Monday, October 31, 2011

Harold auditions November 12-13

For those improvisers who have completed Level 5 at iO West and have garnered teacher permission or who have graduated and no longer need teacher permission or who have previously been on a Harold team, Harold auditions are coming up Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 3 to 8pm with callbacks on Sunday, November 13, 2011 from noon to 6pm.

The sign-up sheet is in the green room behind the Main Stage.

Even if you don't want to be on a Harold team (because why would you want to follow in the footsteps of Eric Stonestreet, Tina Fey, Angela Kinsey, Kate Walsh, Andy Richter, Chris Farley, et al?) it is a terrific opportuity to practice your wares in a heightened state in front of watchful eyes who have the power to determine the trajectory of your theatrical career.

And practice makes perfect.

And improv is all about being perfect.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Sunday at iO West

There's a great lineup on the iO West Main Stage tonight chock full of the best improvisers, sketch artists and comedy writers that's NOT to be missed:

8pm COG

9pm Top Story! Weekly (see the Halloween show trailer)

10pm Deskpiece Nation

11pm Dr. T and the Ladies

These shows are a perfect mix of improv, sketch, bit comedy and rare, all-gal energy that will satiate any craving you have for serotonin that is typically assuaged by -- but doesn't have to be, if you care at all about your teeth -- Halloween candy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Armando this Saturday and beyond

This Saturday night, you could see a two-hour movie that is the best mediocrity has to offer and which costs you, once you add parking, soda, popcorn, jujubes and late-night drinks, about the same as your car payment...

Or you could catch an impressive live show, complete with live celebrity monologues and expertly improvised scenes, which costs you, once you add $5 valet, cheap drinks, free popcorn and no need to go anywhere else afterward, about the same as an oil change at Jiffy Lube.

The live show I speak of is the Armando Diaz show, which is structured like this:
  • Celebrity asks for a suggestion from the audience
  • Celebrity performs monologue inspired by the suggestion
  • Expert improvisers make up scenes based on themes that emerged during the celebrity monologue
  • Celebrity performs another monologue inspired by what has so far emerged
  • The skilled improvisers make up more scenes based on themes that have so far emerged while simultaneously tying together scenes and themes
  • Celebrity performs another monologue
  • More scenes
  • Another monologue or more scenes or...who knows?!
Not only is this more affordable than a Weinstein joint, but it is sure to contain exponentially more laughs. At least it won't run out of gas.

Upcoming celebrity monologists:

October 29 - Maribeth Monroe (Workaholics)
November 5 - Molly McNearney (Head writer at Jimmy Kimmel Live!)
November 12 - Brad Morris (Uncle Brother and The Reckoning)
November 19 - Rachel Harris (The Hangover)

For a complete line-up of the Main Stage fare this Saturday night, visit

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday Work Out classes at iO West

If you want to maintain your improv agility or just have fun with some fellow improvisers you might not have yet had fun with, then head to iO West each Wednesday at 4.

Wednesday Work Out classes are drop-in, mixed level classes for students and alum who might not be currently enrolled in a 7-week session or who are enrolled and just want extra practice and experience with a variety of instructors.

Here is the schedule of Work Out classes for November:

Wednesday, 11/02/2011, 4-6pm instructor: Kevin Fleming
Wednesday, 11/09/2011, 4-6pm instructor: James Grace
Wednesday, 11/16/2011, 4-6pm instructor: Sean Cowhig
Wednesday, 11/23/2011 - NO CLASS - THANKSGIVING
Wednesday, 11/30/2011, 4-6pm instructor: Craig Cackowski

Wednesday Work Out classes cost $20 cash, paid directly to the instructor.

Top Scary! Weekly this Sunday night on the Vein Stage

Leave your kids at home but bring your mummy this Sunday night to the Halloween edition of Top Story! Weekly where hard news meets (and then eats the brains of) Hollywood.

Scheduled to appear this week as special comedian guest (unless zombie-eating flesh consumes him): Sean Conroy.

Extract your tickets (but not your innards) here:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's all about the bar

A few words from iO West bar czar Brian James O'Connell -

The absolute best part about bar managing at an improv theater is the collection of people, though that can also be the most difficult.

