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EPISODE 189 — Apes Will Fight If We Must

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at least you're not 17, that would be gross.

I'm 17...

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My goodness... Imagine paying money for that. Yikes.

Oh, only based off this clip I like him haha. I basically only know of real improv based off this podcast but he seemed to be making a lot of sense. And he was funny

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Does anyone know the specific episodes and moments David talks shit about the UCB on his podcast

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I'm 17...

don't even joke!

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I don't get how anybody gets so angry about how someone else chooses to practice an art-form. Nobody's stopping him from doing improv however he likes, so why get so annoyed because someone else it doing it another way? All I can think is that he's feeling bitter and underappreciated.

 

He was in an improv group with Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell once so I guess he's always comparing himself to them and feels like he's coming up short.

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I don't know a lot about improv outside the UCB, because if I'm being perfectly honest I4H was my first exposure to the long-form improv world. It's literally changed my life; my whole perspective on comedy and what I want to do has been changed because of this show.

So, obviously I'm going to get defensive about anyone slamming UCB. First off, like Matt said, even just within Improv4Humans there's so much variety and variation. Adam McKay, for example, brings a completely different dynamic to the show when he's on (he's Second City, right?). In fact his hilariously-descriptive scene transitions had an obvious impact on the way Matt transitions scenes thereafter. The Canadian improv group Matt had on the show had a really different sensibility than the LA comedians he typically has on, but it was still improv. Any episode with Neil Campbell or Paul Rust has a different vibe...saying it's all the same is ignorant.

I guess to me, even with my very limited knowledge of the form, coming out and bashing another school--especially another highly influential, respected school--seems antithetical to the very idea of improv. Improv is all about playing together. I'm sure different schools have different approaches and techniques, but at the end of the day you're still playing the same game. The fact that he said "I don't get it"...that's so old-fogey. You're honestly trying to attract new students to your school by acting like an old dude who "doesn't get" the hippest comedy scene in town? Boo.

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McKay might've been iO, along with Besser and co. I believe. He was one of the founding members of early-UCB if I'm not mistaken. Pretty sure he also helped develop the modern Armando Diaz form along with Besser (and its namesake), which most people know as Asssscat now. Yes, this post is loaded with a ton of qualifiers since all that history stuff is still pretty murky, haha

 

I4H was my first exposure to the long-form improv world. It's literally changed my life; my whole perspective on comedy and what I want to do has been changed because of this show.

 

Same.

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If dudes (and dudettes) are more curious about Matt and the UCB's approach to improv versus The Annoyance and other groups, check out this very candid interview from another podcast http://www.feralaudio.com/38-matt-besser/. They touch a lot on styles and the elitism that seems to come from other schools (and how ridiculous it is). Real interesting stuff!

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lol that video on his website that's just pictures of him and famous people. Like that gives him any authority.

 

That's what I like about UCB. They're not all OMG look how famous we, or are alumni, are. In fact, it's the opposite--every UCB thing I see is promoting their unknown but upcoming students.

 

Even the most famous UCB people just get in the room and do the work.

 

 

Do we think this is the guy Matt's talking about? IMO it looks like it's probably Mick Napier, who has publicly criticized UCB quite a bit, is a teacher and has been doing improv a long time.

 

I've been watching some of his stuff, and personally I think he's just trying to differentiate himself from UCB because he knows they're the power house. It seems like he's not actually hurting UCB in any way though, I'd guess most of the people that choose to take his classes prefer being part of the "rebel" or at least less mainstream improv world. The fact that UCB is better is the reason he's talking shit.

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They touch a lot on styles and the elitism that seems to come from other schools (and how ridiculous it is).

The original UCB TV show was formative in my comedy consciousness, and I love I4H and the work countless UCB alumni are doing today, but elitism charges cut both ways. UCB training is a lifestyle and, according to dozens of conversations I've heard describing the process (with people like Sean Conroy and Jon Gabrus), the comparison to Scientology earlier in this thread seems more apt than the author intended.

  • In order to progress, you must take a series of escalating courses, to the tune of thousands of dollars.
  • If you reach the appropriate echelon, you will be allowed to audition for a team, but slots are extremely limited and only 1/100 people will make it. If you don't, you can either take more courses or bide your time until the next audition.
  • You must be willing to be paid little/nothing to perform at the UCB theaters, so that the popular/successful shows can subsidize new/experimental shows.

