You know the expression “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe it?” June 25-30 was hard to believe but I'll try and it’ll probably end up being a few thousand words. In that hard to believe week there were moments where I felt a duality, as though two timelines were overlapping each other. Sometimes it was thrilling, sometimes the effect was sickening. But that doesn’t do justice to how much of the week was spent fully being present, giving my undivided attention to the celebration around me, and how nourishing it was. It was Championship in the city where I started ComedySportz, 16 years and 10 miles from where I attended my first practice in a church with James Bailey, Mark Mohelnitzky, and Chris Tallman. Now that I’ve been a Berkeley resident for 1 year, returning to my CSz city of origin as a tourist was a great fit, because Los Angeles is in most ways better for tourists than it is for living. Some people are eco-tourists, others are safari diehards. We are into laughteravel. We floss every day and we wear nice shoes.
So what did I do? I carpooled with my fellow CSz San Jose players. Yes such current team members as Chayton Whiskey, Courtney Pong, Sam Bowers, and Charles Hug, whom I had never met before, and still didn’t by the end of our caravan because we each were in our own cars. But he cuts quite the dashing figure, you must agree. Taylor Sternberg and Laura Lineback rounded out our passenger manifest, as the only other proper players from the city in our retinue, except then Laura moved away. There really is a wall in the CSz SJ green room of people who are dead to Jeff Kramer. My worry is if the wall eventually collapses under the burden. I mean we just did this big remodel.
Our caravan pit stopped at the Firebaugh Chevron and Chayton stealthily fed Sam a ghost pepper tortilla chip but Sam liked it so much he bought his own bag. At the Jayne Travel Center we musical chaired passengers, and I got Pong and Whiskey for the last leg of the trip and we talked about ComedySportz but also families and finances. Everyone talk to your parents about their will, especially if you live in California. Please make a note and do this.
Our travel was timed so well that we had plenty of time to freshen up and appear at the Monday night party. My AirBnB had three parties: Mary Ann Rambo and Jay Rambo, Bron and Sean from Manchester, and me. The couples had already put their kit in the house earlier in the day, and I took the 3rd bedroom which was just the right size for me, and in a trice I was at the taco place and James Bailey handed me a taco first thing when I walked in, so that’s a fine start. Nobody handed me a big margarita but I loved watching you people put them away, the big ones and the really big ones. That was such a beautiful night and everyone looked so jolly and snazzy and the taco James gave me was really good and then a bunch of us lollygagged on over to ComedySportz.
I’d heard good things about improv karaoke but it was my first time seeing it live and Chris Matieu really rocked it off right from the jump. How great it was to see Matt Young there playing with Will Herndon and Scott Passarella. That band kicked booty, kicked BIG booty.
I wish I had seen Bron and Rachel’s duet live, but she sent me the video so now I’ve almost seen the real deal. (I remember years ago when they did “Take Me Or Leave Me.” And Rachel and I sang a duet in a musical all-play in Philadelphia, if I’m not mistaken.)
Also I’m told Bill Chott sang my improve karaoke that night song (“Bum Bum Ba Da Bum Bum” or something like that) and that Scott Palmason sang under my name, ooh la la! But I had already stolen away with my old heist friends from when I lived in LA. We banged out a quick room escape in mid-town. We raided an Egyptian tomb, dynamited a wall, defused booby traps, destroyed artifacts, and rescued the Red Giant, a gemstone of immeasurable value. Yeah and then I shimmied back over to ComedySportz where there were so many beautiful faces to see. If memory serves, we started the Games Garden that night and played a long, long game of Egg Roll (AKA Dancing Eggs), where Eric from Detroit was both the best at getting eggs, and also the most prone to drop them.
That may well have been the night we played Happy Salmon with both bags of cards, 12 players all together. I love how happy Ria was to see that game, and I love her version where you treat the cards like they’re all the same color, and shuffle them all together and deal them out to however many players are present. Thank you for teaching me the house rules!
But Tuesday was the morning meeting and we were all freshly showered and happy to begin the festivities. That kickoff video with CSz LA players auditioning and shout-outs from CSz alum was charming, and now we know exactly who was too big-time to contribute. Looking at you Jason Alexander and Jessica Williams.
Then James Bailey and Rick Steadman talked about a hex wrench and a light bolt, or that’s what I remember. I remember burning Sacramento for being clique-y, which I shouldn’t have done, and now take back, but I think I was nervous to unveil the Games Garden jingle. Thanks to everyone who sang, knocked, and clapped along. And extra thanks to everyone who remembers that it begins with a “bum bum bum,” like the “I’m Very Sorry” song in Calvin Ball. Ask me in 2 years if it withstood the test of time.
