Conversations with…


Jay, we haven’t heard about your trip yet!

When you taught at the New Orleans Improv Festival, what was it like?

The festival was great! This is the second time I’ve taught there.  The first time? I taught and performed there before with my good friend Bill Chott, who is my partner in the two-man group “Motherless Stage Whores”. I’ve known Yvonne Landry, director of the New Orlean’s Improv Festival, for a long time. We trained together before she returned to the Big Easy. Yvonne’s’s such a survivor.  She’s made it through Hurricane Katrina, when she had 4 feet of water in her theater. Yvonne’s battled to keep her theater, La Nuit Comedy Theater, together and to keep the festival going. It’s the underdog festival and I just love it. In fact, this is my favorite festival because it’s all about the improv. Nobody’s trying to get anywhere, or to be a star, or to be seen. The craft comes first.  Her theater is the only improv game in town. It’s intimate. This festival is so community based. The growth potential here is huge. Plus, being the home of jazz, what city is more improvisational than New Orleans?

Did you just teach?

I had the opportunity to perform in a Comedy Sportz match with other players from all over the country. In the closely contested championship match, we came from behind to beat the home team and take the title! There are even pictures to prove it. I also hosted the Improv Jam, which closed the weekend .

What did you teach?

A workshop on short form improv skills.   It was a great mix of improv newbies and veterans.  I had them focus on the excitement of improv, to rediscover the joy of making a decision and committing with strength. We developed really exciting scenes during the workshop.  I hope they were rejuvenated by the process. I know I was.

What were the teams like?

There were so many  great teams that made it to the Festival. Teams from Texas, Chicago, Mississippi and, of course, New Orleans all had  strong showings. My favorites? Hard to say. Everyone brought so much to the weekend.

Final thoughts?

It’s been amazing watching Improv grow up. When I started, people didn’t really know what improv was. Now? It seems like every city knows improv. Almost every college has a team. Even high schools have improv teams now.  And the talent keeps getting better and better. As a matter of fact, this weekend I’m judging one of the  regional finals for The College Improv Tournament that is  part of the outreach program of the Chicago Improv Festival.  Jonathan Pitts has done an amazing job developing Chicago’s festival into an amazing celebration og improvisation.  Never thought I’d be focusing my professional life around improv, but that’s what happened. First, The Riot Act and then with my second company, Group Mind Films.  But let’s save those updates for later.

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