Improv Comedy

Okay, I’m not too keen on Improv comedy.

Maybe because I spend too much time writing jokes, or maybe it was my experience with an Improv comedy troupe years ago. I was doing a show at a comedy club, and the Improv troupe who was going on ahead of me took up the entire green room. They had clothes all over the place and food and drinks, but the most annoying thing was that they had a SET LIST. As in a list of the bits they would do.. .it was VERY structured. . .more so than my act. And the irony was their name – Totally Unrehearsed Theatre! Yeah, right. Improv is supposed to be IMPROV! ANYWAY, regardless of my stance on Improv, I sometimes have to do a little myself – and you might too.

 On Friday I emceed a wonderful fundraiser wine tasting event

at the Computer History Museum in San Jose, CA. Very fun, but if you’ve ever tried to do comedy at a cocktail party, well, you can imagine the talking and walking that goes on. . . and it was happening Friday night. Plus there was no stage, but rather I was standing in the back of the room on a spiral staircase. I got people’s attention in the beginning to welcome them and do a few jokes, but once I stepped down, it was hard to get their attention back. The challenge was to pop up every few minutes to make announcements and keep people flowing through the wine stations, the food stations, the desert stations, the movie, the museum, the cash bar and the silent auction. . .oh, and did I mention there was a great saxophonist playing? Soooo, I improvised. Luckily I had a wireless mic, so I started walking around to the different stations and joking around, in between the music, with the winery people and the food people. They of course loved it because they had donated their time and wines/snacks, so they got more exposure. I liked it because I didn’t feel stuck in the corner being ignored, and the client liked it because I was keeping people moving.

Don’t get me wrong, it never got quite in there,

but I think people heard me and had fun. I got some nice comments, with even some people repeating the jokes during the event. AND when I got on the bus to go back to the hotel, I shouted out “did everyone have fun?” There was a big round of applause and one guy shouted out. . .”I couldn’t hear a word you said in there, but you sure were funny!”

This improvisation not only made the event more interesting

for all, but the fun facts I learned from walking around was worth it. One of the wineries was located in an old school house – “hey everyone, remember drinking back in school? Well you can do it again!” One winery was across the street from the infamous winery in the move “Bottle Shock” – a GREAT GREAT wine movie about the true story of a guy who got wines on the map in California. You MUST see it. One of the desert vendors made organic flavored (banana, watermelon and blueberry) cotton candy. . .and one winery actually started paring their wine with it and it turned out to be tasty. And then my favorite woman of the night made peanut brittle in different flavors – almond and coconut was good as was the “ballpark” brittle flavored like a hot dog, mustard, pretzel and beer!

The moral of this story. . .

Don’t freak the next time you have to do some humor in a situation that is less than perfect. Look around at the tools you have (in this case, a wireless mic and free roam in a museum), and improvise your humor. You’ll give your jokes a fighting chance, AND you may actually enjoy the weird situation.



It’s Comedy Time. . .And the Oscar goes to.. .

Yeah, a comedy movie made it

to the Oscar nominations! Bridesmaids the comedy movie has been nominated. If you haven’t seen it, then I highly recommend it – the comedy is well written in a funny sort of way. Of course with any movie – especially some comedies – you have to be in the right mood for it, and be with the right people. I happened to see this funny flick 2 weeks ago on my annual Cousin’s Ski Trip where for the past 27 years I’ve gotten together with my cousins and my siblings and all the spouses to ski. Okay, it started out skiing, but has turned into more of a wine and eat weekend.


watching a comedy movie in the right mood!

 We watched

Bridesmaids after wine, and it was funny, though I think it would still hold up now. What I like about the comedy writing is the obsurd stuff that maybe could actually happen. Sometimes comedies get too far fetched and the humor is just whacky – you just KNOW that that particular thing could never happen. But I think the really good comedies are just obsurd enough where some of this stuff MIGHT happen.

My favorite scene

(spoiler – don’t read if you haven’t seen it) is at the rich bridesmaid’s house where she’s throwing a bridal shower for the bride. As the jilted bridesmaid storms out, the rich bridesmaid screams at her something to the effect of “no party favor, you will NOT get a puppy!” Then we see servers at the door handing out puppies.

That is hilarious because

maybe the really rich do hand out puppies at parties – I have no idea – but it might happen and, anyway, puppies are cute.

So go watch the movie and see how they walk the edge of comedy and comedy writing. Then cast your vote for a dang comedy to win this year! Kudos to those comedy writers.





What’s So Funny About Uranus??

This past New Years eve was great fun,

not only because of the friends I shared it with, but also because we laughed . . .A LOT. I’d like to say that it was high-brow humor, but what made us laugh the most was when my friend Susan tried to show us the constellations (we were out in Joshua Tree national park) on her ipad and she said “look, here’s Uranus.” When we realized what she’d said, we all burst out laughing like third graders. . . and then the jokes started flowing. You had to be there to appreciate it.

What’s funny about that word is not just that some scientist didn’t pay attention when he named that poor planet, but also that it’s familiar. So I thought I’d start the year off with

5 familiar things that you can always joke about. . .here goes:

1. Dieting/exercise/your weight is a way to write jokes. There are millions of jokes because there are millions of articles being published every day about weight loss – entire magazine industries are built up over it and TV careers are made because of it (think the Biggest Loser!). It’s a very familiar topic and it resonates with EVERYONE – even skinny people. So start tracking your dieting and exercise mishaps and you’ll strike comedic gold.

2. Your relationship. . .or lack there of is great for humor. You’re either in a relationship, out of a relationship, thinking about getting into one or thinking of getting out of one. . .even if someone’s never been in a relationship or they’ve been in the same one their whole life, they love listening about other people’s relationship problems. .. so analyze what you like or don’t like about your relationship and have some fun. And remember, it doesn’t have to be about your sex life (Uranus jokes aside!); there are plenty of other things. I’d stay away from the differences between men and women because that’s a little over done – get more personal about specific things that have happened in YOUR relationship.

3. Petsare always funny. People either like ‘em or hate ‘em. . .and while you usually shouldn’t talk mean about a pet (ok, I do have a joke about a cat dropping from a 3rd story window, but it’s cute, not mean), you can have fun with what your pet does. Follow rover around for the day and you’ll have a wealth of comedy material.

4. Crazy family/friends are also always funny. NOBODY’S family is perfect. . .dig into that family tree and find out where the nuts are. I have a relative who was once featured on that America’s Most Wanted TV show. I also have a kleptomaniac cousin. All are fair game. . .hey, if my cousin steals my stuff, I’m allowed to joke about her!


5. Car problems is another great topic to joke about. Tickets, tows and trashy repair shops oh my! We’ve all experienced that feeling in the pit of our stomachs when our car has cost us some unexpected cash. Have some fun with the cost or the repair or the being-stranded-story. . .you’ll get laughs along with empathy, sympathy and a few people thinking “thank goodness it isn’t me for once.”


These are just a few of the things that we share.

And, because of their familiarity, these subjects can give you an instant connection with your audience which means they’ll laugh with you (and maybe at you). People are always saying how they want to find a unique topic to joke about, but I think it was Jay Leno who once said there’s only a half dozen or so comedy premises. So put your own spin on a familiar theme . . . and you won’t have to relay on humor about our solar system to make you crack up.


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