Posts tagged Jet Eveleth

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Improv attracts some very smart, very funny people, each with their own unique style. You can learn a lot just by studying how your fellow improvisers perform. Here are some of our faves:

The Chameleon

Most of us have a go-to on stage; some back-pocket character we can pull out if we start to panic.

Not Matt Folliott.

He’s equally comfortable being low or high status, male or female, hyperbolic or grounded and real. What’s more, Matt’s talent for accents is nothing short of astonishing. He does Southern, New York, Jamaican, Italian, Liverpudlian, German, Australian, Spanish, and dozens more so flawlessly, you’d swear he was born there.

The Magician

Kurt Smeaton finds something playful in everything, no matter how small or mundane. His ability to turn straightforward scenes into something Spielberg-ian is awe inspiring:

• He once played an entire village of people running from an exploding volcano. One character saved the day by stopping the lava with his bare hands, then rolling it up like a rug.

• His motorcycles sound like horses. He once rode one into a scene, kicked it and gave a “Yaarrr!” to send the bike on its way.

• After initiating with “The end of the world is nigh!” he mimed handing things out to passersby. What would have been flyers in someone else’s hands became “Frisbees! Get your end-of-the-world Frisbees here!”

The Shapeshifter

Mark Meer is the king of transformation. Watching him perform The Harold of Galactus is a master class in character and physicality.

His characters are always strongly defined; once he establishes them, they’re instantly recognizable later on. In one swift motion he transforms from a stiff-spined butler, to a hunchbacked gnome, to a drug-addled lunatic and back again.

The Clown

Jet Eveleth, Becky Johnson and Isaac Kessler all have strong elements of clown in their playing style.

There’s a fluidity, vulnerability, and openness to whatever is happening on stage that characterizes their performance. Nothing is off limits, no move is too risky. (That’s him as a ribbon-twirling gymnast in the photo.)

The Imp 

Sarah Hillier has a childlike, mischievous quality that makes every scene sparkle. Her playfulness is infectious: she has an ability to make scene partners corpse like no one we’ve seen.

If you’re the kind of improviser who likes rules and order, beware. The only thing predictable about Sarah’s performance is that it’ll be wicked funny. (Click here for a glimpse of her as Arya Stark.)

The Wild Card

The Wild Card comes out of nowhere and fucks with reality. Andy Daly, Rob Baker, Devon Hyland, and Cameron are all Wild Card players.

On his improvised podcast, Andy Daly and Matt Gourley played water-skiers, with Andy standing on Gourley’s shoulder to form the top of a human pyramid.

“I got your foot tattooed on my shoulder!” said Matt.

Without missing a beat, Andy replied, “Yeah, I had no idea you were gonna get that till I saw you.”

With one small move, he shifted time and smashed preconceptions. Suddenly Gourley’s character had to justify getting a foot tattooed on his shoulder before Andy’s character stood on it, which is hilarious. When the world you thought you were seeing is turned upside down, you’re watching a Wild Card.

The Everyman

Some performers stand out for their ability to blend in. While everyone else is larger-than-life, the Everyman quietly plays in the spaces between, often the scene’s voice of reason.

That doesn’t mean the Everyman is boring. Far from it. Because he (or she) plays so many roles with ease, they can do weird stuff like this and be totally believable.

Jim Annan, Jameson Kraemer, James Gangl and TJ Jagodowski are all superb Everyman performers.

The Kraken

We had to make a category for this rare, sometimes terrifying improviser. Jason Mantzoukas is one. So is Alex Tindal.

The Kraken is fearless, owning the stage the moment they set foot on it. Like the Clown, they don’t flinch from what’s happening, but rather, turn it up to eleven.

We witnessed Mantzoukas play a psychopath at the Friars Club Improv & Sketch Competition. His character took Ed Herbstman’s hostage, raped him (in real time), then shot an audience member in the head. If that doesn’t sound funny, it wasn’t. But it was electrifying, honest, and completely unforgettable.


The intent isn’t to mimic your favourite performers, but to find ways you can bring as much commitment and passion as they do to every set.

“Edit with your intuition. Listen to your body.” – Jet Eveleth

It’s Harold night.

You’re standing on the side, watching a scene that’s been getting huge laughs. It’s so hilarious, you’re not even thinking what beat this is, or which character you should bring back, when suddenly…

everything goes to hell in a badly-mimed handbag.

The performers, on fire just moments ago, are now strangely quiet. The audience is even quieter. And the only sound is your own heart thumping as you wonder, “How the fuck do I edit this?”

Or you’re watching a scene that started out shaky and went downhill from there  – but still you’re rooted to the spot.

Or maybe you’re actually in a scene that’s well past its best-by date. You find yourself calling for a newly-invented character, miming a noose, or just screaming for help with your eyes for someone to PLEASE. FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST, EDIT. THIS SCENE.

If any of these sound familiar, here are some techniques that can help. I guarantee your fellow performers will thank you.

Photo © Mike Riverso

Photo © Mike Riverso

Some people say you should edit on a laugh. That’s not a bad thought, but it isn’t a must. Especially if the scene you’re watching has clocked seven laugh-free minutes already.

The best time to edit is almost always before you think “Someone should edit this.”

