August 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A fellow named Abe W. from the Ursinus College of Pennsylvania contacted me (Brad) recently about an independent study course he was doing this summer. He is polling a bunch of improvisers around the country to compile a report on longform theatrical improvisation and the Harold.

I thought it might be neat to post the answers to the questionnaire I sent back to him.

Name: Brad McEntire

Troupe/Company Name: FUN GRIP

How many members does your troupe have? 2

In what city do you primarily rehearse and perform? Dallas, Texas

How long has your troupe/company been together? 4 years as this group, 10 with various other groups.

How do you measure success in improvisation?

 Everyone walks away happy – meaning the audience had fun, the performers had fun and the box office person had fun ($).

How do you structure your performances? Does your troupe use the Harold (or a variation of it)? Why or why not?

 We do longform, and have several formats we’ve adopted (like Typewriter/ Elevator) or invented (Dual Interview), but most often perform an original format we just call Fun Grip. It is a story-based format, but quite different than the Harold.

We have sat in with other groups and played Harold and Armando, but we have found these formats too restrictive for our own creativity and prefer a more organic approach. If you’re really curious about our format, there’s info at:

Describe your rehearsal process.

 We most often rehearse by doing, meaning we simply perform an improv set and then have a talkback afterwards, looking for points where we could be stronger, noticing habits forming and just having fun. Lately, we are doing enough gigs back to back (more than or at least once a month) that we have stopped rehearsing and just perform.

Rehearsals for a two man group are tricky. They can easily become self-indulgent. You might start to practice trying to make the other person laugh, rather than focusing on techniques, etc. We are also always wary of peaking in rehearsal, or coming up with something really hauntingly good, and it is a little wasted without an audience seeing it. They’re the last ingredient, after all.

How do you connect to your audience?

 We don’t chit-chat and clap at the beginning. I hate the clapping. We quickly introduce ourselves, grab a suggestion and go. The ride has begun and with high energy. Real high energy, not schmaltzy “host” energy. Throughout the set we will frequently go into the audience, pull up audience members into the set, break the fourth wall, etc. We don’t take the format so seriously that the audience isn’t in on the whole thing.

 When I do solo improv (I have a format called DRIBBLE FUNK) I stand silently onstage before I begin the set, taking a beat to take in the audience.  

Do you have any other advice for young improvisers or beginning troupes?

1. Perform at a lot of places instead of just one home base. That way your audiences will change more, too. And perform a lot.

2. Get the branding down, complete with website, photos, videos and press kit asap. Festivals are sticklers for this. Early on, I think we missed a few good opportunities just because we were not packaging ourselves properly. While I’m on this subject, have one person in your group be that manager, who books gigs, applies to festivals, etc. This stuff is one of those things that is almost impossible to really stay on top of.

3. Be good. Not just good on stage, but be good off stage, too. It is always a sad situation when you’re around a big group of improvisers and half of them are assholes. It is a field filled with both genuinely delightful, inventive people and a whole bunch of insecure, dick-measuring folks.  I always think it should be more like the golden age of jazz musicians (supportive, interested, willing to jam together). Being good includes not bad-mouthing anyone publicly EVER and writing thank you notes/emails when needed (in fact, thank you notes with your troupe logo is always classy).

Good luck, Abe. ~Brad of FUN GRIP IMPROV


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