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JulyDiaz

Episode 139 — Penis T-Zone

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I'm glad you feel that way. Yes, we do run a school and just wrote a book about improv so I do have more opinions about improv than just about anything. Seems weird that I would not share that with my audience. I never named those guys or made it about them. Fact is I really don't think that short form is the same discipline at all. I never said anything about "purity" since I don't believe them to be the same. If I were to consider them the same discipline then of course long form is more pure. Short form provides each game with its own bells and whistles before the scene even starts. If you want to argue that then you are invited to Case Closed.

 

If I were to appear on Case Closed (thanks for the invite) i would argue that they were the same discipline. Yes, longform is the more evolved form but you're using the same techniques and parts of your brain for both. And i've seen enough terrible short form performances to know that a certain level of skill/talent is required. You can get away with not being a team player or playing by your own rules but only in rare circumstances, and at the risk of looking like a selfish arse hole. Regarding the bells and whistles; no matter how many boundries and rules you put on a scene before it starts, in the end it comes down to the performers and what they make of it. You could set a hundred rules before a scene starts but in the end, a good improviser will embrace the challenge and make someing of it, put a unique spin on it or find the funniest ways of breaking the rules. Whatever, the important part lies in the strength of the performance. I've had some pretty intense, transendent moments doing short form scenes with amazing comediens. I've also struggled to find the funny in games that had a funnier set-up than actual execution as I'm sure occasionally happens with long-form.

Also, i would say long-form HAS snuck into the mainstream via the back door of semi-improvised sitcoms like Curb or The League. This is a step towards something like Asssscat! having its own show.

I'm only just getting into the world of performing long-form (i've dreamed of studying at the UCB for some time now but your book will have to suffice) via experimenting with my short form group and a new group I'm currently rehearsing with (doing horror stories) but so far my best moments on stage have been with my short form team (comedysportzUK) so i have to defend it's glory.

 

Let me finish with a couple cliches.

An old Chinese saying: Let a thousand flowers bloom.

An old Eastern saying: five fingers are not the same.

 

Let us celebrate the success of improv and comedy in whatever form it takes... Apart from Dane Cook.

 

Love,

Talal

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Sorry Talalaban, I say this with peace & love, peace & love, but you are wrong. There is no way someone could read our book and think you use the same tecniques to do short form and long form.

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Its a shame that longform has yet to settle into mainstream media the way i4h fans like myself would like. Unfortunately, I find this to be the case with most of the deeperr arts. Your favorite bands usually don't play on the radio, the better written TV shows end up getting canned before their time due to it not hitting a broad enough audience. Long form makes an audience member think a bit more, its much more engrossing and engaging. Short form plays really well on television because they can fit each scene between commercial breaks. I can't imagine longform with breaks in between, a less-than-astute watcher might forget the entire premise, or the initial beat and not understand where the funny is coming from. I can see why longform might not have a place on cable T.V, regardless of how awesome and magical it is for me.

 

Hopefully, with shows on the web with netflix / HBO, there WILL be a proper forum where anybody who wants it can find it, not this one size fits all situation many networks gravitate towards.

 

Here's to Longform in the spotlight! In the meantime, i'll just be over here rewatching Assscat's two specials on youtube :)

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Matt, the peace and love is implied man, you don't have to say it. I feel you and get your sentiment but how can you know that for sure? I listened to I4H for a year before i started doing short-form. My improv classmate who visited your LA theatre - lucky bastard! - lent me your book in the second week of training (I didn't manage to get through it all before he needed it back but i'm saving up to get a copy of my own. I would love to see it in stores here in the UK by the way...). By the time we began performing to audiences our influences were far beyond just Whose Line, and our tutors had done courses at second city, I.O. and Hoopla (which teach long form techniques).

I'm not trying to say what everyone else's approach is, but for sure me and my teammates treat every scene with as much thought, exploration and insight as possible, no matter what 'bells and whistles' have been attached. We look for the truth in every topic, character and situation. We try our hardest not to go for cheap laughs as more often than not, the restrictions and rules set upon the scene provide those automatically. I really think audiences are evolving, at least British audiences, and are expecting more from each scene.

Of course, you will argue that in the end, we know that in 3 minutes the whistle will blow, meaning we have to have a rounded scene within a much shorter time frame. Still, however, the best 3 minute scene can be as good and indepth as the best 10 minute story, as long as its given the right approach.

Doesn't it all rely on the performer in the end? An intellegent performer will provide the smarter references, or try to make a serious point in their work.

