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10,000 Hours

In his book  Outliers , Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point and Blink ) maintains that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be wor...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"Surprisingly Awesome" Music Theory

As an improvisor, you really have to know at least a little bit about everything -- because you never know what's going to come at you onstage. It's a great excuse for natural Renaissance men (and women) to shine.

Despite having taken a music theory class in college, plus years of piano lessons and lots of improv singing practice, it wasn't until I moved to Maine and started teaching myself the ukulele that I realized how much I *don't* know about music. I was spoiled in San Francisco, working with incredibly talented musical improvisors who made singing easy -- and now, if I wanted to sing, I was going to have to figure out how to accompany myself.

If only the "Surprisingly Awesome" podcast had been around then!

Surprisingly Awesome's tenth episode is about the Circle of Fifths, and the podcast is a perfect 35-minute plunge into the music theory I wish I'd absorbed in college. Don't know anything at all about how music works? Listen to the podcast. Know some stuff about music and want to know more? Podcast guest Nick Britell explains it all in a charming and totally relate-able way. Don't care about music theory but love unexpected mashups? Yeah, the podcast has that too.

So now you have no excuse -- go learn some music theory!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Comedy + Sensitivity

Improv is spontaneous. Improvisors spend a long time training our brains to lower the barrier between thinking and saying, and we challenge ourselves not to self-censor, to make mistakes and think of them as gifts. Our audiences love us for this, and it's part of the reason they keep coming back, week after week, to see what we will do or say onstage.

When it comes to trigger and taboo topics, though, where do we draw the line? As artists, we have a responsibility to tell the truth about the world we live in. As improvisors, we're expected to find the humor in whatever suggestions our audiences give us. And as performers, we have a responsibility to our fellow players as well as to the audiences that come to see us.

When it comes to trigger topics, let's choose kindness. We don't know who is hurting and how -- amongst our fellow players and in our audiences. Let's take suggestions that inspire us, not ones that make us uncomfortable. Let's leave hot-button topics -- especially ones to which we have no personal and deep connection -- to other realms of comedy. And let's trust that, when we do make a mis-step and accidentally cause hurt, we'll find ready forgiveness from our community.