James Bailey on the new games at the New Games workshop: “Some of them are wonderful.” I had to leave to make my way to the west side to take a meeting, but I saw Matt Russell’s “Cats.” Did anything grander happen after that?
For the meeting I took, which took me away from you all for a few hours, I’ll say this. I ate a brisket breakfast burrito that I think got me pregnant, and I had a chance to share some feedback with a fellow designer, a fellow white fellow, privileged hetero designer like myself. He’s a dude, naturally. And I commented on an aspect of his upcoming immersive project that showcased an actor tied to a chair and gagged and blindfolded. A woman, naturally. And I told him that although there may be various subjective interpretations of that image’s connotation, there’s no misinterpreting what it is, which is a woman subjected to a dangerous circumstance, and to me and audiences like me that is a turn-off. He really seemed to want to push back, but I hope maybe he’ll come around to it and go with a less ugly and stale choice. Rah feminism.
I wish I’d gotten some of the blueberry coffee cake at the café but I didn’t. I drove back to ComedySportz and took Danny Ricker’s joke writing class. Danny is so charming and awesome, and I loved hearing the ideas, like the one about the daytime drinkers, and the skit was excellent. I confess I loved playing the desperate-to-fill-for-time soccer announcer. Danny is someone whose success really pleases me, and I hope he continues to rise and work hard just as long as it’s fun for him.
Tuesday night’s retinue of shows began with Quarters and June. Remember how blisteringly good that was? And how when we thought it couldn’t get any better, they did improv, with fun names? And then there were guests? And the guests had talents? Tinkles had talent. They all had talents. James Bailey should have said that both Elaine May AND Mike Nichols are accomplished directors, but never mind, we forgive him because he taught a master class in how to upstage. Chin up! Hey how come he didn’t balance anything on his chin at the final match?
Then there was Time Bomb. Rance and Kimya in the first scene, and the runner, about using a shared dinner to advance cures was a dream to watch, with subtlety and nuance and patience and giving gifts. The runner of Kelsey’s cries for “KEVIN!” Michael Barryte deserves big credit for inventing this show. He revealed to me that there was one 5 minute scene in the package that was selected by the audience member. It happened to be an ensemble number: the first all-school scrum (where I think “KEVIN” originated) at the school where there are constantly drills and everyone has a fun gun of some kind. So the 5 was an ensemble! That’s quite fitting.
And then Up Late with Adam Fisher, which I’d been looking forward to since it closed 5 years ago. I hope Adam, Danny, Kyle, and all the writers feel really good about the show they made. You knew it was going to be real when the Passarella Six had 6 pieces, and what a band it was! And those monologue jokes – I remember the one about the lava (FEMA says just pretend it’s carpet) – and then Amelia and her song, and then Tara as Stickdog, and Taylor as SHANE (SHANE Has A Nice Energy) and then Eric Price with his punchline. I can’t remember what it was. It must not have been memorable. Can’t think of it at all. Can’t hear it ringing in my ears. OK I can and it’s making me laugh as I type this hot dog.
Yessir that was quite a trifecta of shows. And then it was quiz time, ack!
The book we read questions from:
“Crowd Pleasing Puzzles” by my friend Todd McClary with Patrick Berry.
The quiz was a sneak-peek that we were in for a gale force wind by the name Erin Kennedy. I couldn’t have wished for a stronger way to begin the quiz than her holding court and reading clues about words A, B, and C. She was boffo. A lot of this part of the program is a blur to me, I confess, but I remember it was fun reading the bonus round questions to Chayton et al and I was pleased that the score was in the 20-25 range, which was what I was hoping for to make a good fight against a Chaser.
Once the top team had been announced, and the runner-up team had a chance to add some bonus points with a speed round, I revealed that the whole room was playing against a single adversary and introduced the first game’s Chaser, Pat Short. He’d asked to be introduced as The Bassoon, and I failed to do that, and I also forgot to do some banter with him, but then I passed it off to our host, Sean Mason, who was commendable in a high-pressure situation.
The questions Sean read were from the boxed board game Bezzerwizzer, which I highly recommend despite its terrible name.
For more on The Chase, check out some Final Chase rounds on YouTube. That’s the vibe I was going for. We didn’t have a wall-sized screen showing how many steps the Chaser was behind the team but we had Doug Neithercott as our Post-It taker-downer and he did a serviceable job, 5 stars, would let him take down Post-Its again.