Unlike any other bar I’ve managed (and I’ve been working in bars since before I could legally drink. What?! I’m Irish. This is surprising?) the clientele at iOWest is 85% “regulars.” Most of our patrons are fellow performers, students, alumni, improv junkies or some combination thereof.

The crowd is our best asset – our best form of advertising.

No other bar has the advantage I have in that the overwhelming majority of patrons are the funniest, nicest people you could ever meet – people who have literally been trained to take care of the person directly across from them.

Our people have been trained to listen, actively be interested in what you are saying and then further the conversation so it traverses down a path that is not only revealing but is also rewarding to the person who brought up the subject in the first place.

And no other bar has the advantage that I have in that the “regulars” have a vested interest in the bar doing well.

Firstly, they need the place to do well. They want everyone to come back because they have shows they want others to see because they are proud of their shows and have put a lot of effort into them.

Our crowd wants the new visitor to tell their friends what a great time they had and suggest that they do the same.

Secondly, our crowd wants the new visitors to become repeat visitors simply because our crowd is part of a great community, and we want to share that great community.

Have you ever read a great book or seen a terrific film and then gushed about it to someone who hasn’t yet read or seen it?

People gush that way about the iO West bar.

Our crowd treats the iO West bar like a clubhouse – a playground where everyone can get together and actually enjoy each other’s company.

We KNOW how awesome this place is, and we want to share that knowledge with someone who is new to the scene.

No other bar in L. A. that I know of has the advantage that I have in that the bar patrons consider themselves a tight community – a “family” complete with crazy uncles, a doting mother and a kooky patriarch who we all miss and reminisce about fondly (even those of us who never met him, and I am speaking of Del Close).

The vibe in the room is palatable.

Our crowd is protective of the “clubhouse” and wants to keep the good times rollin.’

New visitors may not pick up on this vibe initially, but I can usually tell as I overhear their exit. They are amazed at how nice everyone is. How they didn’t see one fight break out. How no one tried to steal their purse or their coat.

It makes my job enormously easy if the entire crowd has my and everyone else's back.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of "It's all about the bar" and visit the Philadelphia venue where Brian initially wrote about his experience managing the iO West bar.

Also visit Brian James O'Connell at the iO West bar and see him perform with Dr. God, Top Story! Weekly in addition to other great teams and shows.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Walking Dead star Steven Yeun on iO West

What is Steven Yeun's advice to fellow improvisers?

View it and reap.

And then improv too.

A new session of classes starts soon.

Improv for actors

I recently completed Eric Hunicutt’s Level 2 class and cannot believe how much it has helped me with the rest of my acting life.

I originally joined class in order to be more involved with the improv community and to make people laugh, but I found that the fundamentals and confidence gained in improv class have also given me strength and confidence in my pursuit of film, TV, and commercial work.

It’s no secret that improv is a helpful tool for commercial auditions – just count the number of times the iO West bar erupts in cheers when any one of our illustrious students, staff, or alum pops up on the television screen.

Improv gives commercial actors the confidence and imagination to make bold, memorable, and appropriate choices during auditions, which ultimately leads to callbacks and bookings.

Not only that, but there is an increasing demand for experienced improvisers. Since starting class at iO West, I have signed with a new, enthusiastic agent and have had interested managers state that my improv training makes me “marketable, pitch-able, and desirable.”

I have also seen a dramatic improvement in my stage and film auditions and performances. In Level 2, Hunicutt encourages listening, responding truthfully, and allowing your choices to inform the scene by considering “if this is true, what else might be true?”

While those seem like simple ideas, they are often overlooked in scripted work.

It is so easy to stop listening and responding honestly because we are either trying to "add stuff” or we are thinking of our next line.

Improv training has taught me to remain present and to make honest and reasonable choices, rather than trying to overload the scene with my own ideas, ultimately clouding the author’s intentions.

I find that when I remember Hunicutt’s suggestions to “keep it simple, stop working so hard, and realize what the scene is already giving you,” I am truly able to tap into the real meaning of a casting director’s favorite instruction to “do less.”

Lastly, but certainly not least, I must give credit to Eric Hunicutt for seeing each improviser as an individual and taking the time to give honest and specific feedback.

If it weren’t for Hunicutt telling me to stop thinking, to trust myself, to not work so hard, I wouldn’t have found the kind of free-spiritedness in my acting that is getting me callbacks and booking me roles.

