This blog is part of a series of "Classic Bovine Blogs." These are blog posts that we managed to recover from our old website that crashed in 2014. This blog was written by Eric Farone and originally posted on December 12, 2008.
When I was in Chicago studying and performing improv in the early 90’s, I knew I wanted to come back to Denver and open a sketch comedy/long form improv club. I interviewed people like Joyce Sloane to get advice and input to how to go about such a juncture. I was speaking to Jo Forsberg about creating a directing class for me, so that I could learn how to direct sketch comedy. Jo asked me why and I told her of my goals. She asked “Why do you want to open a comedy theater?”
I told her, half sarcastically, “to make the world a better place.”
“Good, that’s the only reason to do anything.” was her response back. She created a situation where I could learn to direct and helped in many other ways.
So, I got to AD with David Murphy, and as part of it he would also take me under his wing and let me know what his thinking was about the scene, the cast, etc. The cast is working on a scene where a husband manipulates his wife into leaving so that, as we find out at the end, he can be with a mistress he has been seeing. When they get done with the scene, Dave looks at them and says, “No, I don’t like the ending. You can’t let this guy win. He has to get his comeuppance.”
He then pulled me aside and told me that to let this scene stand is to condone the behavior of the character. To say that it’s okay that people act in this fashion, without ethics, morals or consequences. I thought we were just doing comedy.
Years later I am taking a week long workshop with Paul Sills. During one of the exercises he tells us to examine big, positive ideas “Art, Love, Music, God…” He goes on to tell us that too much improv he sees is about the ordinary, benign or the negative. His concept was that improvisers need to get to big ideas and positive ideas and explore them through characters and relationships on stage.
The big message behind “The Secret” and “What the Bleep do We Know” seems to be if you can imagine it and see it, you will make it real. You can achieve anything if you believe it and have an emotional attachment to it. ANYTHING! (I use it for a better short game when playing golf.)
What makes improv so amazing is that we are creating worlds on stage. Worlds built from emotions and relationships. Worlds that were never there before. We are adding emotions and characters and memories to the world. I will have people come up to me 10 years after a show and tell me that their spouse and they still will say a punch line to each other from a show they saw a decade ago.
What we create on stage matters. Even though there is no written record. Everyone in attendance on any given night is part of that creation. Those 100 people take that energy that we create on stage and take it into their lives. We are connecting with them on a subconscious level. We are adding energy into the Universe. We are adding to the world with every scene.
With all this in mind, shouldn’t we add things that matter. Yes, relationships suck sometimes. Yes, bad things happen in real life. Yes, the world seems to be crumbling around us. But shouldn’t we try to make a difference? Shouldn’t we try to stem the tide? Shouldn’t we try to make the world better?
Improv is always new and always lost. But it adds energy to the world. The energy you put on stage effects the audience. You create it on stage, if you do it well, you and others have an emotional attachment to it. It is real!
When we create these worlds on stage let’s try to make them be moral and just worlds. Let the stage be a place where we explore hope and possibilities and the big ideas through relationships. Let’s make the world a better place, one scene at a time.