71 minutes | Aug 22, 2022
In this, our 50th episode!, Whit has a conversation with Rachael Mason. Rachael has been a mainstay of the Chicago improv scene for many years. She has been a central figure in the Second City’s curriculum and performance and has moved to iO which is set to re-launch under new ownership in Fall of 2022. There, she is the Director of Education and is involved in both the design of the theater’s improv curriculum and performance structures – and as you might guess, we spend some time discussing what is to come at iO. Rachael’s teaching also extends to coursework at DePaul University and Columbia Chicago, as well as her own workshops that she has delivered all around the world. Her performance credits are many, with many credits at Secondy City, iO, Annoyance, Baby Wants Candy, as well as regularly performing with her good friend and improv beshert, Susan Messing. You can get access to drop in classes and more through ioimprov.com, which certainly will develop more fully in the months and years following the release of this episode.
96 minutes | Jul 18, 2022
Our guest on this episode of the Improv Comedy Connection is David Escobedo. David has been coaching and performing improv since 1994. In fact, he coached his first improv team, as there weren't any improv schools around! Later he took classes at iOwest, Second City and other improv schools around Los Angeles. He is quick to acknowledge the impact of his improv teachers during this time, including Jay Sukow (Jay was part of the COVID-19 Improv Summit and was interviewed as part of Season 4), Paul Vaillancourt (Paul was interviewed in Season 1), Liz Allen, Steve Green, Duncan Cameron, Vanessa Anton, and more that he would view as particularly inspirational. One of the philosophies he firmly believes in is that the improv ecosystem is much more flat than we're led to believe. He rejects the notion that there is a dynamic hierarchy of "good improvisers" or teachers, and firmly wants to see people and institutions being put on pedestals. His goal as a teacher is to make you a peer, not a constant student (cash cow). That way there are more people to do good improv with! David is pursuing his PhD in Chester, UK. He lives there with his super talented and creative partner Monica Escobedo and their adorable new child, Q. You can find David and one of his most important projects at: www.facebook.com/BoostImprov.
75 minutes | May 9, 2022
Our guest for this episode is Hellena Jang. Hellena is an improviser, instructor and agile coach in Seoul, Korea, as well as the founder of Imfrog - likely the first Korean language improv troupe on the Korean peninsula. She was introduced to improv through Seoul City Improv, an English language troupe established by ex-pats in the city. That experience led to perhaps one of the most intense deep dives into improv - a couple of extended, immersive journeys that Hellena took to learn about a great many of the North American improv schools, traditions and communities - that helped shape the force of improv that is Hellena Jang. In this episode, we talk about that journey, a bit about the European and Asian festival scene, leading in improv, her pioneering work, and the Korean language and culture and improv. And Hellena is just fun to talk with! You may recall Hellena from her contributions to the Covid-19 Improv Summit in the following two episodes: COVID-19 Improv Summit — The Globalization of Improv Part 1 COVID-19 Improv Summit — The Globalization of Improv Part 2 You can connect with Hellena in a number of ways: hellenajang.com Facebook Instagram
77 minutes | Nov 1, 2021
Our guest for this episode is Tanine Dunais. Tanine grew up in Iran, but discovered improv in the United Arab Emirates. She later moved to Europe, and now resides in the Netherlands, where she pursues improv, bouffon, clowning, and more. This episode features an interesting discussion on the theater traditions of Tanine's homeland, and as well as an fascinating consideration of performing in a context of difference backgrounds and intersectionalities in an ensemble. You can connect with Tanine in a number of ways: Tanine Dunais is her website with many links to her varied work. @tanindunais • Instagram @tannin | Facebook Episode webpage: https://wp.me/paJcZS-Eg
70 minutes | Sep 13, 2021
In this episode, we talk with Patrick Rowland. Patrick is a writer, comedian, and actor from Chicago, now residing in Los Angeles. He’s studied and taught at The Second City and iO Theater. His solo character work was featured in Alone, Chicago’s Best Solo Comedy at The TBS Just For Laughs Festival in 2013. Austin Comedy Short Film Festival nominated Patrick as Best Supporting Actor for his work in Mr. Mainframe. He is the creator of The Patrick Rowland Sketch Show, a web series he writes produces, directs, and films himself on an iPhone. He is also a founding member of 3Peat, a critically acclaimed, award-winning sketch/improv troupe, who has several sketches with Comedy Central's Digital platform, their most successful, The Blackening, garnered over 15 million views, and is currently being made into a feature. Patrick hosted a late-night talk show as former President Barack Obama called Barack All Night. Most recently, he participated in a virtual roundtable for Sony Pictures, which was led by Girls Trip producer and writer Tracy Oliver. Patrick currently writes for The Amber Ruffin Show. Links: PatrickRowland.net The Patrick Rowland Sketch Show Instagram Twitter The Amber Ruffin Show - YouTube
