I don’t like writing about improv or over-analyzing it, but since moving to New York City, it seems to be some people’s favorite hobby.
The Improvisational Theatre Reperatory Ensemble (or IRTE) recently blogged about Upright Citizen’s Brigade’s artistic director Will Hines’s recent decision not to pay any performer who does shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, ever. You can read the really long-winded, whiney article about it here: http://irteinfo.blogspot.com/2013/02/respect-for-improv.html
I made the mistake of clicking a link to the article, so now I’m socially obligated to blog about it (aka “socioblogablogated“).
The one thing I’m not a huge fan of regarding this blog post (or a lot of the slightly obese/stubble-faced/plaid-wearing Improvising naysayers) is the greed that floats around it (and them). The critique takes UCB and observes it in the light that it is a business, and a greedy, self-serving one at that. Which it kind of is. It’s a business. I think we should take a moment to applaud ANY live theatre venue that manages to sustain itself financially.
Here’s my point, though: I love improv, and have always loved it. My favorite improvisers? The ones I knew in college. Better yet, the improvisers I knew back in North Carolina after I graduated, who pay for their company dues at the theater’s they perform at and put so much of themselves into the maintaining of the theater space in which they perform. They aren’t paid to play, they pay to do what they love. They put forth effort and time to perform to packed out houses (or, just as often, 5 or 6 people) and give up their weekends and nights because it’s what they love to do.
Fast-forward to NYC. I don’t blame IRTE for their want of money, because we all want it, but I don’t appreciate their assumed self-importance. In particular, I’m not a fan of how they dichotomize improvisers into “professionals” and “amateurs.” Are you fucking serious? You’re on stage pretending to be a dinosaur going through a messy custody battle. Try not to hurt yourself while you’re suckin’ your own weenie there, champ.
Surprisingly, there are people who make money doing improv. They just don’t make it at UCB. They book other shows, teach workshops, create their own opportunities, meet agents/managers and book work on television commercials, etc. Why is it important to make your buck at UCB? Let UCB be (aka “you see, Bee Bee?”) what it has always been, which is just a jumping off point. If UCB paid it’s performers, they’d never fucking leave, and then how would new people get onto Harold teams?
What’s this sudden fad in the improv community of attempting to use improv as a means to your financial success? At least be a little more discreet about it. If I go to another improv show where every other person at the show attempts to hand me their “business card,” I think I’ll vomit.