Growth, Why Sketch is Invite-Only, and How You Can Join In

I should start by pointing you to the workshops page if you haven't already noticed that Dylan Snowden will be visiting us from UCBTNY and teaching 2 sketch workshops. If you haven't gotten your chance to participate in Hive's sketch course, this is a perfect opportunity for you to get some valuable experience, and if you have, I encourage you to take in some outside influence. I am far from the last word on sketch comedy.

My last post here was over 9 months ago, in December. But at least I have an excuse. It was in January that I started my current day job. I'm building Virtual Reality experiences and I love it, but having a full time job, in addition to performing 1-3 times a week, teaching, and just doing the Hive homework to keep things chugging along can really take it out of me. Especially when my day job is something I can easily put overtime into, not just because sometimes it's necessary, but because sometimes I just want to. Lately, I've been burning at both ends and it's taking a toll. I apologize if any of you have wanted Hive to be snappier lately. Sometimes I just choose rest over a longer night and that means something's got to give. Oh yeah, and I've been working on sketches for The Weird Show, which brings me to my point.

Last year, I taught an unannounced, invite-only sketch course between the Fall and Winter sessions. It was my first time doing it and I wanted to see how it went with only the strongest students present for many reasons. That class became The Weird Show and I'm very proud of the work. I was happy enough with their show that I couldn't resist getting involved with them myself over the summer. This coming Fall, I'll be teaching the next Hive sketch course and we've got a great group.

I never liked things like "Harold Team Auditions" at UCB or iO or for the Second City Main Stage or ComedySportz. I didn't like the hand of God coming down and tampering with the chemistry of the art, the scene, or individual friendships, and necessary or not, I felt it resulted in a lot of collateral damage: destructive competition, jealousy, self-doubt, almost embracing a class system. Now I've chosen to do that exact thing with Hive Sketch by making it invite-only.

In LA, I was fortunate enough to witness first-hand the growth of The Pack Theatre and near enough to Miles, Brian, Emily, Eric, and Heather to learn a lot more than just improv and sketch, including picking up a few things about how to grow a community around our craft. Noah and I have discussed this extensively and have considered the symbiosis between CCB and Hive to be necessary to our community. What we need now is more performing talent putting up more great shows. Meeting that goal is my main concern.

I believe that building shows out of our strongest students is the best way to demonstrate our work to the public, attract more students, inspire current students, and most importantly foster the spontaneous development of new shows.

I don't want Hive to be the Hand of God, picking who will get stage time. I want students to know that if they want a stage and we're not giving it to them, they can get it themselves anywhere in the city and make something happen. That's not competition for Hive or CCB or ComedySportz, that's growing the community and it will be good for everyone involved. I realize that building shows out of invite-only courses teaches a dangerous lesson that may go against encouraging a self-reliant community, but I believe that the few students that we have time to focus on at this stage can become community leaders and will have the power to propagate the experiences they've had by starting shows themselves and that others may follow in their footsteps.

LA has a strong indie improv scene and there isn't a dependence on theatres to validate student work before students organize themselves and get to it. Chicago didn't have that in the old days and the stories of great players being managed by theatres always sounded unhealthy to me. There's a lot of growth that happens when students are expected to be leaders. I don't want to copy what's in LA because it's far from a perfect scene, but the indie presence there is something I would like to see in Berlin and I hope we're doing what we can to make it happen.

For a long time, Good Luck, Barbara! was the only game in town. Over a year ago, the formation of Guillotine was a huge step in the right direction. Then came The Weird Show. Next was Hotbox. All of those teams have killed huge crowds at CCB. The CCB jam has given a lot of new faces valuable stage-time. This Saturday we'll be wrapping up the final round of The August Offensive, our first cagematch style, competitive longform tournament. I loved the buzz around that tournament and that it got a lot of people on stage for the first time on a self-selected team. I would love to see the next Sketch course stick together too. I'm also considering skipping any teaching in the 2017 Spring session to focus on show production and to take advantage of the new talent that's available.

