I am Whose Line is it Anyway improviser and TV writer Heather Anne Campbell IAMA!
Hi Reddit! I'm a writer for FOX's ADHD, and have written for Saturday Night Live, Cartoon Network's Incredible Crew, and consulted at places like Dickhouse (Jackass) and Adult Swim. I've told you to Drive Recklessly for The Midnight Show, and I used to be the editor of a video game magazine called Play. What's going on?
I guess I should be plugging here. Follow me on Twitter, or read my blog where I talk about stuff. The shorts I write for FOX ADHD are here, and here's my work with The Midnight Show.
Quickly popping in to say we just released another ADHD video: http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/1iu2x6/scientifically_accurate_ducktales/
EDIT: That's it, Reddit! Thank you so much! Please watch WLIIA and Fox's ADHD. And The Midnight Show online! Byeeeeeee.
Yeah man PM me and I'll do it.
Has Wayne Brady choked you at any point?
Why, is Wayne known to choke a bitch?
Not really a question, just wanted to say thank you for doing this AMA and that i thought you were great in the last Whose Line episode.
Thanks! I have another one coming up on the 6th of August. Please be excited!
As a former student, I think it's cool that you keep weird kids like me off the street and on the stage, putting word combinations together with emotional responses.
Most people on here will not know how important you are to the improv scene (Last Day of School is one of my favs), but it's really great to see your name all over the world after years of hard work.
See you soon, homes.
I feel like you just stepped out of the shadows of an alley, hat worn low, and nodded. I don't know who you are, but I'm happy you stopped by to say hi.
I have to say, I've seen you on Improvaganza and the last Whose Line episode and I hope that you become one of the regulars. I'd be perfectly content with a cast of Heather, Ryan, Colin and Wayne.
Really I just wanted to tell you that I think you're great. But to throw a question in here. How does Colin Mochrie smell?
Like a follicle holocaust.
How much fun was it to work on Drew Carey's improv-a-ganza and how different is it from Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Las Vegas crowds are drunker than studio crowds and thus the atmosphere was looser. The people in the WLIIA audience were screaming like banshees, and the atmosphere was HYPE.
I owe both shows in some way to Drew Carey. If he hadn't cast me in Improv-a-Ganza, I doubt I would have had the confidence I had in my Whose Line audition. It changes your life when someone believes in you. I probably would have thrown up if I'd known how much that one afternoon audition for IaG was going to mean.
How did you get into improv and performing in the first place?
I went to a religious school that didn't have a theater program, but we did after an after-school club that would play in the cafeteria. The director, Ian Gerber, introduced us to short-form. I had watched Whose Line on TV, so I knew the basic idea of how the games worked. One night, Gerber took us to iO (then Improv Olympic) in Chicago, and introduced us to Long Form improv. Insanely enough, Miles Stroth was in the first show I saw at the theater, I believe in a group called Monster Island. After that, I kept coming back to the open set called The Jam, until the theater owner suggested I get into classes and start really young as a sort of experiment.
And that was that.
How crazy is working with the same group of people that you watched growing up?
CRAZY. Probably the weirdest part about all of this is that when I saw my first episode of WLIIA, it looked like Forrest Gump. How the hell did I get edited into that show?
Favourite Whose Line performer? Be honest!
I think that big plastic tube did some phenomenal work in Prop Tag.
Heather, always enjoyed your game journalism. I saw you mentioned to my friend Myles on Twitter that a piece you wrote on The Last of Us was the first thing you've done since Play. Any plans on getting back in to that field?
If I write about games, it's only going to be when one really strikes me. It was soul destroying to play terrible games to completion and then write an article about the few good things I could find in an otherwise terrible RPG or whatever.
I think the last two games I've written about were Dark Souls and The Last of Us. So I'll write about games as often as game companies can produce content of that caliber.
Hey I really loved your performance on the series premiere on CW. What was it like being up there with the seasoned veterans. Were you intimidated at all or was everything hunky dory?
I'd actually performed with everyone except Wayne before; Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza was where I really had to deal with the shock of performing with improvisers that I grew up watching on TV. And we did DCIAG in front of a Vegas crowd, too, at the MGM. After that, Whose Line felt like a reunion of sorts.
Truth be told, the set itself was the most intimidating part of being on Whose Line. When you grow up watching SNL, and imagine yourself on the show, you imagine it'll be with the people you're watching on TV right then. Like Will Farrell or Jimmy Fallon or whatever. But when you get there, it's all strangers and the set looks a little different, because SNL changes all the time. With Whose Line, I ran onto the stage of my childhood, and the same people were sitting there. That was when it hit me. So insane. Really a dream come true.
