Comedy Meets Reality


According to the agreement we signed, we’re only allowed to talk about the aspects of the event that are public domain.

My improv troupe, Comic Science Improv, auditioned recently for the America’s Got Talent television competition.

That’s in the public domain — possibly because we were shown briefly on Birmingham TV news, and definitely because the AGT folks tweeted about us by name.

They were holding auditions in Birmingham this month, and for reasons that aren’t public domain but are really cool, we decided to go down and try out.

I also won’t talk about the actual audition or how we did, but that’s OK, because that’s not the most interesting part anyway.

The highlight for me came before the actual audition, while we were biding our time in the holding room with other auditioners. With time to kill, to get ready for the audition, we started doing warm-ups. We started drawing attention, and after a bit people starting coming up and asking if they could join us. Our group kept getting bigger and louder and more energetic, and drew more attention, until some of the AGT staff came over and started watching us — finally coming over to get our Twitter information so they could tweet about us.

It was neat watching. I personally think we’re pretty darned talented, but, seeing people join our circle, it was inarguable evidence of just how FUN this group is. People were excited to come see us, to be part of what we were doing. They asked where we were from, and offered to be groupies. In a room full of talented people, Comic Science stood out.

I was proud of my troupe. Very. Proud of their work, their talent, of what they do. But even more than that, I was proud to be a part of this group. Watching the players, you just couldn’t help but see not only how much these people enjoy what they do, but also how much they enjoy each other. How close this group is, how they work together, how they play together. These are my friends, my improv family.

Regardless of whether we ever hear anything from the audition, the whole trip was worth it just to see Comic Science holding court in the holding room.

Face2Face Is On Groupon!!

OK, so I’ve talked a fair bit on here about Face2Face Improv, the incredible Huntsville improv comedy group I’m lucky enough to be  a part of.

For those that haven’t seen Face2Face before, we make up short, funny scenes on the spot based on suggestions from the audience. (And for the more timid in the crowd, we don’t bring anyone on stage or force anyone to do anything; you’re more than welcome to just sit back and enjoy the show.) We do a family friendly show of live entertainment. If you’ve ever seen the old ABC show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” we’re kinda like that. Only better.

And now is your best opportunity ever to check us out — we’re on Groupon!!

Today and tomorrow, you can get tickets at half-price or less to any of our shows that are good until next June. Buy now for cheap, and use it at your leisure anytime in the next eight months!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Life Is Improv

My fellow Face2Face Improv troupemate Wendy Morgan recently wrote a blog post titled Principles To Learn To Be An Effective Actor.

Now, I don’t know enough about scripted acting to speak to how good her principles are for that, but I can tell you that, for improv, her “secrets” are dead on:

1. Listen to who’s talking.
2. Affirm people if at all possible.
3. Care about the other person.
4. Everyone needs to shine.
5. Give, Give, Give.
6. It is not about you.

The cool thing? While these are great principles for acting in an improv scene, really, when you come down to it, that’s not a bad set of rules for life, either, is it?

Improv-ing The Travel Experience

I thought I’d share this video from a Face2Face Improv show a few years ago that was recently posted online:

This game harkens back to the ‘old days’ when slides and slide projectors were common fare when visiting relatives. More often than not … they tended to be boring.

Here, the show moderator receives from an audience member a description of their recent trip. After a basic, uneventful interview, the moderator chooses an actor to pose as the audience member, who then proceeds to show everyone the slides from the trip.

In this clip, Jen Lohrman Britton narrates a trip to Haiti. Thus the benign description, thanks to Jen, transforms into a much larger calamity of laughs.

We do shows every Tuesday night at Sam & Greg’s Pizzeria/Gelateria on the square in downtown Huntsville at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; children 8 and under are free. I’m there almost every week, usually hosting the show. Come check us out.

