185 Improv Gigs
Yesterday we had an improv gig* 134 miles away. Google Maps says that’s “about 2 hours 39 mins,” and Google Maps was pretty close to being right on with that guess. The eight of us left around 3:30 p.m. in two vehicles, and for all my good intentions to read on the trip, I ended up napping most of the way there. I blame being sick this past week.
We do “away shows” several times a year, with “away show” being defined as “a show for a company or corporation or group or whoever hires us to come and do a show.” Away shows can be a lot of fun but they can just as easily go horribly awry. The main reason I sign up for every possible away show is because away shows pay the best. A “normal” night of improv might get me $25, but a normal away show can sometimes pay three times as much. I don’t do improv for the money (though I wish I could figure out a way to make a living off it), but it’s always nice to make money doing something you love.
The places we perform are rarely set up with a sound system designed to accomodate an improv show, and the tables can be pretty spread out depending on the size of the company. Last night’s show was in a museum, specifically the Kruse Automotive & Carriage Museum. There were somewhere between 100-50,000 people there (I’m terrible at estimating numbers of people), and the show took place in the main lobby area, a place with 20-foot ceilings and two speakers hooked up to a perfunctory microphone system. The stage itself was a portable one and not terribly solid. Not ideal, but we’ve been in worse situations.
The museum was a surprise to us — we knew we were going to be in a museum, but we didn’t know what sort. This museum had the oddest collections – there seemed to be no connecting idea between them. There was a room of James Dean paraphernalia, a room of old television sets and toys based on old TV shows, a huge room of World War II vehicles (including a plane hanging from the ceiling, a couple artillery placements, German vehicles, Russian vehicles, and a couple of scale-model battleships), and a whole room full of specialty cars.
By “specialty cars” I mean the following:
- the “Vanturian”
- the A-Team Van
- no less than three Batmobiles (from the TV show, the 1989 Batman movie (my all-time favorite Batmobile), and Batman Forever)
- the General Lee
- the Robocop suit on a mannequin (not a car, but still present)
- several carriages
- several race cars
I don’t know that I would have liked traveling all the way there just to see the museum, but being able to see it for free along with getting paid to do improv was pretty cool. I took a couple of pictures and posted them on my Flickr account, but my cell phone takes fuzzy pictures, so you might be better off looking at the museum website.
The show was pretty good, too. I don’t often try to explain the shows because I feel describing an improv show is like describing dreams – they make no sense unless you were there – but I’d like to pass along my favorite joke I did. You might not find it funny (well, Dave might), but I’m going to put it up anyway. Bear with me.
The game was “185,” and it’s a standard joke that goes like this:
185 _______s walk into a bar and the bartender says, “Hey! We don’t serve _______s here!” And the 185 _______s say,”_________________.”
The first three blanks are a suggestion from the audience and the last is some sort of pun on the suggestion. So if the suggestion is “accountants,” the joke might go like this:
185 accountants walk into a bar and the bartender says, “Hey! We don’t serve accountants here!” And the 185 accountants say,”Oh, well, then – Calculator!” (“calculator” said in the same cadence as “Catch you later,” therefore making a pun.)
We also change the joke up a bit to fit our punning needs, but that’s the basic idea. If you don’t like “A guy walks into a bar…” jokes, change “bar” to “deli” or something, and you’ll get the same idea.
So we’re playing the game and we get the suggestion of “superheroes.” As an avid superhero fan, this is the sort of suggestion I could go all night about. We do a few jokes and then my teammate does an Aquaman joke, something about him sticking his face in a bowl of water. I see an opening and do this:
So 185 Aquamen walk into the bar and the bartender says, “Hey! This joke is supposed to be about superheroes.”
Ba dum bum.
(See… Aquaman’s totally lame. See?)
After the show we went to Cracker Barrel and I ended up getting home around 12:30 a.m. We’ll get paid for the show next week most likely, but I’m guessing the per-hour rate after figuring in the 9 hours involved won’t end up being too good. Oh, well. Like I said, I don’t do it for the money.
I do it for the fame, baby.**
*I am required by Performer’s Law to refer to any sort of performance as a “gig.”
**This is also laughable.