabbit hole of doubt, dancing with judgment and second-guessing. I’ve learned to see the mirror, but not to look into it.
David Razowsky is a master improv instructor. He’s the former Artistic Director of the Second City Training Centre, a co-founder of the Annoyance Theatre, and the host and creative force of ADD Podcast with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley. He has a long list of celebrity friends, and an equally impressive collection of Bloody Mary photos.
David Razowsky is a master improv instructor. He’s the former Artistic Director of The Second City Training Centre, a co-founder of The Annoyance Theatre, and the host and creative force of ADD Podcast with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley. He teaches all over the globe, and has logged more flights than most airline pilots.
When did you first know you wanted to do improv/comedy/acting for a living?
When I realized that I could. Once you see that your skills are crystallizing and there’s a small call for them, you realize that call will get louder if you give it heat, warmth, air, confidence, and love. We all are born to successfully fill the position of who we are. We’re our job.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career, and why?
The greatest influence on my career are the actors who come to my classes. They inspire me, they look to me for collaboration, they show me where we can go, they take me to where they wanna go. They are my guide.
What was your first paid improv-related job?
I was hired as an actor in Geese Theatre Company for Prisons in 1983 or ’84. We traveled across the country in a painted 1963 International Harvester school bus. We did non-comedic improv that focused on education, visits, communication. It was done in masks. It had a profound impact on my art.
How much have former instructors, coaches, and team members played a part in your career?
Michael Gellman continues to be a mentor to me. The late Martin deMaat continues to inspire me. Mick Napier is a guiding force both artistically and as a business owner (along with the great Jennifer Estlin). Rachel Hamilton reminds me that we are here to be present and to present the world with our skills and make a good living doing it. Second City taught me that great producing leads to great creative opportunities. Charna Halpern at iO taught me that your point of view is imperative.
Do you see improv as a means to doing other work, or an end in itself?
Both. Why must I choose?
When you hear the words “working improviser,” what comes to mind?
Forgive what might come off as snark, but the money that comes from being an improviser comes from the artist improvising her life. Transition, build, explore, push. Stop calling yourself a “starving artist.” You’re fucking it up for those of us who aren’t and you’re impeding your ability to manifest and grow a successful career.
Describe a typical day in your life.
I pour a cup of coffee that I set the timer to brew so it’s ready when I get to it. I go on line and answer follow-up messages from works-in-progress. I read news feeds on Zite, I cook oatmeal, I eat my oatmeal while reading a book. I do the dishes. I might have a podcast interview (ADD Comedy with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley), and if I do, I’ll spend the hour discussing, we’ll take a portrait with my YashicaMat 120 camera, then a selfie. I’ll edit the selfie, put our watermark on it, the guest’s name, I’ll write a bio, then upload the episode to Ian Foley who will edit it, and post it on line. I’ve done almost 200 interviews, and I love it. I still haven’t figured out how to monetize it, but once I do, I’ll be really glad. The rest of the day is about marketing, raging about gun violence, stupid American voters, and ignorant politicians who don’t give a shit about their constituents. I’ll cook lunch, dinner, and start a cocktail of vodka on the rocks much later than most. I go to bed around 2 am, unless I have my gf over. Then…mmmm.
What’s the salary range for an improviser in your city?
I don’t know.
Improv has been steadily infiltrating corporate and popular culture. With all of the interest in improvisation, why is it still so difficult to get bums on seats at shows? (Or is it, in your experience?)
Improv’s got a shitty reputation because so many folks market poorly, don’t rehearse, aren’t professional, don’t promote well, and don’t see themselves as artists and business owners (they being the business). They sell themselves short, and it hurts the rest of us. We have an uphill battle. If you said to me that you were in a play, I’d ask about it and come to it. If you told me your were in an improv show I’d compliment you on your jacket.
What’s the best, worst, or weirdest improv gig you’ve done?
I’ve worked in prisons. Everything else is cake.
Do you think it’s easier to make a living as an improviser today than it was when you were starting out?
Yep. That’s the progression of an evolving entity. More people are learning, teaching, studying, working in front of people, more people are promoting, marketing, podcasting, taping, exploring. If you’re not, I hope to god you’re not bitching about “Where the fuck is MINE?” You want it? Make it happen. What you think it is isn’t what it is. You have no idea what it is until you do it. It’s a lot like improv because it’s improv.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Loving up People and Chairs. Just like now.
“No one’s saying every scene has to be ‘Happy Puppy Goes To Kitty Town.'” – David Razowsky on conflict in improv
David Razowsky has a wonderful tool that he uses to teach about energy and duration of emotions in scenes. He calls it “The Jerry Chart,” and now there’s a YouTube tutorial courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times so everyone can learn about it. Click below to view.
Oh, and happy birthday David!
“We walk through a forest of exposition until we’re in a clearing where it’s just the two of us.” – David Razowsky
“The thing about Invention Town is, no one lives there. So you might as well live in HereNow Town, where we’re all at.” – David Razowsky
We love this infographic by Bob Kodzis. If you’ve ever taken a class with David Razowksy, you’ll get it. And if you haven’t, we hope it intrigues you to do so.