Improv: Become a Reactor

I'm doing Expert of Nothing again tonight, hosted by the incomparable Pat Storck and John Bennett, two of the funniest gentlemen in Baltimore. Which means I've been having anxiety pangs since I agreed to do it. Very few things make me as nervous as doing improv in front of a crowd. I'm still new to it; in fact, EoN is really the only improv I've ever done for other people. I promised myself this would be a year of doing scary new things, and live improv is one of the scariest things I can think of.


Why do this then? Why not use that time to edit my podcast or record new demos or sniff out new potential markets and clients? Well, as virtually everyone who has ever been a guest on Talkin' Toons points out, improv is possibly the most important skill you can have as a voice talent. 

There's much more to voice acting than talking in silly voices. (For a rundown of how to make silly voices, listen to this incredibly useful podcast.) You must consider tone, inflection, where your voice is coming from, how well you're projecting, mic positioning and body position in relation to the mic, minding your plosives and mouth noises, controlling your breathing, and, above all, listening. You need to listen to your director and give them what they're asking for. You need to listen to your fellow actors and react in a believable and entertaining way. You need to constantly think on your feet so you can adjust your performance in accordance with what's going on around you.

Eyebrows. Suits. Experts.


Improv forces you to develop the ability to listen and react. Expert of Nothing, in particular, places a ton of pressure on me as it's a.) in front of dozens of drunken people demanding to be entertained, b.) performed entirely with local reputable comedians, and c.) recorded as a podcast, to exist for all time as a testament to how well I did (or did not do). I have to remind myself that it's fun and once I get on stage, I almost always have a good time (I say almost because the first time I did it I got so nervous that I had one or two too many drinks between rounds...). If the thought of doing something scares you, that's a good indication that it's worth doing. I've found this line of reasoning to be useful not only in acting, but in how I conduct my life in general. I've taken way more risks than usual this year and for the first time I'm actually happy with how my professional life is shaping up. 

If you happen to be in the Baltimore area around eight tonight, catch Expert of Nothing at Windup Space. Come ask us questions about the crazy realities we build on stage. If you can't make that, BROS hosts an open improv group every Sunday at our headquarters in the Bell Foundry. It's a great place to cut your teeth and get in on the fun. 

-Rex