WORKSHOP: The Game of the Scene with Emily Schmidt

Sunday April 12 3-5PM, $40
At HUGE Theater, 3037 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408
This workshop will focus on discovering and playing the “game of the scene” through grounded, two-person scenework — often, the game is there, waiting to be played, and we miss it! We’ll also explore ways to make group scenes simpler and more fun using the concept of “game.” Whether you’ve taken a workshop from me in the past or not, you can expect to learn new skills and hone old ones. Simplify and ground your scenes to take them to new heights!Emily Schmidt has been improvising for over ten years in Minneapolis, New York and Los Angeles. She currently lives in LA, where she is on an Upright Citizens Brigade Mess Hall team. They perform game-based Harolds. Learning “game” after improvising from a more relationship-based place is a challenge, but Emily believes different approaches to longform are like tools in a toolbelt, and you should figure out which work best for you. She has studied under some UCB greats and Minneapolis greats and attempts to combine it all.


Payment of $40 due the day of the class, cash or check preferred.





Coming Soon at HUGE – March-April 2015

We are very excited to officially announce the weekend lineup of shows for March/April 2015!

Friday Nights

8pm - The first in our “Throwgram” series begins with the Deconstruction cast performing their As-Yet-Untitled show based on the Deconstruction.

9:30pm – Winners of last year’s TROIKA competition, Murmur is going to perform THE perfect scene and you are going to help them get there!

10:30pm – A double-bill too good not to happen, proving this is the best of all possible universes, it’s Ladyfriend AND The Adventures of Tim, Troy and Damian!


Saturday Nights

8pm - Yes Anderson presents : Darjeeling Unscripted  the smash hit improvised “movie” in the style of the great rail-riding Wes Anderson returns!

9:30pmThe Mess present a new improvised masterpiece every week.

10:30pm – Deal the cards, press your tux and bring an extra candlestick for CLUE: The Improvised Murder Mystery!

HUGE’s 4 Year Anniversary Show – January 31, 2015


Join us as we celebrate FOUR YEARS of hard work and laughter at HUGE Theater – Saturday, January 31st at 8pm we will have an amazing show featuring as many improvisers as we can fit on the stage (and take our annual photo-within-a-photo photo), we will say thank you, we will laugh a lot and probably cry a bit.

Tickets – $20 or FREE for Members of HUGE Theater

Members will have early access to tickets, this show WILL sell out.


Adam Iverson
Aric McKeown
Becky Hauser
Beth Gibbs
Bradley Machov
Butch Roy
Carolyn Blomberg
Casey Haeg
Chris Hill
Dan Linden
Daniel Jaquette
Ellen Jaquette
Eric Knobel
Erin Sheppard
Hannah Wydeven
Jake Scott
James Moore
James Rone
Jane White
Janelle Blasdel
Jen Scott
Jen Van Kaam
Joe Bozic
Joe Rapp
Josh Kaplan
Josh Kuehn
Katie Vannelli
Katy Kessler
Kevin Albertson
Maria Bartholdi
Matt Prindle
Meghan Wolff
Michael Ritchie
Mike DallaValle
MJ Marsh
Molly Chase
Nate Morse
Nels Lennes
Patrick Tracy
Rita Boersma
Sean Dillon
Sid Oxborough
Troy Zimmerman


“Ask Jill” Archives for 2014

Would you like to read the 2014 archives of all of the “Ask Jill” answers from the HUGE Newsletter? Here they are!


Sean D asks, “What’s your favorite animal and why? Also, any tips for duo performance?”
1) Numbat because OMG 2) Take some or all of the MICHAEL KEATON WORKSHOPS Mondays Feb 3, 10, 17, 24   – Hannah Wydeven and Butch Roy will guide you through some absolute essentials that will make you a strong duo.

Hannah W asks, “Hey Jill, what exercises do you recommend to get an improviser to explore their silliest side?”
Take everyone to a private karaoke room and just sing like crazy with each other, sing songs that you don’t know at a way-too-fast tempo. Have a snowball fight or a tickle fight or a paper airplane attack. Make sugar cookies together. Borrow some kid’s Duplo blocks to play with. Go ice skating and fall down a lot. These aren’t really improv exercises, but they trick people who’ve gotten to serious about improv into being human animals again. A classroom exercise to do is to make everyone do the worst possible improv scenes in the world on purpose.

Alex C asks, “How important is having fun on stage? Can you go too far, or is it ok as long as the audience enjoys it?”
I am scared to answer this question because improv bullies use the phrase, “C’mon, I was just having fun!” as a way to rationalize steamrolling their partners, ignoring offers, rejecting the director’s notes and the team’s goals; or being sexist, racist or generally awful. But assuming we are not using the phrase “having fun” in that sense, there is a question to ask as a litmus test: Are “we” having fun, or are “you” having fun? There’s the rub. This is about “us” and us includes everyone in the room, on and off stage. Make it fun for all of us and no one will ever really be mad.

