I listened to Matt Besser’s “Improv for Humans” podcast for the first time yesterday. Click here or subscribe on iTunes. It’s great and hilarious, and if you start listening regularly you can be cool like me. But not AS cool as me, because I was listening first.
On the most recent episode, Besser had Chris Gore on the podcast. Gore I know from his appearances on “Attack of the Show” and a variety of other programs. He was brought on for the last half-hour or so to discuss something he said to Besser at a recent event they attended. Gore postulated that “Improv is for pussies.” Why? Because he does improv all the time. He then proceeds to, as Splitsider’s Jesse David Fox at Splitsider put it, “talk out of his ass” about improv.
Besser, to his credit, was super patient and quite informative. As someone who hasn’t done any improv, I learned a lot just from listening to him for a few minutes. Chris Gore, on the other hand, came off as kind of an ass, and not even for his incorrect assumption of what “yes, and…” is all about.
No, what really got my goat is when he compared doing improv to stupid shit people do in public to elicit a reaction. The most glaring and ridiculous example was what he claims he did on a first date with a girl who dated him for two and a half years, when he suddenly and without warning jumped out of his chair and yelled “you’re pregnant?!”. Gore not only claimed that the girl found this funny, but that the entire restaurant burst into applause and laughter at his wildly clever antics. Which is sort of a weird thing for an adult to expect another adult to believe, but there are also a lot of comedians who bless their heart always say they “killed” when the reaction was…well, okay, but was not in danger of inducing death via hilarity.
Improv is a form of expression that takes work, commitment, and talent. As Besser notes, there’s plenty of bad improv out there, just like there’s plenty of bad stand-up comedy and filmmaking. Existence alone doesn’t merit praise; a point which Gore, to his credit, concedes. But that doesn’t mean that obnoxious pranks you play on people to dick around with them can be considered improv or even anything remotely resembling it. Or, even, comedy as a whole.
Thankfully I don’t think this is a prevailing view. In my brief experience, people seem to at the very least understood that there’s effort and craft behind putting together a set and performing it. There are, however, guys (and gals but in my experience it’s mostly guys) who think stand-up comedy is as easy as joking around with their buds, or they have a joke they think you should tell (note if you’re reading this – please don’t do that). It’s kind of maddening, but passable. But to hear it on a big stage like that from someone who I think honestly knows better (Gore) is sort of maddening.
I’d go more into it but I want you all to listen for yourselves. It’s not embeddable, so check it out and listen for yourself. The conversation with Gore starts around the hour and fifteen minute mark.
- Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…
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