A little while ago I wrote about my friend Matt Higgins and mentioned his Kickstarter, which was in support of an improvised show that would be taped. It was successful and he performed it this past Saturday. If you pitched in, you contributed to bringing something wonderful and unique into the world. If you didn’t, well I hope you rescued a dolphin or helped a refugee.
What Matt did was a one-man improvised show. There is an improv form where someone plays everyone in a scene, while from off stage additional characters are suggested. Usually, it goes something like this, “Just then, Matt’s cousin Al arrived with his feisty dog.” It’s a juggling act to be Matt, Al, the feisty dog and any other character thrown into the mix. It’s more about the gags than having a cohesive narrative. Which not to say it’s easy, it’s very challenging, but it’s not what Matt did.
He began the show by talking about what he wanted to be when he was a child and then asking the audience what they wanted to be when they were kids. Taking only three professions, he proceeded to tell a story. Not like, “Jane the firefighter and Bill the accountant were neighbors.” He played each character.
Was it like the form I described before? Only superficially. Matt inhabited each persona with distinct voices and physicality. He had discussions between his characters and even pointed out when they said something inconsistent. Other roles were introduced, but never gratuitously. Each addition came intuitively and seemingly effortlessly.
The mark of true mastery is to make something look easy. It is counter-intuitive, but true. As I wrote before, Matt is not only a supremely talented improviser, he also lives his life with the same openness and joy that this art form is at it’s very best. I can’t think of anyone else I know who could do what he did.
While I’d love to recount the many, many funny and touching moments of the show I saw, it was recorded and will be released sometime in the future. It would be churlish of me to spoil the delight and surprise this will bring.
My fellow Chainsaw Boy, Mike Bencivenga reminded me that Matt had done a proto-version on this in my old variety show, Dream Logic, way back in the 1990’s. One of the downsides of running the show is I often missed some of the acts because I was dealing with the next act or preparing to perform myself. Happily, this time, I got to sit back and take it all in.
One last thing to add. I once had a dream that I was at a show but it was not organized and the producer told me to put it together. There was no preparation, but because it was a dream, I was able to do it. I called the fact that I did this, Dream Logic. Speaking to a friend about this, I said how it made me want to host and produce a show like that. He suggested I call it Dream Logic. That friend was Matt Higgins. Full circle.