Jen K asks,  “How do you deal with body image or any pressures to appear a certain way as a performer?”
Unlike movies or TV, in improv anyone can play any part no matter what they look like – that’s one of the most beautiful things about it. As a result, if anyone ever pressures you to appear a certain way as a performer, you can ignore them completely because they don’t get it. (Unless we’re talking about a troupe dress code. I’m a big fan of improvisors that put on clean and similar clothing to create an impression of ensemble and professionalism.) I read a great tweet the night of the Golden Globes. The actress Gabourey Sidibe wrote: “To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK”. Improv is my dream job, and although I don’t have a private jet or even a car, I for sure am only #JK crying about anything anyone has to say about my body.

Kelvin H asks, “How would you go about communicating establishing a location that isn’t modern day? Like, say you were initiating a scene that was set in 1957, but the whole concept of ‘the past’ wasn’t immediately obvious from the suggestion or structure. How would you make sure it was a scene set in 1957 and not about some crazy guy who uses old-fashioned stuff, is a technophone, has Alzheimer’s, etc?”
The way I’ve seen the improv troupe Splendid Things handle it is that the three of them are incredible improvisors well-versed in genre and history, who pay acute attention to their partners’ every move and play the genre proposed because they’re sensitive enough to detect it. Clues will be in the language, word choice, posture and references. Barring THAT, I would say propose it as a goal with your team. “Hey, I’ve noticed all our scenes are modern-day, could we get a little flexible with that?”

Christian U asks, “How do you balance the ‘rules’ of improv with trying to be in the moment and spontaneous? I know it’s a basic question but it’s my biggest hurdle. The reality is that you CAN make a ‘mistake’ in improv and not everything can be spun into gold. I’ve watched those mistakes completely derail sets before.”  
Walt Whitman said, “Be curious, not judgmental.” It’s hard for people in various professions to wrap their heads around how improv works; if they spend all day making something run perfectly and there’s a specific outcome expected and desired, it is really hard to convince them there’s an entirely separate paradigm under which to operate. The truth about improv is this: if there was something specific we needed to have happen we would write a script. All the best scripts, particularly in comedy, are being written by improvisors right now. We are more than capable of writing scripts if that’s what the situation called for. But we’re not writing scripts because we’ve decided something else is important. The “rules” of improv are a series of derived ideas that make for some lovely moments, but a moth can upstage you if it finds its way in front of the lights, no matter how many rules of improv you are nailing. e.e. cummings wrote: “since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you.”  The reason the sets you are referring to derailed is because the participants lost faith or hope or courage and didn’t play the hand they’d dealt themselves like the winner it could be. It’s already gold, no spinning needed.

I can tell you these words but I don’t know how to tell them to your heart and not your head.  I can only hope that maybe someday you get off a train at the wrong stop and there’s no train back for hours and instead of being upset you wander through the village and discover a small shop where they make a sweet candy in a small shop \more delicious than you’ve ever had, and the old man behind the counter tells you a story like you’ve never heard before, and there just happens to be a small string band playing in the gazebo in the square where people are dancing badly but with passion; and then when you finally get on the train it turns out they were fine without you all day long at your original destination.


This month I chose to do a JILL ASKS column instead of an ASK JILL column. Here are just some of the great answers:

What is the best way to get to sleep after a show when your brain is thinking improv improv improv! but your body is thinking s-l-e-e-p?
Casey H. recommended: “Concentrate on your breathing. Lay on your left and count 8 deep breathes, repeat on the right. Continue this pattern but adding 8 more breathes on each side until you fall asleep.” Several people recommended meditation, reading or writing. One person recommended listening to the sound of the Star Trek Enterprise engine on idle (*cough cough* Maria).

When you’re intimidated by the size of a task before you, what do you do to get started?
Butch R. said, “I usually start with ‘Oh yeah?!? We’ll see about that.'” And that’s why he’s the HUGE President. Several people recommended breaking it into smaller tasks. Amanda U. said, “I sit down with a notebook and pen and write down every single thing that occurs to me that will need to happen to complete the huge task. I give my brain time to make connections and inevitably new things come up I haven’t thought of yet. After that, if it’s relevant, you can divide up the tasks into categories on different lists. I have been known to make myself a cover sheet that says ‘don’t panic.’ After I get it all out of my brain and into paper, I can give myself permission to take it one step at a time because I’m no longer worried about forgetting something important.” Pat S. quoted, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time?”

Teachers across the country notice that the students who hang out together are the ones who stick with improv. How can I as an improv teacher make sure my students socialize with each other even though I am too introverted and sleepy to go out with them?
Erin S. said, “HUGE classes have a nice advantage since students can see shows for free — so if going out somewhere is prohibitive (cost, too late for week night classes, etc.), you could recommend that students attend the same show and then chat about it afterwards — sort of like a book club, but with an improv show (or showsssss).” This is why Ben G. nominated Erin for “Social Chair” in his answer. Danny S. said, “Up front, on the first day, explain that improv works better if you know and trust your scene partners. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to get to know each other outside of class.”  Blake W. added: “Every improv teacher I’ve ever had has stressed the importance of hanging out outside of class, yet only one or two of those teachers ever actually did that with us. The best way to get students of any age and discipline to do something is to model that behavior, even if doing so makes you a little uncomfortable. And I say all of this as a very introverted (and often sleepy) person.”