92 minutes | Aug 30, 2021
For this episode, Whit has a conversation with Jay Sukow — a US improviser based in LA, but in New Zealand traveling for this recording. After catching up a bit, we jumped into an amazing conversation about his favorite (by far) of over 300 10-minute scenes that he’s been doing since early on in the pandemic. This is all the more impressive given that his online series “10 Minutes with…” where he improvises a 10 minute scene with someone from anywhere on the planet, has over 100,000 views. Jay is very much about positivity towards improv and saying yes within your improv. This has led to a continued desire and enthusiasm for improv and improv community online – something that we also spend some time talking about in this episode. As far as Jay’s background, he’s been improvising for nearly 30 years. A few of those he has trained with include Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, David Razowsky, Keith Johnstone, Del Close, Charna Halpern, Jeff Michalski and Mick Napier. He is a graduate of training centers of The Second City, The Second City NW, iO Chicago, and ComedySportz Chicago and the founder of Today Improv. He also served as the Artistic Director/Head of Training at the Improv Comedy Copenhagen Theatre, where he taught improv and sketch comedy to expats from all around the world. He previously taught for Second City Chicago, Second City Hollywood, Westside Comedy Theater, iO Chicago (where he was also head of its artistic committee), iO West and ComedySportz Chicago, and has taught at many improv festivals around the world, including the Oslo Impro Festival, the Copenhagen International Improv Festival, the Barcelona Improv Festival and the Chicago Improv Festival. He is the winner of The Golden Pineapple, awarded to the best visiting teacher at Improv Comedy Copenhagen. At the Westside Comedy Theater, Jay is in the cast of Mission Improvable and Improv Famous, an Armando-style show featuring some of the best improvisors on the planet. He is also part of the duo Zer0 H0ur with Bill Chott and was an ensemble member of ComedySportz Chicago, several weekend “house” improv teams at iO Chicago and many other improv and sketch comedy groups. At least, that’s the in person stuff! Also, Jay is the co-host of ImprovCast with Jay and Landon. Follow Jay and Jay-related stuff at: JaySukow.com Today Improv Facebook Twitter Instagram Jay also appeared as a panelist on the first session of the Covid-19 Improv Summit and both sessions related to online improv in the Summit.
105 minutes | Aug 2, 2021
In this episode, we get the joy of talking with Stacey Hallal - founder of the Curious Comedy Theater in Portland, Oregon where she serves as Artistic Director as well as a regular performer, writer, director and teacher. We talk a bit about her leadership at Curious, but she's also known for her Ruby Rocket, Private Eye character and much, much more. We discuss her affinity for "cross-training" - which dates back to her experience in Chicago in going through the training at iO, Annoyance, Second City along and others, along with experiencing a host of different approaches to improv from the scores of comedy festivals she's been a part of in one capacity or another. Keep up with Stacey at: Instagram: @thestaceyhallal Curious Comedy Theater Ruby Rocket, Private Eye
86 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
In this episode, we get to hear from Luana Proença - an improviser from Brazil, presently studying for a PhD in theater/improvisation in Lisbon, Portugal. Luana is a known quantity in much of the global improv world, but not nearly well-known enough in the English-speaking, North American improv community. Listening in will help change that if that's where you're based, and you'll thank me for the experience later. Luana has some very interesting, and clear observations and understandings of the various roles an improviser plays within any performance. I recommend her book on that subject highly, and you can find a link to get your copy below - with very friendly pricing arrangements so that you can be as generous as you can be to Luana while taking advantage of her wonderful work. We also consider the impact other voices can have on each of us -- first through the lens of the documentary she produced with contributions from 60 improvisers from all over the world -- to just each other's voices. Listen wherever you get your podcasts or go to the episode webpage at https://wp.me/paJcZS-AP.
