[Editor's Note: Once a month we have a producer or artistic director take you behind the curtain, into the rehearsal process, backstage, or on the road to illuminate more the of Broadway's Next Hit Musical process. This month it's co-producer and emcee Greg Triggs]
There's an old caricature of me that used to be in front of the Comedy Warehouse. I'm playing basketball in it. When the artist drew it he was pushing the thought that comedy is a sport - and probably trying to make me seem more butch. He had a good point - the sport analogy, not my masculinity.
Comedy is a muscle. Exercise; get stronger. Take a break; get weaker. Technique suffers without reps. Comedy should look effortless, but it takes a lot of discipline. Like any group effort, the individuals have to bring their best for the team to succeed.
There’s no blaming the audience. They can be won over. They’ll let you know what makes them laugh, but you’ve got to be available to the signals they send. If they’re not laughing, it’s probably your fault.
It’s like a continuous cycle of first dates, with no hope for a second because no two audiences are alike. So, it’s kind of a variation on promiscuity. (In the case of BNHM, wholesome promiscuity because we strive to be a family friendly show.)
So how do you prepare? Here are a few general thoughts:
LET GO OF EGO – THE SHOW IS THE THING
Is someone else having a great show? Don’t seethe. Celebrate! In an ensemble each laugh is shared. The best laughs I will get - the great ones - will find their foundation in the work of the people with whom I share the stage.
LET GO OF NEGATIVITY – IT ONLY DISTRACTS YOU
I’m not going to lie. There are times we get on each other’s nerves during a show. My personal ethic is – eh, so what? The audience doesn’t care. There’s no time to solve interpersonal dynamics during a 90-minute show. You should be too busy creating content, characters and stories to notice you’re annoyed by someone. One of my first and certainly greatest comedy teachers, Mark Bergren of the Brave New Workshop, suggested taking a few seconds before each show and telling yourself that you’re with exactly whom you’re meant to be. The reason why will reveal itself on stage – I can’t think of a time that’s not proven to be the case. It’s a great way to live your life onstage and off.
BE HONEST – THE AUDIENCE CAN SMELL INAUTHENTICITY A MILE AWAY
Laughter is inspired by truth. If you don’t believe what you’re saying the audience can tell. If you ask for 90-minutes of an audience’s time you better have a message worthy of their attention. That comes from knowing who you are.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ALL THE HEAVY LIFTING, BUT YOU BETTER BE READY WHEN IT’S YOUR TURN
We’ve all seen performers who don’t leave room for the other people on stage. They’re exhausting and lonely. Improv is built on the premise that you will be affected by the ideas of others. Allow that to happen and be delighted by the unknown.
Our show is an incredible combination of live music, stand-up, short form and long form improvisation – even dance. There’s literally something for everyone. The 90 minutes we’re doing our show is exhausting, because I’m really trying to find the potential each moment. I’m trying to keep fresh eyes while drawing on 25 years of improvisational experience; never accepting that how I’ve done it in the past is how I’m going to do it today.
It’s an honor. Thanks for keeping me in the game.