Apr 23


Apr 22

Improv As Practical Advice


When you ask people to think of reasons why someone took an improv class for the first time you get answers like “I wanted to do something fun” or “I’m a huge comedy fan” or “I wanted to be able to think on my feet more for my job.”

(Side note: people often say “wanted to get better at public speaking” but only when they’re guessing why OTHER people might be taking improv classes.) 

Improv classes aren’t as silly as you expect. Yes, they’re fun but they’re more like acting classes.  Many big comedy fans don’t know what long-form improv is, and they take a class because they’ve memorized the casts of SNL and see that many of them “did improv.”  They don’t know what they’re in for.

I don’t really think it improves thinking on your feet. And no one speaks publicly ever, now that we have the internet.

So what practical skills DOES improv give you? These ones.

1) Listening. Deeper, fuller, more actively. Time will slow down during conversations and you will be able to hear them more accurately. This absolutely will happen to everyone who takes improv classes for any decent length of time.

2) Brevity. Improv rewards succinct, direct talk. You’ll learn to do it because they audience laughs and listens to you more when you get to the point.

3) Empathy. You will more easily be able to see things from other people’s points of view. You will be able to argue the other side of an argument better.

4) Acting. Improv is acting and writing but it’s more acting. You become more reactive and emotive just through the sheer reps of playing make-believe in front of others.

5) Clearer opinions. You have opinions all the time but very often you don’t pay attention to them as they’re forming. Not the big ones, but the little ones. You see someone on the street eating an ice cream and lots of tiny versions of superiority, jealousy, gluttony will flit through your brain, and then vanish. Improv will let you hold onto those opinions because in a scene you might need them.

6) Saying yes. You will at least consider saying yes to things and see the value in that option more often than you did before. 

7) Patterns. Patterns are funny, and you will learn to see them early and often.

8) Silliness. You will get sillier. You’ll walk funnier. You’ll use dumb voices more. You’ll make up better fake names for things.

9) Knowledge. You’ll learn more since you’ll run across so many scenes where someone mentions something you don’t know. You’ll find out what they were saying and remember it.

10) Losing. You’ll learn the joy of losing arguments and fights.

11) Bravery. You will be more comfortable to have people see you and watch you.

12) Present. You’ll worry less about the future, less about story, and more about what the moment feels like and what that implies.

Those are some skills you learn. And nothing else.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Definitive Oral History of a TV Masterpiece -

(Source: gracie-law, via frankhejl)


Apr 20


I really love my apartment. It’s in a a good part of Astoria, between two subway stops. The building is exterminator-owned with friendly and polite neighbors and I’ve never had to worry about deliveries. There’s laundry in the basement. The price is fair and the space is good, with decent light. It could use some upgrades - there’s some cracks and chips here and there - but the floor isn’t carpet or tile or linoleum and the landlord is responsive when something goes wrong and I never seem to have trouble with the water temperature in the shower (my roommates will not say the same).

It feels like home in a way I don’t think my first New York apartment did.

But it’s very, very, very slanted. Like. Very sloped. And I think when academics and scholars study this time in my life (let me have this…just…let me have this) they will look back and probably attribute my constant anxiety and uncertainty and inability to commit to major life decisions to the fact that I was literally never on level ground.


To increase the temperature, either turn the hot water up (which sometimes instead will cause the temperature to go down), or turn the cold water down (which sometimes instead will cause the temperature to go down).

To decrease the temperature, either turn the hot water down (which will sometimes cause the temperature to go up, or the water pressure to go way down) or turn the cold water up (which will sometimes cause the temperature to go up).

To increase the temperature slightly, just don’t fucking bother. Anything you do will cause the temperature to change to something wildly different and basically unbearable.

When future academics study my life, it will only be because I am tangentially related to the MYSTERY OF THE SHOWER TEMPERATURE, which will be studied by future thermophysicists and showerologists, but will never be understood.