75 minutes | Jul 6, 2021
Michelle Gilliam is a voice actor and improviser based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the founder of Improv MKE. She has been involved with improv since high school, and at various times has been immersed in the Milwaukee, Chicago, and Boston improv scenes. With the pandemic, she adeptly stepped into the global, online improv community where her skills and thoughtfulness about the art and the community aspects of improv have garnered her world-wide respect. Her emphasis on being human applies to both the art and community, and can be seen quite clearly in everything Michelle does. Her experiences are easily accessible and welcoming, and you can find many of them by going to www.improvmke.com or to the World's Greatest Improv School. You can also find Michelle and Improv MKE around social media - including: Improv MKE | Facebook.
75 minutes | Jun 21, 2021
Our guest for episode 5 of season 4 is Felipe Ortiz - a performer, director and teacher based in Bogota, Colombia. But that 's really not a full summary of what Felipe is as a performer or educator. He blends in, exchanges, plays, interacts and shares tools techniques and insights with artists from around the world. You can see his interest in the body in movement in his use and integration of acrobatics, improvisation, clowning, physical theater, object manipulation and more in his performances. He's currently working as a clown, acrobatics and impro teacher at the Javeriana University in Bogota and is the co-founder and co-artistic director of La Gata Cirko (new circus company) for many years and co director for of the improv ensemble PICNIC.
56 minutes | May 24, 2021
In this episode, we get to spend time with a true improv pioneer -- Oluwadamilola Apotieri-Abdulai. Damilola is one of the few improvisers in Nigeria and in West Africa. He has an amazing background in using theater, improv, and other techniques and structures to positively impact individuals and communities throughout the region and indeed across the world. The work he's done and is doing will inspire you - and is reason enough to listen in to this conversation. Damilola is the founder of Playback Nigeria which focuses on using art for social transformation and is a leader in the region in promoting mental health awareness, using the arts to support those impact of disasters and dislocations, and otherwise. He also has a drive to spread the practice of improvisation and other similar arts throughout the continent of Africa and continues to create online fesitvals and other opportunities for people from different countries, particularly children, to connect with each other. You can follow Playback Nigeria by looking up @PlaybackNigeria on IG, Facebook and Twitter. They are also on the web at www.playbacknigeria.com.
77 minutes | May 10, 2021
Our third episode in Season 4 is with Dr. Sophie Scott, the Wellcome Senior Research Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She is part of UCL's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and in the Division of Psychology & Lang Sciences. So of course we're having her on the podcast, right? Well it is an of course because of her particular lines of inquiry do have quite a lot to say about a subject that all improvisers, comedians and communicators who use humor care about -- laughter. More generally, Dr. Scott's work looks at the neural basis of vocal communication - how our brains process the information in speech and voices and correspondingly produce what comes out of us that's audible. Within that, is a very special and interesting focus that she has placed on laughter. And her conclusions can -- if we let them -- be quite transformational, I think, in how we evaluate our work. I don't want to give too much away, so I will leave it there -- but what for more follow up material on the topics addressed. You are also welcome and encouraged to check out more of Dr. Scott's background and work product. Here are a few places to get you started: Official Site: http://ucl.ac.uk/pals/people/profiles/academic-staff/sophie-scott Select Lectures and Resources from Dr. Scott: Sophie Scott: Why we laugh | TED Talk The Science of Laughter with Sophie Scott - YouTube The Neuromantics on Apple Podcasts
68 minutes | Apr 26, 2021