 

This is the way it's always worked, and graduates of the program are heavily invested in terms of time, money, and loyalty. People who don't buy into (or have washed out of) the system will always try to paint the UCB as Improv Infidels. Culture wars are a foregone conclusion.

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And while I'm trying to get into Besser's head, does anyone else find it funny that this is the second time he's likened himself to a character from a dystopic sci-fi movie?

I was inspired by this comment to make this.

They Live Humons Sleep_zpsm7ebikcy.png

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The original UCB TV show was formative in my comedy consciousness, and I love I4H and the work countless UCB alumni are doing today, but elitism charges cut both ways. UCB training is a lifestyle and, according to dozens of conversations I've heard describing the process (with people like Sean Conroy and Jon Gabrus), the comparison to Scientology earlier in this thread seems more apt than the author intended.

  • In order to progress, you must take a series of escalating courses, to the tune of thousands of dollars.
  • If you reach the appropriate echelon, you will be allowed to audition for a team, but slots are extremely limited and only 1/100 people will make it. If you don't, you can either take more courses or bide your time until the next audition.
  • You must be willing to be paid little/nothing to perform at the UCB theaters, so that the popular/successful shows can subsidize new/experimental shows.

This is the way it's always worked, and graduates of the program are heavily invested in terms of time, money, and loyalty. People who don't buy into (or have washed out of) the system will always try to paint the UCB as Improv Infidels. Culture wars are a foregone conclusion.

 

I'm honestly having a hard time telling from your post - This is a joke right?

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  • If you reach the appropriate echelon, you will be allowed to audition for a team, but slots are extremely limited and only 1/100 people will make it. If you don't, you can either take more courses or bide your time until the next audition.

 

1/100 of the people trying out for a team will make a team sounds made-up.

In order to progress, you must take a series of escalating courses, to the tune of thousands of dollars.

 

$250 a class is competitive with community college classes.

  • You must be willing to be paid little/nothing to perform at the UCB theaters, so that the popular/successful shows can subsidize new/experimental shows.

 

This is 100% true as verifiable by Matt Besser on I4H - Ask the UCB #1

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I don't know a lot about improv outside the UCB, because if I'm being perfectly honest I4H was my first exposure to the long-form improv world. It's literally changed my life; my whole perspective on comedy and what I want to do has been changed because of this show.

So, obviously I'm going to get defensive about anyone slamming UCB. First off, like Matt said, even just within Improv4Humans there's so much variety and variation. Adam McKay, for example, brings a completely different dynamic to the show when he's on (he's Second City, right?). In fact his hilariously-descriptive scene transitions had an obvious impact on the way Matt transitions scenes thereafter. The Canadian improv group Matt had on the show had a really different sensibility than the LA comedians he typically has on, but it was still improv. Any episode with Neil Campbell or Paul Rust has a different vibe...saying it's all the same is ignorant.

I guess to me, even with my very limited knowledge of the form, coming out and bashing another school--especially another highly influential, respected school--seems antithetical to the very idea of improv. Improv is all about playing together. I'm sure different schools have different approaches and techniques, but at the end of the day you're still playing the same game. The fact that he said "I don't get it"...that's so old-fogey. You're honestly trying to attract new students to your school by acting like an old dude who "doesn't get" the hippest comedy scene in town? Boo.

 

 

Me too. So refreshing coming from KY where all of the comedy is "blue collar" or grungy.

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1/100 of the people trying out for a team will make a team sounds made-up.

From the official UCB boards:

 

Last year we had over 550 people audition at the open auditions. At the last audition, we added four new people. Those are small odds. So go into it with a spirit of just having fun and doing your best, but don't count on this.

That post (by Nate Dern, then-Artistic Director of UCB Theater NY) concerned 2013 auditions for only one of the UCB theaters. In 2012, over 400 people auditioned and 10 were added to Harold teams. With the ongoing comedy boom, I'm sure classes are even more popular now.

 

My original post was not an indictment of the UCB program, but an attempt to explain why people feel so loyal to the theater after dedicating so much of their lives to training there. If Sean Conroy—a 20-year veteran of UCB—says things* like (paraphrased) "I know it's a cult, but I choose to drink the Kool-aid" I don't think the (semi-tongue-in-cheek) comparison is too far off.