Classic Lines From Face2Face

For years now, I’ve been saving great lines I’ve loved from shows and rehearsals of the improv troupe I’m part of, Face2Face Improv. For the longest time, I’ve had the idea that I would design a t-shirt with some of the best of them. And now I have. I thought I’d share the results here.

A lot of stuff we do really has to be in context, and, with the nature of improv, if you’ve missed the context once, you’ve missed it forever. But these were some that I thought were amusing even without context. (Or that really make you wonder what the context was.)

(By the way, you should totally come see us. You can check the Web site for our schedule, or you can just come to Sam & Greg’s Pizzeria and Gelateria in downtown Huntsville on any Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for that 40-minute show are only $5, and kids 8 and under are free.)

Here are a few more that I didn’t have room for:

Continue reading

I Feel Funny … And Contagious

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Your Sense Of Humor.”

“Three hundred ninjas walk into a coffee shop.
The breester says we don’t serve your kind here.
And the ninja says, maybe we should destroy your whole building!”

“That’s kinda extreme.”

“And the ninja says, maybe we should destroy your whole building …
And make a better building for the coffee shop.”

“Oh, that’s nice!”

I’ve always been proud of my sense of humor.

Even if I couldn’t tell a joke to save my life.

For me, a good sense of humor is not really about being funny.

It’s about not taking things too seriously.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that, no matter how bad things may be, I can always laugh about it.

The truth is, there’s humor all around us. Life is funny, you know?

But most of the time, we take it too seriously to notice that.

When we stop, we started seeing the humor in things that we’ve been missing.

To the extent that I can be funny — and by now, I can be funny — it’s not so much because I can come up with funny things, it’s that I see the funniness already in things. Or see how to defy the expectations that we have in order to make things funny.

That’s the secret to a lot of improv we do. Sure, sometimes we’re funny because someone says something clever. But frequently we’re funny because the scene shows funny truths about life, and, because they’re pretend and on stage, it’s easy to let them be funny. Sometimes we’re funny because in our day to day lives, things happen in a consistent and logical pattern, and we find it funny when a scene deviates from that pattern.

If you can recognize those same things when they’re not on stage, the world becomes a happier place.

I enjoy laughing. I enjoy making people laugh. I do like being funny, because I like funny things.

I love sharing them with others.

Humor is one place I’ve been able to see that Finn and Caden are picking things up from being around me. They’ve come to several improv shows, and enjoy watching them, but they also want to do it themselves. They love giving suggestions during the show, but then they’ll want to play the games themselves afterward.

Finn was the first, completely on his own, to start telling the “101” jokes we do in the shows. When Finn started, Caden had to as well. Finn understands why my pun punchlines are funny, but struggles to make his own. Caden doesn’t get it at all, but finds the whole conceit of the joke funny. But it really doesn’t matter. Whether it’s because they came up with a good punchline or because their joke was totally random, the results are funny. And it’s fun to see them wanting to share that with me.

I hope that I can also teach them the truth in some wise words from A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

“The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.”

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Funny…

“I’m building a fort from marshmellows touched by God.”

“I don’t like to toot my own horn, but — toot toot!”

“I went to Mars. I’m so coy.”

Tuesday night was like the last moments of the series finale of Lost. Or the end of Wizard of Oz — “And you were there, and you were there.” But better.

I knew that Meghan Kenny was going to be there. Meghan was a part of the Face2Face improv troupe a couple of years ago, before going off to college. This past summer, she was back in town, and so joined us for some Sam & Greg’s shows, and it was great having her back with us. She’s back in town for the holidays, and so I knew she was going to be in Tuesday’s show.

I walked in, and saw Amber Farmer. Amber joined the troupe around the same time I did, and was with us for quite a while before moving to Nebraska. Tuesday night was the first time she’d been in town on a show night for quite a while, so she was excited about coming to watch. Sitting with her were Jen Lohrman and Trevor Britton, two current members of the troupe getting married in about a month.

