photo by strzelecki1 via Flickr

As many of you know, I'm in Chicago this summer, primarily to study improvisational comedy with the good folks of Improv Olympic. I'll try to blog a lot about what I'm learning, what's cool, what's weird and whatever else I can think of. As always, if you have comments or questions or things you want to hear about, hollaback in the comments.

Day 1. I'm seven minutes late.

I don't know what made me think that I could visit any government office and be out in 10 minutes, but I assure you, that will never happen again. I spent Sunday night researching the best way to get around town. It was my plan to keep the car parked as much as possible and experience the L. However, I still had to decide what sort of pass I would get. I settled on an unlimited 30 day joint called the Chicago Card Plus, and headed downtown because you have to buy these in person.

There were about 15 people in front of me in line, and the workers behind the glass (I'm SURE it's bullet proof, and after waiting 40 minutes, I'm SURE I know why) had absolutely no focus. They would deal with someone in front of them for a minute, then take a call, then talk amongst themselves and repeat that cycle. I waited in the actual line for maybe 20 - 25 minutes. When I got to a window, she gave me some paper form to fill out. Why weren't those available to fill out why I was waiting?? Because that makes too much damned good sense, that's why!

So I filled out the form, handed it to the attendant, only to have her type in exactly what I wrote down. Yo, I could have done that myself!

I finally got the card at 10:45, and class starts at 11am. I was downtown, and class is up by Wrigley Field. I took a cab. $20. Thus negating MUCH of the savings of the pass I had just bought.

Day 1: I'm a genius

I rolled in a few minutes late but in time to hear the last part of iO co-founder Charna Halpern's kickoff speech.

"Improv is a thinking man's game. It's like chess. You are all geniuses."

I like this gig already. You should read a little more about the iO over here or here, but the basics are that this school focuses on improv just for the art of it, not as a tool to create sketch comedy, for example. Some notable alumni include Tina Fey (oooh la la), STEPHEN COLBERT, Tim Meadows and Chris Farley.

There are between 40 and 50 people in the summer program, divided into three sessions. I'm in session one with 13 other people from all over the place. Steve is from London. Karen is from Boise, Idaho. Eric is from Holland. Sarah and her brother, Nick, are from Ottawa. There are even a few New Yorkers. Our fearless teacher for Week 1 is Jessica.

We spent the day doing what I can only describe as playing, and it was mad fun. Jessica gave us increasing amounts of freedom in our two-person scene work throughout the day. In the beginning, she told us who our characters were, and she told us when to stop the scene. By the end of the day, we were deciding both all on our own.

Day 1: Highlights

The day focused a lot on connections and character relationships. We did exercises that forced us to eavesdrop on others' conversations while being engaged in our own so we could learn to pay attention to what's happening on stage and integrate it into our own actions. We were thrown into alien situations with a scene partner and had to instantly demonstrate a history and explore the meaning of that relationship.

here are some of the cool, weird, funny and interesting things I remember.

  • I was thrown into a scene where me and a guy named Jeff were showing up at the same house to pick up the same woman for a date. Jeff's first statement to me: "are you here to deliver something?" "Yes I am. I'm here to deliver flowers for my date tonight." Later in the scene, Jeff mentioned that he saw our date (Laura) in line at the unemployment office. "That's disappointing," I said. "Why?" "Because she promised me a lot of her lawyer money." "What's that?" "Well, Laura works at a pretty unique law firm. They have clients and documents and stuff, but they also have a big pile of lawyer money, and she was going to give some to me." I have no idea what I was talking about, but it was fun!

  • An election for president of a sixth grade class led to riots in the school and chewing gum in all the kids' hair

  • A daughter was forced by her overly stringent mother to fax her mom the pizza order from downstairs so her mom could review it

Alright. I'm tired, and you know what? You weren't there, so this might read really dumb. The point is, I learned a shit ton, including the fact the people actually SAY "shit ton."

I'll report more from My Chicago Summer as soon as possible.

Stay tuned.