Next time you think to yourself “improv sounds fun, but I’m a serious actor,” remember that improv training will help you become a “working actor” and that is a significant “Truth In Comedy.”

- Annie Mackay

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Celebrate Halloween at iO West all Halloween weekend

The Halloween shows at iO West are infinitely better than bobbing for apples and definitely drier.


Start your Halloween weekend off with some frightfully fun improv at the iO West The Haunted House of Improvised Horror, and then, on Halloween night, wrap up your trick-or-treating early so you can enjoy the entire line-up of Halloween hilarity. Come in costume and get in for free.

The Haunted House of Improvised Horror returns for the sixth year this Halloween weekend on the iO West Main Stage.

Five friends will enter an improvised house. Find out who escapes and who does not.

The Haunted House of Improvised Horror will perform on Friday, Oct. 28 and Mon. Oct. 31 at 10 pm.

Tickets on Friday are $10. On Halloween night, tickets are $5, or come in costume and get in for free.

The cult classic, Troll 2, is so awful, it’s amazingly hilarious. Celebrate Halloween by watching this horrible horror movie alongside Troll 2: Emag Gniknird Eht...

Where two drinking teams, Goblins vs. Humans, go head to head in fierce competition for species superiority.

The iO West bar will offer $2 tall-boy beer specials.

Participation in the drinking game is not required.

Enjoy Troll 2 at midnight on Friday, Oct. 28, on the Main Stage. Tickets are free.


The iO West Halloween night line-up is fuller than a fat kid’s bag of treats, including:

Ghoul E. Mann’s Haunt Theater – a show where horror genius and zombie monster, Ghoul E. Mann, conducts a theatrical séance at a cabaret-style theater and summons spirits to sing and dance (8 pm $10)

Drug Puppy’s Monster Mash featuring Drug Puppy (9 pm $10)

The Haunted House of Improvised Horror (10 pm $5)

ROCK! MONSTER ROCK! - an original live rock musical that follows iconic Halloween characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Werewolf and Mummy as they attempt to scare their way back into relevancy in a world where comic book characters and Tween movie characters have taken over their holiday (10:30 pm $5)

Cage Match – two teams compete against the clock in a no-holds-barred competition. The winner, based on audience votes, will return to defend their title the following week against a new challenger (11:30 pm, Free)

IO West Main Stage Theater tickets can be purchase through the iO West website at, or by calling the box office at 323-962-7560. Reservations are strongly recommended for these shows.

The iO West Theater is located at 6366 Hollywood Boulevard and features a full bar. Main Stage shows are 21 and up. Parking is available at the theater for $5 with validation.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hog Post #4

A Hog Post is a blog post written in Harold form.

The following Hog Post, written by actress Mishell Livio, is based on the suggestion: "personal."

Personal. Hygiene. Bubble Boy. Obsessive cleanliness.

When I was a kid I was incredibly germ phobic.  
I would wash my hands and face and swish my mouthwash obsessively.  
I liked talking to people and observing them, but I was not a hugger.

Hugging. Friendship. Fake friends. Barbie.

My Barbies are all packed away in a small pink suitcase with all of their accessories and clothing.
Most of their clothing consists of dresses and skirts.  

I'm pretty sure I cut most of their hair off to make them tougher.

Hair Cut.  Bangs.  Sandra Markarian.  Karaoke.

I love singing. 
My life would be a musical if more people would duet with me.  
I have a tendency to go to karaoke bars and pick songs that
I think I know, and then, when it is my turn to sing, I not only don't know the words, I also don't know the tempo or melody, and  I generally just start to ramble, doing musical riffs and dancing.

Dancing.  Ballet.  New York City.  Family. Personal.

The suggestion for the next writer: "wipe."

Email your Hog Post based on that suggestion to

For inspiration, perhaps peruse previous posts:

Hog Post #1
Hog Post #2
Hog Post #3

And sign up for the upcoming session of classes at iO West, so the Harold can become an inexpungible part of your life.

"I'm Drew Carey...and I play at iO West"

iO West is not only the training ground of so many talented actors, but it is the place they continue to come to get their laugh on.

Why improv?

I remember when I first started at iO West and relayed to my grandmother back home that I had begun studying improv. She kind of pretended to understand what I was talking about but wanted to know why it was necessary to take improv classes after receiving such extensive (and expensive) performance training already.