Intimidating isn't the right word. It was awesome, in the moon-walking sense. I felt awed.
What's your game of the year so far?
The Last of Us may be my game of the last three years.
Thanks! Be sure to watch every week, but watch harder during my next episode on August 6th.
I'm majoring in broadcasting and am hoping to get into the TV part of it (not as an actor unless I turned out to be good at it, but in the production/writing side of it, do you have any advice on breaking into it?
The best advice I have is probably kinda obvious: YouTube. Self-published material is the best business card you could have in the industry. And it doesn't go away. If you make something good on the internet, people will see it, and eventually that will lead to work. All phones can shoot in 1080p, so your stuff can look as good as you want it to, for a minimal initial investment. I've gotten a lot of work from my involvement with The Midnight Show; some of the rooms I've sat in were with executives who didn't even know I wrote for SNL -- instead, I'm there because they saw a video we made. As soon as you can, start putting shit out there. Work attracts work.
Thank you for the reply! I appreciate the advice, and with a follow-up question: what about getting people to watch my videos? I've assumed it is a lot about timing; getting a video up when that subject is hot, of course. Obviously a Harlem shake video now wouldn't do anything. But what about other ways? Are there certain websites you recommend posting to?
Write something topical, or write parody to start. That way, the Big Advertising Agencies are doing your leg work for you. If your idea is clear, then your take on it will naturally come from your point of view. One of the first viral videos I wrote was Twilight With Cheeseburgers. I had no interest in Twilight, but watched it because I wanted to write about it. Subject yourself to stuff you're not interested in, but is popular, and it will be easier to defamiliarize. And post to YouTube and FunnyorDie. Just keep making them, one will pop.
Your Whose Line episode was amazing and I hope you come back if they do a second season. :)
Now for the question: What advice can you give to an amateur improver?
Also, do you prefer improv or standup?
I prefer Improv, but more than improv I prefer sketch. The strength of both of them comes from live relationships on stage. Talking about a relationship isn't as active as seeing one unfold, which is why both sketch and improv appeal to me. And I'm not talking about romance when I say relationships; I'm talking about the relationship between a doctor and a dog he's about to put down, or two co-workers who are fighting off zombies, or a little girl who is smarter than an astronaut. That stuff is great, and you explore it best with sketch or improv.
My advice would be: Move to a big city, start taking classes at as many theaters as you can afford (join internships to get free classes if need be), and perform perform perform. The best work is done by the people who are working all the time. Meaning, it's more likely that a great scene will happen if someone is doing 100 scenes a week than if that person is only doing one scene a week. So play at every theater, even the less popular ones. Do open-improv sets, like The Jam. Just keep performing!
What's the absolute worst incident that you've fumbled on an improv?
I farted on stage once and thought I would die.
Hi Heather! One thing I've always meant to ask you: of all the sketches you've written that were filmed and put online, which one is your favorite or do you feel best represents your taste and sensibilities? Also can we make a tv show or a movie together now please?
PETER! HI PETER!
Let's make a tv show! Let's make a movie!
I really like Immortal Dog, man. I like the idea of sketches from the future, or like things that have the atmosphere of a punishing police state. Immortal Dog feels like a sketch from the world of Robocop. Like, it's what a sketch comedy show in Neo Detroit would be. So, thank you. Thank you very much.
I also like that so many of my friends french kissed animals because I wrote it down on a piece of paper. That's like the sketch version of the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Hey Heather. I'm a big fan and think your performances with Miles Stroth at UCB are really great. I've been doing improv through high school and now through college.
My questions is what advice can you give someone like me who's about to be thrown into the real world and wants to continue doing improv professionally? Do you suggest UCB? iO? LA? Chicago?
Well, if you want to make improv a part of your life, you have to live somewhere that has a robust community. Chicago, LA, and New York are home to big improv theatres and active indie groups; in any of those cities, you have the opportunity to perform every single night of the week. I'm a fan of both UCB and iO, but am theater agnostic -- I think the best work is done by people who've gone through every program available.
Now I'll tell you to go to LA and work with UCB. Because it's warm in California, and UCB has a focused, clinical approach to comedy. It's a great place to start.
The thing about improv is there's no real way to be professional at it. You can do it all the time, but that doesn't make you a pro. Heck, none of the improv theaters pay the performers -- you have to do it because you like the work. You'll need a real job. I'd suggest monetizing your leisure time; that's part of why I decided to become a games journalist.
