I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to write about last night’s cage match or not due to what I imagine might be perceived blow back. But then I remembered, the blog is titled improv observations, and i’d be remiss not to write since I made a few last night. You don’t have to agree with me on the issue, I don’t think that’s why I write this but here are my thoughts on the matter: Musical/gimmick based improv vs. regular improv.
Let me preface this by saying, I enjoy several members of North Coast as improvisers, I’ve seen them work and occasionally, I’ve gotten to play with some of them. Boris and James? Some of the funniest guys out there. So please, don’t make this some sort of blog-hate-crime. That isn’t what this is.
Death By Roo Roo is one of the first teams I started seeing regularly before I even began taking classes at UCB. They’re easily my favorite team. They have that balance—steady straight men, game machines and fucking wildcards. They are legendary. They are epic—look up the stats, talk to someone, everyone knows it.
I’m not even going to sit here and tell you that Roo Roo had an AMAZING set last night. They didn’t. BUT they were funny and sound improv happened. There was heightening—damn near immediately. There were patterns. There was justification—lot’s of it in fact. I’d like to see you try and work a lady drinking a cup of cum into your next scene and try NOT to justify it. The funny was in the justification last night.
The fact that Anthony could throw out all these crazy ideas and sit there and watch Gavin and Neil have to justify it all. And I mean the set was crazy. At one point, Anthony really wanted a sandwich to come out of Gemberling’s head, so after working on the logistics of it being a pita and not technically a sandwich, food was produced from his head. Was it insane? Yes. But everything I need to learn about improv—the mechanics of it, and everything I like about improv happened in that monoscene.
Conversely, North Coast didn’t have a GREAT set either. If you’ve seen North Coast enough, and I’ve seen North Coast enough to know they weren’t as crisp or as sharp as they have been in past performances. There were a few times when the beatboxer just edited the scene doing the explosion sound before it even got off the ground. The improv? A bit joke-y for my taste. There were a couple of moments where it seemed clunky—scene work/object work people walking through doors of bathrooms and/or into bathroom sinks. A couple of scenes just didn’t work—Carnival—taxes? I was lost. Before long, I looked at the clock with seven or eight minutes left and it just seemed like they ran out of steam. Ran out of good rhymes. That’s my take on it. It’s a very unique thing…to rap improv, outside of North Coast, I know Patrick Noth does it and he does it on his own.
BUT it’s rap right? It’s making rhymes and that’s infinitely more impressive than just saying words and making connections? Yes? If it’s fucking ON POINT and if there’s no way I can leave that theatre not thinking, my mind wasn’t blown, I think so. Because it’s such a unique thing. The first time I saw North Coast was at a Tesla show. I genuinely left there thinking something incredible had happened and it had. Last night, I just didn’t have the same feeling.
And that’s when it dawned on me. You can have a mediocre musical/gimmick improv set and win, with a crowd but the same is not true of a regular improv set. You have to be exceptional—and even then, the crowd must be in your favor. Two weeks ago Fuck That Shit did something pretty impressive and still lost by 24 votes. I make no bones about saying i was genuinely shocked.
After last night, i’ve realized, an improv team can never match a musical improv team head to head and prevail by just doing improv. It sounds crazy. I just typed that and I know it’s crazy but it’s true. I’ve seen it enough to know it. You need an approach.
Last week, I heard Mr. Crime did six harolds in 20 minutes. That’s fucking impressive. I didn’t see it so I don’t know if those harolds were any good or if they weren’t. But they had the right idea. If you think you’re going to go to cage match and your improv—even on your BEST day (re: Fuck That Shit) is going to stand a chance against people rapping, you’ve got another thing coming.
Another realization, crowd factor of late has been suspect. I don’t think that audience has been stacked in favor of one team or another since the days of Dog Court. I think last night’s battle came down to 12 votes, let that sink in. 12 votes. If you don’t want to be that person scratching your head because you didn’t see it or had no idea what happened, show up! See what the hell is happening first hand. Make your own decision, vote for who you want! But don’t be that guy or girl who goes, “OH MY GOD, _______ won? I wouldn’t have….” Fucking take some stock in yourself as an improviser and see the show. It’s free for students and performers, $5 for everyone else.
Last realization, musical improv is not good to Roo Roo. Two years running, they’ve been eliminated from cage match with a musical situation. Remember how Captcha dropped the musical bomb last year and then won by four votes or something insanely close like that? Yeah.
Well that’s it. I’ve said what i’ve said. You decide what’s happening at cage match, quite literally. See North Coast go head to head with harold vets, Very Good Kiss next week Thursday, 11pm, UCB Chelsea.