Utagawa Kunisada. Kawarazaki Gonjuro as Danshichi, Otokodate (Chivalrous Commoner). Mirror of Osaka. 1863.



Utagawa Kunisada. Kawarazaki Gonjuro as Danshichi, Otokodate (Chivalrous Commoner). Mirror of Osaka. 1863.


Apr 17


Doll Man #6, September 1943, cover by Al Bryant

"I don’t play with dolls, I play with ACTION FIGURES. See, this is an action figure of Doll Man. He has the proportionate strength and reflexes of a doll!"


Doll Man #6, September 1943, cover by Al Bryant

"I don’t play with dolls, I play with ACTION FIGURES. See, this is an action figure of Doll Man. He has the proportionate strength and reflexes of a doll!"

Crowded Train

     Another elderly lady, struggling through the crush, reached the door of Dora’s carriage and addressed her neighbour. ‘Ah, there you are, dear, I thought you were nearer the front.’ They looked at each other rather gloomily, the standing lady leaning at an angle through the doorway, her feet trapped in a heap of luggage. They began a conversation about how they had never seen the train so full.

      Dora stopped listening because a dreadful thought had struck her. She ought to give up her seat. She rejected the thought, but it came back. There was no doubt about it. The elderly lady who was standing looked very frail indeed, and it was only proper that Dora, who was young and healthy should give her seat to the lady who could then sit next to her friend. Dora felt the blood rushing to her face. She sat still and considered the matter. There was no point in being hasty. It was possible of course that while clearly admitting that she ought to give up her seat she might nevertheless simply not do so out of pure selfishness. This would in some ways be a better situation than what would have been the case if it had simply not occurred to her at all that she ought to give up her seat. On the other side of the seated lady a man was sitting. He was reading his newspaper and did not seem to be thinking about his duty. Perhaps if Dora waited it would occur to the man to give his seat to the other lady? Unlikely. Dora examined the other inhabitants of the carriage. None of them looked in the least uneasy. Their faces, if not already buried in books, reflected the selfish glee which had probably been on her own a moment since as she watched the crowd in the corridor. There was another aspect to the matter. She had taken the trouble to arrive early, and surely ought to be rewarded for this. Though perhaps the two ladies had arrived as early as they could? There was no knowing. But in any case there was an elementary justice in the first comers having the seats. The old lady would be perfectly all right in the corridor. The corridor was full of old ladies anyway, and no one else seemed bothered by this, least of all the old ladies themselves! Dora hated pointless sacrifices. She was tired after her recent emotions and deserved a rest. Besides, it would never do to arrive at her destination exhausted. She regarded her state of distress as completely neurotic. She decided not to give up her seat.

      She got up and said to the standing lady ‘Do sit down here, please. I’m not going very far, and I’d much rather stand anyway.’

-The Bell, Iris Murdoch, pgs 9-10.

Apr 16


Two frames from Colonel Homer, from season 3 of The Simpsons. Originally aired on March 26, 1992, two years before Yahoo! and 6 years before Google.

Apr 14

The Things We Thought Could Kill Us

By the time of the Bills of Mortality [a seventeenth-century precursor to the death certificate], the list of things we thought could kill us had expanded dramatically. Yet, reading those bills today, you could be forgiven for failing to recognize them as an advance in public health. It was possible, in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, to die of Bleach and of Blasted, of Cramp and of Itch, of Sciatica and of Lethargy. You could be carried off by Cut of the Stone, or King’s Evil, or Planet-Struck, or Rising of the Lights. You could succumb to Overjoy, which sounds like a decent way to go, or be Devoured by Lice, which does not. You could die of Stopping of the Stomach, or Head-Ach, or Chin-cough, or Teeth. You could die of Horseshoe Head, though don’t ask me how. You could die of being a Lunatick. You could die of, basically, death: Suddenly, Killed by Several Accidents, Found Dead in the Streets. You could die of Frighted and of Grief.

The New Yorker, April 7, 2014. “Final Forms,” by Kathryn Schulz. pg. 34