Further back was Jeremy Shelley, one of the most senior members of the troupe who has been on sabbatical for about a couple of years while working on another degree.  He took advantage of the holiday to work in a show in mid-December, so I was expecting to see him in the audience for that show.

The audience was packed, with faces both familiar and new.  The show was great.  Matt Buchman did a great job as host, and Meghan, Wendy Morgan and Mathis Sneed were on fire.

But at the end of the show, I was selfish.

I snuck up the stairs to the balcony, and as Matt was wrapping things up, I took the bell from him. Called the four people in the show back on stage. And then I called Jeremy, Amber, Jen and Trevor up from the audience.

And all nine of us played.

“Played” in the sense of, “they played in tonight’s show,” but also “played” in the sense of having fun, like kids with cool new toys. I have no idea what the audience thought, but it didn’t really matter. Never have so many of us shared a stage at one time outside rehearsal, and people got to work together who haven’t shared a stage in years. I wish I had a video of it; it was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments for the troupe. We’ll probably never get to do that quite like that again, and I’m glad the moment happened and I got to be in it.

I wasn’t in Tuesday night’s show myself because I didn’t know if I’d be done with a family Christmas celebration in time, the last of several official or unofficial family Christmases I’d had in the last week or so. And, really, Tuesday night’s show was itself a family celebration. Face2Face is an amazing group, and I’m blessed to be a part of it.

I enjoyed closing it out, introducing the other eight members of the troupe on stage. And, then, though several of us still weren’t there, it just felt special to close it with, “We are Face2Face Improv.”

It won’t be quite the same, but we should have another incredible show tomorrow night at Sam & Greg’s Pizzeria and Gelateria in downtown Huntsville (7:30 p.m., $5, children 8 and under free). I’m hosting, and along with F2F regular Cydney Thomson, will have Meghan and Jeremy back on stage together. It should be a lot of fun, and we’d love to have you there.

For those that haven’t seen Face2Face before, we’re a comedy improv troupe. We make up scenes on the spot, based on suggestions from the audience. (And for the more timid in the crowd, we don’t bring anyone on stage or force anyone to do anything; you’re more than welcome to just sit back and enjoy the show.) We do a family friendly show of live entertainment. If you’ve ever seen the old ABC show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” we’re kinda like that. Only better.

I can’t embed them here, but there are videos of some of my work with the troupe on Facebook that should be publicly visible. Ticket information for shows is here.

Always A Groom, Never A Bride

That? That’s me in my wedding dress. Radiant, no?

We had a party Monday night for Jen and Trevor, two members of the Face2Face improv troupe who got engaged earlier this year and are planning a wedding for February. We played a couple of games, one of which I won by finding my partner, Michelle Obama (aka Jason Sims), via a series of yes-or-no questions.

In the next game, each pair had to fashion a wedding dress using two pairs of toilet paper. Since Jason actually had a vision for how Despite my elaborate veil, a bouquet and a bridesmaid to hold my train, we somehow didn’t win. Even so, it was probably the most beautiful woman I’ve been in over a year and a half.

The shower was a lot of fun, and it’s always great gathering with the rest of the troupe and their families in non-show environments. It’s one of those rare occasions where it’s just the way it seems it would be — everyone is just as fun and just as funny off-stage as on. Plus, these people are some of my best friends, and I enjoy spending time with them. It was also great this time going with Heather, letting everyone meet her, and letting her have a glimpse into a different part of my life, and of me. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have scared her off.

But then, that really makes sense after seeing what a beautiful bride I could be.

We Promise Yule Laugh

When it comes down to it, we’re just having fun.

Sure, entertaining audiences is a big part of what we do at Face2Face Improv. And, yeah, we make a small amount of money off of it. But, ultimately, we do it because we enjoy it. Which is good news for the audience, because, generally, they shows we enjoy the most are the shows you enjoy the most.

I say that because, technically, we’re on hiatus. We usually take the months of December and January off each year as a break from both shows and rehearsal. But what inevitably happens is that we go into withdrawal. By the time we start rehearsing again, we miss it desperately.

