Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nice to Eat You

Jonathan Browning
Guest Blogger

In college I took a psychology class and I remember a study that stated if an individual shares something personal with a stranger, that stranger will be inclined to share something in return. In that spirit, allow me to share something about myself in the hopes of encouraging you to open up as well.

I have a deep and very real fear of zombies. Not zombie movies or scary TV shows that involve zombies. I, Jonathan Browning, am really afraid of zombies. Mentally I know that zombies don’t exist. Emotionally, I am terrified of them. Irrational? Welcome to my wife’s world. Rarely do I open a curtain at night without preparing myself to see a pair of dead eyes looking back at me. Much to my dog’s chagrin, walks are often cut short if a figure is spotted walking alone down the dark streets. It’s absolutely crazy but totally true.

Since I have lived with this fear for several years, I have had an opportunity to really reflect on the zombie lifestyle and my place in it. Here is one conclusion I have come to without a single doubt. If the world is overrun by zombies I will be little or no help whatsoever. Let me be perfectly clear on this point. I am not downplaying my abilities or acting humble in order to score sympathy points. I am just acutely aware that my ability to survive an apocalypse scenario in which the dead rise up to dine on the living is slim to none. Please heed my words, if you find yourself living in a world infested by zombies, do not look for me to be of any support.

Allow me to lay out my case.

I am in no physical condition to out run a zombie. I currently have to take a few minutes to catch my breath between putting on each of my socks. And sometimes there is a short nap before I “tackle those shoes”. That does not bode well for fleeing an army of running screaming zombies. One must be in top physical condition to elude these new “modern” zombies. Chasing down speeding cars, leaping out windows and running through the streets at high speeds is par for the course for these new fangled zombies.

I would barely have time to get out a girly high-pitched scream before they were upon me. And I would not go down with a valiant fight. After my weak slaps were deemed ineffective, I would simply roll up into a ball and soil myself. (This is exactly how most of the fights I have been in end. But unlike the school bully or the bouncer at the Irish Pub in Chicago, zombies wouldn’t find this action “sad” and “pathetic” and then leave me to wallow in my own shame. No, they would not be deterred by this underutilized fighting technique.)

You might be thinking, “OK. I’ll give you the new super fast zombies but what about the old school Night of The Living Dead zombies?” While my chances might look good against these zombies, it is a hollow victory. What these zombies lack in speed they make up for in tenacity. I don’t have the “never give up spirit”. At first I would be able to flee these slow shuffling abominations but for how long? Just ask my old gym teacher and he will tell you that I am a quitter. (He really wanted me to climb that rope but gravity had other plans.) But be careful, he still carries a bat around to do impromptu “cup checks”.

Maybe I am not fast or have a great deal of stamina. Surely when faced with certain annihilation the survival instinct would kick in and I would be a Kick-Ass Zombie Killer, right? And while I like to fantasize that I am the leading man type who would drive around the zombie-ridden landscape on a motorcycle shooting zombies with his sawed off shot-gun; I know that I am more likely going to be the guy whose plan to hide in an abandoned corn silo will go horribly awry. My demise would be a very macabre Three Stooges-like moment where the zombie slowly chases me around and around the base of the silo.

There is no way around it. I will be one of the first transformed into a zombie. But don’t feel bad for me. Becoming a zombie wouldn’t be the worst thing that ever happened to me. Let’s look at the bright side of zombification. I have never seen a selfish zombie. When a zombie spots some terrified survivor running for their life, that zombie doesn’t try and keep it under raps. That zombie lets out a moan to notify the other zombies in the area that food has been discovered. I am more selfish than zombies. In my current human state, I refuse to share the last creamsicle with my wife.

When it comes to frozen treats in my house, it's "Jungle Law"!

Zombies seem to find great pleasure in the small things. Specifically finding and consuming brains. Zombies don’t fret. They are very Zen about life. If zombies could articulate, I believe they would sound like a stoned monk discussing how you don’t “look for brains you find brains”.

I must admit that I do admire the complete lack of body issues that zombies have about themselves. They don’t attempt to cover a missing arm or compulsively pull on their shirts to hide a bulging belly. They are loud, they are proud, get used to it!

So, if you look out your window and see an army of undead marching toward you, there is no need to tell me to get a shotgun or to make a run for it. I am already either one of them or soon shall be. And I’m alright with that. As a zombie, I’ve got a good group of friends around me. I am relaxed, driven and completely free of self-judgment. (It’s a lot like being in a Frat without having to participate in the strangely homoerotic initiations.)

