Here’s the second part of my interview with UCB LA’s Jake Regal.
How has improv changed?
When I was first taking classes, the philosophy was a very much a writer’s philosophy. It seemed solely about the game – finding the unusual thing, playing the move. It was very mathematical. Almost too mathematical. Never as bad as detractors made it out to be, but you knew the cheat/short cut system to isolate funny. I think the theater has increasingly incorporated more acting technique and human response to its improv.
Tell me about coaching. What do you love about it? What’s your philosophy?
I love seeing how a team changes over time and I’m happy to have been a part of it. I can shape a young team in a positive way. Philosophically, I’m trying to stop the evil improv in the comedy community – uncommitted improv performed for other improvisers and joke telling for each other. I consider my duty to teach people not to do that. My goal is to get people to commit to the reality of the universes they’re creating.
Who were/are your mentors?
Chad Carter. I had him for three classes and he coached my practice group for a year and a half. He always said, “Keep being funny until you can’t be funny anymore.” He was great at getting the game play side of improv working.
Eugene Cordero. He worked the humanity side of improv – play more like a person on stage vs. robot moves. He always pushed emotional moves.
Will Hines. He was critical to the development of Cardinal Redbird and created a very specific insanity that has meshed with the team.
What makes a good improviser?
- Willingness to not be funny. The most important thing in my opinion is a willingness to not be funny. That is the breakthrough between 301 and 401 students – they learn/start to tell the jokes at the right time. The transition to good improviser is to exist in their space, create a baseline reality and the ability to just be there is invaluable.
- Actor or human being skills. Be more present, active and be a better listener. I love seeing two human beings on stage.
- Perseverance. It will take you time. It is as much about willing to stick it out as it is about talent. Improv will be there for those it’s worth it to. If you legitimately enjoy it, it will be there for you.
We’re chest deep in Harold auditions. Any tips?
- Set reasonable expectations. Don’t put your entire life’s purpose on getting on a team. There’s 20 spots or fewer and 100s of people auditioning.
- Have fun. Don’t focus on making a team. Be enthusiastic about the attempt.
- Commit. Don’t play for laughs. Most people auditioning lose commitment. You will impress the auditors if you’re a committed human being listening and reacting in your scenes and responding honestly. If you’re playing the game, great.
I wrote a bunch of blog posts about Harold auditions.
Any advice for those pursuing an improv career?
It’s a lot of work. I made a Harold team and played on Harold night. Then our team blew up and I got kicked off. I told myself, “I will not stop to get back on Harold night!” I had four years of depression. I took classes and worked incredibly hard. You have to figure out to yourself if it’s worth it.
There is no correct way to do it. Every method has proved correct and incorrect.
Team chemistry is a fickle beast. Getting put on a team doesn’t necessarily translate to team chemistry. Form your own team. Play with people you enjoy playing with.
Remember – improv is fun above all other things. It’s not about how to do things. It’s a celebration of this stupid thing we’re doing. That will eliminate stress of having to be somewhere as an improviser.
The people that perform at UCB love improv, even after they “make it.” Improv isn’t necessarily the means to the end.
Don’t expect riches. I was fortunate to book a national commercial every year, but I was basically poor. I didn’t spend money. It wasn’t until very recently that I began to live like a human being.
Personally, I love it. I’m a huge egoist. I love people laughing. I get to play with other people and that’s where I get a lot of fun. Art in general comes up in improv. I love those moments of unexpected honesty. They happen in music and movies. Truth permeates and that can happen a lot in improv. That’s why the commitment is so important. Be a person on stage. The unexpected honesty – I find those the most gratifying moments.
Do the Long Hard Improv Jam. I started hosting it for the same reason as the 3 on 3 tournament.
Back then, the Jam was a train wreck. People would steam roll other people out of scenes. I felt so uncomfortable. I knew I needed to keep doing it until I was comfortable. I had to keep going back until I gained confidence.
Now the Jam is much more patient. It’s still more wild than the average improv show because you don’t know the people or why they might make certain moves and they’re aggressive, but it trains your confidence muscle.
To connect with Jake, follow him on twitter or email here if you’re looking for a coach.
twitter – @jakeregal
If you want to enlist Jake as a coach – [email protected]