Downright Upright


Straight-Manning Revisited

I wrote before about straight-manning. In retrospect, I still agree with most of it, but I’d add the caveat that this kind of labeling is more just for fun. It’s not so much “I’m this kind of straight man” or “I’m this kind of improviser,” it’s more like, “Oh this is one kind of way I can straight man that I may not have tried before; this is another.”

Recently, someone on UCB Underground asked, “What are some ways the straight can heighten the absurd character’s game?”

Not always, but often the straight man’s dynamic with the absurd follows a similar pattern. Knowing this pattern is sometimes a good place to start when getting comfortable straight-manning:

1. Confirming the absurdity

2. Emotional Reaction

3. Decision.

Read More

Wednesday Night Riot! Featuring: Miles Stroth & WWE's John Morrison! Reddit WTF! Phi Beta Negro! Longshot! 8/27 @ 8:30 @ The Complex

Hello Los Angeles readers! I don’t normally like to plug on here, but I’m gonna this time. Tomorrow night at Wednesday Night Riot, WWE’s John Morrison will be performing 2-man improv with MSW’s Miles Stroth. It’ll be a 25-30-minute set. Plus, we have a really great lineup, featuring fellow MSW’ers Longshot, indie favorites Phi Beta Negro, and of course the house team Reddit WTF doing improv based on weird stuff we find on Reddit/r/wtf.

We’ve been running Wednesday Night Riot with our new format for about 9 months now. Every week we perform the Reddit show, and I feel like we’ve sorted out the kinks and really hit our stride in the last couple months. And with One Night Stand, we have booked some of the most AMAZING guests to perform with Miles, including Dominic Dierkes, Alex Fernie, Jaime Moyer, Charlie Sanders, Will Hines, Small Men, Phil Jackson, Nicole Byer, Fran Gillespie, Curtis Gwinn, Mike Still and so many more.

If you haven’t been to Wednesday Night Riot, I’d love to see you. We do brand new bits every week, we curate great guest teams, One Night Stand is always spectacular, there’s wine and beer and whiskey, it’s every week, and on top of all that, the show is free. 

This week’s a really cool one, so come check it out!

59: Will Hines
Stephen Perlstein


Will Hines is on the show! You know him from The Smokes, Your F’ed up Family, The Stepfathers, Play by Play, and the bitter rival podcast to my own, Long Form Conversations. Today will and I talk about… a lot. I was having trouble focusing on one thing. Will is a wealth of information, and I know we didn’t even come close to covering all of his wisdom. But, maybe I’ll convince him to come back in a year, and we’ll do better the second time. Rate. Subscribe. Comment. Share. Enjoy. Oh! I didn’t record an outro. Well, Happy Improvising, Be excellent to each other, Golden Age of Improv. 

New improv obsession!

Listening is an art not easily come by, but in it there is beauty and great understanding. We listen with the various depths of our being, but our listening is always with a preconception or from a particular point of view. We do not listen simply; there is always the intervening screen of our own thoughts, conclusions, and prejudices. To listen there must be an inner quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention. This alert yet passive state is able to hear what is beyond the verbal conclusion. Words confuse; they are only the outward means of communication; but to commune beyond the noise of words, there must be listening in alert passivity. Those who love may listen; but it is extremely rare to find a listener. Most of us are after results, achieving goals; we are forever overcoming and conquering, and so there is no listening. It is only in listening that one hears the song of the words.


Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Book of Life (via probablysean)

Posted this on my personal tumblr, but it seemed relevant here. I started taking Miles Stroth’s workshop again, which is getting more and more philosophical as it evolves, and he said something similar: “Thinking is noise.” All that thinking is me trying to push the scene into some direction. What’s actually required is a state of readiness; “Put yourself in a state of reaction,” as Miles said on day one. Don’t think at all; rely on your reaction; do the first thing that occurs to you. Listen and react. First, listen.

"When you’re thinking, you’re not listening." Maybe Miles and Jiddu should trade notes.

Jul 2

Best Of This Blog, Revised


I revised the “best of” page for this blog:

Here are some posts in this blog that got more attention than the others and some that I just like, presented in roughly reverse order of publication:

Jul 1

UCB Class Email Alerts


I made email alerts for UCB classes in both NYC and LA. They’ve helped thousands of students get into classes, and they can help you.


“Don’t try to sneak in through the window. Just come boldly onto stage, like come right through the door with your choice. Kill the judge in your head and just take action.”  - Mick Napier


“Don’t try to sneak in through the window. Just come boldly onto stage, like come right through the door with your choice. Kill the judge in your head and just take action.”  - Mick Napier

May 8

Just a quick shout out to ImprovTeams and ImprovCoaches.


The improv community in NYC is pretty amazing. I don’t just mean that people are awesome and exciting work is happening on stages (or whatever is available) all over the city 7 days a week. I mean it is, well, large. And gets larger every month (even counting in those that feel…

Los Angeles: One-time improv workshop from an old school instructor

Hey guys! MSW’s offering a one-time, 3-hour improv workshop this Saturday. The instructor is David Avcollie who has taught improv for 40 (!) years. That alone is usually enough to make me throw down some cash for a one-time workshop, but I like that it says the class “makes improv fun, easy and will demonstrate how you can enter a scene with absolutely nothing, and still have the ability to connect with your scene partner and have a strong impact on your audience.” I’ve been doing a lot of premise-stuff lately, so this sounds good to me. I’ll be there.

From the website’s class description:

Have you performed in an improv show and found yourself not having fun? Have you found yourself thinking a little too hard? David Avcollie has seen your shows, and now he’d like to help.

Join David in a one-time only, 3-hour improv and acting workshop that is designed to help players within the moment get out of their head and into their body. David has all of the tools to make your improv fun, easy and will demonstrate how you can enter a scene with absolutely nothing, and still have the ability to connect with your scene partner and have a strong impact on your audience.

David is old school, and even pre-dates “old man” Miles Stroth. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced, improvisers and performers of any skill level will benefit from the wealth of information David has.

David is the former head of Voice and Speech and Acting at The Theatre School At DePaul University and co-founder of Chicago Playworks. He has been teaching, directing and coaching for over 40 years. Former students include: John C Reilly, George Wendt, Judy Greer, Zach Helm, Rachel McAdams, Jeremy Sisto, among many others.

Will Hines & Miles Stroth! The Reddit WTF Show! Phi Beta Negro! @ Wednesday Night Riot! | Facebook

Hey LA peeps! Will Hines (UCB’s F’d Up Family, writer of nonsense about improv) is doing twoprov with Miles Stroth tonight at Wednesday Night Riot. Plus we have Phi Beta Negro, High Concept, and The Reddit WTF Show. And it’s FREE (we accept donations of course). Should be fun!