One dark day soulless monsters will inhabit the world.

I hope that my opening up about my fear of zombies has inspired you to share your fears as well. FYI… I am also deathly afraid of mice. But that is a story for another time.

Innovation. Inspiration. Improvisation.

Chad Biagini
Student Blogger

Today I wanted to write about discovering new ideas within improv and share my ridiculous, yet fun, strategy to overcoming the norm. But before we get there, allow me to first digress...

I'd say a lot of our inspiration within scenes is a direct result of what we've recently been exposed to, whether from conversations, books we've read, or television. I can't tell you how many scenes I've been in where we started off doing something outdoorsy and all of the sudden we realized that we're survivors of a plane crash, completely Lost on an island, and a black smoke monster comes in and kills all of us. Okay, that's not true...but you should get into Lost. It's a great show!

Through the years, I've seen my fair share of “traditional scenes.” You know, the ones about breakups, proposals, and firings; with the space work being limited to smoking, drinking, and eating. My guess is that this may be the result of all of us watching an exorbitant amount of Desperate Housewives, listening to too much Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and reading far too many US Weekly magazines. And whilst these scenes are entertaining, when done correctly, I'd argue that they can tend to be overdone. As an audience member, the last thing you want to see is a 30 minute show with 5 breakup scenes.

So what's my simple strategy for getting out of this routine and enlarging your scenic horizons?

Simple. Start watching and reading content that's entirely different from what you normally indulge yourself with. Doing so will make you more comfortable with other genres, eras, and styles. Go watch cartoons. Read fantasy books. Play sci-fi video games. It’s goofy, but I really believe this will start expanding your repertoire of characters and, in turn, your scenes will become more diverse. Scenes should still remain grounded and relatable, but every once in a while it's fun to see a scene with a couple of raccoon pirates going on mutiny because they’re forbidden to drink mead with the human pirates.

Why not give it a try? Now go do yourself a favor. Download some Darkwing Duck, purchase the Inheritance Trilogy, and rent Mass Effect 2. It’ll easily become the best day of your life.

Chaddy B

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Too much of a good thing...

Chad Biagini
Student Blogger

...isn't always a good thing. Riding on the coattails of last week, I decided today's best approach is to forewarn all of you "Yes, and..." Zealots on the dangers of always agreeing and heightening when off the stage. While "Yes, and-ing" is a wonderful addition to your life, there ARE indeed times, albeit rare, when it wouldn't necessarily be beneficial and you should probably just say "NO!"

Take these EVERYDAY occurrences for example:

Your wife asks you if she looks fat in her jeans. SAY NO! However, you agree, which makes her more insecure, and - because you're so generous with your tongue - you remind her that you have been trying for months to get her to sign up for Tae Bo (which we all know is what most UFC fighters train in.) As a result, she's giving you the silent treatment, and you now have to skip out on poker night in order to try to patch up that hole you put in her self esteem.

You're running a little bit late for a meeting, because that fail-safe trick of turning all of your clocks forward 10 minutes still isn't working, so you decide that the posted speed limit sign is just a suggestion. It's not. And now you've gotten pulled over by that "serve and protect" guy. When he asks if you knew you were speeding, JUST SAY NO! I'd say it isn't wise to respond by telling him you did know and that if he thinks that's bad, he should see the hog-tied body you have in your trunk... Probably wasn't a good time to abide by Improv For Dummies (Not a real book. I call dibs on the title.)

You are on a casual stroll in space and some martian bullies come up to you in a black hole and ask if you want to be probed. PLEASE SAY NO! But, once again, you decide to agree and now you're left as a single parent, trying to raise an inter-species baby in a galaxy where you already didn't fit in. Oh, and good luck trying to collect alimony from an alien. They're the worst.

Your friends invite you over to watch The Bachelor. NO!

Anyone want McDonalds for lunch? NO!

TSA asks if you have any firearms on your person. NO!

That's all for now. Just think before you act. Yeah...that's where I was getting at.

