Secret Invisible Dinosaur

I met my friend and fellow improviser, Andy McCann in an improv class. This was in a kindergarten classroom, because Chicago City Limits did shows and offered classes at the Jan Hus church and school on the Upper East Side.

There are times when you know that you will be friends with someone immediately. I knew that when Andy picked up a wooden dinosaur and moved it about while making growling sounds. The instructor had told him to find something in the room that delighted him.

Both Andy and I are big fans of science-fiction and fantasy, which is one of the cornerstones of our friendship, as well as our love of improv. Unsurprisingly, we often found ways of blending the two together.

We were doing a long form narrative, and in one scene, briefly discussed a secret submarine base. It did not overtake the story, it was just an aside, and it amused us.

However, it didn’t amuse Tom Soter, whose show this was. He felt that it was a distraction. As a result, he didn’t put us in scenes together after that, though I recall we found ways of working together.

Sometime after the secret submarine base incident, I was in a scene where I was doing some space work, which is a fancy way of saying I was pretending to do something physical without the benefit of props or set pieces. In this case it was building a robot.

Tom, who I can only assume thought this was more of my nonsense, announced that there WAS no robot, because he couldn’t see it. Now Tom is an excellent teacher and I can thank him for many of my skills due to his classes. But it was an out and out denial, a big improv mistake. It’s fortunate he trained me so well because I responded, “Of course you can’t see the robot, he’s invisible!”

It’s important to remember that relationships are the lynchpin of improv narrative, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not room for more fantastic elements, especially if they’re secret and invisible.

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