She inquired “How and why do you learn and practice being spontaneous?”

How and why, indeed?!

Rehearsing being spontaneous is certainly an interesting concept, and until you really immerse yourself in the practice you won’t readily be able to answer such questions.

Suffice it to say that practicing improv is a little like practicing being yourself – trusting yourself and not judging yourself, and trusting and not judging your friends.

Improvisation is all about truth, and because truth is odder than fiction, it is also, quite often, much more hilarious.

Looking at a Level 1 class, the first thing you’ll learn is to trust your instincts. That little voice in your head that censors you in polite society has no place in Level 1.

The improv classroom is a place where whatever you have to say, you should say it immediately, and you should say it loud.

That’s hard for a lot of people. The mere act of being in front of people and blurting out whatever bonehead, boring or silly thing comes to mind actually takes practice.

Improvisers practice speaking sans censorship, because from day one we are told no, in some capacity or another, and "no" is one of the few dirty words in improv.

The idea of saying yes may be familiar to some. It may sound like a logical theory, but to actually say yes on stage consistently takes practice in a supportive environment.

Going back to Gram and her question “Why improv?”

While learning how to channel someone else can be easier psychologically than just being ourselves, ultimately it is ourselves we have to more fully become.

So whether you’re an improviser who has taken some time off to channel Chekhov or you are new to the practice of improv, hop on over to to find a class that fits your schedule. The new session starts in about week.

The only thing you have to lose is that nagging sense of doubt and that pesky habit of saying no to yourself and others.

-Deviant Amelia

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dave Hill brings character to iO West

On October 10th, veteran iO West instructor Dave Hill introduced to the iO West curriculum an elective entitled "Get Into Characters."

I recently spoke with Dave about this intriguing new offering.

SKK: Please tell me a little bit about the structure of the class.

DH: The basic way I structure the class is to look at several different angles from which we can create characters and get into a character at the beginning of a scene. We get into the philosophy of character and what makes a character unique.

Sometimes I give homework assignments in which I ask the students to observe people in the world and to see what makes that person unique, and we bring that into the class.

So, each week we look at character and how to create character from a different angle. There are a lot elemental aspects to a person.

We use words like "personality" and "point of view," but those are pretty grand, big-picture generalizations. So I try to break those things down into their parts.

SKK: What might a typical day in the class consist of?

DH: A typical class is a mix of two-person scenes and one-person character excercises –

SKK: Like monologues?

DH: Yes, monologues. And what I've been trying to introduce more is – at the end of the class – we see the character again, and get comfortable with heightening the character, or bringing it into another environment, and seeing where we can take a character. Watching people in a Harold, sometimes the characters hit one note, and don't evolve or keep surprising us as they go.

And I think that if we understand what makes someone interesting and where characters come from, hopefully that translates into what will continue to make them interesting. These different angles of what makes a character interesting can help us sustain that character – to keep playing and supplying us with great material.

I would say exploring the different angles of what creates a character and what it means to build that character are the two main goals of the class.

SKK: You touched on this a little bit, but can you elaborate on what inspired you to bring this class to iO West?

DH: Partly in watching classes and performances – I'm lucky in that I get to see students in Level 1 and Level 7. So I get to see the growth that happens in between. There's not a lot of time in the curriculum – it's not that we don't encourage character work – but there isn't a lot of time in the curriculum to really focus on what it means to be a character or to play a character.

I wanted to get a little more technical and dig a little deeper into that, and add something to the curriculum that isn't there as specifically as I try to teach it.

SKK: Why "Get into Characters," as opposed to just "Character"? Is there any significance to that title?

DH: It's "characters" plural because I don't want us to focus on creating one character and playing that 40% of the time. Like "There's this one banker character that I've created…" and relying on that. That's not really improvising. I want to give the students the tools to create fresh, different characters from a lot of different motives and ideas.

The class is more of a start from scratch, a sort of sculpture. Hopefully the students will have the tools to create a wide spectrum of characters and to open the possibilities. Whatever the spark, it can form its own unique path to a character, rather than just the same but slightly different characters.

SKK: What should students know about this class that sets it apart from other classes at iO West or elsewhere? Why should they take it?