My gf and I couldn't stop laughing when you did the exorcist bit
Thanks. Though Reddit would tell me that if you say you have a girlfriend, it means you were by yourself.
You do so much work! Do you have a system for getting it all done? Do you wake up early in the morning?
I don't wake up early! And the system is: every minute, you can work. When it's time to relax, and I'm watching VICE or something, I keep a Google Doc open to write down sketch ideas inspired by what I'm watching. If I'm listening to the radio, or playing a video game, it's the same. If I hear something funny said in a deathmatch, I'll write it down. It's not really a lot of work at once; it's work spread out over every minute. Much easier that way. This last hour and forty five minutes is probably the least I've worked in weeks, because I can't type these answers and write other stuff at the same time.
What is the best improv class or workshop you have ever taken? and Why?
I don't think any one improv class has been "the best," because if a teacher is good, they're probably very different from everyone else. Improv is basically one person's point of view on how to attack a void. I've learned a lot from different teachers, but the ones that gave me the most interesting things to work with were the ones that had the most specific points of view.
JD Walsh at Ultimate Improv had some very interesting ideas and workshops, which were often based on how frustrating he found improv to be; he wanted the work to be faster, more fearless, and without the awkward "where-are-we-whats-going-on" moments that plague the beginning of scenes.
Miles Stroth taught me one class a million years ago that stuck with me, which was exceptionally mathematical.
Pep Rosenfeld at Boom Chicago was about the showmanship of an improv scene, and how to present yourself in the best possible light; I also had a week of workshops with Tom Gianas there, and that was enlightening. Gianas taught us about the piece, as opposed to the individual moments.
I really liked learning from Jerris Donnovan, who directed a show I was in for years and loved pulling emotional play out of her performers.
And then there was the weird two years I spent in the cult of Chris Barnes, who teaches a RADICALLY different version of improv based on the enneagram.
All of the best classes came from anchored points of view. A great teacher has a single idea on how improv works, and they give you that tool.
Thank you for a great answer.
Heather teaches amazing classes at the Miles Stroth workshop in Los Angeles, along with Eric Moneypenny (Midnight Show) and Sam Brown (Whitest Kids U Know). I took them, and she's the best.
Eric Moneypenny taught me more about sketch writing than anyone else. The guy really gets it.
Woah girl, you used your actual Reddit account instead of an alt? You got balls.
The NSA already knows what I upvote. What difference does it make?
Do you ever geek out with Aisha Tyler since you both love video games and the like?
I need to geek out with her more. Definitely.
I loved you in Improvaganza. How was that experience compared to WLIIA? And why is it that I never hear or read about Improvaganza, as if it didn't happen? :(
How many people talk about anything that happens on Game Show Network?
G'day from Australia, and thanks for doing the AMA! Just a couple of questions, out of curiosity.
Do you plan on writing, editing etc. for magazines such as Play Magazine and Geek Monthly again?
Will you be part of CW's Whose Line is it Anyway for the entire season?
And, from a fellow gamer to another, and to get it out of the way:
- Xbox, PS3, or PC Master Race?
I look forward to reading your responses throughout this AMA!
Writing for a game magazine takes a lot of time, and I work full time at FOX now. I write almost all of the shorts there, like Scientifically Accurate Spider-Man -- and do a bunch of the voices and singing, too. The reason I plug this isn't just because my bosses would want me to, but because I believe that good games journalism means really playing a game to completion, digesting it, and trying to figure out how it fits into the larger body of work of the developer as well as the industry. It's not something you can do on the side if you're going to do it professionally. I don't have the time I'd want to dedicate to games if I was to work with them again.
I have another episode on the 6th of August! There are a bunch of FANTASTIC improvisers taking the 4th chair. So, I guess I'm a part of the show for the season -- but so are other people?
PS3. Truth is I have all of the systems (and a garage full of all the old ones), but the exclusives on PS3 this generation have been my favorite games of the last 6 years. TLOU, Demon's Souls, Ni No Kuni, and weird indie stuff like Trash Panic and that one where you play the animals.
What's it like to work with Colin Mochrie? He seems like the funniest most genuine guy.
Which one is Colin?
Would you rather fight one Miles sized duck or 100 duck sized Miles?
I could take on any number of Miles Stroths. Bring 'em on.
Would it be possible for you to convince the producers to throw in one or two more commercial breaks?
