Back for a third time, to help Naffy start April on a good foot, is Summer Boyfriend! These titans of Boston improv comedy have had one of the longest and most consistently excellent running shows in the area. Supported by the Fine Line comedy network, Summer Boyfriend has performed at ImprovBoston, The Riot, The Milky Way, and at festivals across the country. Check out some photos from their previous shows, and then be sure to reserve your FREE tickets now!
On March 23rd, Naffy got the chance to perform the "Your Terrible Ex!" show at ImprovBoston's Comedy Lab. We interviewed Max Kreisky and then were able to do a show set at Comic-Con with three card sellers, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Digimon trying to sell their wares. We met Neil, the annoying comic con fan, Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds and George Lucas. Check out these photos now and keep an eye out for our upcoming shows at IB including our show this Saturday opening for the Con Men, and next month as we perform on Harold Night!
For the improv nerds out there, everyone has probably at least heard of "the game" of the scene. Most readers of this probably know that the UCB really focuses on "the game" of the scene. However, I've noticed in the Boston scene the, the Boston definition of "game" and the UCB definition of "game" are slightly different. Hopefully I can explain this subtle difference.
First disclosure, I am not trying to imply that one definition is better than the other, I just want to clarify what is UCB "game." Of course improv is an art form, and one could argue how could anyone define a term that is open to interpretation. I completely agree, and hence the first sentence of this paragraph. OKAY, on to the good stuff.
The Boston "Game": Well, I am not even sure if there is a formal Boston definition of game. That might be the first problem. From what I've gathered, it seems to be a very high level definition. One definition I've heard in Boston is it's akin to finding the pattern in the scene. ANY pattern can become a game. In principal, I loosely agree with that definition, but I think it's too broad of a definition and can lead to poor scene work and understanding. For example:
Person 1: "Hey, I'm a dummy"
Person 2: "Uh, sir, you're at McDonalds, what would you like?"
Person 1: "Hey, I'm a dummy"
Bam, the pattern is saying "I'm a dummy"! The game is found! Scene is over! This was a humorous, over simplified example meant to express a point. Yes, there was a pattern there, and if you go by above's definition, then that is the game. And if you like to live in that world, then everything makes sense. Is this a good scene? Does simply repeating something make something funny? Do students gain any understanding at making good scenes? I'd say no to those questions. I am not a fan of this definition as in my opinion can lead to weird, unfocused, and lazy scenes if it is taught poorly. Obviously the pros in Chicago have mastered how to teach this method and know way more about it than I do.
The UCB "Game": To be fair the UCB definition of game has also changed a bit, but the best definition I've head is "The funny thing about the scene". Notice there is no mention of pattern or repetition. It's simply trying to pinpoint the single funny idea of the scene, and we call this idea "the game." Now the question is, what is funny? The UCB formula is to first find the unusual thing about the scene to at least get you started. Finding the unusual thing and justifying it can usually lead to a funny concept.
Let's go back to the simple scene above. Is there anything funny in those 3 lines of dialogue? I would argue no. All we know is that we have a person saying "i'm a dummy" a lot, but what if this persona has a learning disability, or is a stutterer, then there's definitely nothing humorous here. It's just a real life scenario. NOTHING unusual has happened, mostly because we don't know what "normal" is yet for these characters. Let's look at another scene in the same location:
Person 1: "Hello, I would like a big mac, large fries, vanilla mcflurry, 12-piece chicken mcnuggets and a diet coke please - I'm trying to watch my weight"
Person 2: "Of course. I should say your order's calorie count is triple the normal recommended for a single adult meal"
Person 3: "Hah. Obviously. That's why I ordered the diet coke you silly goose"
What's the unusual thing here? Answer: someone thinks ordering a diet coke can nutritionally justify the rest of the high calorie count meal. What's the overall, boiled down funny idea here? That a single "good" thing can justify for a whole bunch of "bad" things. That is the game of the scene. That is the funny idea that we want to visit 2 more times. Those are your next beats of the Harold. It has nothing to do with finding a pattern.
The UCB game definition refers to more of a concept, specifically the funny concept of the scene. The pattern definition refers to mechanically doing the same thing more than once. These are two very different things. The UCB perspective on a basic 2 person scene, is the entire purpose of the scene is to find that one funny game. It is very much so a hunting based mentality. Other schools in Chicago and Boston tend to teach improv as more of a free-form exploration, in which patterns may emerge and disappear seamlessly. In this context, the pattern definition makes more sense.