Born in Indonesia, and now based in Norway, Aree Witoelar is an improv teacher, director and performer who is also the founder and artistic director of Impro Neuf International. Impro Neuf International is Norway’s first international improv community with over 1,000 members from over 50 countries. Aree has been improvising since 2005, studying from many teachers and throughout his improv career has believed in bringing the global voice to the improv stage. In the new era of online improv, he is teaching improv to every corner of the world and regularly performing duos -- as of this episode he's played with over 120 players from 50 or more countries. These scenes can be accessed at his facebook page Aree also writes periodically on topics of improv on Medium and can pretty easily make the case as the lead foodie in the international improv foodie community. Aree and Whit share a love of Beef Rendang, chilaquiles, snert and much more -- but conversation about foods from around the world will have to wait for a second episode. For more on Aree, go to: www.areewitoelar.com Medium Facebook
94 minutes | Apr 11, 2021
We're back for season 4 with Shaun Landry! Shaun got her start in improv in the mid-1980s in Chicago and has been a strong, joyful, positive presence not only in Chicago, but then in San Francisco, LA and through her travels and online, all over the world. It was a fantastic conversation - both what is being published and what followed -- and it's a great way to start off our next season. We missed you, and if you didn't miss us, you certainly won't want to miss Shaun Landry. More details on Shaun on the episode webpage at https://wp.me/paJcZS-xF. You can find Shaun on the web at shaunlandry.com and also on social media at: Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube
95 minutes | Jan 24, 2021
Listen in to a fire side chat with Joe Bill -- widely regarded as one of the best teachers of Scenic and Comedic Improvisation in the world today. He is one of the founding members of Annoyance Theater Chicago where, for 12 years, he performed in and/or directed more than 60 different shows. He was the Director of Corporate Training at iO Chicago for 15 years and a Teacher & Guest Artist in Residence at The Second City Conservatory & Training Center for another 15 years. Joe first learned Improvisation and in 1977 studied and worked with Del Close from 1985 through the mid 90’s. Joe is ½ of the original improvised Monoscene, BASSPROV with Mark Sutton, . They have been heralded by the NY TIMES: "BASSPROV refreshingly has the feel of a quiet character study...jokes emerge organically, using wordplay, character quirks and quicksilver wit." Joe tours all over the world, teaching and headlining with extremely talented Duo partners like Mark Sutton (Annoyance Theater Co-Founding Member and Artistic Director for Training and Development at The Second City) in the long-running BASSPROV, Jill Bernard (Huge Improv Theater – Mpls.) in their hit show SCRAM!, with Lee White (CRUMBS – Winnipeg, Berlin) in their heroic Duo show PARADIGM, with International Improv Legend Patti Stiles (AD - Impro Melbourne) in their groundbreaking show Our Play, Stacey Hallal (Curious Comedy Theater – Portland, OR) in Stacey & Joe and We Slept Together, Heather Urquhart (Improviser/Director The Maydays & Showstopper The Improvised Musical – London/U.K.) in their magical improvised Musical Blues Hammer (with the stupendous Joe Samuel on Improvised Orchestra) and with David Razowsky (Host A.D.D. Comedy Podcast) in Razowsky & Bill. He’s played with many other Duo partners, in the U.S. and abroad, in many Festival Ensemble shows and in every improvised format and/or style imaginable. For the last 6 years he has also been teaching and performing in French, in many cities in France, Belgium & Luxembourg. He is living his dream! He has played as a guest in Play Unscripted with ImproTheatre L.A., Grand Theft Impro at Impro Melbourne (Australia), The Scene at The PIT in New York City and UCB in L.A., with Let’s Have A Ball and ASSSSCAT 3000 at UCB Theater in New York & L.A. and with Kornfeld & Andrews at Magnet Theater in New York City. And, of course, he has performed, directed, taught and served as an Artistic Adviser for a number of Improvisation/Comedy Theaters & Festivals on every continent except Antarctica (but he’s working on that!) and at every major Improv Festival in The United States. You can find Joe on facebook at Joe Bill Teaches! | Facebook, which is also the best place to get connected with the Story Chain sessions that Joe hosts.