DH: This is a way to play; it's my main style and what got me really connected to improvising. Using character and character creation and evolution gave me a starting place to learn the other skills. It was my entry point to the Harold and to learning to improvise in general.

I'm not saying, "Learn to play like me," or that this is the only way to play, but I am saying that using character is something I try to practice, not just teach.

So it's a little more personal on that level.

For me, it's not just another skill. It's something that I'm connecting to and that I take joy in teaching.

Registration for "Get into Characters" is closed for the current term, but keep checking iO West's website or call 323-962-7560 for information about upcoming workshops.

If you're currently enrolled, feel free to comment below.

And, of course, see Dave Hill perform on the Main Stage weekly with King Ten and monthly with Hill/Jones.

- Shawn Kathryn Kane

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hog Post #3

A Hog Post is a blog post written in Harold form.

Comedy writer John Marshall, author of Hog Post #2, left for the next writer the one-word suggestion "material."

Following is what "Top Story! Weekly" producer-writer-actor-director Mike Hughes conceived based on that suggestion:

Material,  Material Girl, Madonna, '80's, Reagan, trickle down, rain, reign, Diana, hunter

My friends would go hunting in the morning before high school started.
Which seemed kind of a weird thing to do for a prep school.
I guess it helped that the school was in the middle of a forest.

Forest, DeForest Kelley, Star Trek, Bones, Emily Deschanel, Zooey, New Girl

I haven't watched many of the new fall shows.
Even the ones that have people I know on them.
Something that happens more often as you kick around this town.

Kick, INXS, auto-erotic asphyxiation, teenage kicks, thrill-seeking, skydiving

I got together today with an old friend.
We talked about whether we'd ever go skydiving.
Neither of us would, because there's really no point to jumping out of an airplane.

Airplane, army, career, manly, hunting

Mike's suggestion for the next writer: "personal."

Now, while the official form is:
  • An opening word rif based on the suggestion
  • Three sentences that introduce something, developing one or more themes that emerged during the opening
  • Another word rif that is slightly more pointed or patterned and that is based even more on themes that have so far emerged
  • Three more sentences that heighten the "game" of the first set of sentences
  • Another even more pointed/patterned word rif 
  • Three more sentences that either heighten the game of the first two sets of senteces or resolve/reverse/turn or involve an ironic twist
  • One final word rif that ends with, or near, the original suggestion
As with any Harold, form should not trump ingenuity.

So take the suggestion "personal" and run with it.

Email your Hog Post to See if yours is chosen to appear in the iO West blogspot blog.  

Hog Posts to date:

Hog Post #1
Hog Post #2

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Visit Pittsburgh tonight in Hollywood

Steel City Sandwiches, complete with crazy delicious Yinzer food, will be parked outside iO West tonight starting at 10pm.

AND it's Harold night with eight great teams from 8pm to midnight.

So, eat big and take in some terrific Mainstage talent. There is arguably no better way to perk up those endogenous opioid peptides.

Free improv class Saturday, October 22

Dave Hilll from King Ten and Hill/Jones (among other teams) is teaching a FREE introductory improv class this Saturday on the iO West Main Stage from 3:30 - 5:30pm.

Come relish the fun AND right afterward sign up for Level 1.

"Had I not been involved in the ImprovOlympic with Charna Halpern and Del Close, I would now be a bat-wielding fur poacher. I'm a better man because of this training..." Chris Farley 

To learn more and/or to register, click here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Learn improv from the masters

Two things to do soon:

Sign up for the upcoming class session, which starts imminently.

See Trust Us, This is All Made Up which showcases the long-form improv talents of two improv greats.

Sure, short form is a hoot, but there is something unabashedly magical about exquisitely slow-moving long-form.

"Whether you're a student of improvisation or simply interested in the underpinnings of human imagination and the depths of mutual understanding, this journey will leave you laughing, guessing, and in awe of this altogether remarkable feat." (Trust Us, This is All Made Up website)

This is true of both the movie and study at iO West.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

This weekend on the iO West Main Stage


8:00pm Celebrity with special guest Ron Livingston - Celebrity is a  long-form improv show where the visiting celeb is thrust into the role of celebrity's personal assistant.

9:00pm The Armando Show with special guest Mike Hughes - The Armando Show is a 90-minute long-form non-Harold show where monologues from the visiting celeb are woven throughout to offer continued inspiration.