 

Just thought of something; of course games like 3 line scene, questions only or other games that really restrict scene work will have an effect on the purity of the improv. Please dont think for a second that i believe that a game of Top That comes anywhere close to the intellegence levels of the scenes you did in the gun control episode for example (a truly inspirational episode). I hope that goes wiout saying. I'm speaking more about scene games like Replay or Pillars.

 

Finally, i have to humble myself down a bit. I realise that i'm relatively new to the game, and I'm talking to a master of the craft. Although i believe in what I'm saying, I also take on board your points and its a privalige to have this debate with you pal. It is of course my ambition, like most short formers, to get into higher forms of comedy and improv performance, but my time as a short former has been invaluable and i would gladly return to it on occasion and blow away any eagre audience with my whacky stylings! :P

Cheers,

Talal

 

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Because I know nothing about how television shows get made, it seems surprising to me that there are zero networks out there that wouldn't want to have an SNL competitor in an i4h or Assssscat TV show. You could do a live, hour-long sketch show with a musical guest and not have to spend a single dollar on sets, props or theater. Plus you'd have the distinction of having an IMPROVISED sketch show. And it would be automatically funnier than SNL, because I4H is always funnier than SNL.

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Sorry Talalaban, I say this with peace & love, peace & love, but you are wrong. There is no way someone could read our book and think you use the same tecniques to do short form and long form.

Well, they're not the same techniques, but the techniques are in the same field, compared to, say, standup or scripted theatre. Short form is closer to long form than it is to either of those, I think. An long form improviser would have an easier time performing short form than performing Macbeth, and a short form improviser would probably prefer doing long form to doing standup. It's apples and oranges, but both are fruit that grow on trees!

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Just to be clear, I'm on Besser's side; if short form is a cookie, long form is a cake. Similar ingredients but don't tell me you got me a cookie for my birthday.

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Matt what format would you say I4H is? From where I'm sitting you and the Whose Line guys are doing the same show, short form. I don't get much of a long form sense from I4H, it's not a Harold is it? It doesn't feel like a La Ronde or an Armando. To me it feels like a usually loosely associated collection of open scenes with occasional callbacks, like a Whose Line show. What deeper long form elements have I been missing? I find it hard to take your argument seriously, that you're doing something a level above, when your criticism of the Whose Line guys is contained in an episode called Penis T-Zone. For the record, dick jokes are the lowest of the hanging comedy fruit. Case Closed if you want to convince me otherwise? =)

Other than that, a funny episode as usual. Thanks.

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dang, a guy could make a fortune in this thread this week selling worms for all these Case Closed fishing expeditions

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You should get Greg Proops or Jeff Davis on the podcast for case Closed. Both smart guys. I wouldn't actually be surprised if they said they did Whose Line at least partially for the money and were more artistically satisfied elsewhere, but I'd bet they'd offer a different point of view than Besser's scorched earth attitude towards the form.

 

Edit: I also think it's worth pointing out that while some of those setups were ridiculous, and the games silly, some of them can be justified. A game requiring audience participation, like that moving bodies/puppetmaster game, obviously requires explaining the game to the point that the participating audience members are 100% crystal clear on how it works. The redundancy of explaining/demonstrating the gimmick over and over to them is the price you pay to make sure the game goes along smoothly. The Torture Game, which involved the rotating gimmicks including switching out one letter for another, was clearly designed *around* getting the audience to try and stump the performers rather than help them. They called it the Torture Game, after all. An audience for that show would know who the Whose Line performers are and paid to see them, and (at least from their point of view) think they're talented enough to handle some curveballs. It was a game based around watching the performers comedically struggle and flail, after they'd earned credibility with the audience over the TV series and that night's live show. With that said, both games are still dumb.

 

I also think there's an irony that the podcast spent the opening 9 minutes complaining about 3 minutes being too long to set up a scene.

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if you've ever heard greg proops talk about whose line, he doesnt seem to have done it out of any great love for short form improv, i doubt he would argue much with mr besser

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tho he would be a good guest to have on the show just in general, even just for stories if he isnt comfortable with long form

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if you've ever heard greg proops talk about whose line, he doesnt seem to have done it out of any great love for short form improv, i doubt he would argue much with mr besser

I haven't heard his comments. Again, I wouldn't guess many of them would argue for the sake of it being a high art form, but I'm guessing they'd occupy a middle ground between that and Matt's all out hatred.

 

Matt makes the comparison that short form is to long form as karoake is to music, but it seems more like a storytelling-style stand-up comedian who hates punchline comedians that don't have to deal with setting character, context, escalating the story...