What’s a good dinner to pack for long improv days that doesn’t need refrigeration?
Bryan P. and Joden K. suggest peanut butter sandwiches. Bryan says: “Peanut butter is magical. Bring that with things like bread, graham crackers, bananas, whatever and just snack all day. The protein will help keep you going too.”  Maria B suggests, “Meat sticks.”


This month HUGE Executive Producer and veteran improvisor Butch Roy answered questions:

Casey asked : How do you personally continue to grow and improve in improv?
Keep looking for that feeling of fear and discomfort, which keeps me looking for people that push me.

Avoid the comfortable and familiar. Keep asking yourself the questions that make you uneasy instead of telling yourself that everything is great

It all demands a high degree of honesty — to keep honestly asking yourself if you’re still challenging yourself or if you’ve found something you’re good at and are comfortable with, if you’ve found people willing to push you or just someone that complements your style and you get laughs together, if you really did your best work or if you just got big laughs. It’s hard. And, as humans, we tell ourselves all kinds of things to avoid facing those questions.

I saw a long thread on Facebook about how to handle criticism and the overwhelming majority of the replies focused on the person giving the negative feedback or the situation in which it was given — all of which feels like avoiding the question we’re all scared of, which is “Was the person that said we weren’t good at something RIGHT?” I would say the best place to start would be to grapple with the possibility that they were right and we’re not as good as we think at what we’re doing. To accept, in advance, that we might not be good enough . . . yet.  It’s not a process so much as a motivation to keep trying, to ask harder questions of ourselves than our critics will, which ultimately results in always having a higher standard to pursue.

MJ asked: Any advice for future Tech Savvy Improvisors?
Get in there and push buttons and twist knobs — find out what they do by taking risks instead of playing it safe. That’s the same way you have to learn improv but at least improvising on stage you know your tools. You have to know what the keys do in order to play music.

Jen asked: I’d like to know how to properly share your improv successes with fellow performers. For example, as we all audition for the same shows, some of us will get in and some won’t. Some will be asked to teach classes or perform in special shows. How do you approach sharing this news with fellow performers without ruffling feathers or making them feel inferior?
That’s a tough one for a couple reasons — mostly because I am rarely asked to be in shows, I usually make my own instead. Maybe that helps, because then your success is your own and you get used to looking at it in terms of something you’ve created instead of something you’ve taken from someone else (like a spot you both auditioned for).

All you can really do is know that you only control yourself — you can’t control if someone is going to feel bad for your success, why you might have success where others don’t or any number of other things.

Not only that but you have to practice keeping that in mind no matter which side of it you’re on — it’s just as crucial when someone else succeeds to know that you haven’t failed because of it and there’s no reason not to be happy for them.

Jeremiah asked : Exactly what color IS that?
Nuclear Red by Special Effects

Mirabeau asked: Just how awesome are mohawks?
Pretty fun but they require a lot of upkeep, which can be a hassle unless you get good at shaving your own head or know someone really patient and willing to do it for you every couple weeks.

Alex asked : This is a quote from you from a video of the first HUGE Fundraiser: “We really want to find a home for all the disparate improv elements in the cities that want to have a common stage and really represent the whole spectrum of what improv can do on stage . . .” – What did you mean by “disparate” and do you think that HUGE represents this spectrum now, 3 years in?
Just that the only thing they need to have in common for us to be their home is that they are improvised. We wanted to be really clear that it wasn’t just our style or any one style that would be welcome and I think it was also really important to know that not everyone will want to be on one stage and might want to build their own thing, and that’s awesome. I think we really do represent that spectrum as best we can, still. I feel it’s fair to say that HUGE has been consistent with that goal all along. We might lean toward genre here or some other style there but there is no favorite style or kind of show that will get you on the stage at HUGE.

I say “as best we can” because it would be foolish to say that it’s even possible for us to represent the whole spectrum at any given time. We are only a place, in the end. And only one place. We can only put up a small fraction of the ideas that come in the door and for all the shows on our stage there are so many more that should still be on a stage AND even more beyond those that don’t come in our door at all.

I think one thing that I might not say enough that I meant in that quote is that it’s incredibly important to me to support improv theater, not just improv comedy. When I say “what improv can do,” I mean that it’s so much more than just funny and we should never stop pursuing the rest of the possibilities. Improv can be beautiful and touching, smart and thought-provoking and everything that we expect from other forms of theater. It just happens to be so funny that we have to keep reminding ourselves about the rest.


This month HUGE Director of Education Jill Bernard answered questions:

Blake W asks “When you are teaching a short, one time workshop with a group of students you might never have again, how do you choose which few bits of your vast improv wisdom to share with them?”
Great question, Blake! I ask them what they are working on, how well they know each other, what prompted this workshop request, and what they envision the ideal feedback after the workshop will be. There are usually a couple hints in there that let me know what direction to head.