Replace that thought with “I should edit this.” Better yet, just stop thinking and edit. Starting with the…

Sweep Edit

The granddaddy of improv edits, the sweep often gets a bum rap for being boring, safe, or amateur. Say what you will, but when shit hits improvised fan, a sweep edit will get you out of the way of flying feces every time.

There’s really only two things to remember:

1. Stay in front of the players you’re sweeping, and

2. Jog, don’t walk.

Otherwise you might be mistaken for a walk-on character. And the only thing worse than a scene that’s tanking is a scene that’s tanking with one extra person, aka a clusterfuck.

Sweep 2.0

Some people put their own spin on a sweep.

Improv duo Scratch uses a 360-degree spin to let the audience (and each other) know when they’re new characters, or in a new location.

And we’ve seen a few people put a skip in their first step as they sweep to a new scene. It’s a nice little touch that communicates the performer’s enjoyment along with the audience.

Now that you’ve got that down, the wonderful Jet Eveleth teaches a bunch of great techniques, including…

Vocal Edit

This is one of my faves, because it’s so versatile. All it requires is stepping out and taking focus, either with words or a sound.

Let’s say the scene on stage takes place at a vet. You could edit by making animal sounds. (This could also work as a swarm edit – see below.)

Just make sure to stay downstage, and be loud enough so that you take focus, to make it clear you’re editing.

Maybe the vet scene referenced a song. In that case you could edit by singing the song as you move across the stage.

Now anyone can bring the same song back as an edit, or a song from the same artist, genre or era.

Narrative Edit

You can edit with a brief narration, spoken as you walk confidently from one side of the stage to the other:

“Meanwhile, in a basement in Idaho…”

“A hundred years later…”

“And as the sun set on the horizon, meth lab owner Bryan Hobbs was just waking up…”

The narrative edit is similar to a sweep, but leaves the rest of the team with the gift of a location, character, or other new information.

French Edit

Also called an organic edit, it simply means making a clear, strong initiation as you enter to begin a new scene:

“…and that’s how meringue was invented.”

“This place is filthy!”

“Has anyone seen my bandana?”

Or whatever.

Enter the scene with energy, and you’ll lift the rest of the show with it.


You can always edit by stepping out and starting a monologue, until you’re tagged out or edited.

Unless you’re doing a monologue-based set though, this probably isn’t your best option. I’ve seen Harolds where one person did a random monologue, and it stuck out like a sore thumb.

Monologues work best when they’re brought back, either by one person or several.

Swarm Edit

This makes an awesome stage picture, because it involves multiple players. The idea is to move in and edit as a group.

Anything can be a catalyst.

Paloma Nunez initiated a great swarm edit with Little American Bastards. One of the characters on stage started crying. Paloma entered from stage right, saying “Drip…drip…drip…” while making falling teardrop motions with her hands.

The rest of the team followed a beat later, saying “Drip…drip…drip…” and making the same motion. It looked great, and started a whole new scene seamlessly.

You can swarm silently, or with words or sounds. Use your physicality to heighten the effect.

Internal Edit

This is a subtler form of edit, where you change the scene you’re currently in.

Let’s say you’re in a scene where your character’s on a blind date.

You could break the fourth wall, turn to the audience and say, “That’s when I knew I could never really love Brad.”

You could then move downstage and start monologuing, or narrate, or scene paint a whole new scenario.

Or, you could take on the voice and physicality of a totally different character, then begin a new scene as that person.

Line Repetition

This comes courtesy of Dave Sawyer from ImprovBoston. (See our post on the Snatch Edit)

If a scene is dragging, you can take any line of dialogue that’s just been uttered and repeat it as you walk on stage. Use your volume to take focus and let the performers know you’re starting a new scene:

Player 1: I got some vanilla ice cream. You want some?

Player 2: I’m lactose intolerant.

Player 3: (walking downstage, louder) I’m lactose intolerant…but I love Scientology!

You can also repeat a sound from one scene, and heighten – or morph it into something new – to start another.

Sometimes It’s Good To Be An Asshole

One of my teachers said, “When the audience is laughing, you want to be the asshole who edited the scene too soon.”

Trust your gut to know when it’s time to edit. And before you second-guess yourself, just remember Ben Stiller’s Starsky character and “Do it.”

In just one month, Big City Improv Festival will blast off at Toronto’s Comedy Bar. Check out the stellar line-up headlined by Jet Eveleth and Paul Brittain. For more information, click below.

What’s it like to compete with eleven other teams in the College Improv Tournament in Chicago?

That’s the subject of Whether The Weather, a documentary about six students collectively known as Theatre Strike Force.

The film follows their journey from rehearsal in Florida to their feelings after the tournament. It also features interviews with Joe Bill, Dina Facklis, Rebecca Sohn, Noah Gregoropoulos, Jet Eveleth, Bill Arnett and other Chicago luminaries.

If I have a criticism, it’s that the film doesn’t delve that deeply into any of its student subjects. But it’s worth watching for the pros’ perspective alone.

You can see full-length interviews that aren’t in the main feature; they’re a gold mine of improv wisdom, insight and candour. (I especially love hearing Joe Bill swear.) Watch them in full, or in bite-size chunks on the website or on youtube.

The website is a little confusing: when you click on “Main Feature,” the segments play out of order. To view in order, click on “Playlist” at the bottom of the screen and select a segment.