SPOTLIGHT BIO: Robert Z. Grant

This week we introduce Robert Z. Grant, the tallest member of BNHM! Our resident design guy, Robert is responsible for creating our amazing show posters each week. Take a look at the gallery and check back after each show for the next hit poster!

If you have any questions for RZG, feel free to post them up!

Who or what inspired you to do improv?

My former boss at a design agency used to listen to me and my coworker riff off one another all day long. She was taking an improv class and suggested that I check it out. It was an instant fit for me, and I have been learning, teaching and performing improv ever since.

What was your first gig in musical improv?

I formed a troupe with some fellow improvisers, which we named Codependent Theater Company (aka CodeCo). We were hired to go to Iowa where my brother and one of my high school classmates owned a bar and performance venue called the Vaudeville Mews. We played 4 shows that first weekend. We were invited back 3 more times. We STILL talk about those shows.

How do you keep it all together when you are up on stage doing your thing?

I regularly fight with myself about the idea of 'keeping it together.' I try to be in a place where I am not blocking or stifling my impulses. The danger of 'losing it' at any moment is part of the thrill for me.

Where do you get your ideas for show posters?
The BNHM gallery of show posters is unique-- no other improv company documents their shows this way. I started creating the posters as a labor of love when I first joined the show in 2005. And now we can all look back and remember some of the brilliant shows we've been a part of, audience and performers alike. The ideas for the posters usually come from some simple place, phrase or object that happened in the particular show. Obviously, song titles and show titles play a big part. I try to find a simple, visual way to evoke the story of that musical. Sometimes the inspiration doesn't come right away, but once I lock into an idea, I get kind of obsessed until the poster's finished.

Is there any connection between your design gig and doing improv?
Both require imagination, good observational skills, good listening, plus the ability to find inspiration in the smallest moment and build on it to create something you could not possibly have anticipated.

What is the strangest suggestion you have gotten?

No strange suggestion comes to mind...a good imagination can usually put even the oddest things into some context. The suggestions that throw me are not strange, but lewd. People sometimes write suggestions that they think will make an improviser uncomfortable. When I have a song title in our show that is profane, for instance, I feel a lot of pressure to elevate it while still staying true to the title. Problem is: suggestions like that only have momentary shock value-- it's a one-note joke. No one really wants to hear a song called "F*ck me harder, Mommy!" (At least, I don't want to meet that person... and I don't want to sing that song. I have rejected two song titles in my improvising history, and that was one of them.)

What is your most memorable improv moment?

The question I like to ask fellow improvisers after their shows is whether they did something in the show that surprised them. Anytime I surprise myself is a memorable improv moment for me. I can still remember the chorus of the first improvised song I ever sang... I surprised myself that I had the ability to create music that way.

When you aren't found at the Phony Awards, where might you be out in the city?

After living in NYC for more than 23 years, I regularly lament that there are no more "undiscovered" places to enjoy. Just last night, I found a hidden gem... you can find me there. ;)

What question have you never been asked, but have always wanted to answer?

"How did it feel tonight to make your Broadway debut?"
Posted on February 21, 2011 .