So this year, while we’re officially on break, we’re going to be doing a handful of special shows at Sam & Greg’s Pizzeria and Gelateria on the square in downtown Huntsville. There will be two December shows, both on Tuesdays, Dec. 14 and 28. Both shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 each, and children 8 and under are free.

As an added bonus, the shows are taking place not only during the F2F break, they’re taking place during the school holiday break as well, which means we’ll be joined by two special guests. On the 14th, we’ll have longtime troupe member Jeremy Shelley, and on the 28th, we’ll be joined by former F2F and current member of KARL Improv, Meghan Kenny. Meghan played a few shows with us during the summer, but Jeremy hasn’t been on stage with us for a very long time, so these shows are a very unique opportunity to see these two performers. To be honest, getting back to the “we do it because we enjoy it thing,” I scheduled the 14th show mostly so that I could work with Jeremy. He’s awesomely entertaining to watch, and incredibly fun to work with. Of course, that’s true of the rest of the troupe, but I get to work with them more.

For those that haven’t seen Face2Face before, we’re a comedy improv troupe. We make up scenes on the spot, based on suggestions from the audience. (And for the more timid in the crowd, we don’t bring anyone on stage or force anyone to do anything; you’re more than welcome to just sit back and enjoy the show.) We do a family friendly show of live entertainment. If you’ve ever seen the old ABC show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” we’re kinda like that. Only better.

I can’t embed them here, but there are videos of some of my work with the troupe on Facebook that should be publicly visible. Ticket information for shows is here.

Various and Sundry, Part Something

Things going on in my life lately that aren’t worth entire posts:

— I have a few buy-one-get-one-free tickets to Saturday’s Face2Face Improv show for people that have not been to see us before, and would like to. That said, I won’t be in the show, which might actually be a plus in some people’s book. I will be in a show Friday at Kenny Mango’s Coffee Shop in Madison. I will not be in tomorrow night’s show at Sam & Greg’s, but should be back next Tuesday.

— After writing that post a few weeks back about Apple’s recent successes, etc., I decided that I should be an Apple stockholder again, so now I am. And, yes, I’ve already lost money. Wheee!

— I forget if I blogged about the contest that was being held as a collaboration between NASA and craft site Etsy to create space-themed art projects, but the finalists have been posted in the three categories, and include an awesome space-Western shirt designed by my friend Melissa Meek, so you should go vote for her.

— The book I co-wrote with astronauts Owen Garriott and Joe Kerwin,  Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story,has been selected for a paperback edition. It won’t be available for another year, however, so don’t let that stop you from buying the slightly-more-expensive-but-better-quality hardcover edition in the meantime. But, hey, I’ll be a paperback writer, paperback writer.

— I wrote a post earlier this year about wanting to participate in The Jonah Project, in which people with differing viewpoints read The Unlikely Disciple and then discuss it. Well, I found my nemesis, applied for the project, got selected, and, finally, after a very lengthy delay, received the books, and finished reading it. I’m participating in the project with my good friend Joe Gurner, and the resulting discussions have been very interesting. Joe and I had a general idea where the other stood on a lot of issues (to wit, as far from the other as possible), but I think this may be the first time we’ve actually really discussed a lot of those things, and it’s been fascinating. I’m blessed (can I say that? lucky?) to have a friend with whom I can have such an enjoyable conversation about such loaded topics.

— After our unsuccessful attempt to watch the space shuttle launch, I took Heather’s sons out this weekend to launch model rockets, as an attempt to capture some of the excitement the scrub didn’t inspire. Needless to say, I was utterly unable to put anything in the air. Sigh. Rather embarrassing to be such a poor space pitchman to a sympathetic audience. They were really good sports about it, however, and we’ll probably try again soon.

— ADDENDUM: Welcome to the world, Baxter Hughes. Hope you enjoy it! You’ve got a good tour guide to start you out, kid.