 

* During a discussion of UCB policies on episode #822 of The Long Shot Podcast

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Great ep!

 

The Tween Gay news bit nearly caused a car accident for me, sweet baby jesús christos...

 

When Besser immediately threw it to Wengert I was already having a laugh-seizure just in anticipation.

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If dudes (and dudettes) are more curious about Matt and the UCB's approach to improv versus The Annoyance and other groups, check out this very candid interview from another podcast http://www.feralaudi...8-matt-besser/. They touch a lot on styles and the elitism that seems to come from other schools (and how ridiculous it is). Real interesting stuff!

 

 

There's been a lot of people in the forums lately that just happen to find pertinent feral audio podcasts to link to. Dustin, the jig is up.

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From the official UCB boards:

 

 

That post (by Nate Dern, then-Artistic Director of UCB Theater NY) concerned 2013 auditions for only one of the UCB theaters. In 2012, over 400 people auditioned and 10 were added to Harold teams. With the ongoing comedy boom, I'm sure classes are even more popular now.

 

My original post was not an indictment of the UCB program, but an attempt to explain why people feel so loyal to the theater after dedicating so much of their lives to training there. If Sean Conroy—a 20-year veteran of UCB—says things* like (paraphrased) "I know it's a cult, but I choose to drink the Kool-aid" I don't think the (semi-tongue-in-cheek) comparison is too far off.

 

* During a discussion of UCB policies on episode #822 of The Long Shot Podcast

I still don't know if you're joking, because I think you bolded words and referenced specific performers to try to give your nonsensical post credibility. I'm going to go ahead and reply as if you weren't, so people who somehow know less than you don't take your moderator tag as a sign of authority on the conclusion you've drawn from some podcasts and then decided to put on the school founder's forums.

 

I listened to the Longshot and the drink the koolaid statement you're referencing is in regards to how Sean Conroy accepted the practice of not paying performers, not that the overall culture is cultish. BTW the actual quote was "I think one of the main philosophical tenants - and I have never really gotten into it with those guys - cuz it was just a choice I made years ago to just drink the kool aid and I was like, it's fine." and he used that terminology in reply to a (genuinely, not semi) tongue-in-cheek statement made by the guest who called the space on Sunset a Scientology center. This all happens around the 48 minute mark if anybody else is interested. Anyway, Sean Conroy later goes onto say that the philosophy behind opening the center was to see how many people they could possibly get on stage. Since it's opened they've started Mess Hall teams which rotate out 6 teams every 4 months, giving an additional 144 people per year to an opportunity to perform under the UCB banner. He also talks about how the theatre scene he came up with in Chicago was a pyramid system, similar to what you described, where you worked your way to the top, but the UCB's is that if you're good, they'll get you on stage. I'll point out that the discussion your kool aid quote came from was specifically about stand-ups performing at the theatre who aren't getting paid, not the people on Harold teams/graduates of the program.

 

The only requirements for auditioning for Harold teams are that you've been accepted into advanced study, which you may apply to after completing the core curriculum, four classes at $400.00 each, and having taken a class within the past two years. That's it. The UCB is a meritocracy and the individuals who are put on teams are the ones who best represented their improvisational skills during that audition. To make that more clear, the people who have been chosen for the teams did not display their investment of time or loyalty to the UCB, they showed that they had taken the lessons that the school teaches and could execute them better than everybody else in an audition environment. Every teacher you talk to will concur that the decision is based on how well one does on that day. Sometimes they get it wrong and people are cut. They will, however, ask teachers to recommend specific people to look out for during the audition, who have done consistently well in classes. Something I find especially disheartening about your post is that one of the guests on this episode, Mike Still, who organized last year's auditions, went beyond the UCB's classrooms and reached out to coaches and organizers of indie-shows for these recommendations to make teams of the best people, not the people who have spent the most money on classes.

 

The investment of time and money you're referring to is the dedication people put in to become capable of doing the things the best ~25 out of 500 can do on a consistent basis, which comes from a lot of practice, seeing a lot of good improv and doing a lot performing. The UCB isn't more or less rewarding to people who put that effort in within its walls. Some people decide to only take classes there; many don't. No teacher has ever made a disparaging statement about another theatre to me, and I've often heard them suggest other schools that focus on skills not taught at the UCB, if they believe it will help the performer grow. Things like character work. IO teaches a very similar structure, which is also called a Harold, and it's really up to the performers and audience members as to which theatre's approach suits their sensibilities better.