And then there was a staged theatrical bit where Jon Dinerstein, who had just played the role of Tinkles in Quarters and June, heckled Pat for letting the team beat him and Pat said, “You think you could do better?” and Jon and Pat trade places so Pat played music for the second game and Jon was the chaser. Ha ha! Chiasmus! Parallel inversion of rhetorical structure hot dog.
Becky Ward is an improviser and musician who played violin for Manorhouse Manor as well as my haunted house game Danse Macabre. She did both of these jobs with her husband Jon, the chaser! She read the “vowels only” quiz questions. I thought those were pretty fun. And a different team won the second game, awesome. There was actually a tie for 1st place between a solo player and an all-star team of Rick Steadman, Rich Prouty, Stephen Bennett, and Sarah Murphy. I was going to have them do the speed round as a tie break, and whoever got the most answers right would face the chaser, but the single player volunteered to play speed only and to put the other team into the finals. Three random players joined him to try to boost their score in 90 seconds of “Partners in Rhyme.” It was pointed out to me that Kander seems like a good partner for “ebb” but it’s never spoken Ebb & Kander and you were looking for pairs that fit that frame, so ebb & flow was the correct answer, but it was wrong of me not to indicate that ebb was lower-case. Sorry. But great job, you faced the Chaser with 20 questions, I think.
I realized after that Bezzerwizzer questions, unlike Final Chase questions, are not necessarily written for brevity. Jon answered a FEROCIOUS streak of questions correctly right from the jump, really seemed like he would gobble up the whole lead, but a couple of wrong answers, including 1 push back from the team, and some long-winded Q’s meant a second game ending in the team victory. Which you have to root for, unless you’re the Chaser. I had a third game lined up, but it seemed like the perfect time to call it a night…
By which I meant go back to the Games Garden. We played two very funny games of Secret Hitler. I was on the losing team both times, but we actually had a ton of laughs doing that game. I only played one game of Banangrams, but I did beat the other 7 people at the table including Bron.
I went to bed before 2 on Tuesday. What was I thinking?
On Wednesday I got a haircut from Boyd, who I learned on this trip cuts simply everyone’s hair. There’s no one in Berkeley I like as much, and I was in town a month ago for the Survivor finale and Boyd cut my hair, and then a month went by and I was all, hey I’ll get a cleanup. This is another instance where my week of championship and a week from some other chapter of my life appeared to be vibrating together at the same frequency.
Because then, minutes from Boyd’s, I drove to Andy Crocker’s house and we had a long lunch and she gave me the whole break-down on her recent show Escape From Godot, a show which drew heavily upon the improv community and featured CSz LA players alongside great talent from the LA immersive and rock scene, and was the toast of the Fringe. Andy is family to me – we are learning to parent together, and we’re both working pretty much independently to get our work out there – and she’s a ComedySportz friend. Of course she is, because she’s just a tip-top person.
Then I did a 3 hour sprint of responding to emails and phone calls and clients from the outside world, dealt with homeowner stuff, squeezed in a few business days into a pita pocket of time. Then I freshened up because it was time for Cut the Comedy.
Here’s what happened at Cut the Comedy. (I typed that sentence and then a few weeks went by where I worked crazy hard, multiple long days in a row burning the candle at both ends but I am 30 minutes early to play a match in San Jose so let’s type here at Iguanas which has the worst bathrooms of any restaurant ever built and great food and no wifi)
For those of you who weren’t there, Cut the Comedy is a show format, a game I had played once, and it was in the last couple of months before I moved from LA, my home for 18 years, to the SF Bay Area, the home of my first 18 years. And as I said to the audience on that night on the CSz stage, “When you’ve been in the company for 15 years and you’re moving away, sometimes they’ll let you do a new show that’s never been rehearsed before.”
In that show, 11 players competed in games where 1 or more would be safe from elimination and the audience voted on who would go home. The opening round was Da Do Rap Rap and it took forever to eliminate 10 players and then vote, but there were some format things, including the line-up of games, that I felt really good about. The premiere was a thrill like few others I’ve experienced, and my players echoed that sentiment. Rick Steadman beat Mike McNeal in the final game, clinching the victory. James asked if I’d fill a Wed night space by doing the game a second time and of course I said yes, partly because I’d devised some improvements to the competition.