69 minutes | Jan 4, 2021
Our penultimate episode of Season 3 is with Aretha Sills - the granddaughter of Viola Spolin - widely considered the mother of modern improvisational theater) an daughter of Paul Sills (founder and initial director The Second City in Chicago, as well as Story Theater). Aretha studied for many years with her father and is an outstanding instructor in her own right, having worked with Tony- and Emmy-Award winning actors and having trained faculty from Northwestern, DePaul, Columbia College, The Second City, The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, LAUSD, CETA, and many other institutions and schools. Aretha is presently the Associate Director of Sills/Spolin Theater Works and directs The Predicament Players. In our conversation, we look at the whole of improv. In re-considering the genesis and revolutionary utilization of theater games and the experiential learning approach of Viola Spolin against the backdrop of a variety of narratives about what improv is, it becomes apparent that not only are some unaware of the impact and importance of Viola Spolin, but that the Mother of Improv has been written out or ignored to our detriment. Hopefully we help right some of that wrong in this episode. Episode Webpage: wp.me/paJcZS-uE
72 minutes | Dec 13, 2020
As we get ready to close out Season 3 of the podcast, Whit has a conversation with Jon Carr -- just a week or so out from the big news that Jon has been hired as Executive Producer at Second City. Just prior, Jon was serving as Artistic Director at Dad's Garage in Atlanta. Jon was not only a fixture for many years at Dad's, but also in the Atlanta creative community as a whole. We discuss his start in improv at Dad's, his approach to the craft, and so much more. In addition to his work at Dad's Garage, Jon impacted and connected with many other organizations. He has had staged readings at Synchronicity Theatre, Happy Accident Theatre, and Stage Door Players. He worked with Alliance Theatre as their Audience Development Manager. Jon founded United Atlanta Improv and has helped improv theatres around the city come together through collaborative works. With his improv group Dark Side of the Room, he has been able to work with The Center For Civil and Human Rights and perform around North America. He has appeared in a number of Dad’s Garage shows such as: “Cannibal! The Musical,” “The Dad’s Garage Going Out of Business Show,” “The Wrath of Con” and “Effed Up Fairy Tales.” Dad’s Garage has also given him the opportunity to write shows as he has written “Wrath of Con 1,” “Wrath of Con 2,” and “Black Nerd” (Winner of the 2018 Suzi Bass Award for Best Orginal play). You can connect with Jon on social media: Instagram @joncarrjr Twitter @JonCarrJr And keep watching as he makes his mark on Second City in 2021 and beyond!
74 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
Feña Ortalli began his acting and improvisation career in 2001 in Buenos Aires. In 2006 he created Global Impro, an improv troupe dedicated to national and international collaboration and exchange. He's currently based in Madrid where he performs and teaches with the larger companies in that city. Feña also has been writing, editing, and providing the general direction of Status, a digital magazine about improvisation, since 2011. He's also the author of the book Impro: Dynamics of the Unexpected (2018) and has taught and performed in different cities in over 20 countries. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fena.ortalli Global Impro: http://www.globalimpro.com/ Status Magazine: http://www.statusrevista.com/
87 minutes | Nov 8, 2020
Today's new episode features Jonathan Pitts! In this episode, Whit talks with Jonathan - an award-winning, international improv theatre artist, creator, director, producer, and teacher from Chicago. He's been improvising for over 35 years, and has been involved in founding and directing important festivals and experiences like the Chicago Improv Festival and the College Improv Tournament. We talk tech, we talk the global improv community, we talk technique, and we talk about improv - all drawing on Jonathan's deep experience and interest in making connections across the globe with improv. You can connect with Jonathan on the web at JonathanPittsImprov.com & GlobalImprovWalkabout.com or on social media: Facebook: Jonathan Pitts Instagram: @pitts5038 Twitter: @jpitts_28
71 minutes | Oct 18, 2020
Sheri is an instructor at the Second City training center in the improv and music departments. She has performed at the Engaging Women Conference, been a guest on Vocalo Radio's Morning AMp Council of Feminist Thought show, and was a panelist for the Inside Jokes Comedy Conference hosted by Women In Comedy, and has appeared in numerous podcasts addressing wide-ranging subjects including art, equity, and criticism. Having performed in a variety of forms from Shakespeare to screen, Sheri is a member of the interracial, married sketch team FLANDERS, the head writer for CHOICE THE MUSICAL, was an ensemble member of Second City’s musical house ensemble, INFINITE SUNDAES, and founded the first and longest-running musical improv team CHEAP TRILLS at Just the Funny theater in Miami. She is represented by NV Talent. A member of the American Theater Critics Association, her writing as a freelance journalist, critic, and humorist, has been featured in publications such as McSweeney's, the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reader, Rescripted, Performink, NewCity, Chicagoland Musical Theater, and the Windy City Times. Sheri was invited to cover the 2020 Sundance Film Festival as part of their Press Inclusion Initiative. There's more Sheri at www.sheriflanders.com or you can find her on Facebook and LinkedIn, too. You can find a lot of Sheri's writing online, but here are a couple of articles to get you going if you don't know where to start: Black Artistic Leaders Take Charge at Several Chicago Theaters -- The Chicago Reader Inclusion in Improv: or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Use the Bomb -- Rescripted