I look forward to a day when we watch thirty minutes of commercials and construct our narratives from the stories within.
WLIIA. Better host - Drew Carey or Clive Anderson?
Drew. Sorry, Clive!
What do you feel makes a good video game great?
If it believes that games can be better than they are.
A garbage game is one that's just a game.
A great one thinks games can be Written Better or More Atmospheric or Better Acted or More Balanced or More Visually Interesting. You can tell if a game is great by what the designers think games could be some day.
For those not from Los Angeles, the Cagematch is a competitive improv show where two teams do twenty minutes and the audience votes one of the shows back for the next week. I did a two man show with Miles Stroth that lasted 50 weeks, which with breaks was more than a year of shows.
Here's the thing: the shows themselves are some of the best improv work I've ever been a part of. I love performing with Miles and found some real moments of serendipity, responsibility, and mirth in those shows.
But there was some real ugly shit that happened around the periphery of those nights, from the kinds of things I heard about the theater wanting us gone, to links people would send me of blogs that were trashing the shows, to formerly respected friends calling our work shallow or pandering -- honestly, we went into each night just wanting to perform with each other. That's it.
Miles and I were trying to do a show in that moment. We weren't making Facebook events and trying to pack the house -- hell, Miles school had 25% of the students it has now when we started, so it wasn't an audience full of his students, because they didn't exist yet. But we were accused of fraud and all sorts of weird shit. It was theatre drama at its worst. And considering that Miles and I did the exact same show for one or two person houses at another theater, the evidence wasn't there that we were trying to be dishonest. I work with Miles because of the work. Cagematch was amazing, but it would be amazing to have anywhere to perform with Miles.
I guess it's a side effect of the very concept of competition that will bring out spite in people you knew and loved, but I was grossly shocked by how quickly the community devolved as a result of us showing up to do twenty minutes of improv.
The people who were there out of love and joy have become some of my trusted friends. Months later, that sticks with me. But so does the alacrity with which the ugliness came out.
EDIT: I loved it. To be clear, it's going to be one of the things that flashes before my eyes if I'm ever dying.
What did you write on SNL?
I wrote a bunch of things; I worked on a few monologues (Miley Cyrus' song being one of them), wrote a digital short, and a sketch where politicians kill time-traveling George Washington. But my favorite thing I wrote is actually a promo where Andy steals Zach Galifianakis' nose. It's at the end of the clip.
Cool! Care to share any thoughts/stories about John Mulaney?
That dude is really fucking brilliant. And also very nice. You know, growing up you hear so much about how everyone in Hollywood or New York are assholes, it's been shocking how legitimately nice everyone is.
Agreed. Therefore any insights about Bill Hader you'd like to share?
The same. Guy is genuine, talented, and positive. Every human being at SNL was humble and cool.
Hi Heather - thanks for doing this AMA!
1) If you could do an
10 minute improv sketch with ANY historical figure, who would it be and what would the sketch be about?
No great improv scene should last ten minutes!
Good point - same question (without the length)
Does Phil Hartman count? :(
I would love to do any improv scene or sketch with that guy. He was amazing. I'd want to be an assistant robot in a Robot Repair sequel. Or hell, just do a run of scenes with him based on whatever.
Like, not only was he one of the best ever, but he was Jiji for god's sake! The only dub that maybe was as good as the original.
Thoughts on this year's EVO?
I wish I could have gone! I was registered and everything. How nuts was that Balrog/Hakan match!?
What is your most memorable sketch that you were involved in? What are you most proud of in relation to your contribution to the show?
I hope the editors of WLIIA kept the Let's Make a Date game I got to do. That was a lot of fun.
I'm putting this one in a few hours early for the 5PM answers.
Thank you for doing this AMA — Like you said in an earlier answer: "Improv is basically one person's point of view on how to attack a void." It's the best explanation of improv teaching I've heard.
Thing is, life is full of voids if you think about it — you're always venturing into the unknown. Do you feel that your improv skill set has helped you outside of performing and writing, in personal or other professional situations? If so, do you have any anecdotes you could tell us about how your improv skills helped in an unexpected or unlikely situation?
Yes. My first paid gig as a video-game journalist came from basically playing the character of a video-game journalist. I got into E3 because of pieces I wrote for The Gamer's Quarter, and went with one goal: writing for Edge magazine. Knowing that my last name is Campbell, and that one of the editors of Edge was named Campbell, I walked into the Edge on-site office and played the character of someone who should be there.
"Is Colin here," I asked.
"No," said the assistant."
