A cursory glance at iO West instructor Molly Erdman's website is enough to exhaust the unsuspecting visitor.
This experienced and versatile actor is busy.
In addition to Molly's many stage performances, commercials and TV guest appearances, she also writes an extremely popular blog entitled Catalog Living, which takes a humorous look at the people who live inside home furnishing catalogs and was named one of Time Magazine’s "Top 25 Blogs of 2011," and her book, Decorating Takes (Wicker) Balls, is due out in the summer of 2012.
It's a wonder Molly had time to this week to teach the Weekly Workout and to share her improv insights, in brief, with me.
SKK: What was the moment when you first discovered you loved performing improv?
ME: Back in high school, we'd do improv games in our theater class, and it was my favorite thing in the world. I spent a summer at a theater camp in Boston and learned the Harold, and I went back for my senior year and started an improv group at my school. This was back in the Dark Ages when high school improv groups were unheard of. That sound you just heard was me patting myself on the back.
SKK: What has been your favorite onstage experience so far?
ME: Geez, there have been a lot. Some that stick out in my mind probably aren't the best or funniest moments, but are just memorable for some reason.
For instance, on my first Harold team at iO Chicago – Genealogy – in the late 90s, I was doing a scene where I was a bratty kid getting a haircut. I said to the barber, played by the hilarious Dave Peggs, "I cut out a picture from a magazine of how I want my hair to look." Dave took the picture, looked at it, and said "It's Lily Tomlin." I lost it.
To me, that was the funniest person he could have picked for me to want my hair to look like, because I was playing a kid, and because what magazine would I have been reading that had a picture of Lily Tomlin in it?
It was one of those great lines – two words, even – that gave a ton of information about the character I was playing. But mainly it just made me laugh, and still does today when I think about it.
SKK: What led you to begin teaching improv?
ME: At first I was just curious if I would be any good at it. I don't think improv ability or talent and teaching prowess necessarily go hand-in-hand. Now that I feel like I've got my teaching groove, my main goal is to simplify improv and what makes a successful improv scene.
Sometimes students – and all improvisers – think too much and get so bogged down in rules that we lose sight of the fact that everything we need to make a good scene is right there in front of us. We just have to slow down enough to recognize it.
SKK: What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching for you?
ME: When a specific exercise or note clicks for a student. I love that feeling of diagnosing a problem area and being able to find a solution.
SKK: What has been your favorite in-class experience so far? This experience could also be "as a result of class."
ME: I loved the last day of the Level 4 I taught a couple months back. I asked the class "what do we love about X's improv" for each student, and I just sort of sat there and beamed as everyone offered up all these great insights and compliments about every single person in that class. I really believe that being able to see and appreciate other people's strengths is an important part of being a good improviser.
SKK: Lastly, for everyone reading this blog who is trying to figure out what shows to see first, which are a few Harold teams you think are particularly successful, and why do they work so well? You can include your own.
ME: I enjoy my current team, Spirit Cat, and my former team, Sweeterhouse, because they're both filled with veteran improvisers who are playful and just plain funny (more back-patting). I've also always been a fan of Local132 - they have a good blend of comedically diverse players, and their shows are technically solid while also being funny and playful.
Molly Erdman's bio:
Molly Erdman spent eleven years performing at iO Chicago with groups including Genealogy, Valhalla, The Armando Diaz Experience, and the Lindbergh Babies (directed by Del Close). She was a member of Second City’s National Touring Company and created and performed in three Mainstage shows at the Second City Chicago. For four years, she played the quietly suffering wife in the minivan in Sonic commercials. Molly moved to LA in 2007, and she currently performs at iO in The Armando Show.
Molly is also currently teaching Level 2.
- Shawn Kathryn Kane
- Shawn Kathryn Kane