David L asks, “As a performer on stage, what is the most effective way of dealing with a heckler?”
I am very fortunate that the places I perform most often, HUGE and ComedySportz, are very heckler-light. It almost never happens. Ideally, someone from the theater’s house staff will deal with a heckler. If by circumstance it falls to the performers, it is best if someone not in the scene slips offstage and speaks to the heckler as privately as possible. I personally use the improv skill of low status, I whisper to the heckler, “I really need your help, we’re trying to have an improv show but your yelling is very disruptive, can you keep quiet? Thank you so much.” Other people have different approaches that work for them. If the heckler is belligerent beyond that, I take them out of the room and ask them to leave the theater, issuing a refund because I think issuing refunds is a smooth move for anyone who finds out our show is not what they expected. If it has to be dealt with from the stage because there is no one in the cast to slip off discretely, there are numerous ways to handle it, and it depends on having a good read of what this particular heckler is demanding. Do they just need a moment of attention and then we can move on? Do they think they’re helping (e.g. they misunderstood what yelling suggestions is) and it would be best to explain to them that they are not helping? Are they so awful that only appealing to their friends seated nearby to remove them would help? It is all your best judgement in the moment.

Joden K asks, “Are oil changes really necessary every 3,000 miles?”
Yo, brother, obey the sticker.


Adam asks “Why do people laugh?”
There’s a lot of great theory on this, from Plato, Aristotle, Bergson, Freud, Hobbes, all the big names. Local improv legend Stevie Ray discusses this question in his book, What We Laugh at and Why: Stevie Ray’s Medium Sized Book of Comedy.  He has some excerpts here:  He lists Laughter of the Unexpected, Laughter of Recognition, Laughter of Superiority, Laughter of Delight as the types of laughter you’re likely to encounter.  People also laugh as a signal to play, and they laugh when tension is broken. You can delve even further than that, the University of Minnesota has a wonderful class called “Comedy Text and Theory” that was a great source of insight for me and other local comedians, most notably the Scrimshaw Brothers.

Max asks, “Who am I?”
Well, this destroys the relative anonymity of “Ask Jill”, but you’re Max Maliga, one of the four members of Positive TERI who lights up the stage every Saturday night at 10:30pm, $5!  If you look around and you see Bradley, Dustin and Matt, you’re the other one.

Jeremiah asks, “Can you suggest some comedy/improv podcasts or YouTube channels you enjoy?”
I can’t think of any YouTube channels offhand, but I have some podcast recommendations. Nationally, a good listen is. A.D.D. with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley. I’ve recorded a podcast myself, here are the episodes.  Locally, two fun improv podcasts are The Mustache Rangers, who also have a live show at HUGE with even more adventures Fridays at 9:30; and Next At Bat with Matt McCloud and Philip Simondet, they interview improvisors and other guests, and then do some improv.

Drew K asks, “What are the best post-improv hangout bars in town (both now and back in the day)?”
Oh man, I still miss The Poodle Club on East Lake Street. We’d all go sing karaoke and sometimes win drink tickets or breakfast tickets for our hilarious stylings. Eric Knobel was so young he had to hide between us. The Green Mill is always and forever an improv bar. What’s funny about it is I know that ComedySportz and the Brave New Workshop performers and students used to both hang out there before any of us really knew each other. How many nights must we have spent at adjacent tables never challenging each other to a sweet game of Arkanoid? Now The Herkimer (TCIF party sponsor) and Moto-I (another TCIF party sponsor) are very popular, as is the VFW.

Michael K asks, “How do you deal with waiting to hear back from a festival? Is there an appropriate amount of time to wait after the ‘we’ll let you know’ date, before enquiring?”
Take a quick peek at their homepage, Facebook and Twitter to make sure no delays have been announced, then go for it. A politely worded email is completely warranted.

Alex C asks, “Do you have any ‘big ideas’ in regards to HUGE that were either too expensive, didn’t have support, or that you never even bothered to share that still excite you?”
I dug into the first note we wrote when we only just met Molly Chase who thought she was just going to help us write a Strategic Plan about this time in 2011 – but then she fell in love with HUGE and stayed. Highlights of that list that never came to fruition are:

  • “Start having universal auditions, both for HUGE but also for improvisers looking to cast/be cast” – we gave it a shot, maybe we’ll bring it back some day.
  • “College outreach” – boy, the colleges are just really far away and it’s hard for them to get here.
  • My favorite – “Rooftop space with grass for outdoor meetings/rehearsals” – structurally impossible, but still sounds really awesome.

Jeremiah Z asks “What other art form is most similar to long-form improv? My metaphors always fall flat.”
Jazz. Gotta be jazz.

Alex asks, “How Will Positive TERI End?!”
The improv groups that you really love never end. They’re a piece of the improv that you do til you die.

Jeff asks, “Do you find it more valuable to improvise with a wide variety of people in different transient groups, or to concentrate on working long-term with a few groups?”
EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME! Which is to say, I like at least one of each.

Joanna asks, “How do you surrender control (in a scene, a group, a relationship)?”
I do not know, but I just thought of six pithy pieces of advice on the subject. Improvise faster than your brain can fix what is not broken. Love your partner’s choice harder than you can judge it. Honor an idea that is not your own. Breathe instead of boss. Put yourself deliberately off-balance. Chase joy rather than perfection.