At morning meeting on Wednesday Rance wrote a note and had it passed to me across the room. It contained the name of the Cinci player who he wanted in the show. Starting with that, I spoke to other interested players and filled 11 spots. Actually I filled 12. I had resolved not to admit any LA players to the team thinking that LA had enough representation through the week. But in my mind I wrote down a special-case exception, for my friend Rachel Kottcamp. Rachel was hurt during a criminal run-in with a violent drunk while touring Australia with her boyfriend, who was hospitalized during the attack, and Rachel had really been through some crummy luck. I made up my mind that if she asked me for a spot in the show I’d find one for her, and I did. And somehow I booked 1 player too many: maybe it was when Matt Russell had to deal with some issues related to his big opening in Maine, and Glenn Packman took his spot, but I think it was an inevitable consequence of casting a show with limited spaces by scribbling names down on a scrap of paper. So when I huddled everyone in the lobby I had to start things off on a crummy note by asking someone to sacrifice and help me as field ref. Ashley from Boise volunteered and I have to say I’m glad he did because he was super helpful during the show and we shared some really cool moments including another special case exception in the Final 7 round.
But anyhow thanks to Ashley’s goodness and covering for my inability to count, we had 11 players. I told them almost nothing before we went on the stage except that we would open with Expert Challenge and I expected them to play in such a way that allowed the game to breathe, giving players at least a sentence or more before challenging them, and generally just to play the game clean. And other than that I told them that if they get eliminated, to demonstrate the model of ComedySportz, we play to win, we don’t care if we lose… and that was about it.
We took the field and played Big Booty. Rachel went in the booth because she was the only one about who knew how to get the Google deck I’d built to project on the screen, so I made her #1 (which I now know means William Riker). I was Big Booty. We played the game for 3 minutes. The audience was surprisingly engaged! The stage picture is bad but I was pleasantly surprised by how much the audience was into watching our warm-up. I made a mistake and got knocked down to #11 but Rachel never wavered and so when time was up she was Big Booty and she earned a benefit. I offered her 1 of 2 yellow index cards and she picked one at random. Then the game began.
I needed a single-player elimination game better than Da Do Rap Rap and I was thinking Limerick is hard enough that people would certainly fail out. But an hour before the show I had the idea to play Expert Challenge for 5 minutes and it was a beautiful game, with the subject of Fish, and Bron talked about tickling trout, and there was all kinds of fun but not one person used the word “ichthyologist.” The most amazing part, to me, was that Kevin from Columbus did not take the box for the entire game, slow-playing and watching the whole time… I was planning on singling him out and making an example of him… and with 10 seconds remaining on the clock, he called a challenge, took over the box, and cruised to the win. It was great! I knew we were in for an exciting match.
The audience voted. The technology failed again, same as last time, so I had the players turn their backs and counted the vote with a manual tally. Ah, but here’s where I made the biggest change of them all:
The audience voted for a player to save from the vote: someone they wanted to join Kevin, the winner of the game, and for sure make it to the next round.
With two players safe – one from winning, the other from getting the audience vote – the others were given a number 1-9 and the eliminated player was determined by random draw. Ta-DA! Russian Foolette. Joshin’ Roulette. I’m open to other names, jk I don’t care. But it’s so much more in the CSz spirit, n’est-ce pas? The audience votes for whom they LIKE and the person who goes home, well that’s just the way it is. Them’s the berries.
And that first eliminated player was Josh Keuhn from Twin Cities, who was whisked up to the booth to be the announcer, where he offered SFX from the laptop to accompany the random number draws.
And I forgot to mention that during the game of Expert Challenge Bron found the Hidden Benefit, which the players were only allowed to take from its hiding place while improvising. I’d question if she was really improvising in Expert Challenge when she took it, but she got it and it stayed with her.
With Josh eliminated I split the remaining players into 2 groups and we played Battle Scene. Two scenes from the same suggestion. Each group had to designate 1 player to be all the props in the scene. The first group had Rachel Kottcamp as the human prop, the second group had Rachel Garmon as the human prop, and the suggestion was Branson Missouri. Bron used 2 distinct character accents. The audience voted to save the second group and Erica Gooch of Philadelphia, who was voted by the audience safe into the second round, had her number randomly drawn. As a consolation prize I gave her an entire bottle of wine generously donated by Anne Etue, original CSz LA player and concessionaire extraordinaire. It was a strawberry shortcake wine or something. I gave it to Erica, with a bottle opener. James came and took the bottle opener from Erica, who sat in the front row, and left with it, saying, “It’s a screw-top.” I followed James to the lobby saying, “Give that back it’s from my Air BNB” and meanwhile Erica opened the bottle of wine and began swigging right from it, so the night was already fun.
In Cut the Comedy 1 from last year, Rachel Kottcamp was the second player eliminated from the game – although not by random number draw, as you remember, but by audience vote – and she was also given a bottle of wine, which she shared with the rest of the players as they were eliminated. I don’t remember Erica doing that but perhaps I am wrong.
