Improv Travels

Written by James Lee

Travels In Improv: Levity defeats Death
By: James Lee Walker II

Improv TravelsI’m pleased to be home in Charlotte. I just went on a trip to New York with an improv group I met one night after Comedy Zone‘s “Humor Therapy”.  The other guys on the team were hilarious and we rocked New York in only one show like North Carolina ambassadors.

The show took place at the People’s Improv Theater in New York. I got to see some old Charlotte actor friends and was shown around the famous theater that I’d only previously heard about. I’ve come to decide that our presence in New York dramatically reduced crime.  I saw proof in the NY Post: ‘“There were no murders in the five boroughs in the seven days ending last Sunday”, the mayor’s office said on Monday. “It’s an anomaly, no doubt about it,” said a veteran police source.’

So what’s going on here? Did a troupe from the south hanging out on the streets of New York, headed for a night performing in one of the city’s most well known improv theaters really result in a Tro-Clon? A Tro-Clon is a "confluence of events" which would bring about the purification or ruination (or both) of mankind. Its arrival was announced in the Nyazian Scrolls. This occurrence was explained in the television show “Angel.” I think that this was, in fact, the case. The potency of a group of people prepping for a few days for an improv show is palpable in a Tro-Clon.

I have seen this effect in other cities. I’ve seen people who are programmed to be able to make scripts up in their heads mixing with other people in real time.  This buzz creates waves capable of controlling the world. I’ll give you an example. Phil, an improviser I’d be performing with out of Raleigh, and I both mentioned The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the first two minutes of meeting. From the beginning of our ten hour drive to the middle of a near empty subway in Hoboken, we were “on”. It’s one thing to be “on” all the time as in you keep telling jokes. Improv is that thing that we do as people who walk around and talk. Literally the next thing you say or do will most likely be improv. Even if you plan what you are about to do, you improvised the process of planning. We were “on” in that way that turns everything into a scene. Comic Con was going on and Phil mentioned how much he liked a NYPD officer’s costume. The officer didn’t flinch and hey, we’d just gotten there.

In the subway at about three in the morning, we found that the turnstile wasn’t working. I jumped it. I was extremely tired and wanted to hurry up and get back to Jersey, which I hear is an odd statement to make. I wouldn’t say that we were drunk, but we had consumed a lot of drinks. We were only in a jocular mood due to the time we’d spent on the Conversation Couches, a group of comfortable inflatable couches that create impromptu lounges around the city. Fuelled by a little giddy delirium, Phil and I began to chant to the other people behind the turnstile who were debating on whether or not to jump. We chanted (things like) ’Jump’, ’Do it’ and ‘Crime’ over and over. Crime was my favorite. Almost thirty people had joined in with us chanting ‘crime’ by the time Phil and I realized that this station was closed. I reveled in vibrating the halls (from all of the chanting). Then I yelled for everyone to follow us and we two tourists lead a mass exodus across the street to another station.

In Charlotte we’re working on getting gigs as improvisers, looking for venues and increasing awarenss of and fostering the importance of improv. We’ve come quite a ways and there are many more improv troupes in town than there were when I started. Even though improv is familiar to most people, it’s still easy to make a spectacle of yourself (even in New York) with a little improv. Most troupes are fans of the group Improv Everywhere, though this is more of a flash event and not as simple as two people talking or interacting with an audience.

In Georgia (at the Black Box Improv Festival) there were roving bands of improvisers doing bits with each other for a few days (in lieu of normal conversation). That is (at least) what it seems like. It is actually (to them) normal conversation. In Charlotte, too, after a show, you’ll have that stage collective still “on” for hours up until it’s time to go home. What if it lasted for days? That’s what I experienced on this NY trip and I wish it was the lifestyle of all improvisers.  If anyone is made to feel accosted or uncomfortable by your behavior, have a show booked and a show flyer in hand as an explanation.

My home improv troupe is The Charlotte Comedy Theater. I do a two man improv show with my partner Colby Davis, mitOsis. When he and I are just hanging out, even by ourselves, we are “on”. I think doing otherwise would not only feel unnatural now, but it would feel like we were doing a disservice to everyone. If you are an improviser, if you have a troupe, if you know an improviser, encourage the “on” position. If groups of troupes converged in average settings around Charlotte (the bars, the greenways, the parks) magic would happen. The ancient improv proverb “Yes, and.” is contagious. Improv is powerful and just might bring about world peace. 


James Lee Walker II   James Lee Walker II
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