Breanna asks, “Do you have any advice for a bunch of new improvisors feeling lost when they practice outside of a class?”
Hire a coach! There’s a list at Alternately you can just ask someone you admire. Barring that, it is fun to work through a book together, like Improvising Better (Carrane/Allen) or the Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual (Walsh/Roberts/Besser) or The Viewpoints Book (Bogart/Landau) — depending on what kind of work you would like to do. If you are self-coaching, it is more important to focus on what you like about each other’s work. Criticizing each other teaches you to play in judgement, which is a difficult mindset from which to play.

Daniel asks, “You ever think about getting a pet? You seem to like animals a lot.”
Sometimes the neighbor cat comes over to inspect me. His Yelp review is scathing.

Alex asks, “What’s the worst landlord situation you’ve had to deal with? How did you handle it?”
One time the sink was leaking, but I had both a live-in boyfriend and an extra cat the landlord didn’t know about. So the landlord came and fixed the sink, meanwhile the boyfriend and the cat spent the whole time wrapped up together in a blanket like a burrito. A large squirming blanket burrito.

Anonymous asks: “I find myself, and dear lord I hope others, having this internal struggle constantly: my dear friends are in amazing shows and I sit there fighting with myself, going back and forth between feeling super happy for them and then feeling incredibly jealous that I am NOT in those shows. How do I leave the jealousy behind and truly appreciate the amazing work my friends are doing? And how come I don’t get asked to be in the things???”
You don’t get asked to be in things because you haven’t been in the exact right place when someone else thought of a great idea you’d be perfect for, or your brief audition did not contain the incredibly specific elements the director was looking for; it’s not personal, it’s very slim odds. I know how you feel, I was not asked to be in ANY of the hot improv groups of the early ’90s; Vortex, Jump Up And Run, True North, Bad Mamma Jammas, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. I do remember feeling pretty pouty about it. By the time I was finally asked to be in The Impossibles it felt, well, impossible. I have three strategies to offer, one of which may resonate for you: 1) What I learned from auditioning for commercials is that there are a lot of jobs I would be fine for that someone else would be equally fine for. Really it’s nothing against me, I am nearly identical in talent and likability to lots of other people — when set against each other, the odds will be in their favor at least some of the time. 2) According to Deepak Chopra, at the atomic level we are all composed of the same parts. We are all the same thing. So your success is my success and your failures are my failures. I can be as happy or sad for you as if you were myself, we’re one thing. 3) Alternately, you can check your ego and take it as a wake-up call. The message you give yourself should be “Oh #$%!, I better up my game.” That means create a project that is at least as interesting to you as the projects you are not in, and build your skills to be even more of a powerhouse than you are. If you are not a creator, it means find a teammate who is a creator who can make a project for you. Soon you will be so busy that you would not have had time to be in that other cool project anyway.

Heather asks, “Say I’m moving to another part of the country, perhaps even a part of the country with a weak, small, or devoid of life improv community, what one skill/word of wisdom/quirk/piece of advice/other part of the Minneapolis improv community should I bring with me?”
First of all, noooooooooooooooo don’t goooooooooo!!! Second of all, you don’t need to consciously bring anything, we buried it in you. We wormed it into your heart and your smile, and your positive outlook. We found a way to be part who you are for the rest of your life. Whenever you need us, just make yourself a hot dish and we’ll be there. If that’s too squishy an answer, I leave you with a bit of wisdom from Dudley Riggs, the founding father of Minneapolis improv: “When I left New York fifty years ago, my agent said, ‘If you’re not in New York, you don’t count.’ I never agreed with that because what counts is the work.”

Sarah asks, “I am going to school and improv has naturally taken a back seat in my priorities. Any advice on how to keep from rusting over?”
Keep looking for the connections. What are you learning in school that is really a metaphor for improv? In a more hands-on way, I have a list of exercises you can do by yourself. They’re intended for anyone but they’d be fun for improvisors keeping their hand in the game too:

Find a once-a-week chance to hit up Space Jam or the Wednesday Drop In Class, (5-7PM, $10) at HUGE.  Alternately you can set up a lunchtime improv get-together like the “Lunchprov” Blake Wanger founded — you can invite your classmates to do some simple improv exercises over a lunch break and everyone will have fun.

Jane asks, “Improv philosophies tend to mirror life philosophies, in my experience. How do you advise improvising with people who do not share your life/world view?”
Here is an essay by Andrew W.K. that explains it much better than I can:

Sean D asks, “Is there anything — other than improv itself — that you’d specifically like to see more improvisers studying or learning about?”
I wish more improvisors knew theater arts: how to find their light, how to speak loud enough to be heard, how to make a stage picture that looks as beautiful as a painting. It is one of the things that holds improv back from being accepted as theater. It doesn’t always look or sound as good as theater. Few improv groups — The Bearded Men being a notable exception — understand the power of theater as art.

Mary K asks, “What do you do when you have a ‘I just went over the line’ moment in a scene?”
There are lots of strategies, of course. If it is really terrible, I’ve stepped out of the scene and apologized at that moment, which has gotten a laugh. I have also done an “apology” scene where I play a character appalled what just happened. But the best option in my opinion is to accept that “over the line” is a thing that can happen, and I play it through. I support my own choice as if it were an offer someone else had made, even though I’ve skeeved myself out, and I make a mental note not to go there again.