10:30pm The Dr. God Revival with special guest Scoot McNairy - The Dr. God Revival is a 60-minute long-form improv show where, like The Armando, stories from the visiting celeb are a useful muse.


8:00pm Sketch Potluck

9:00pm Top Story! Weekly with special guest John Fugelsang - Top Story! Weekly is a news-based sketch show a la SNL that is a great source of both news and laughs.

10:00pm Mainstage Sketch Show

10:30pm Physical Improv Grad Show

Friday, October 14, 2011

On the sketchiness of sketch

Why is there a lack of depth in sketch?

In beginning scene study classes, students are assigned partners and scenes from plays, movies and TV shows.

While scene study classes for the stage provide to students entire plays, scene study classes for the camera usually provide just three to six pages, a description of the character, a description of the environment, the basic blocking and fundamental emotion behind the character's words.

In such classes, every word of every line is scrutinized. You explore the rhythm and breath of every beat of the entire piece.

You analyze the wants of your character. You break down her obstacles and tactics for getting what she wants. You brainstorm ways she might walk and talk. You might even be asked to write a 12-page description of any aspect not provided in the text.

You are expected to create a whole character, complete with detailed back story.

Though the scene itself is a few pages long, after class, you know your character so well it is as though you had written (and not just read) all hundred or so pages about her.

Unfortunately, you'd be hard pressed to find in sketch such deep analysis.

Why is it that sketch comedy is not treated with the same attention to detail as other comedic forms?

Typically, sketch is performed very broad and showy. Surely it was named "sketch" because all the characters are mere caricatures of real people.

And of course there is the issue of time. If a sketch show wants to satirize a current event, the creators don't necessarily have time to deepen every character.

Or do they?

If an actor can find depth in an hour-long scene study class, surely sketch comedians can find depth in a week or two.

When an actor's portrayal of a character lacks nuance and commitment, the scene has the potential to fall flat and miss its mark.

If an actor's too aware of his audience and he defaults to simply being himself performing jokes, the scene has the potential to fall flat and miss its mark.

And if an actor is too focused on audience, there is the danger that he will stop listening to and reacting to his scene partners and will instead just listen to and react to the audience.

What's right for the characters and the scene can be subverted in order to satisfy a short-term hunger for short-lived jokes.

Should sketch comedy continue to focus foremost on structure and fast laughs, or should scene study be used to broaden its palette?

 - Mishell Livio

If improvisers were snacks...

Jim Nieb would be a pickle.

With his standards and beliefs in:

> Keeping it clean

> Never missing an opportunity to make you chuckle and feel good

He's satisfying to both pregnant mothers and stoners alike.

And you should never feel guilty about time spent with him.

He's cool like a cuke that has been around a brine-soaked block.

The next time you're between dinner and drinks or about to embark on a frat night out.

Reach for a little Jim Nieb.

He stands, fermented, on the Main Stage most Sundays in Top Story! Weekly.

Photo of Jim Nieb taken by Carolyn J. Hampton

 - Elizabeth Steele

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Here's looking at you, kid

Thanks to Netflix, I have been watching a plethora of movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood, specifically from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

That era was so glamorous and smart. Each leading actor had such musicality to his voice.

Today, when you come across a name like Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor or Humphrey Bogart, you can immediately hear the pitch and cadence of his or her voice, and you can see the exact tilt of head and longing glance.

Each star was renowned for conveying so much emotion - whether as part of an epic monologue or pithy quip. 

And such depth of spirit is the primary goal we each aspire to on stage as improvisers. And to get that deeply connected we must stay grounded, connect with our partners, and work at establishing true relationships.

The language of the Golden Age was glorious, too. People called one another "kid," and when things went sour, they became "absolutley dreadful."

And there was such history in the fims of the Golden Age. Take Casablanca for example. The scene in Ricks bar, where the Nazi's sing the German National anthem, and everyone else in the bar interrupts with the French anthem.

Such moments are both meangful and memorable. Casablanca was one of the only films set during WWII that was actually made and premiered during the War, making it all the more poignant. 

While watching one of those old Hollywood greats, I had the spark of an idea. I thought: Wouldn't it be cool to do an improv show where everyone on the team was really well versed in Golden Age cinema?