"Can you tell him Heather stopped by? Heather Campbell."
She said, "Oh yeah, sure. He'll be back at 3pm, wanna come back then?"
I came back at three and had an appointment because of the way I said my name, and the way I acted -- like I was supposed to be there. Colin sat down with me, confused; he asked, "What was this meeting about?" Again, improvising, I said, "You were meeting with me to hire me as a writer." Which is what I would say in a scene if I was playing the plucky young journalist.
Colin realized what was up and looked frustrated. So I handed him my portfolio and said, "If you read this, I guarantee you'll give me a job. I promise, because it's that good."
I didn't hear anything for a while, and then they called me and asked me to be a Los Angeles correspondent. As soon as I wrote a single article for Edge, I immediately set a meeting with Play Magazine. And that's the story of how I improvised my way from grocery delivery into Games Journalism. It starts with the work: If my portfolio was empty, that would have been the end of it. But I had something to show once I got in the meeting.
i can't think of anything to ask, just wanted to say i'm a big fan. especially the midnight show sketches. / actually i guess i do have a question. any advice on forming a 2 man improv group?
Find someone compatible but different. No great two-man group is two very similar people. It's always dark/light, fat/thin, old/young, etc. You need a complementary type, like making a good Pokemon roster.
What do you like to read for fun?
Non-fiction books about the history of war.
So have you ever tried musical improv?
Yes. One of the most terrifying moments of my life was singing during this Improv Everywhere bit.
I sing a large number of the songs at FOX ADHD (and write them, though the music is provided by Boom Chicago composer David Schmoll), and have done musical improv shows at UCB in Los Angeles. I love it.
A lot of my favorite writing about video games was in the now-defunct indie magazine "The Gamer's Quarter," which was the whole reason I decided to start writing about games. Now a days, I'll read the forums at Select Button for really enlightening discussion of game design. It's not articles, but the conversation there will often make me think about a game in a way I wouldn't have, otherwise.
During your time at SNL how many of your sketches made the air?
I think I wrote on 6 or 7 things that made it to air. And at least one that made it to dress. Almost all of the material at SNL is written by more than one person, so it's fairest to say that I was involved with that many pieces.
I pitched a joke in the room that became a meme, which is the coolest thing about my time there.
Is Jeff Davis ever not in a suit?
He's kinda dreamy.
Always in a suit. Even at the beach.
Hi Heather! Thank you for doing an AMA. I became a big fan of yours on Extravaganza and I was honestly wondering: Do you have an idea of why you aren't given a lot of screen time in general? I noticed that (in my opinion) much poorer performers tended to get a lot more time than you on Extravaganza, ands you weren't in a lot of episodes. And although that isn't the case on Whose Line because everyone is amazing, I notice you weren't really given a lot of time there either (even though the Sideways game was probably the best sketch of the night). Are you still having to "prove" yourself in some manner, or is it because they give more air time to the old Whose Line crew, or something like that? I can't imagine you can really answer this, but I have always wanted to ask you so I figure this place is as good as any. I, and many others, hope to see more of you!
It's Improv-a-Ganza, friend.
To answer your question, I'm fighting against a four hundred year Skull-and-Bones tradition that limits television minutes to the number of people you've killed. The illuminati demand blood sacrifices in exchange for time on TV, and I'm having trouble finding quality candidates.
Another answer would be: Kevin McHale killed it. Why wouldn't they use all his stuff? Besides, I'll be back in another episode.
Hey, Heather, you probably remember me PM'ing you a couple of days ago asking about the AMA you're doing right now. Anyways, I just wanna thank you again for doing this. Hope you have a great time here!
Which video game(s) do you find to be the most hilarious in terms of great writing?
Any favorite moments from the show so far? Personally, I loved the "Sideways Scene" game because I think it might've given me a six-pack from laughing so fucking much. But I've also heard the show only picks up as it goes along, so I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming episodes, and hope to get whatever is next to a six-pack of abs from sheer abdomen muscle-sculpting laughter.
And finally, since you've been a redditor for more than 3 years now, I would assume you pretty much know your way around the site. Do you have any favorite lesser-known subreddits which in your opinion deserve more activity and traffic?
P.S. - I thought you did great on your first appearance on WLIIA, but were almost criminally underused. :/
P.S.S. - You really deserve more love here on reddit.
The Gold Standard of Funny Game Writing is the first Portal.
And like you, I loved Sideways Scene. My taping was five or so hours long, so I got to play a lot of games. Being on that stage was a dream come true. I can't BELIEVE they used the same backdrop!
