Today I had one big thing planned and it wound up being something I regretted.
First the background. I had heard about this improv competition from a friend of mine, it's set up a bit like American Idol in that there's weekly eliminations and the winners get a cash prize and a meeting with some casting directors. I figured what the hell, I'd give it a shot and if I didn't make it at least I wouldn't be wondering about it for ever. So tonight I went down to Westwood near the campus of UCLA and signed up. First thing I notice; another cadre of struggling actors with headshots. I'm feeling good. So we go inside, we meet the guy running the audition and he gets us warmed up. First thing he does, tells me to talk slower, says it looks like I'm just barely keeping up with my brain and it looks like I had no idea what to say. Um no. Anyone who has ever talked to me in person knows that I just talk really really fast, and really really loud, I always have. But it's an audition so I try to adjust. I'll cut to the chase, every single scene I'm in, he focuses all his criticism on me and how I'm talking. Not the characters I'm choosing, not the conflict I'm creating, not the relationships I'm building, how I'm talking. I was with a couple other guys who were making scenes about washing cars and he says nothing, I go up, have fun and build a scene with another guy who's having fun, and he comes down on me after every single scene. He says it looks like I'm panicking and I'm not prepared for the scene. NO! I just talk really frigin fast! Get over yourself if you enjoy your scenes developing at the pace of seeping tar. At the end he's talking about developing the art form of improv and I knew I wouldn't make it past the auditions. Improv is hard, it's a skill, and not many people can do it, but that doesn't make me an artist. It's comedy, it's for enjoyment and I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy making people laugh. Art exists in a vacuum, I could show Van Gogh's Starry Night to someone in Vietnam and they would still appreciate it. I can perform for 100 people and I guarantee you that if I was to somehow recreate every scene from Lawrence of Arabia the audience would still hate it. You know why? Because it's meant to be funny! Stop inflating a hobby to something that we need to worship at the feet of. Improv is great because it's accessible and relate-able, I don't do it to show off. I accept that I may talk too fast in some scenes and that I may be better if I just slow down and enunciate better. But I don't talk fast because I have no idea what the hell I'm doing on stage and frankly I'm insulted he thought so. I don't mind if I don't make the competition, I'm more annoyed that I wasted my time at an audition where I was the focus of criticism solely because the guy didn't like the way I perform on stage.
And oh by the way, some of the other people at the audition taking 5 seconds before responding in a scene? THEY were the ones who had no idea what they were doing or what to say. They weren't contemplating their next movement of their artistic expression, they just sucked.
Forgive me if I appear a little ticked off, but I drove through traffic to be at this audition and there was literally nothing I could do to ever get picked. Not only that, but I missed the chance to do any stand up so I could get my speaking patterns critiqued by an "artist". Bad improv comes from three places: people who just aren't able to create a good scene for whatever reason, people who try too hard to be funny, and people who know they're not being funny and just don't give a shit because they think the audience just doesn't get it. And if you think that third instance doesn't exist, go to an improv showcase and watch the group that's in suits and ties, they're the ones taking themselves too seriously.