The laughter of strangers

Getting people to come see you do improv is a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns. At first, your friends and family are happy, even excited to see you make stuff up on stage. But you will find that their enthusiasm will weaken and disappear with time. You can say to them truthfully that each show is different, but unless they love improv unconditionally, or love you the same way, don’t expect people to consistently come to each show.

This is aggravating and disappointing at first, but you will grow to accept and understand it after a while. Especially if you go to other improv shows. Trust me, you will get it.

Sometimes, you get to perform in front of strangers who know nothing about you and aren’t there out of any obligations. I’m going to share with you one of those rare times.

I was doing a midweek show at a café near Columbia University which was usually sparsely attended. It was no reflection on the performers, all of whom were excellent. Please see my comments above. Our show was in the smaller space on the lower level and that night, the larger space was hosting a banquet for fifty Scottish architecture students who were returning to Edinburgh the next day.

Our director, one Tom Soter, asked their professor if they would like us to do a short show for them after the one we were scheduled to do. He agreed. If he didn’t, this would be a very different sort of story.

So, we came upstairs and did a forty-five minute show. It might seem exhausting to do two shows back to back but a larger and enthusiastic crowd does wonders for your energy level.

We do a variety of short forms, which go over very well and we end with a soap opera. For those of you too young to know what a soap opera is, it’s a Telenovela in English.

Now to humblebrag a bit, I was known for doing an excellent Scottish accent, at least by American standards. So I’m put in the first scene but I don’t do the accent, which makes Tom wonder WTF I’m doing. But I do mention my twin who was brought up in Scotland.

In the next scene, I break out the accent and the place goes nuts! I don’t remember any of the plot, but every time I spoke like a Scotsman, I got huge laughs.

Afterwards, I shook a lot of hands, and one of the students asked me how I learned to speak like that. I told him I watched a lot of TV. His reply was, “Yeah, a lot of crap TV.” That sounds like an insult when written out but his tone wasn’t dismissive. I’m not sure if he was making a comment on the state of Scottish media or TV in general, but he liked the show.
So here’s to crap TV!

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