Q: Jonathan asked: “How does one find the balance between asserting one’s needs and character in a scene without plowing through others’ gifts? I can’t seem to find that balance yet, and I’m often feeling lost as to what I ‘should’ be doing.”
A: I wish I could teach you an exercise from The Physical Comedy Handbook by Davis Rider Robinson. You need a partner. You throw them a sound and motion. They take it in, really take it in, absorb it and are impacted. Then they throw back their reaction. You take it in, then send back your reaction. It is important not to skip either of those steps 1) take in 2) respond. It is paying attention to both of those steps that shows you the balance you seek. Then of course to take it from the tidy metaphor of an exercise into actual practice, as Matthew asks about below…

Q: Matthew asked: “What are some of the more effective ways you have bridged the gap between understanding techniques intellectually and implementing them into your improvisationals? (Or one – maybe “some” is being greedy)”
A: Psychological change takes six months, and improv adjustments often are psychological. You’ve just got to wait it out. The only shortcut I know is to get a bunch of improv nerds to workshop the ideas with you.

Q: Al asked: “How To Improvise With Anyone! – What clarity can you condense for less experienced improvisers to focus and accelerate our ability to play well with a wider range of players?”
A: There’s a little bit of the answer in my answer to Jonathan above, but the real key is to love everything your partner is offering you and treat it as if it is exactly right. Every move they make is the absolute correct answer and they are a genius. Let everything they do be incredibly important. Whatever you think it means, it means; whatever it looks like it is, it is. Be curious and assumptive and suspicious and invested.

Q: Alex asked: “Lions: scary?”
A: So scary.

Q: Sean asks “Playing at the top of your intelligence” is a concept I’ve encountered several times in improv training, but it seems like different teachers have different interpretations of what that means. What’s your take?”
A: It does have different interpretations! All of them have utility. Here are two: 1) Your brain tries to protect you from the unknown, and that gets in the way of doing your best improv. One of the ways your brain tries to protect you is by making the character choice to not know things. One of our favorite old scenes featured one improvisor as a carrier pigeon. The pigeon said, “I have a letter for you!” The other improvisor said, “Why don’t you read it to me?”  And the pigeon said, “I can’t read,” and they both giggled because the scene was just stuck there. One useful version of “Play to the top of your intelligence” is just to go ahead and know what the letter says and read it. Know how to crack a safe and fly a space shuttle. 2) A second really useful application of the idea is to do intelligent work, create sophisticated pieces that are worth watching.

Q: Alex asks “Have you seen Bob Odenkirk’s recent opinions on sketch and improv comedy? He says that young people should get out while they can as both forms are about to collapse, making way for the now burgeoning storytelling scene. Do you feel the same or different and why? WHATS HAPPENING I AM SCARED?!”
A: The quote is, ““I honestly would tell anyone young to start looking at stories and learning story, because I think that’s the next step after people go, ‘Okay, I’ve had enough of that improvisation, I’ve had enough of those short comedy bits. Tell me a story, tell me a more complex story, something that lasts and maybe has a little more meaning to it.’”  Which, fortunately, is what the best improv does. The best improv is very rich with meaning, so we have nothing to fear from the improv comedy discipline being any more unstable than it inherently is.

Q: Tane asks “I got this question from a foreign exchange student in theater class at a local college. He came to The Unscripted Minnesota Holiday show and after the performance asked me what I found to be one of the best questions of an improv comedy show ever: ‘What is the point?’ How would Jill answer a question like that?”
A: To take a step back, there is no point to anything.  There is no reason we’re alive, there is no reason hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen joined together to make a breathable atmosphere and no reason that first tetrapod climbed out of the sea. But it happened, and we somehow were each born and have survived despite the odds. Rather than succumb to the meaninglessness of existence, we find ways to entertain ourselves, like making music or adopting poodles or – in this case – creating theater. The further choice to create unscripted rather than scripted theater is a salute to the ephemeral and arbitrary nature of existence. We have chosen to create comedy with the same air we use to breathe because it is the most alive a theatrical production can be. We have so many entertainment options at this point in history, the significance of live theater in 2014 is that it’s live, we are sharing a moment of being truly alive. Also it is really funny. That’s a good side effect.

WORKSHOPS: Mayhem Workshops, January 11, 18, 25 3PM-6PM

Mayhem Workshops: January 11, 18, 25  3PM-6PM

Duos strongly encouraged to sign up together (but individuals are totally welcome)!

$40/workshop, or $100/all

Mayhem’s performance style is marked by the “anything-you-can-do” physicality that only an Crossfit trainer and an ex-skateboarder can bring to the stage.  They joyfully trap each other in corners that other improvisors would shy away from, and fearlessly push the limits. Learn how to play with intensity and curiosity through a series of three workshops, which will get you out of your comfort zone and give you a new set of tools for the stage.

January 11th: Characters In 3D

January 18th: Emotional Stakes & Personal Investment

January 25th: Maintaining Long Scenes

  Register HERE.