The goal of this blog post was just to highlight the subtle differences that exist in the improv world, and that they can all be potentially great. I just find it dangerous when we sloppily mix up the definitions and try to apply one to the other and then everyone gets confused.
Hey everyone! This is the second in our new monthly series, announcing our upcoming schedule and catching you up with all things Naffy! We've had a crazy month with lots of new awesome things and we couldn't be more excited for the coming of Spring time and more of the Year of Naffy!
Over the past month we've done tons of shows outside the confines our our wonderful Riot theater! Not only did we get accepted to our first festival, The NYC Improv Fest hosted by the PIT, but also were asked to open for a wonderful new indie team called Poseidon and play in Comedy Lab, both of which were at ImprovBoston. In the next month we'll also be opening for the Con Men, and playing at ImprovBoston's Harold Night. Being asked and accepted to perform across the city has been a great experience for us.
As already mentioned, we had a huge Naffy trip to NYC where we performed at The Pit Loft as a part of the NYC Improv Festival. We were able to use one of Jeff's old connections to do a workshop with John Murray of Death by Roo Roo and Goat. Since that workshop, we've gone back to doing a pure monoscene and working on our improv craft which has been intensely rewarding. We all got to meet and perform for our friends and family down in NYC which was also a really great time. All in all, I think Naffy made the most of its NYC trip.
Our shows continue to succeed and be well attended. We've had a few new press releases including being featured in Boston Magazine which caught us by surprise. Reservation numbers and butts in seats have both steadily been on the climb. We've introduced new concessions and Buie is now trying to make home made cookies for each show. We've been so thankful to have a host of talent continue to open for our show, and we've loved being able to give Summer Boyfriend, Midy Zevlin, The Gorge and 20 Minute Movie a fantastic and loving JP audience to perform for.
More than all of this though we just have loved to continue to put on a sold out, and extremely funny show in Jamaica Plain. We're feeling more at ease in our little theater, and our shows have showcased that confidence week in and week out. Thank you to every audience member who has come to any of our shows. Thank you to every team and performer who has come to open for us. Thank you, still, to the wonderful Joe Gels who is the AD of the Riot and has continued to believe in what we're trying to do. And from just me, thank you to Jeff, Marissa, Ben and Andrew for giving me a group that feels like an absolute blast to be a part of.
On that note, here is our April schedule! Reserve your Free tickets now!
April Opener Schedule:
4/1- Summer Boyfriend
4/22- Akward Compliment
In a change of pace from our usual style of openers, Naffy is excited to announce that we will be bringing the improv group "20 Minute Movie" to our show. Most true improv geeks know that Del Close invented the Harold, but he also had two other famous formats that were created, one of which was "The Movie." This format was intended to allow improvisers to create through committed use of techniques including cuts, shot types, and camera movement an actual movie for the audience. Key to the format is commitment to the movie narrative itself and avoiding easy jokes and laughter. The humor comes from the actors dedication to the seriousness of the form and their attempt to craft a show that could pass for an actual film. Ben Gibb, who has performed with The Gorge, decided to put together a team in order to perform this format and we thought the idea was fantastic. So come out tomorrow night at 10pm to see Ben Gibb's "20 Minute Movie" starring Pat Kearnan, Kristina Stapelfeld, Teddy Meyers, Ashley Voltz, Andrew Barlow, Taylor Cotter, and Ian Dyer.
Naffy just got back from our first festival! We were able to perform at the NYC Improv Festival hosted by the PIT. We performed at the PIT Loft, and it was well and truly a blast. Over the weekend we drove up and down together, ate our way through Chinatown, enjoy a Ladies of the PIT set, saw two UCB shows, got fabulously drunk at Triple Crown, had an amazing three hour workshop with John Murray of UCB Weekend teams Death by Roo Roo and Goat, killed a fantastic set at The PIT LOFT where we had a monoscene at the top of the Eiffel Tower, enjoyed burgers with friends and family, and then drove our way home. It was amazing! So check out some photos of our set!
This weekend was awesome. We went to NYC to perform in the PIT improv festival and got to hang out with a butt-load of friends. I think Ian will post on some more details about the trip. We also got to see some UCB shows (GOAT, Grandma's Ashes) as well as take a workshop with my old indie coach JOHN MURRAY (Goat, Roo Roo). We went over a lot of things, but one thing that helped me personally was how to handle crazy/fantastical things in a monoscene.