Chaddy B

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dude, where's my car?! Jaime Moyer

Towed. My car was towed. We must be vigilant, people. I parked where I should not have, and I paid a price. A hefty one. Why? Cause I was not paying attention to the signage. Signage is very important when driving and parking in L.A. If your head is in the clouds you might fall victim to the same fate. It all comes down to vigilance. Now, before I start sounding like ole Chuck Heston let me back up a pace. It was my own fault. But the fees incurred by parking and driving infractions are small fortunes. For having my car for less than three hours I was required to pay $246.00 plus a $60.00 ticket. Yep, $306.00. YE-IKES! It's these type of unexpected expenses that really jack up an otherwise very pleasant evening. So take a lesson from me, read the signs! Read em twice! If you have to ask somebody who lives in the building you're parking in front of, ask em. I am writing this as much for myself as for you, dear reader. I cannot let this happen again. Cause it's like throwing money into the wind, and watching it sail away. And I'd rather keep it in my checking account, safe and sound. xo

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Yes, And" Your Life

Chad Biagini

“Yes, and” for you improvisers is probably becoming second nature. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, in short, it means to agree and heighten. For example, if in a scene a teacher tells you they saw you cheating on a test, you agree by affirming what they just stated. “I was cheating.” (YES.) And you can tell good ol’ teach you were cheating “because you’re allergic to integrity.” (AND) Now we have a game established and can move on and continue to heighten with all the other times you were forced to commit heinous crimes because of your illness. P.S. I don’t think that’s a real disease. Check WebMD

The concept of “Yes, and” not only works well in scene work, but can be added as a valuable asset to your lifestyle if you allow it, and it’s a brilliant idea if you ask me. But just like The Force, my young Padawans, you must wield it wisely.

Recently, I caught eye contact with a lady in a parking lot. Being a cordial and friendly American citizen, I make it my goal that when I catch eyes with someone, to give them a warm smile.

TANGENT ALERT: I mean, is it really that difficult to acknowledge another person as a human being and use 12 or so of your 36 facial muscles to do so?! Once you have that down…try moving to a polite “hello” or even a nod. You’ll feel better about yourself. I must warn you though, this will eventually become second nature to you and, if you’re not careful, you may accidentally say hi to statues. There are 3 in my daily life that trick me on a regular basis. True story. END TANGENT.

Anyways…………this kind lady returned the gesture and smiled back. Unbeknownst to me, however, her husband was watching – not that I would have behaved any differently – and he came rushing over to me and firmly asked if I was flirting with his wife. Of course I wasn’t, but this was my big chance to prove my improv chops! To showcase to the world my talent! An opportunity to “yes, and” while also taking a big risk (another great choice in improvisation.) How could I pass up an opportunity this golden? I locked eyes with this rugged and much more powerful looking gent and said, “Of course I was, sir. And if given the chance, I’d do it all over again.”

I admit, I may be too quick-witted for my own good at times, and I never claimed to have common sense.

Rugged Powerful Gent’s frown deepened and his brow darkened. I’m certain rain clouds appeared in the sky and I swear I heard vultures soaring overhead in anticipation for their next meal. It was at this moment that I knew I had made a mistake.


As if in the scene from LOTR: The Two Towers (LOTR…that’s what us cool kids call Lord of the Rings) where Gandalf The White releases King Theoden from the curse bestowed upon him from Grima Wormtongue…

His face made a transformation into a St. Nick type smile and he burst out into hysterical laughter. He grabbed me, gave me a half hug/half noogie, and told me I made his day. He even brought all his friends back to meet me. And as the cliché goes, we all lived happily ever after.

Actually, now that I think of it, I just happened to get really lucky.

Chaddy B

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blog Ambition

I've read some blogs. Hell, I've watched Julie & Julia. Twice. But I have never written one, so its my distinct pleasure to venture into the "blog zone"! Hello, people. Many of you whom I've met know I moved here in November. I reunited with friends who are transplants from my hometown of Detroit, Michigan, and am making new pals all the time. Moving here wasn't easy. Actually, it was very difficult. I guess the best things in life usually are (awww, look at me waxing philosophical). I am trying to recall meeting anyone who is actually from Los Angeles...still recalling...and, nope. I think its a really cool aspect of L.A. Most people aren't from here. If you happen to be born and bred here, it's no slam against you. I only bring up the diversity of hometowns to illustrate how brave our asses were to do this. I know I've only been here awhile, I'm sure this feeling will wear off. But for now I'm constantly trying new things, going new places, meeting new people. I'm going to attempt to keep the momentum up. So I go to, and/or play, in every show I can. I urge you, gentle reader (bite off of Ann Landers) to do the same! Go to see live theater in any form! Check out the improv jams around town. Why not do stuff like you just got here, too? I'm writing this blog for the next six weeks, and although it may not be in my comfort zone, it's something new and I'm glad to try. See you next week. Jaime xo

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Audition! By Michael Shurtleff (and Marc Warzecha)

By: Marc Warzecha

Its been fun writing these blogs this term. Thanks for reading them, and for all of the kind words. I was especially encouraged by the people who claimed to not know about Armenian bashing:

"I knew there were Armenians...but I didn't know anyone disliked them!"