My favorite subreddits are the ones that have smaller communities -- games subreddits like r/gaming4gamers and r/games are nice, and then I really like some of the panic and anxiety of r/collapse. Every day in /r/collapse is the last day on earth.
Do you see yourself seriously using google glass a year from now? What's your favorite thing about it? Also ps this is a good place to plug your glasstronaut blog.
All of my blogs are at heatherannecampbell.com, including the one I keep when using Google Glass, called Glasstronaut.
I'll use Glass if they fix these things:
- It's really hard to see the display in daylight.
- It's hard to hear the kit when there's any background noise.
- Voice recognition should be customizable. If I say a person's name and Glass doesn't know what it means, I should be able to teach it. "When I say THIS, it means THIS."
Thank you so much for doing this AMA!
- What has been the best part of working on the set of "Whose Line It Is Anyways?"
- Who is one person you've worked with that consistently makes you laugh?
- I know this a long shot, but I host a podcast I was wondering if you'd be interested in being a guest on mine to nerd out about games, movies, etc. We're having Aisha Tyler on soon and we'd love if you would be a guest as well!
Thanks again and look forward to your responses!
- The backdrop! They used the same BACKDROP! Can't get over that backdrop.
- I only work with people that consistently make me laugh. Even working on a kids' show (Incredible Crew), the room made me laugh until I cried.
- Sure man, PM me. I like podcasts.
How did you get into this job? Was it hard being an improviser on Whose Line is it Anyway?
I auditioned! And it was such a long audition. They had us do scenes for five or six hours -- non-stop. It was really stressful, and I think I got really hungry after a while.
EDIT: It wasn't hard, but I was hungry during the taping, too.
Given the nature of Fox's new show, ADHD, have you ever written a squirrel into a script?
Who was the best improv comic that you've ever got to perform with? And were they able to teach you something about your craft, that you hadn't already known?
Jeez. This is a hard one.
I've performed with so many of the most extraordinary people that I feel like I'm learning from them every time I go on stage. And that's not the political answer, either. What I learn from Ryan, Colin, and Wayne is totally different from what I've learned from Miles Stroth or the things I take away from Last Day of School (my weekly LA show). I learned things with my college team that I haven't replaced, and I learned things from people like Colton Dunn, Jordan Peele, and Jim Woods (who is working as a sort of director at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam) that I couldn't get from anyone else.
Everyone improvises differently, so I feel like you have to evolve every time you get on stage. To say someone is the best implies that everyone is improvising the same way, and that one man or woman is better at it than everyone else. It's just not true.
What was the hardest part of improv to get a handle on? i.e. justifying your ideas, confidence in your moves, commitment to a character?
The most basic element of improv is commitment. Commitment to the reality of a world, an idea, or a character. Nothing kills a scene faster than someone who is winking to the audience, or "performing" a scene as opposed to being in a place or being a person. Justification comes naturally if you're committed, because you're just saying what the person would say if they were in that position. And you don't have to have any confidence if you're committed; you're not doing anything, the person you've become is making those choices. If you can commit completely, improv happens on its own. Improv is a random encounter, commitment is the Limit Break.
How long did it take for you to think you were good enough to be famous... if in fact you do think that?
Fame and quality have nothing to do with each other, buddy.
Work is work. Fame is something else, and it's not conditional on how well you're working. I can always get better. I like working on it.
Ultimately, which of the following do you think factors in most if you want to be successful in a creative field such as yours? Level of passion? Constant hard work and action? Luck? Talent? Networking and/or knowing the right people? Nepotism? Personality? Likability?
What is success? Is it money? Is it fame?
I think success is how proud you are of a thing you've made. If you're proud of a thing, then a show for 10 people feels like a show for a million. If you're embarrassed, and a million people watch it, then you wish only one person had seen it.
As far as employment, I think you get work if you've worked on something you're proud of. Sure, it's easier if you have Rich Parents than if you have to deliver groceries in your spare time -- who knows how much faster I could have gotten representation if I wasn't spending all my free moments delivering eggs and liquor to rich people in the hills. But I ended up in the same place as people who were born to be there. And that comes from one thing: Not Quitting.
Everyone I know who has made it has simply not quit. Eventually, they work.
