Jim Bartlett's Blog

Funny on the Fly

I've spent most of my adult life as either a radio DJ or a writer or both. Neither of them is a bad way to make a living, especially since they don't require you to work outside in the rain. However: there are a couple of other things I *wish* I could do. One is sports play-by-play. I became a sports fan when I was eight or nine, and I was as interested in the people broadcasting the games as I was in the games themselves. But I also had a stutter (still do, actually, although I can generally keep it in check), and I knew that if I ever became a play-by-play broadcaster, there was going to be a moment when the words wouldn't come out. So I never risked it, although I have done some sports broadcasting that doesn't require the flow of play-by-play.

The other thing I wish I could do is standup comedy. It would be fun to stand on stage and command an audience. But to get good enough to do that requires a lot of hard work, and a willingness to die a thousand terrible deaths in front of audiences who don't think you're funny. I never had the courage to try it, not even once. Related to--and even harder than--standup comedy is improv comedy. It's one thing to write jokes, learn them, and deliver your routine. It's another thing entirely to make up funny stuff on the fly, based on suggestions from the audience. Madison has a couple of thriving improv groups, and they sometimes offer classes for people who would like to try it. I have yet to develop the courage for that, either.

Last weekend, Ann and I saw a couple of improv masters when Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood played the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. You might know them from the old Who's Line Is It Anyway? TV show, although they have been touring together for years, and were at the Overture Center last year. Even though we had an idea what to expect by watching Colin and Brad on TV, we were still absolutely amazed by what they could do onstage, taking the most absurd suggestions and turning them into comedy. One game involved Brad playing a detective interrogating Colin as a man accused of a crime made up of phrases suggested by the audience. The goal was to get Colin to confess to the crime in the exact words of the phrase. Given that he had pickled a zebra and whipped a chocolate bar into a bowl of guacamole in Ashwaubenon at Gertrude's Human Taxidermy, we couldn't imagine how Brad would get him there, but he did, and it was hilarious.

After seeing that, I think I'm even less likely to try an improv class. A man's got to know his limitations, and I know mine. Better to watch and enjoy people who know what they're doing.

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Topics : Entertainment_CultureHuman Interest
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Locations : Milwaukee
People : Brad SherwoodColin Mochrie

01/30/2013 8:22AM
Funny on the Fly
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