Collaboration Beyond The Norm

One of the four core CSz and ComedySportz values is Collaboration.  It’s relative easy to think of collaboration in terms of working with fellow CSz performers, with our audiences, and with our clients for Applied Improvisation.  It’s a little more challenging to think about collaboration with performers from rival theaters.  On the one hand, all of the improv theaters in a given area share a common goal to enjoy and foster improv as and art form and life skill.  On another more practical hand, there are the realities of competitions, particularly for what is often a limited pool of improvisers.

Because improvisers often favor one home theater, often the one where they first took classes or performed, developing an improv group with players from different theaters can be very challenging.  It even worse when some theaters, via methods ranging from subtle to overt, pressure their performers not to play elsewhere (for the record, CSz Sacramento has always had an open play policy, i.e., performers can play any where as long as they are also contributing to our theater).



Despite these challenges I am very happy that over the last two years I was able to develop an improv group with the specific goal of combining performers from different theaters.  My inspiration was The Traveling Wilburys, the late 80s, early 90s rock super group that included legendary talents Bob Dylan, George Garrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty.  All of these artists had already developed successful careers with other bands or as solo artist.

When I set about forming this group, which came to be named Shower Thoughts, I specifically recruited performers based primary at rival theaters.  And as the group has lost performers, I’ve strived to keep at least 50% of the group non-CSz performers.  It hasn’t been easy; as mentioned about there are miscellaneous forces that often pull performers back towards their home theaters. It has also been an interesting experience because Shower Thoughts is the first improv group I’ve directed without also performing in as part of the group (more of that difference in a future entry).

Tonight is show #25.  Given the monthly performance schedule, that means my little experiment in inter-theater collaboration has now been running for just over two years.  I’m delighted with the collaboration within Shower Thoughts, and grateful for all the fun, laughter, learning and camaraderie has provided me the theater. 


De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

My high school had a robust foreign languages program, and I was lucky enough to study Spanish, German, and Latin.  Unfortunately, I’ve mostly lost the German and Latin.  I only took one year of German.  Also, despite three years of Latin under the robust learning processes of the yardstick wielding Mrs. Murphy, I just haven’t found many Romans to practice with over the years.  Still, I really enjoyed Latin class, especially the history and watching the conservative Mrs. Murphy trying to make sense of the growing curiosity between two of my female classmates.  On a more practical basis, Latin helped me in many other subject during high school and college.  And I still admittedly derive some intellectual self pleasure from using a Latin phrase from time to time.



One of my favorite phrases is de gustibus non est disputandum.  Literally, it means “about tastes, it should not be disputed.”  In modern usage it means “there’s no accounting for taste.”  State another way, subjective opinions cannot be right or wrong, and people probably shouldn’t waste a lot of time and energy arguing for their opinions.

I’ve seen two examples of such opinions this week.  First I’ve observed some very strong feelings about the new Star Wars movie The Last Jedi.  But more close to home, I had the displeasure of reading this ridiculous attack on improv comedy from a stand-up comedian:

Why improv is neither funny nor entertaining

I used to hear and read more attacks on improv from the stand-up community many years ago when I was still early into my improv experience.  But those attacks seemed to die out as improv became more popular, as more performers spanned both worlds, and as more hybrid and crossover formats emerged.

I’m not going to waste my time address the many flaws with Mr. piece, which also does touch upon some important truths.  Instead, you can look in the comments and find a very good reply here:

Not So Fast...A Response To Peter-john Byrnes

The fact is I accepted a long time ago that some people just don’t like improv.  De gustibus non est disputandum!