"...success is how proud of a thing you've made." I have felt this definition of success, and it has been a source of happiness and purpose, which causes me to make more things to be proud of in order to feel that level of success again. So let's say the definition of success in this case is happiness, which then leads to having the goal of earning a living making "more things to be proud of" because this means that most of the time in your life is devoted to what generates happiness and purpose. But even if I'm proud of the things I make, this doesn't factor in if the things I make could suck, which likely means I will never make money from it and won't be able to devote all of my time to it. How does one maintain a healthy level of delusion to keep going?
Everyone fails. Some people stop when they do. Don't be one of those people.
Not a question but just here to say that the ADHD vids are good and you were great in whose line is it anyway.
Thanks man. We release a new ADHD video every week, so keep coming back. And watch August 6th's WLIIA for another episode with the "blond female."
Hey Heather! Big fan of your improv work and can't wait to see you on your next Whose Line episode. Quick question..
Why is it that everyone seems to enjoy shows like Whose Line and even sketch comedy (SNL) but it just never seems to be that popular. I haven't met anyone who doesn't get a good laugh from Whose Line and yet CW only has it for 10 episodes. I would think that improv/sketch would be a big hit!
Thanks for doing this.
I think YouTube is evidence that there's more sketch comedy being made now than ever before. Sketch doesn't have to be on TV; it's perfect for the internet and maybe the future of entertainment.
As far as WLIIA, the premiere got some good ratings, and I can only hope that people keep watching. Because then maybe it'll come back!
Just watched that Drive Recklessly video and for the first part I thought "This woman is a comedy writer?" Needless to say I was happily surprised at the ending. One of the funniest things I have seen in a while. Keep on keeping on!
The joke of the first part is that a woman is driving at all.
How does it feel getting your sketches on air for SNL?
Stressful. My first sketch that went on air at SNL was being rewritten until the moment it began. Between dress and air, I had to cut four pages with my co-writer Simon Rich.
Thank you for doing an AMA. I am a big fan of Whose Line and part of an improv troup that has been performing for roughly 8 years. I would love ask if you do any type of warm-up as a group before shows and if so what?
Whose Line doesn't do warm ups. When I perform with Last Day of School, we play "Mindmeld," (Or "Same Words"), where two people shout two random words and then try to shout the word that represents their commonality, and "Beat the Hell Out of the Game" which is a montage of scenes that play the same concept in different settings.
When I perform with Miles, we warm up by just talking about philosophy, poetry, and economics. And then I update him on whatever manga I'm reading.
Were you a cast member at Boom Chicago? If so, what was that experience like? Are you able to shed any light on their audition process?
Thank you for your time and, like everyone else, loved your contribution to Whose Line.
I was a cast member of Boom, and it's like comedy war. No amount of description can really illustrate what it's like, but people who've been there all have a certain look in their eyes.
At the time I was at Boom, it was 7 days a week of comedy for almost 300 people a night, plus tour shows and corporates. There were 60 day stretches where I did at least one show a day.
It's a beautiful job in a beautiful city, with some real assholes in the audience once in a while.
The audition when I did it was two days of short-form improv, with singing, rhyming, rapping, and joke-based one-off games (like World's Worst), and an additional component of introducing and calling scenes for other players. Boom is looking for:
- Confidence -- don't shift on your feet. Be the best version of yourself, the kind of person you are when you're on a date and you want to impress.
- Surgical precision -- in games, the guy who says single lines that get laughs is more valuable than someone who talks the whole fucking time and bulldozes everyone.
- Basic, Solid Fundamentals -- Boom isn't going to teach you how to do improv. You need to know before you go.
What Cartoon Network shows?
How do you feel about Kate Middleton's baby that has just been born ?
Skinny Drew or Fat Drew?
Skinny Drew is Healthy Drew.
Roberto Alomar fill-in here! How ya doin? And I'm proud of you!
People here would love to know your gamer side. What are you playing these days?
The Last of Us, and I just picked up Animal Crossing this weekend. Looking forward to FFXIV: A Realm Reborn.
Also is there any possibility that Comedy Central will release the live show you and Miles did on their stage?
The Comedy Central stage uses the videos for internal review for development; I don't think there's a precedent for them showing the videos on television.
I love you and your work. I want to marry you. That is all.
Thanks, sweetie. If you like Jeselnik, you've got good taste.
What does Wayne Brady's voice taste like live?
Like a mouthful of fruit-filled scorpions. Sweet but deadly.
Im assuming you watched the old episodes of WHLIIA. Being on the recent episode of Whose Line, what is your opinion of Aisha Tyler being the new host?