The next round was Reboot, AKA Replay (I love having license to call these games whatever I want) and mostly I remember how silly the Vaudeville replay was. I’m not entirely sure what else was happening around now this part of the show. The next game was Monogram Slam (AKA What Are You Doing with all audience-initial suggestions) and Rachel won safety – not for her group of 4, but as an individual.
This is as good a time as any to tell you about the benefits. Bron’s benefit, which she found under a stool while (arguably) improvising, could give her a pass from the random-number draw – basically, safety through any one round. Rachel K’s Big Booty Benefit gave her the option to guess correctly who would win an audience vote. If her guess was right, Rachel would get safety INSTEAD of the vote winner. If she guessed wrong though there would be a penalty. (And if you really want to know what the penalty was – her card did not state it – it’s that she would be given 2 random numbers before the elimination, making her twice as likely as any other candidate to be selected).
So: here is Rachel Garmon, she has just won safety by prevailing in Mongram Slam, but I pull a Monty Hall and offer her a bargain. She can GIVE UP safety and allow herself to be put into the random number draw, and in exchange she would receive the third and final benefit in the game. With an adventurer’s spirit, she took the deal. The audience voted 1 player safe and a random number was drawn. Rachel Garmon’s number did not come up, so her gamble paid off.
The next round was Story with 7 players, and I don’t remember much but I’m sure it was ridiculous. But what I DO remember is what happened after the vote. Somebody won safety, and somebody got voted safe by the audience. The random number came up and eliminated Ryan from Detroit. BUT WAIT. I took my little notebook out of my pocket and gave it to Ashley who read out loud:
“Runner-up rule: Once per game, if the eliminated player is the second-highest vote getter of the round, that player shall NOT be eliminated. Instead, that player is safe, and a new player is selected for elimination.”
I was so happy that circumstance, which I anticipated might happen, came to pass, and our show had another big surprise!
With 6 players we played Minority Retort (AKA I Can Do It Better) and the two onstage players from the winning team were the only ones safe from the vote. With 4 players left, the audience was all primed to vote, when Rachel – Garmon, not Kottcamp – announced she was using her benefit. She whispered in my ear her guess of the person she predicted would win the vote. The audience voted. Rachel Kottcamp was saved from elimination by the audience vote. Rachel Garmon had guessed correctly, so she too was safe, leaving only Bill and Bron, so rather than do a random number draw, I flipped a coin. It was, unless I am mistaken, the only proper coin toss that happened through the entire week of shows. Bill, the American, was assigned Heads, for George Washington the father of our country. “Does that mean I’m the arse?” Bron asked. It was a New Jersey quarter, so it meant that Bron was New Jersey, but tails it was indeed and Bron was eliminated. Trenton makes, the world takes.
With 5 players left we played Stick Em Up AKA Dirty Hand Randy for safety. An audience vote, an elimination, and we were down to the final four.
With 4 players left, we played three minutes of Free for All Freeze. At this point the audience voted for which pair of players they wanted to see face off in the final two. Ryan and Bill had gone as far as they could go (Bill was getting a lot of mileage out of his “How am I STILL HERE?!” refrain but then he was eliminated, so he had to stop). The final two contestants were Rachel G. from Richmond and Rachel K. from LA. Did you catch that they were the two human props from way back in round 2?
We split the eliminated players in half and each Rachel got a team of 3 to support her, and we played Charoids (AKA 6 Things) for the win. Bron volunteered to go work the booth so Josh K. got to come down to the field and give clues. Erica was cool with her bottle of wine.
Ashley had given out slips of paper to the audience, who had written out clues for the guessers. I suggested that, on a scale of 1-10, clues should be at a 4-7 level of difficulty and I think the audience abided by that. Each Rachel had 3 clues, and they could score points by guessing correctly or stealing from the other side.
After the first 3 clues the score was tied. I sent them out of the room and we got 2 new clues from the stack. Brought them back in, tied again. “I got nowhere to be til morning meeting,” I said. “We’ll do this all night if we have to.” It crossed my mind to declare them joint winners. But only for a moment. I mean, pretty clear that they were both the winners in all but name, but having come this far we really did have to have one victor.