As I said at the top, we'll be having Dylan Snowden in to teach sketch. Sketch experience is really valuable, even if you want to stick to improv, and I hope that anyone who hasn't been invited to Hive Sketch will have the opportunity to participate in Snowden's workshop. The Beginners workshop is meant for absolutely anyone. The Intermediate workshop is meant for former and upcoming students of the sketch workshop, but also open to anyone with significant improv experience or stand-up comedians. There will be more sketch opportunities in the future so if you're got a hunger for it, just sit tight. We've got stuff in the works.

Now I need some sleep.

See ya this weekend at CCB, dudes,

The Fall of Hive and the Winter Coming

I didn't mean to make the title so depressing, but it kind of wrote itself. Things are going great!

First things first, the winter session of Hive courses is now up and accepting registrations! The first session of 2016! We have 3 courses with 3 new teachers: Nicole Ratjen, Josh Telson, and Noah Telson. If you've seen them perform with me in Good Luck, Barbara! or ComedySportz and you liked what you saw, come take some lessons! Last session I started the Truth of the Scene and Harold & Game courses which will next be taught by Noah and Josh. For the first time Hive is offering a Short Form Improv course which Nikki will be teaching. Again, the session will start with one week of free classes so you can try them out before you decide which one to take.

There has been so much going on lately and truth be told I've done an awful job of showing it on social media. If you've been reading the tweets out of @hiveimprov then you know that the fall session of courses finished at the end of October with a great student showcase, the Comedy Cafe Berlin opened and is now home to tons of great Berlin comedy, and Will Hines gave us a 3 day workshop on UCB Game and a fantastic sold-out show. I'm sure you can conjure your own corny images of Hive being full of busy bees buzzing and bounding and other alliterations.

To cap things off, a few photos to celebrate recent Hive events before we kickoff the New Year and the new session. Notice that all of these are at the Comedy Cafe Berlin! If you want Hive classes or shows, that's where to find them.

Noah Telson, Maxim Zaks, Edo Binda, Jakob Grotewohl, and Chris J. Rock performing a Movie at the Hive student showcase.

Noah Telson, Maxim Zaks, Edo Binda, Jakob Grotewohl, and Chris J. Rock performing a Movie at the Hive student showcase.

Jakob Grotewohl, Karin Kunzo, Raquel Stern, Christopher Shevlin, and Lauren Miller performing a Harold at the Hive student showcase.

Jakob Grotewohl, Karin Kunzo, Raquel Stern, Christopher Shevlin, and Lauren Miller performing a Harold at the Hive student showcase.

Nikki Ratjen, Jakob Grotewohl, Will Hines, Noah Telson, and Chris J. Rock demonstrating their 20% meat.

Nikki Ratjen, Jakob Grotewohl, Will Hines, Noah Telson, and Chris J. Rock demonstrating their 20% meat.

Up to this point Hive has been just little old me and it's very exciting to now have Nikki, Josh, and Noah teaching. We can expect a lot more action from Hive in the coming year and I hope you can join us for it.

Go register!


Philip Markle Annoyance Workshop

We've got a great workshop coming up with Philip Markle, Executive Director of the Annoyance Theatre in New York. Info available on the workshop page. I really want to encourage everyone to join this.

I am personally excited about this one because of the very positive experience I had absorbing everything Annoyance that I could from Emily Candini in LA. I had been at UCB and with Miles and both of those approaches are very heady, and I myself tend to think a lot about my improv, but Emily came in and busted that up. Get the fuck on stage. Tear it up. Get weird. Keep the audience guessin. I realized you can't even think straight on stage until you're bold enough to own it and you can't own it unless you're ready to act without thinking.

I’d say my goal for this class is for the student to walk away celebrating what he/she uniquely brings to the stage. Let your inner freak flag fly! No one can teach you to be funny, but you CAN find your unique voice and always have fun (if you’re not having fun, you’re the asshole!) and take care of yourself in a scene so that you are always OK no matter what is going on. Usually if someone is having fun, funny will just happen of its own accord. Fun and play. That’s the whole reason we got into this, right?
— Philip Markle

I have not seen anything like Annoyance work in Berlin and I think this city needs it. Come get a taste.

Also, check out the book Improvise by Mick Napier. He founded the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago and wrote one of the best books on improv you can read. No kidding. GET INTO IT.