Monday, June 1, 2009

Theatre of the Lazy

I hope this comes across as a clear, cogent thought and not some ridiculous self-aggrandizing diatribe. At this point, running on three hours of sleep with no good excuse other than I’m a big nerd (“A huge ass book about Lorenzo de’Medici! Wow!”), that’s about all I can hope for.*

This morning, on my usual tour of the local blogosphere, I read a review on Don Hall’s blog of The New American All-Stars in which he basically called out the improv group in question for not caring enough to do a decent show. I haven’t seen the show or the group, so I am not prepared to comment either way on whether or not that was a fair assessment.

I am prepared to comment on the comment section though, which quickly became an opportunity for people to vent their frustrations on Improvisation as an art form. Which I’m certain was not the intention of Don in posting what he posted. But the most prevailing condemnation is that so much Improvisation amounts to “theatre of the lazy.”

While Improvisation and Sketch Comedy are not the same, they are artistic cousins (in Chicago we usually share actors, performance spaces and even bills) and I think that this particular fault can be applied to Sketch as easily as to Improvisation. I’ve only been in Chicago for about three and a half years – not long enough to be a truly opinionated master at anything but long enough to have a few suspicions. And while I’ve seen some great improv and some great sketch comedy in my time here, I’ve also seen a couple (and maybe even been a part) of big steaming piles.

As we here at Robot vs Dinosaur head back to the writer’s room to plan our next show, this post becomes a very good reminder to me of why we formed.

When Joe Janes originally brought all of the writers together during those first primordial writers meeting two years ago, we naturally had that sit-down that every group has where we talked about what we wanted to be as a group. We writers all had varying degrees of experience in the local sketch comedy scene, but the one thing we kept coming back to was our desire to do quality work. We didn’t want to be just a group of people who slapped together a show at the last minute because somehow they had managed to land a Skybox show and needed material, any material, immediately. We wanted to make sure that our shows were unique, well written and well rehearsed.

At the end of countless rewrites, weeks of rehearsal and all, at the very least I have the satisfaction of knowing, regardless of whether the audience loved it or hated it, that what I put out was my best effort.

We also naturally wanted to be funny.

This is not to say that Robot vs. Dinosaur shows are the greatest ever (I would never say that publicly but know that I'm thinking it), but I do think it’s important to remind oneself that quality matters.

I know that we get a couple of people coming to the blog looking for Robowriter’s assignments and so forth. So, for all of you aspiring or practicing comedy writers and actors out there, I guess my point is to commit yourself completely to whatever it is you do and concentrate on making something of the best quality you can. That’s really the only way to get better at what you do.

And… post.

*Note to self: eliminate dangling participles.

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