Rachel K. guessed her 5th clue correctly meaning Rachel G. had to get hers right to keep the score tied and stay in the game. She got everything right but could not identify that her team was clueing her rock icon Prince and with that, after a frantic crazy-making 2+ hours of improv, Rachel Kottcamp of Los Angeles, who had been eliminated second in her first attempt to climb Mount Cut the Comedy, was declared the winner of the game’s second iteration. In the spirit of ComedySportz, Rachel received a medal that she was permitted to pose with but not keep. It was an MS Word trophy from 1987. With a tear in her eye she said, “I know it’s dumb but I needed this.” We play to win, we don’t care if we lose. I think it’s a story we can all feel good about. Or maybe all of us except Rachel Garmon. But I’m pretty sure even she.
So. Can you believe there was even more to the week? At this point it’s been nearly a month since Championship began and I don’t remember a ton about the matches. I know that, on Thursday, I was pretty glad I had the quiz and Cut the Comedy behind me, because I didn’t have any other responsibilities aside from being Field Ref for Bron on Saturday
Here’s some thoughts about the workshops I attended after Danny’s:
I enjoyed Dave Gau’s BattleProv Madness – I did it once before in Milwaukee, and I lost my second match-up there, and this time I won my first 2, but we ran out of time before I – and everyone else - could lose to Doug Nethercott. I guess making it to a 5-way tie that includes Doug is its own form of winning. This was the workshop where I first saw Andy Wegg and Jekeva work and I was really impressed: they are players I hope I will see much more from in years to come. Dave takes such great care in this workshop, like a kindly improv dad, even calling the workshop a 5-way tie rather than going over time, in order to make sure that everyone gets feedback instead of just powering through. Like our matches, the competition provides structure but it isn’t the most important thing.
In a different way, I appreciated the care Josh Keuhn took in his structure of his I Must Break You workshop. 16 participants only. A group of 4 would improvise a 10 minute set and Josh would give feedback. He repeated this with 4 groups, then repeated with different groups of 4. It was tight and slick and I might do something like it some time. I was quite impressed with the overall level of quality in that workshop, across all cities. Josh might have come prepared to shatter a few people, but I don’t think anyone really got blistering feedback. This was a good year for improv, especially in this workshop.
Here’s a few thoughts from some of the matches:
Yay for the Quad Cities team. Emma and Torrey were new to me and I thought they really brought the fire, and Jeff is such a pleasure to watch. His business with throwing the bottled water into the crowd was great and I’d never seen the game “Best of Times, Worst of Times” before. Jeff going from dad with picnic sandwiches to drunken dad with sandwich in his pocket was a great illustration of how the game should be played, and Torrey’s ending by forgiving everyone’s student debt: now that’s what I call a button
I thought Kelly Scruggs lived up to her nickname “The Dominator” in her match, with a vivacious physicality in Forward Reverse and some really good, subtle space work and paying attention in Foreign Movie.
Emily Binion is such a powerhouse. This is my second year seeing her play and being totally blown away, but I’ve never actually had a conversation with her. Maybe next time. She’s in the highest echelon as far as I’m concerned.
I’m such a big fan of the Manchester team. Last year I particularly missed Rachel Wareing’s presence but she surely made up for it this year with her captaining of the team. I remember Courtney Pong’s “call it in the air” bit, which Rachel then took one step further by throwing it to the front row. I remember her and Emily in the “got into heaven” scene, where Rachel made great hay out of her position reaction to getting into heaven, her wry side-swiping of American beer, and her perplexed yes-anding of Emily’s shirt-flipping up action.
Those Downtown Chicago Bosses never disappoint. I particularly liked their game of Lounge Lizard – Sean Sullivan is just enchanting – and Nicole ROCKED her song, including a nice detail in her song about someone who loves an actor: “just be glad he’s not an improviser.” Word. This was the match where after every game they shook Bob the musician’s hand. That became very fun as it built.
The Provo team stood out – Chayton and JR have a great energy together, but we can all agree that Jasmine’s presence in the match was a highlight, both for what it represented, but also as a fine ComedySportz team member by any criteria. Rah rah feminism. I hope we’ll see much more of Jasmine and her high-flying energy for years to come and I told her as much to her face. Being a hippie-dippy Berkeley dad now means that I’m very free with the in-person compliments.
I was star struck by the Buffalo team, and they had a great match. Matt Russell’s “plant in the audience” bit (Dick Chudnow level mayhem achieved) became a mascot and also a source of hydration. Kelsey drinking from the mug was still not enough to erase from my mind the image of her mic falling down last year and Brian having to fix it while she stood there and pretended nothing was happening. “Take care of… that,” I think is what Nicole said, and this is as good a time as any to remember the time Wade’s pants blew off in the garage in Milwaukee.