 

The little conclusion you gleaned from a handful of interviews is far off and stupid. As a moderator, posting it here as a statement of fact is very misleading to people who may be reading these forums with an interest in improv, but aren't able to experience the schools on their own.

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I don't know why everyone's hating on Doug. Yeah, he's into that new-age mumbo jumbo but his advice was spot on.

 

Oh, and "shipping" comes from "relationship", so I don't think you can "ship" a band and a show but who knows. It's a crazy world.

 

Amazing episode all around.

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Razowsky was in Ireland a month or so ago and I did a two day workshop with him. Given that improv (especially long form) is a relatively new fangled thing over here, we jump at the chance to get some time with any travelling improvisers.

 

In terms of schools, he did mention UCB, iO and some others briefly. He did make a point of mentioning how uninterested he was in "game" and pursuing that in improv (at least for the workshop anyway).

 

I enjoyed the workshop, and took what I needed from it, in the same way one would when you get different disciplines of improv coming through your part of the world infrequently. There's no full time/intensive schools or courses here to get really "into it", as it were.

 

I now wish I had discussed UCB with him a bit more, and will be sure to ask if he comes back, which he may do.

 

So far this is the only person with anything relevant to say about Mr. Razowsky.

 

I was actually pretty surprised by the reactions of Besser and company given that they admittedly have little or no experience with his teaching style or improvisational style at all.

 

It seems as if no one on the show (or anyone on the forums for that matter) has given him more than a cursory listen and is mostly going off of hearsay.

 

It sounds like Matt improvised with him once and had a bad experience years ago. That, and a couple of videos are what they are judging this person by? Hearing insinuations that he has no talent and all this aggression about someone stating a personal preference seems pretty unprofessional and lazy.

 

To go off of YouTube videos for Improv also seems ridiculous. Improv is never captured very well in a video. Just look at Assscat. There are a only few clips out of how many shows now?

 

Personally, I have gotten a LOT of worth from the UCB. I belong to an Improv group who found the UCB Manual to be very enlightening and informative. All of the members in my group took classes in Seattle. We formed during classes as a practice group. We were excited by Assscat and looked into the UCB style. We got the Comedy Manual right when it came out and found the lessons to be very refreshing.

 

There is a lot of focus in Seattle on narrative styles and following the plot, so, the UCB game theory was fascinating. We actually created our own curriculum based on the manual and drilled the UCB game theory stuff hard for over a year. We consistently sell out shows and get really good feedback. This is in part thanks to UCB. However, we also have tried to merge the UCB style with the style that we learned at Unexpected Productions. Not only that but some members have studied at Jet City (the other main theater in Seattle) and we have all participated in many different workshops and show formats.

 

Every teacher will say "forget about that improv rule, we are going work on ________." In any class I have ever had there will be something that one teacher taught one way that this teacher teaches another. From talking to other improvisers and looking around online, that seems to be pretty par for the course. Razowsky is no exception.

 

I have listened to every episode of this show and enjoy it thoroughly. It is a perfect example of how to "follow the funny" and create humorous and enjoyable scenes. However, obviously, that is not all there is to Improv. As Matt points out, there are many different styles of improv within UCB itself.

 

 

If I'm guessing, I'd say that it's because this guy sticks more to Chicago-style improv as opposed to the UCB style which is more focused on finding the game of the scene. A lot of people in improv have a real thing about wanting improv to be more about drama than comedy, I think because they're so into the "scene"(ugh) of improv that they want something different, the problem with that is that anyone who hasn't taken a bunch of improv classes and knows all the rules and whatnot finds it boring as shit.

 

The great thing about UCB improv is that they have stripped everything down so you just get to the funny as quick as possible.

 

Personally, I find improv that is not hyper focused on getting to "the funny as quick as possible" quite enjoyable if it is good improv. TJ and Dave do a great show for example. There are a lot of really quality improv shows that do not explicitly focus on "the funny" that create engaging and super-entertaining improv.