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A long form has nothing to do with how long it is. A long form could be one minute long. Our nine minute setup wasn't setting up the rules of what we were going to do. We were having conversation which is supposedly entertaining in itself. How much of Whose Line do you really think they are making up on the spot? Most of the games are meant to feed into the bag of tricks that the producers know the performers to have in their back pockets.

 

I'm not just shilling for my book but if you really want to know what my feelings on this are then it is all in the book. Right now I feel like I'm trying to convince someone that cotton candy isn't a food while they are in the middle of having fun at the circus.

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Matt I think you need to pay more attention to your own work.

"Our nine minute setup wasn't setting up the rules of what we were going to do." Are you fucking crazy? OF COURSE you were setting up the rules for the next scene, which is the entire point of this argument. This whole thing boils down to format, you think the Whose Line guys are lesser than I4H. But let's break down both shows:

 

Whose Line: uses improv games, which they explain to a largely virgin improv audience, they do a scene using that game and the audience is entertained.

I4H: Matt has a conversation with a fellow improvisor in which the other improvisor tells a story, MAtt asks questions to get specifics, they do a scene drawing from the story just told and a largely improv nerd audience is entertained.

 

See Matt, Whose Line has a format that caters to their audience, which isn't into improv, while your format, which doesn't involve "gimmicky" games, uses stories or a youtube clip to give the next scene a basis for the performers to work from.

 

These are structurally identical so please explain where you see differences. The Whose Line guys use an improv game to get the players on the same page, I4H uses a story (or clip, etc) to get the players on the same page. See, these are exactly the same thing because they serve the same purpose. Do you seriously not see that?

 

I also agree that you should have Proops on the show because he's a great improvisor. He has openly admitted to Whose Line being lowest common denominator but regardless, he's fucking funny and I'd love to hear you two play together (not discuss who's "better" because art is opinion so it's all bullshit/genius anyway).

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Great points all over this thread. I find myself vacillating between positions with each posted comment "I agree with that. I also agree with that. Ooh, that makes sense. Hm so does that."

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Matt I think you need to pay more attention to your own work.

"Our nine minute setup wasn't setting up the rules of what we were going to do." Are you fucking crazy? OF COURSE you were setting up the rules for the next scene, which is the entire point of this argument. This whole thing boils down to format, you think the Whose Line guys are lesser than I4H. But let's break down both shows:

 

Whose Line: uses improv games, which they explain to a largely virgin improv audience, they do a scene using that game and the audience is entertained.

I4H: Matt has a conversation with a fellow improvisor in which the other improvisor tells a story, MAtt asks questions to get specifics, they do a scene drawing from the story just told and a largely improv nerd audience is entertained.

 

See Matt, Whose Line has a format that caters to their audience, which isn't into improv, while your format, which doesn't involve "gimmicky" games, uses stories or a youtube clip to give the next scene a basis for the performers to work from.

 

These are structurally identical so please explain where you see differences. The Whose Line guys use an improv game to get the players on the same page, I4H uses a story (or clip, etc) to get the players on the same page. See, these are exactly the same thing because they serve the same purpose. Do you seriously not see that?

 

I also agree that you should have Proops on the show because he's a great improvisor. He has openly admitted to Whose Line being lowest common denominator but regardless, he's fucking funny and I'd love to hear you two play together (not discuss who's "better" because art is opinion so it's all bullshit/genius anyway).

Thanks so much for all the hard work you put into this post. I'm sure Matt will really appreciate you explaining to him what improv is. Could you post a link to your book as well? And any classes you teach? Seems like you know your stuff.

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if u think about it, the holy bible might have been the first improv, you got people working together to come up with a story, heavy use of words, and improv has its 'rules' to play the game whereas the bible has its rules in the ten commandments

 

now how can you be an atheist mr besser? checkmates

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I'm glad it was brought up, I had never really given it much thought but I get why Besser is upset about it. Short form is easier and goes for the quick laugh, while long form is more intricate and takes more time to develop. I think it's easier for people to "get" short form as opposed to long, which is why it's more popular. Before I got into Comedy Bang Bang and I4H I didn't really understand either. And side note: I for one enjoy conversations just about as much as the skits.

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if u think about it, the holy bible might have been the first improv, you got people working together to come up with a story, heavy use of words, and improv has its 'rules' to play the game whereas the bible has its rules in the ten commandments

 

now how can you be an atheist mr besser? checkmates

This makes me think about cavemans! Because they were even before the bible. They invented the "rules" of fire, words and stories and had to completely improvise what anything was going to be because it wasn't even invented yet!

So really Matt Besser is just a big ripoff of cavemans.

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