And I’ll always remember being the field ref for Bron at the Saturday early match. Being Bron’s house mate and having a chance to confer before our work together was a great fun and a good way to prepare. I loved being part of the LA team’s match – those 4 young people have been improvising together for something like a decade – and Em Hanke got in a classic Em bit of “It’s me, H.R.” while taking off her mask. Other memories of being field ref for that match was being snagged by Konstantine’s son and allowing him to give the first suggestion of the match and asking for a young person to name something that people used to have in the olden days and getting the suggestion “health care.”
All credit to Bron for the bit (which wasn’t really a bit) of getting rid of the things she didn’t want to take back to England with her. We even gave away the bag! But the wiley audience member left it behind, so she ended up with it anyway
I know the other thing I wanted to for sure write about (and it only took me 19 pages to get there) was my choice to take the suggestion “tampon.” Though in truth I don’t know that it was really a choice at all. I was so focused on getting the suggestions quickly, making sure Bron heard them clearly, and getting out of the way of the forward progress, that it didn’t occur to me to use any particularly strict editorial discretion. I’m sure if the audience had said something vulgar or brown-baggable I wouldn’t have repeated it reflexively, but I’ve been married almost 10 years and tampons are just not something I raise an eyebrow at. But when I turned and saw Bron’s face even I, who cannot read faces, perceived that she was conflicted. But we moved on, and there were several funny jokes about tampons, and it was no big deal. After the match, Bron cornered me and said, “Would you ordinarily take tampon? Because our team wouldn’t take it, and then afterward we’d have a big conversation about how we should not NOT take it.” And I knew exactly what she meant; I’ve been a part of that precise conversation. So I guess my reflexive decision ends up being a statement in hindsight only, but I don’t think I deserve credit for it because I wasn’t intentionally furthering an agenda other than “this is fine, let’s move along” but with hindsight I’m glad for the side of this debate that I came down on. I feel good about it. Rah rah rah feminism! By the way in case you’ve forgotten what game we’re talking about, tampon was paired with flyswatter in the game of Smackdown, and my joke would have been:
“I saw a fight between a tampon and a flyswatter.”
“The flyswatter, because it is literally a killing machine and a tampon is nothing more than an ordinary household hygiene product.”
On Friday I had another one of these out-of-body experiences, because I took a meeting at Starburns Industries, Dan Harmon’s production company, which I thought was going to be a total waste of time but was anything but. The guy I met with there actually knew my work, was a huge game show fan, and he was excited about the ideas I presented. Do I think anything will come of it? Not really. But I did get to take a dimly-lit photo with a maquette from Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas, so it was worth it for sure. This is why I say, my week was like a palimpsest, multiple weeks worth of best life being lived layered on top of each other. Wowza.
Guys we haven’t talked about Murder yet.
We played a special game of Murder – just 11 players! – in a conference room where the Jenny Craig executive team had been having a meeting earlier that day. We sat in the 11 chairs around the conference table – 12 including Lionel Twain – and assumed the roles of the nametags placed in front of us. It was Lionel Twain’s corporate retreat in his high-rise office building, including a team building day led by Mr. Pat Short. There was raucous laughter, Mary Ann was a real dirty bird, and the murderers won an overwhelming victory, with both of them surviving to the final round and shaking hands with each other. The majority of the players were experiencing the game for the first time, and to be sure, it did go 2 hours – from 1:30 to 3:30 AM – but it didn’t feel long. Jeremy from Sacramento played a descendent of the character he played last year, and he was killed off first, just as his father was a year ago. But very much to his credit, he stayed for the duration of the game to see how it all played out. That is dedication. Also I found out for the first time that, at a game last year, when the murderers selected me as a victim during the night phase, Rich gave them a head shake “no.” Can you believe that? With a game so unfair, it’s a wonder anyone wants to play at all. But it is good to have a friend like Rich. We should all be so lucky. I always say, he’s the Mozart of Murder. It’s the most special game I know and I get to play it 1x a year max, so we’re grateful when it happens, and I think those of us who have been around the block with Murder a few times will remember this game fondly. I don’t know if anything can ever equal the Old West experience, but this was a special one. Ah hell they’re all special.
Final odds and ends
There isn’t another comedy theater in town with as many women on stage as we had, and that story really ought to be told. We had a mother-and-son team on a stage! Not to mention Jeff Adamson who is the dad of everyone on every team in all the cities, not just the quads
It felt odd to introduce myself as Myles from CSz San Jose, but I am happy to be part of such a fun and welcoming team and Jeff bought us all dinner so I think I’ll stay.