I was so excited about the idea that I posed it to a fellow improvisor who responded "Yeah, but don't you think a lot of the references would go over the audience members' heads?"

I grew pretty quiet for the remainder of the conversation. I went home and mulled things over and then remembered a quote that restored faith in my idea:

"Treat people like poets and geniuses, and they will respond as poets and geniuses." (Del Close)

When you're on stage, play to the height of your intelligence, as if you are a fountain of knowledge. Don't sell yourself short, and don't be afraid to throw out a reference or two if the time calls for it.

Maybe the audience won't get exactly what you are saying right away, but they will pick up on the emotional resonance, and they will absolutely appreciate the whole of it when they go home and look it up in Wiki or imdb.

Take chances, and know that most great ideas start with someone else saying it's a bad one. 

 - ValerieTosi

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Halloween at HalliO West

It’s another temperate fall here in the City of Angels, and in addition to the balmy Santa Anas and promise of returning 'snowbirds,' there’s Halloween to look forward to -- one of the few times a year when the natives blend in with, well, the majority of non-natives. 

And those of us non-natives who still don’t blend well, well, we will wander over to iO West where our quirks and differences will be embraced, or at least tolerated, and where Halloween will start the weekend before Halloween with a free Midnight Showing of Troll 2.

Not to be confused with Showgirls, which will be showing across the street in some native's parked Toyota Sienna. 

The 1990 classic troll flick will surely be prime drinking-game fodder, so leave your keys at home, and scedaddle, troll-like, to iO West (abstinence won't likely be an option) and embrace the officially imdb-branded suck.

Before the suck-fest, get a start on the massacre madness with Kind Strangers are the Last People on Earth at 10pm on the Main Stage (the same group will also play October 14). Kind Strangers will explore the ups and downs of post-apocolyptic life, based on a single audience suggestion.

Touted as the hilarious, better-looking cousin of The Postman, this Improvised apocalypse will set the mood for The Haunted House of Improvised Horror, (also playing Mon, Oct 31).  

Admission will be free to those of you brave enough to wear a costume that doesn’t involve bunny ears or a cotton tail -- although, let’s be honest, that's the kind of costume that will likely get you into more doors than just iO West's, so maybe have it on underneath.

Match Me! and Scary. Killer. Nice. will also perform prior to Troll 2 on the Main Stage beginning at 11pm.

And, on All Hallows Eve, after you’ve had your share of apple-bobbing and "Ding Dong Ditch," join iO West for a ghoulishly good time with a full line up of deviant Halloween humor. 

Jump-starting Halloween night will be Ghoul E. Mann’s Haunt Theatre at 8pm -- a macabre cabaret and theatrical séance.

Continuing the debauchery will be Drug Puppy’s Monster Mash, (also playing Oct 17th and 24th) with their sketch-esque take on the true meaning of Halloween. 

Don’t forget to wear something truly frightening for the reprise of The Haunted House of Improvised Horror at 10pm.

But beware of clones, as Rock! Monster! Rock! will feature legendary scary characters singing their way back into relevance as comic book heroes and dreamy tween reincarnations.

Finally, remember, if you plan to drink anything other than blood on Halloween (or to enjoy shows on the Main Stage sans spirits) you must be 21 or over. 

And for the full October schedule on all three iO West stages, visit the iO West show calendar.

 - Deviant Amelia

Monday, October 10, 2011

Free improv class October 17

iO West is having a FREE improv class on Saturday, October 17th, from 3:30-5:30pm on the Main Stage.

It’s a great opportunity to get a taste of iO West's approach, which is rigorous yet spirited, inclusive yet particular, steeped in tradition yet constantly evolving.

In this FREE class you will explore the basics of long-form improv, all while being up on stage, performing.

Sign up SOON, as space is limited.

To enroll in this free class, please email your full name, email address, and telephone number to:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"I'm J. D. McGhoul and I play at iO West"

J. D. McGhoul (Pat Kilbane post death) reflects on his stint as Armando Diaz and the life (or afterlife) of an actor:

iO West alum to watch: Echo Kellum

If genius is indeed 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, then iO West alumnus, Echo Kellum must use some strong deodorant.

Since graduating last October, he’s been busy balancing his secret identity as Echo Kellum, actor and waiter, with Echo Kellum, improvisor extraordinaire.