 

 

The problem with improvisers focusing on "the game", or any other technique or set of improv tools, is that it still takes a good improviser to pull it off. Bad improvisor, bad scenes, bad show.

 

Folks like Razowsky are aiming to strip away all the "rules" to simply focus on good scene work. To do this he uses a very intense focus on REALLY listening, and responding honestly. These concepts are universal in Improv and the fact that there are people who are able to fill up workshops, get improvsers to let go of all of their preconceived notions of "how to do improv", and really work on listening, connecting emotionally with their scene partners, and becoming aware of their actions and their environment should be applauded.

 

So what? He doesn't like UCB game stuff? Who cares? What he is teaching is very valuable and only will serve to create better improvisers who may then very well go on to study at UCB.

 

Like Marcus Keeley, I go to as many workshops as I can to learn about different aspects of improv. I have even tried to set up weekend UCB "game theory" training in Seattle through the UCB touring company but it ended up being to expensive. I had never heard of Razowsky but saw he was coming to town and teaching a workshop on "Finding the Game of the Scene". Our group was excited to hear about "the game of the scene" from what seemed to be a reputable source and many of us signed up.

 

It looked like a better deal to sign up for the whole weekend intensive than just one class so I signed up for the whole thing. I was immediately blown away by his teaching methods. I think almost everyone in the class was inspired and appreciative of how he was able to work his students. Without going into too much detail I will say that I found the entire weekend to be very, very rewarding. I have since done another weekend intensive as well as multiple skype sessions with a large group.

 

There is nothing wrong with Razowsky folks. He is actually a great teacher. This is coming from someone who has been through a complete Improv curriculum, multiple workshops, and has been performing regularly with great success for over two years now. Not only that, but there have been improvisers with much better chops and longer histories than mine who would agree.

 

Razowsky stressing to his students that he does not want to talk about other theater styles, or expressing a personal dislike for certain teaching methods is not the same as him bad-mouthing UCB.

 

Rather than ask a guy who explodes at strangers on the street for his amazing "flower power" advice, just think about it for a second and be professional. UCB is doing just fine and has a lot of support. There is no need to rile up your fanbase to arms in a "war" based on hearsay and hurt feelings. You are a role model. Jeez, just look at this thread. Everybody is now mimicking you guys. Talking smack about someone they know nothing about and have never experienced. Everybody jumping on the bandwagon to tear this person up just because everyone else is and forming opinions about him through second-hand information and what little clips there are on the interwebs.

 

In summary, I hold both the UCB and Razowsky in high regard. Both of these sources have provided me with great tools and insight. I am sure there are others that feel this way as well. I hope it stays that way.

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To be fair, though, you can get a lot of information from those YouTube clips. Those are clips that Razowsky himself has placed on his website to represent his best work. You don't expect to laugh out loud at recorded improv, but you can analyze the footage. For as much as he stresses REALLY listening and connecting with your scene parter, both the clips on his site and the one story we got from Besser show that he has a bad habit of stepping on his scene partner in order to get his ideas out. Forget "game" and slight differences between schools of improv, that's a basic principle everyone can agree on, and it's why Besser didn't want to perform with him anymore. Maybe that's not what he teaches, but it's what he seems to do. Add that to the footage of his class, where he endlessly rambles on about himself, and I think people should be forgiven if they come away with an impression of the man as a bit of a selfish performer. Also, he was bad-mouthing UCB, basically implying that it's more than just his taste, but rather impyling that the UCB is a second-class school.

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To be fair, though, you can get a lot of information from those YouTube clips. Those are clips that Razowsky himself has placed on his website to represent his best work. You don't expect to laugh out loud at recorded improv, but you can analyze the footage. For as much as he stresses REALLY listening and connecting with your scene parter, both the clips on his site and the one story we got from Besser show that he has a bad habit of stepping on his scene partner in order to get his ideas out. Forget "game" and slight differences between schools of improv, that's a basic principle everyone can agree on, and it's why Besser didn't want to perform with him anymore. Maybe that's not what he teaches, but it's what he seems to do. Add that to the footage of his class, where he endlessly rambles on about himself, and I think people should be forgiven if they come away with an impression of the man as a bit of a selfish performer. Also, he was bad-mouthing UCB, basically implying that it's more than just his taste, but rather impyling that the UCB is a second-class school.

 

 

This

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