There were 2 times where the announcers from the LA team made me wonder if maybe they were on PCP. One was when Kelly from LA called the last match of the first night a tie (when I feel like she should have just said "LA wins") and the other was Andrew who sometimes awarded points before both teams had gotten applause. But maybe it was me who was on PCP and I just didn't know it.
It turns out that not everyone knows this: Luis was scheduled to ref the final match but was taken ill with food poisoning and James, who I’m sure would have been happy to relax after a week of hard work and enjoy a bottle of wine, stepped in because the show (match) must go on. This was very disappointing, because I love to watch Luis ref, but the hour or so we spent together on Friday before the matches was one of the highlights of my week, catching up and sparking up, and even though he and his wife played a mean prank on me, I still love him and I look forward to seeing him when he stops throwing up out his butthole.
And I’ve seen James ref about 1 billion matches, and I know his bits, and he was in fine fettle on this night. His call of “Reverse” in the second act during the Unicorn musical was inspired.
And hey. How about that final match with Twin Cities vs. LA huh? Grace Blakeman, formerly of CSz New Orleans, now on the LA Sunday team, asked me, “Does LA have to win?” The Minnesota team was certainly on fire, that much is clear, and nobody was blazing brighter than Erin Kennedy. Call me crazy, but I think that gal has real skill when it comes to improv. No I mean it. But it wouldn’t have achieved its heights without Josh and Doug contributing their skill. Josh’s lumberjack felling a tree, Doug as the airship delivery guy: the whole thing was a tour de force. I appreciated the LA team supporting the end of the unicorn musical, though I believe the appropriate designation for what they did is “uni-chorus line.”
Can I also kvell on my home girl? I joined ComedySportz LA the same week Lauren Pritchard did and it is such a gift to watch her do the show. I love the way she takes care of the audience. You notice the way she makes sure they get to their seat and back without incident? We’d all be lucky to have a friend look after us with as much care as Lauren looks after a random fan volunteer.
Did you guys watch this video? Because I CANNOT.
A toast to all the other Field Refs! I loved Taylor “Made” Jarvis (whom I nicknamed at CSz SJ last week) gradually endowing Von as her dad. Konstantine as the guy who won a radio contest! I remember Michael Barryte being good-natured about being the guy who misunderstood “navel lint” as “Naval lint” in a big room on a mic, and he took it like a champ. It’s understandable, it could have been any of us. And thanks to Will Rubio who helped all us field refs remember to use a mic, did it a few times in fact.
Two moments from the final night's party and then we're about ready to wrap it up. Mary Ann Rambo, my friend and confidante and house mate, won a paper airplane made by my son in a raffle drawing back. I gave it to her at the closing night party. I had hoped to sail it in through her window during the match when I was field reffing, preferably from the stage, but it didn't end up happening. You make my heart soar like a paper airplane made, with love, by a happy 6 year old.
And after James had a chance to eat something, in between answering questions for a million people, I told him the story about the song. I said, "There was so much going on tonight, you might not even remember that at the end of the match, before the final score was announced, a few of us came on stage to pay you thanks for starting the company, making this whole week happen, and all for all the great gifts of leadership you give us. And then the music started up and we began to sing the march:
James! He taught us the games
Thomas! He helps to calm us
Bailey! He does it all gaily
Oh James Thomas Bailey he’s our guy
When I met James he knew the names of each young improviser
(James, at this point: “Oh, there’s more”)
I’m old today but safe to say that I am none the wiser
He’s the reason you’re all in LA so everybody cheer!
We were surprised to learn he’d paid off the debt
From the last time you were here
James! It’s more than just claims
Thomas! We make you a promise
Bailey! We think of you daily
Oh James Thomas Bailey he’s our guy!
And then someone handed you a dozen long stemmed roses. It was a really nice moment." Maybe now that's how we'll all remember it.
So to sum up, the first night of the matches I found some seats near some fans: a mom and her kids, who were in town from Riverside, over an hour drive away. “We LOVE ComedySportz,” they told me and they even told me their favorite player on the LA team: it’s Eric Zipper! (Eric and I, along with Ian, did a Mountain Goats sing along at the top of our voices on a walk from 7-11 to the hotel, that was pretty cool.) Anyhow, these fans: the older girl just graduated high school, and the other was going to CSz camp. The next night I sat behind another high school girl with her friends. They were snogging right up to and including the ref shpiel but their friend who had brought them didn’t even notice because she was BOUNCING in her seat with energy and anticipation for the show begin. “You don’t even know, you’re going to love this,” she said. Those fans are the reason we do it.
And in conclusion hot dog.