I think Aisha does a fantastic job, and has a hell of a seat to fill. If anyone has a tough gig on the new Whose Line, it's her. The rest of us make up new stuff as we go along -- she's the only one with expectations placed on her. But I think she's great.
Are you in anyway related to bruce Campbell?
I believe if you go back far enough, probably.
Hi! What are your thoughts on Boom Chicago? Some friends and I are auditioning this week to join the theater, so I'm swimming in my own thoughts on what the experience could be like. What advice would you give, both on the audition process, and handling the gig?
You're great! It's amazing to see you on WLIIA!
I replied earlier in the thread about Boom; it's probably the singular defining experience of my development as a comedian. It's really tough, and can wear on your psyche, but there's nothing like Boom in the world. What's more, for most comedians, it's the first time they do comedy for money, and that's something you cherish for the rest of your life.
Boom is not an arthouse; it's an entertainment center. When you work at Boom, you have to give up on the selfish notions of artsy, self-indulgent choices, and instead make your POV palatable to a big audience. That balance is the best thing Boom gives you for your efforts. I think it's the reason so many comedians leave the theater and work in the States -- because it's a kiln that forces you to stop masturbating and start creating things for actual people.
What was it like working on SNL during your time? Also who was your favourite person to work with?
It was amazing, and everyone there is deeply talented. If I had to pick a favorite it would have been Simon Rich, who I found I had a lot in common with. My favorite sketches I wrote with him.
But everyone was like family. They're such smart people. The people I was hired with are real heavies. A lot of people have horror stories about Lorne, too -- but he was nothing but nice to me, and complimentary and helpful. They were all amazing.
Were you always funny or did you have to work on it?
I wasn't always funny, but I've always been good at letting myself imagine shit. Which is maybe the first step. I ran around in the woods a lot as a kid playing different super-heroes and giving them backstories.
Used to play a game where I would say any noun and then make up the super hero that would have that name, like: The Vault -- is a superhero that can take one item at a time from one person and keep it safe, but only one. They're unbreakable and immortal, but they can't do anything else. I love that game.
Is Whose Line taping right now? I can't seem to find any info on getting tickets to be in the audience.
We already taped, but if there's a second season, then there will be more tapings.
I just wanted to leave a comment because I've been following your career since you reviewed games in Play magazine, so to me you'll always first be the game nerd who talked me into Demon's Souls, my Best Game This Gen.
Yeah, that game is pretty amazing. I'm worried about Dark Souls 2, but as long as it's difficult and you can't chat with people, it should be good. Right? (So nervous).
Hey Heather, thanks for doing this AMA! As a performer, it would be a dream job to work at Boom Chicago. Could you talk about how you got to perform there?
Hey! Alright, so the first thing you need to know for Boom Chicago is short form. The theater is not a house of Long Form improv, although they have long form nights.
And you have to be political -- it's an international audience, so you have to know what the Prime Minister is doing or how austerity is affecting this country and what-not. So, read The Economist, and find a place that specializes in short form comedy, like Comedy Sportz. Do open mics so you get comfortable handling hecklers and earning attention on a stage. Boom is a warzone sometimes, and the more the directors know you can handle yourself, the easier it will be to cast you.
And have opinions! Boom likes sharpness, and rewards it.
How great is Miles Stroth? Asking for Miles Stroth
who is miles stroth
Just wanted to echo what others have said -- I don't have a question, but you were amazing in that episode of Whose Line. Your Sideways Scene performance is one of my all-time favorite Whose Line scenes, and I've been a fan of the show for a long time. I'm glad you're coming back!
First of all, love your work in Improv-A-Ganza and Whose Line so far! Do you think the fact that you write helps you with a scene with knowing where to take it and how to build on it as apposed to an improv artist who doesn't do any writing?
Thank you for the laughs, hope to see you at a show some day! :-)
I can't imagine it hurts to be a writer when it comes to improv, because improv is like writing a scene as it happens. But when you write a sketch, the dialogue of one of the characters doesn't just appear in your Final Draft document -- so it's not exactly the same set of mental tools.
Improv is more like playing badminton. Sketch is like inventing badminton.
I'm hooked on the Midnight Show videos. Gimme your top 3.
- Drive Recklesly
- French Kissing for Dogs
- Toys for Feral Children Which was based on the saddest article I'd ever seen on Reddit.
BONUS ROUND: Immortal Dog
So you appeared in one episode of Whose Line and said a few things and now you're using that as a title. Good for you.
Can't wait for your AMA, man. I got some questions.
Will you record an improv voicemail message for my cell phone with your voice?
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