Upcoming Shows

  • October 1, 2014 8:00 pmComedy Masters
  • October 2, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 2, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • October 3, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • October 3, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 3, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • October 3, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 3, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 4, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • October 4, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 4, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • October 4, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • October 4, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • October 8, 2014 8:00 pmComedy Masters
  • October 9, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 9, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • October 10, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • October 10, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 10, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • October 10, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 10, 2014 9:00 pmFall Comedy Train Rek
  • October 10, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 11, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • October 11, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 11, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
AEC v1.0.4

Discussing a Bit with Matt Holmes – Kill Your Darlings, but for improv

by Matt Holmes

Writers are advised with the axiom “Kill Your Darlings,” which should be traced back to Sir Arthur Quiller-Crouch. The idea is that writers should not to be too precious about their creations.

If you craft something that you love, you might shun any criticism or advice. Even if it’s perfect and beautiful, you might include it where it doesn’t belong. You might like it, but will your audience get what you mean? Your terrific turn of phrase might be one word too long for your limit; what can you do?

Maybe you don’t hit delete and instead save it to be used elsewhere (Will and Grace started as traditional wacky neighbors until they became the main focus). Whatever you do with your work, you must not coddle it.

Writers usually work in private and alone; they spend time on their work and don’t know what the readers think until long after publishing. Improv, in contrast, is usually a group effort done in the moment with a public, immediate response.

In improv, the equivalent of this concept might be “Love Your Garbage.”

Sometimes, you’re blessed with good stuff that magically, automatically falls into place. That stuff takes care of itself. If you know what you’re doing, even the mediocre stuff gets heightened and used. The tricky part is the bad stuff.

Make the mistakes part of the pattern. You can’t edit anything out, so you have to make it so you wanted it to happen for some reason. Make it seem on purpose.

If you’re embarrassed that those words came out of your mouth, make them important and meaningful in retrospect. Make the beginning work because of the ending. Now is the time to make your partner look good. Make their dumb move into a brilliant choice. If you do something stupid, do it again and figure out why.

When we watch improv, we want to see your brilliance, but we also like to see the  tightrope wiggle a bit. Let it wiggle, let us see the process of you using your skills. Then make something good out of it.

 

Matt Holmes is an improviser in Philly. He performs a full improv comedy set with a complete stranger from the audience in Matt& (“playful and winning” –TimeOut Chicago). He also teaches improv, coaches improv groups, and co-founded Rare Bird Show (“Top Shelf Improv” –The Apiary, “arguably the best improv group Philly has ever produced” –AV Club).

Look for the next installment of “Discussing a Bit,” Matt’s monthly WitOut column, on July 1st.

Have a comedy issue or theory you’d like Matt to examine? Email alison@witout.net.

Discussing a Bit with Matt Holmes – Teaching Comedy Openly & Inclusively

by Matt Holmes

Comedy has always had a tradition of education. It could be informal advice, taking someone under your wing, or a formal series of classes, workshops, and speeches. People transition from beginners learning the ropes to experts who can pass down their wisdom.

As comedians progress in their career, they might find themselves taking on titles like teacher, instructor, director, coach, adviser, guru, guide, lecturer, team captain, or mentor. When you teach something, you learn more about it yourself; you have to know the subject comprehensively to enlighten someone else.

  • Regrettably, there’s little training for comedy educators. There are some models for curriculum and resources, but the focus tends to be on what’s being taught, not how to teach it.
  • Also regrettably, the world of comedy can be somewhat segregated, and people can struggle as much with how they fit in as how they get funny.

Here are some tips for creating the right atmosphere for those in your tutelage, highlighting issues of diversity.

CONTINUE READING…

Discussing a Bit with Matt Holmes – Premise

by Matt Holmes

In an HBO comedy special called Talking Funny, Ricky Gervais welcomed Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. for a discussion. The topic of “premise” came up, and they cited its importance. They highlighted that Chris Rock will be blatant about it, even literally saying the premise and repeating it again and again to punctuate his point.

Rock says that if it’s not working, it’s not working because the audience doesn’t understand the premise. Perhaps the difference between a real pro and an amateur hack is the talent, time, effort, and finesse involved in crafting a clear premise.

You have to have some kind of premise to play. A good comedian will let everybody know what it is that we’re talking about. It could be acted out scenically with characters or told as a story through observations or monologues. It could be a topic explored from different angles. It could be a running gag. It could be another scenario that serves as another example.

In comedy, the premise answers the question, “What’s the point?” It’s what you “get.” It’s why I should pay attention. It’s what helps you do more on the joke, what helps your scene partners build on it, what helps you fine-tune it.

If it’s not clear (for you and for the people watching you), it’s going to be harder than it should be. It can be easy and fun, but you have to have some kind of premise to play.

CONTINUE READING…