The best thing I learned personally, was to "lean into" the craziness. What does that mean? It's probably best explained via the actual scene we did during the workshop.
So a scene started with 2 brothers throwing change into a pond, both wishing for good luck with their SAT exams. Eventually after "tens of dollars" was put into the pond a genie appeared. After some initial reaction to the genie, a cop eventually came in and did the usual "what are you kids doing in here!?" thing. At this point John stopped the scene and said that the cop move really lowered the fun and energy of the scene, since it went from kids to genie to cop. In other words, it went from reality to fantasy, back to reality.
Instead, John suggested that once something as crazy as a genie appears, you've got to keep it going for the energy of the show. He suggested we have witch come out or a leprechaun, and they also can grant wishes and maybe they have tension with genies. In other words, once something as crazy as a genie comes out, it basically shifts the entire base reality up to a world where now genies can exist. So if you bring in a cop, it kind of "down shifts" the base reality down to a less "heightened" world. This basically is a buzzkill to a show's energy.
The better approach is if we're now in a world where genies can exist, then other fantastical things must now exist and now they are "normal" characters. I specifically say that they are "normal" because they can still be grounded characters, even though they are fantasy characters. So when we eventually did this, we found out that the witches think that all genies are swindlers, and genies think witches are back stabbers, and we had this big mapping game of racism on fantasy characters. At this point, the monoscene can continue, but now we have this shifted reality. Otherwise, you do the same stuff: you find games/relationships/characters just as you would with a normal monoscene, but instead of normal humans, you have these grounded fantasy characters that can do all of the same stuff normal people do.
My overall lesson was this concept of a "shifted base reality" and that even though we're playing fantasy characters, they can still be grounded and have fun games. I think this approach is really useful for a monoscene because you can't just swipe a scene after a crazy character pops in, you have to learn how to play with the crazy over a 25 minute show. I just have to remember that even though I am playing a freakn' mythical genie, I can still be a grounded character where I can still be annoyed, have an overbearing mother, become sad, or angry. Me being a genie is just an external label, as I can still have all of the same normal human traits I am so used to playing.
Naffy is very excited to be welcoming The Midy Zevlin to come open for us this Friday, March 18th, at 10pm at the Riot. When we were putting together a list of the groups and teams we'd like to have open for us, we unanimously agreed that the Midy Zevlin was on our wish list. When they first started over 2 years ago, they were a breath of fresh air at ImprovBoston. Starting with a dominating Cagematch run, this duo of Mike Zakarian and Andy Devlin, played with with such a joy, spirit, and love for each other that it was impossible to not find yourself laughing at their hilarious sets. Quickly building a loyal following, they became the first duo in Studio 40 history. When Mike left for New York, they still made time to do festivals, shows and even corporate workshops. Now, with a new monthly show at ImprovBoston, the Midy Zevlin continue to show the comedy feats they are capable of and we could not be more excited to have them opening for us tomorrow. Be sure to reserve your FREE tickets now, because this show is sure to be fantastic.
This week, we at Naffy, are so happy to welcome The Gorge back to open for our show. This team spits bullets, pulls no punches, and will kick your ass up and down the street. The Gorge is a Fine Line produced team starring Rachel Von Ahn, Rosena Cornet, Ben Gibb, Joe Morone, Spencer Curry, and Pat Kearnan. They've been performing shows for the better part of a year, and have kept it sleazy on stage for us, at the Riot, at the Milky Way, and in Harold Night's special slot. If you love them as much as we do, then you can check out the Fine Line Comedy show at the Riot on 3/26 at 10pm. But before you do that, be sure to reserve your FREE tickets to see them open for "My Terrible Ex!" this Friday March 11th at 10pm.
So our Naffy show has been doing very well, especially in the audience department. The truth is it's not really an accident. I've been producing indie improv shows for the past 10 years from Sf, to NYC, and now to Boston. The most successful endeavor was in SF with the creation of Endgames Improv, which I co-founded with some awesome dudes. But enough about my past. So what did Naffy do that was so different? How do we get so many people? Here are a few of the lessons I've learned over the years:
1. Define your show goal. If you just want to do a show for practice so that your indie team can get some good reps in, then recognize that. You aren't trying to raise money, you aren't trying to get consistent packed houses (although that would be nice), you aren't even trying to build a reputation. You just want to practice. This is fine, and it is totally great.