WORKSHOP: “Love The One You’re With” with From Justin To Kelly from New York

5pm-7pm | $20 Tuesday December 9th
“Love the one you’re with” taught by NYC improvisors Justin Peters and Kelly Buttermore of “From Justin to Kelly”
At HUGE Theater, 3037 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408

If most improv scenes were real life, most meetings with your boss would lead to your firing, the divorce rate would be 95%, and no one has ever, ever had a positive experience in a restaurant or retail store. But what if instead of choosing conflict, we chose love instead? Making a conscious choice to enjoy the company of and care deeply about your scene partner can be a much more interesting, rewarding and empowering choice that can only serve to enhance your scene and make it that much more fun to be in. We’ll run exercises to illustrate these points, and help improvisers focus on the things that bring them together, rather than those that drive them apart.

Read Justin and Kelly’s bios by clicking on their pictures here.

Spots are limited, register now by clicking here!





We’ll See This Thing Through – There Are Hundreds More Just Like Me and You.


The numbers are in, most of us have gotten some sleep, we have sponsors to thank and winners to announce!


To say that this year’s Improvathon was amazing would be a crazy understatement

The group of delirious individuals you see above watched and took part in the entire 28 hours of improv this year – kept awake by coffee from Common Roots and we were even able to surprise/wake up our Iron Audience with a sundae bar donated by Haagen Dazs in the middle of the day!

THANK YOU to our sponsors!

CommonRoots HDShops LOGO

The results

This is what it’s all about – Give To the Max Day is THE fundraising day of the year for HUGE Theater since we made the (potentially risky) decision to give our supporters a break from constant fundraising and focus our efforts on our biggest event of the year – we reached out to members, friends, families, co-workers, audiences and everyone else we could reach and the response was genuinely overwhelming. We checked our math over and over again when we saw the numbers coming in and many tears were shed as HUGE not only exceeded our fundraising total from last year, we did it before GTMD had even officially begun and then went on to destroy our fundraising goal for this year!!!

The Numbers – $25,000 was our goal…

Our official tally is $37,657.

HUGE won the 5am Golden Ticket – which was increased to $2,000 this year thanks to the generosity of the Bush Foundation and GiveMN!

Grand total with all online donations, Golden Ticket and door proceeds, our total comes to:


Even more amazing, we had 776 gifts online, the 12th highest number of gifts overall among every group that participated in Give to the Max Day.   To be clear: HUGE is a tiny little tugboat among oceanliners participating in GTMD. This is astonishing, humbling and cause for much celebration.

Every single person who participated is part of this achievement – staff, photographers, techs, donors, cleaning volunteers, runners of errands, and ALL the performers – Thank you so much!

The Winners

We are also thrilled to announce that our top Iron Audience fundraiser was Breanna Cecile!

She brought in $1,044, and her fundraising page is #8 among 67.

Top five fundraising performing groups:

1st place:  The Away Team, which brought in $3,155.

2nd place :  Snack Time

3rd place:  Ladyfriend

4th place:  Horseface

5th place:  Community Ed!

In closing, another heartfelt thanks – if you know anything about this theater you probably know how much difference every single donation, no matter how big or small,  makes to this place.  If you know anything about me you know how important it is to try and thank people enough for all the help they give and let them know how much difference they make to this place and to me.

The numbers are the simplest way to measure the success of a day of fundraising but the impact of this single day cannot easily be described – I can tell you that there are lots of important days running the theater along the way.  Some incredibly fun days, which we try to share with as many people as we can. There are some hard days and some scary days, which I try not to share unless I have to.

And then there is a day like this year’s Give to the Max Day, which is difficult to share at all because words fail at the task and it feels like more love and joy than any one person can contain.  This past Thursday so clearly, vividly demonstrates to everyone how amazing this community is, the unbelievable things we can do and have fun doing them and – more than anything – why it is such an honor and a privilege that I get to spend my days in service of this place and all these people.

All the amazing people and performers did not choose to call HUGE their home because it is a special place – HUGE is a special place because these amazing people choose to make it their home.  And for that I will never stop thanking everyone and it will still never be enough.

Thank you for making this dream possible and keeping it going.

Butch Roy

- Executive Director of HUGE Theater and Humble Servant

WORKSHOP: Musical Improv with Madde Gibba

NOVEMBER 30th from NOON-2:30, $40 cash or check preferred
HUGE Theater 3037 Lyndale Ave S

Madde Gibba’s drop-in class was so insanely popular that she has agreed to teach another session.

Please register here, do not delay!

WORKSHOP: Auditioning for Scripted Projects with Heather Meyer

DECEMBER 7 1-4PM, $45 cash or check preferred
HUGE Theater 3037 Lyndale Ave S

So you’re an improvisor! But what if you wanted to be in a play or a film? Do you know what is expected of you at an audition for a scripted show?

Improv is an excellent tool for performers, but auditioning for a play or film is a different process. This class demystifies auditioning for film and stage projects, and gives guidance and tips for before, during, after the audition and what to do when you get cast. You’ll get help finding a monologue that works for you and understand how to prepare yourself. You’ll also learn about the different types of auditions, behavior at audition, resumes & headshots, cold reading, national auditions, local auditions and how to leverage your improv skills to really shine in the audition, even if you’ve never done a scripted audition before! No need to prepare anything in advance of the first class.

Heather Meyer has been working in casting for the past 7 years for various theatres and production companies. She is currently the Casting and Development Manger at The National Theatre for Children. She sees over 800 auditions across the country every year.