Catch one of the teams/shows he performs with at iO West, or collect all four:

> Bobby Hotstuff, the first team he ever performed with, starting way back when he was a fresh-faced student in Level 2. Bobby Hotstuff is still going strong every Friday night at 9pm in The Loft.

> Manifest Destiny, a Mainstage team of fellow 2010 alums whose specialty is 'the slacker.' Manifest Destiny likes to keep you on your toes, so check the iO West site often for upcoming shows.

> Cherry Crush Hosted by Cherry every Monday night at 10:30p on the Main Stage

them., a Harold you can catch on Fridays in the DCT  

I recently “sat down with” Echo (via the internet, because, really, it’s 2011 and why physically talk to people when you can email them?)

Hailing from Chicago, Kellum came to LA with some commercial training, but he was completely new to improv, as so many of us are.

Like many Level 1's he knew he wanted to learn more and found himself at iO West, asking the hard hitting questions like “What does improv mean?” and “How soon can I start performing?”

Also a UCB alum and current Groundlings student, what drew Kellum to iO West was the sleek mix of styles found within the Harold.

“The Harold is the ultimate piece because it can be anything, especially with an organic opening.”

In addition to gracing the iO West stages with his effervescent persona and big hair (you may have noticed him hovering around Dave Hill’s Level 7 with fellow alum and Shadow Cats partner Nate Caywood); he declined to confirm if his presence there is due to an interest in teaching or just a pre-requisite to a restraining order.

But either way Kellum believes in giving back, “I'm a very sharing person, and I believe this industry still stands today because of the kindness and shared sacrifice of all. If I can say something to someone, or share a life experience or my creativity with them, and it helps, then I'm doing my part.”

When Kellum's not crafting shorts with Shadow Cats, cracking up the masses, or manicuring his signature coif, he makes an effort to take in Waterloo and King Ten, “It's really about the chemistry of those teams. They make smart, confident moves, and you can see they really have each other’s backs. They have so much fun and it's contagious.”

Having been in the early stages where so many of us are now, he has this advice to offer:

“Go for it - boldly and with confidence. Become entrenched with the community, start practice sessions with friends from class. Approach coaches and teachers. Say it OUT LOUD. You'd be surprised how many people are saying the same things in their heads. Nothing in life comes easy. Talent isn't enough. You have to back everything up with hard work and perseverance. Be confident and believe in yourself!”

Wise words from an iO West wiz.

- Deviant Amelia

Hog Post #2

The form of the Hog Post (blog post written in Harold form) as I envisioned it when I first thunk it up: 

  • An opening word rif based on the suggestion
  • Three sentences that introduce something, developing one or more themes that emerged during the opening
  • Another word rif that is slightly more pointed or patterned and that is based even more on themes that have so far emerged
  • Three more sentences that heighten the "game" of the first set of sentences
  • Another even more pointed/patterned word rif 
  • Three more sentences that either heighten the game of the first two sets of senteces or resolve/reverse/turn/involve an ironic twist
  • One final word rif that ends with, or near, the original suggestion
BUT, as with the Harold, structure should not trump authentic ingenuity.

A Harold is really just a personalized and collective rif off of the opening suggestion.

Here, then, is Emmy-nominated comedy writer John Marshall's Hog Post based on the suggestion "wrinkle."


Twinkle, tinkle, blinkle, crinkle, Leon Spinks, drinks at dinner

Rip Van Winkle woke from his slumber and saw someone standing before him.

“Who is that,” he asked, “Leon Spinks?”

“I am Mr. Blinkle,” said a crinkly-faced man, who was tinkling in his drink.

Wake, bake, shake, cake, take, break, quake

The earth quaked and the building began to shake.

“Everyone stand under a doorway,” said Henderson.

“I don’t even know you, man,” said Jenkins.

Man, plan, Stan, grand, flan, Trans Am, Spam, blam

Stan kicked the tire of his Trans Am.

“Hey, do I go kicking you?” said the tire.

“I didn’t know you could talk,” said Stan.

“Live and learn,” said the tire.

Learn, earn, burn, roast, toast, ghost, most, Mickey, Minnie, Vinnie

John's suggestion for the next writer: "Material."

Submit via email to your own Hog Post based on the suggestion "material."