If this is your goal, I recommend you stuff your show with as many groups as possible (up to 3 longform teams) and then charge the absolute minimum you can get away with (free if possible). This maximizes getting people to your show so you can have a fun time with your friends.
If your goal is to actually produce a real show, with consistent full houses, build a reputation, and maybe make some money (a very small amount), then recognize that at the core of all of this, you need a good product. You are now leaving pure artsy-land, and you are entering commercial land. Fundamentally the show (or product) you are selling, must be good. Otherwise, nobody will come see your show. This requires a lot of work, commitment, and a team effort. This is where Naffy lives.
2. Get a good team. I'm of the opinion that, like any performance art, it's all about talent. Not everybody can become a world class improviser, so be selective when creating a team. Don't just choose your friends. Choose people you'd love to be on stage with. Secondly, choose people who want to be on your team. If you have to convince them via arduous discussions/emails etc, just let it go. Tell them the overall team vision/show, and if they don't say yes immediately, get out of there.
Then, you need a coach/director. This is hard in small markets (not NYC, Chicago, LA), so I understand if this isn't an option. But if there's someone you like out there, ask him/her to coach you. I also recommend paying them. It forces them to be more professional and consistent. This is especially true if you are producing option 2 from above.
Lastly, you need to practice and get good. Give your team at least a month or two of just pure weekly practices before even trying a self-produced show. Fundamentally, your show has to be good and funny. If this is not true, then nothing else matters.
3. Marketing. I think this is where Naffy sets itself apart. There are a lot of talented indie teams out there. The difference? We go all out on marketing. Marketing is more complex than just making a facebook event and inviting friends. That's a nice starting point, but gets you zero non-friend audience. Here's the break down:
3a) Show time/price. This is a huge part. Recognize that Friday/Saturday nights are "prime time" and everything else is crap. So if you are on a crap day, your prices better insanely low (as in: FREE). If you are on a prime time slot, I recommend still staying cheap, probably around $5-$10, no more. What does Naffy do? We do both FREE and we are on a primetime night, thus we are maximizing audience as a tradeoff for money. But that's okay because none of us get paid anyway.
You also need regularity. The best is a weekly show, so you can just simply say "FRIDAYS AT 10PM" It's a lot easier than saying "FIRST THURSDAY OF THE MONTH" There's this thing of momentum with audience branding awareness, and if a show isn't weekly, it's hard to build momentum of the show. A monthly show might as well just be 12 isolated shows. Nobody will remember that the shows are even related. I know this is not easy to do, but I'm just telling you the best case scenario. We got lucky with Naffy that the Riot was open to us doing this, and we are very grateful to them. If you can't secure a weekly slot, then just take what you can get. But always have your eye open for that weekly spot.
3b) Show hook. Just naming your show after your team name is probably the absolutely worst idea for a show title. Nobody knows who you are and a flier that has your random improv team's name is complete garbage to the non-improvisor. What you need is some sort of a hook. Why would someone off the street be interested in seeing your show? What is it about? At the UCB they somewhat cracked this puzzle via interview shows, such as "Your Fucked Up Family", "What I Did for Love," "Shitty Jobs," and I think they had some about terrible roommates. Naffy basically does just this with our "Your Terrible Ex!" show. It's also the show that catapulted the Endgames improv theater. You need something catchy, easy to understand, and simple. I know it may sound gimmicky, but you have to do it.
3c) Fliers. Make good fliers. Don't just make something in word and do a screen capture. Browse other show fliers, copy things you like and what you didn't like. Spend a few hours learning drawing software from Youtube. I recommend Inkscape, it's free and awesome. I also recommend downloading cool fonts. There are a million cool fonts that are free. You can see the text in our fliers are all cool looking. I just used fonts that I found.
3d) Post Everywhere. Don't be lazy here. Post your flier, show hook, and a brief blurb on every event calendar you can find. And keep on doing this for each show that you have. Post on twitter, facebook, etc. Just go freakn' nuts.
Okay this was a really long post. Hopefully this will be a helpful starting point. There's a lot more, maybe I'll make a follow-up post, but this is just step 1. Good luck!