Please register HERE!

Riots Squads and Fire Hoses

Bradley recently emailed me with some concerns, presented politely, which led to a wide-ranging discussion that’s published here.  

Negative/constructive feedback, in some form or another, has been going on since the IAGG started – I did the scheduling, ran the website, paid for the hosting, worked the box office and hosted the show and gave out all the money at the end of the night – and what I’ve found along the way is that people don’t really trust altruism. 

They don’t understand when someone is willing to do a shitload of work just to give them something to be nice or because they believe in it. So they make some assumptions that there has to be something nefarious they aren’t being told and sometimes they make some petty, incorrect and hurtful accusations about someone who is working their ass off to try and do something for other people.

I should be used it by now and it shouldn’t bother me as much as it still does. But it does. I have been told that somebody must be making money off the IAGG or the improv festival or that I’m just doing it to help myself and my friends and screw everyone else, that there MUST be something else behind it. There isn’t.

And as much as the conversation I had with Bradley gives me hope that it’s getting better and maybe I’ve earned some measure of trust with my efforts – the message we got the next day from the Anonymous Contact Form is exactly the kind of thing that makes me want to give it up.

I would like to just put this in the “hate mail” pile and move on but I thought it was a good chance to show a contrast between this exchange I had with Bradley – which was productive while being honest about things that HUGE does that upset him and included great questions and suggestions – with one that is based on anger and assumptions and doesn’t do anything to help anyone make things better.  

It would be great if this exchange could be a good example going forward of how to approach things (even if you’re going to do it via the Anonymous Contact Form) and say something before you get to the point where you want to sit down and send something like this to HUGE about all the things we do wrong that you hate.

I have tried to limit my personal responses but my in-line replies are included below as several points seemed directed specifically to me.

Message sent 10/31 just after midnight:

I can’t believe that Mayhem is up again in their own show time. Duos I would rather see and who don’t get as many opportunities because one of their members isn’t on the Board of Directors: We Know Each Other, Polar Bear Centric, License to Krill, Ferrari McSpeedy, and the list could go on.

[ Butch’s Note:  this is already predicated on Mayhem being selected while others were not because of my position on the Board.  If there’s one positive thing I can say it is that I’m glad they just came out and said it instead of implying and hinting.

Second – None of the groups listed had proposed a show at the time we were programming November. Another area where HUGE can’t really be blamed for the actions of outside shows. If you want to see all those groups on our stage, send them angry emails telling them to propose shows.

Third – the wrong-est assumption made here is that any of these issues are this simple, as illustrated the conversation between Bradley and I in the previous post ]

Then there’s the slew of non-duo shows I’d rather see than a duo for 45 minutes, which I won’t go into – I’ll just say that this incredibly talented and creative community comes up with actual hundreds of great ideas, and you squash them with a duo that we’ve seen just a few months ago.

[ Butch’s Note:  This is like saying there are hundreds of shows that The Fringe Festival “squashes” in favor of only putting up the shows that enter the Fringe lottery.  We decided a duo would be good to put up between two larger-ensemble shows for contrast, actually. And we chose the duo that we had the strongest proposal from at the time ]

Honestly, Mayhem is not special

[ Butch’s note: That’s because you live in an awesome city full of awesome improv. I’m ok with being average in this town, that’s still better than most ]

and I’d rather see people that I can’t see in the hour right before them or on every Monday night. I am so sick of this theater and its management not caring about providing opportunities for the students it creates. It’s infuriating that Butch is such a loud proponent of people starting shows at other venues, and then blatantly poaches one of the best time slots for a duo we’ve seen recently. Mayhem, why don’t YOU go start another show at another venue and worry about only getting 4 audience members instead of poaching a time slot that you know will have attendance because of Family Dinner? Your management is so flagrantly socially irresponsible, it breaks my heart for Twin Cities improv. This theater does not belong to the city, to the improv community, or to its students – it belongs to a few selfish and often incompetent board members and the people they favor.

[ Butch’s Note:  I did that. That’s why there is a theater for you to complain about my management of.   

I not only did shows for 2 people when we opened, I did it in a building I spent my life savings leasing and built with my own hands so that everyone can have an improv theater – I also worked to create the 8pm time slot I’m accused of “poaching audience” from and the 9:30 showtime that was created so improvisers at ComedySportz wouldn’t have to choose between doing shows at CSZ or HUGE so we could be good neighbors and good members of this community ]

The answer to the issue at hand is this:


The Board of HUGE are improvisers

HUGE is built for improvisers as a place to perform

The means HUGE is also a place for the Board of HUGE to perform


I won’t apologize for it and it’s not going to change – we will continue to make the best, most impartial, decisions we know how about what to put on our stage. If you find that infuriating or it makes you sick, that’s unfortunate but I won’t pretend that we’re not going to program shows like Mayhem, Drum Machine or any others that include Board members.

We are going to put those shows up and we’re proud of them.

If you don’t believe that those decisions are impartial, nothing I say is going to matter – I will have to just stand by my thirteen years of hard work for this community and all the thought and consideration that was put into all those decisions along the way.

I can do that and sleep well at night – I wish you the same.