Anyway, I figured since this is a SC Training Center blog, maybe I should try actually writing something useful about the Second City before I wrap this bitch up for the term and hand it over to a new SC blogger (I feel you breathing down my neck, Granny).

Second City auditions have been on the student's minds here in LA. I've had the pleasure of conducting auditions for Second City dozens of times all over the country. Its always a great learning experience, and often a lot of fun. I think that word must get around somehow, because for years now - right before auditions, people usually find me and ask for some advice.

I'm happy to give it, as long as you don't mind me being blunt. And while I don't have any top secret trade secrets to reveal, I hope this helps a bit...

First, realize that an initial audition for Second City most likely an all improv audition.

So, you know, be ready to improvise.

You are probably only gonna get up on stage a couplefew times in the audition. I often hear people complain about this after the auditions. "But, I only got to do three short scenes." Look, bottom line is if you are good enough to get hired by Second City then you are good enough to easily display your skills in three short scenes.

They don't let people do 45 minute lounge acts in the American Idol auditions before Simon can tell if they are ready for the next round, right? They sing a few bars and everybody gets the gist. Same deal here.

So display your improv skill set and - this is important - make a strong, different character choice each time you come out.

Second, you're going to be playing with people you don't know, and sometimes they will be great. And sometimes they will suck. It doesn't matter if they suck.

If you are good enough to get hired by Second City then you are good enough to have a great scene with a bad improviser. TJ Jagadowski - one of the best improvisers in the world - did a scene in the SC ETC where he would pull a random person up on stage every show and improvise with them. And it would kill.

That show off.

Lastly, have fun and get out of your head! Improv is super fun, especially when you are playing with strangers in a weird room in front of a handful of auditors who don't laugh and everyone on stage with you is in competition for the same job.

I'm kidding, of course.

Look, its hard to relax in any almost audition setting. The only thing I can recommended for that is experience. If you want to be hired as one of the few people on earth to do improv for a living, you've got to be experienced enough to hang in any situation.

So keep taking those classes, and improvise outside of class with your classmates. Form troupes. Play anywhere and everywhere you can.

And have a great audition!


Friday, March 5, 2010

My Name Is Granny

My nickname in high school was Granny, and apparently it’s my most fitting nickname because I’m feeling more and more like a grandmother lately.

Especially when I watch videos like this one about a Grandma commenting on Jersey Shore:

I, like the grandmother in this video, am appalled by the human trash on Jersey Shore. In fact, ever since Jersey Shore began airing, I’ve been lamenting the state of America. As a society, we’re at a point where we really can’t fall a single peg lower in human degradation on television. It’s been especially bothersome to me because I’ve been on a roll reading books about pioneer life lately. I know, dork alert! I loved the “Little House” books when I was little, and as an adult, I find that reading books like “Blue Stem” and “Pioneer Woman” has me marveling at how lucky I am to live in a time with indoor plumbing and heating and cooling systems. Not to mention refrigerators. And mattresses!

I read a story about a woman giving birth, totally alone, on the dirt floor of her sod cabin in Kansas. Her husband had gone out to get groceries – which was a two-day affair, walking over 12 miles each way to the one grocery store in Salina. While he was gone, she went into labor. So she delivered by herself, on the floor, cut her own cord, everything. She fainted four times during the process. No one was there to cheer her on, to examine how dilated she was, to give her an epidural! To catch the baby! And yet she persevered.

And then there was the guy who got third-degree burns trying to save his crops during a prairie fire. And the man who went out on an errand without a coat, lost his way and froze to death during a flash blizzard, leaving behind a wife and three young children.

These extraordinary people lived excruciatingly difficult lives to create a better future for their children.

And how do their progeny pay them back? We take steamy, pungent, colossal shits on them. Not a one of them would have come to this country if they knew the path they were on would lead to the human stain that is Jersey Shore.

Snooki, JWoww, The Situation, and all the rest of the cast: you are whores. Pigs. Bum shit on a sidewalk. It's really a shame your ancestors didn't die on the way over.

-- Granny (aka Megan Grano)