Sunday, December 11, 2011

Glory Stories: It's in the Hole! It's in the Hole!

Glory Stories has rocked my world. I went to the show last Friday, featuring the legendary Nina Hartley, and I can't remember a show that left my jaw so thoroughly dropped!

What's the behind Glory Stories? It's an improv show at IO West featuring a guest monologist from the local porn/kink/sex industry. The monologist talks about a suggestion from the audience and then the players improvise riffs on the monologue. If you're already familiar with improv, this is basically an Armando. The difference here is the culture from which the guests have been drawn. I think that's what could make this show uniquely Angeleno.

The audio isn't great on this clip (heck, I can hardly hear what anyone is saying) but I imagine that it captures at least a fraction of what happened that night.

Nina Hartley, by the way, was a great "Armando." Completely fearless and hilarious in her own right. She gave story, really nice details and perspectives, and that made for a great show. I think honestly that she probably didn't know what to expect, but she really seemed to be having a genuinely fun time!

Here are some of the upcoming Glory Stories dates:
Glory Stories with Aly Sinclair: Friday, December 30, 11pm
Glory Stories with April Flores: Friday, January 13th, 11pm

These shows are five bucks, with two for one tickets for kinky folks.


Bonus: I also love the Let's Talk About Sex podcast from Aurora Snow. It's really thoughtful and practical advice from folks who've had a lot more sex than most.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

From Buddha to Batman

I haven't had a chance to watch this fully yet, but I remember loving the talk that Grant Morrison and Deepak Chopra gave together at Comiccon a few years back. I've posted elsewhere a clip from Morrison's 18 Days, which is an epic re-telling of the Marabharata.

In fact a lot of my spiritual considerations date back to my early Morrison readings back in the 80s.

So I'll get back to you after I've had a chance to watch the whole dang thing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon 2011 redux

It's a week later and I haven't properly written up the 24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon. Maybe I can't properly sum it up. The event this year was my favorite to date. The population was perhaps a bit smaller than in the last couple of years, but everyone who was there was there in a big way!

Video by Vince Fry

This clip from the Garden Grove News was probably shot around 12 hours into the event. About midnight, since they got Jonathan Stout and the Campus 5!

Our team, Old School, was a bit smaller than usual this year. I'd say we went in with a skeleton crew of about 10 members. That's five under the official minimum, but we didn't tell anyone about it. I made sure that we were all smart about conserving our energy for the weekend and we had a few folks who were working for the event so their work time was going to be our official representation.

I don't have a group pic of Old School ready. If anyone wants to send one I'll post it.

Here's a link to the story in the Orange County Register. It includes a short video and a photo slide-show. Dancers Fight Cancer, One Step at a Time. A direct link to the video is here: video

This is the 2am jam. I'm behind the camera and having a heck of a time! I kinda wanted to get on the floor but I'd have had to stop shooting. Plus my shoes were off at the moment. (Excuses, excuses.)

What I learned more than anything else is that it's effortless to put out a low quality video on YouTube. The resolution isn't great and the camera ain't steady, but it was really exciting to shoot, so it's share time! I also got two more videos of JS and the C5 playing, but I haven't been able to check those for quality yet. I'll assume that the audio on those clips are really poor.

Is there any footage of the Karaoke session run at 3am by Eli Charne? That was a hoot!

At 6:00, a small band of dancers made their way to KTLA Studios in Hollywood to shoot this for an hour.

This meant that I got to teach the Wake-up class at 6:30am. I pulled out my improv for dancers class "Adventures in the Groove" and abbreviated it to fit into an hour. I had intended to shoot at least a few moments of the class since I get to teach it so rarely. We started with a modified version of Pass the Itch, then I did bang, then I did noses and then it got crazy. (If you don't know what that means, you'll have to take one of my dance classes) Many dancers later told me that the class was one of their favorite moments that weekend. When one student said the class was inspirational, I got really weepy.

I guess there are plenty of things I didn't catch this weekend. I really wish I could have gotten some footage of that class.

Okay, let's move forward. At about 8, Danny Maika starts his set. He's a great talent and a good guy! Check him out!

There's still so much more, but I have to close now. In all, the dance-a-thon raised over $124,000.00. Next year we're aiming to more than double that to bring the total for the event to $1 million!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why I do the 24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon!

My mother is currently recovering from her second surgery to remover her cancer. Her appetite is growing and hopefully she'll make a strong come-back.

My father had a form of blood cancer before he died. He had other health issues as well, but the cancer was no help.

At the age of 12 I was told by a dermatologist that I had a high risk of skin cancer. So I wear sunscreen when I remember and I try to stay indoors a lot and eat well.


If you haven't heard of the 24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon before, its a large event put on by some Lindy Hoppers down in Irvine with proceeds benefiting the City of Hope, a center for cancer research, care and education.

I've been contributing to the 24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon since its inception several years ago. Certainly that was before I had learned of either of my parents illnesses. Now that my mother is fighting the disease too I have to think about why I've done it all these years.

If you haven't read it before, here's my write-up of the event back in 2009: What a Difference a Day Makes.

Here's a video re-cap of last year's event that I found on Youtube:

Going all the way through it is an emotional experience. I can't remember a year during which I didn't laugh, cry and feel a great amount of love. It's a very moving event. It's also loads of fun. That's certainly part of what makes me return.

Maybe that's only part of it.

I think I do it because it's very close to home. My parents, me, even friends I haven't mentioned here. I dance for me and mine. It could be your parents, you or your friends. I dance for you and yours too.

24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon 2011 is only two weeks away. Please consider participating or making a donation. Even a few dollars will help a really worthy cause. Even a few dollars can make a big difference.

If you love dancing and hate cancer, please figure out how you can help!

Thanks for your time.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The aftermath of FailBlog?

Thanks to Daniel Young for posting the above clip on Facebook.

Recently I posted two blogs about being a beginner, and the one here focused on the importance of failure especially in the context of improvisation: Thoughts for Beginners. I find failure to be important in all fields and in every arena of learning.

It seems that we have so much baggage when it comes to failure. I can't begin to unpack it in the few minutes I have this morning. Maybe it starts when the first report cards come in our formative years. And I think it's important to say that I don't encourage students to start failing entire classes. That's not what this is about.

One of the projects I have in mind is a series on how to be a teacher, how to develop the tools you need to be a good one. This is clearly going to be a part of that series. More on that as it occurs.

Something makes me wonder if these thoughts wouldn't be stirring so much in the intwerwebs if not for the popularity of Failblog a few years ago. Perhaps turning "fail" into an insult inspired folks to consider why it was important.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pretty Girls

I love the Kids of Widney High. I even have their comic book!

From their site:
The Kids of Widney High are a group of students from Widney High School, a special ed. high school in Los Angeles, who write and perform original songs. The group started in 1988 as a song writing class and changes as the students come and go from Widney. The students perform in the L.A. area with a band consisting of Vince Licassi-guitar, Judy Rudin-harmonica, Tony Bollas-drums, Spero Anthony-bass, and Michael Monagan-guitar.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Thoughts for Beginners

Many thoughts on the importance of failure swirl around in my head. A few weeks ago I read an article about the role of mistakes in the classroom. Then I read on Mental Floss a piece about successful folks who got fired from their jobs. I’ve had some experiences lately that were starting to get me down and it occurred to me that these can serve to help me learn and grow.

On Facebook yesterday the quote above was posted by a few friends. The quote is attributed to Ira Glass, host of This American Life. The quote will be getting re-posted here and over on the LindyGroove Technique Class Notes blog.

Let's apply the thinking here to improv. It was either Rachel Dratch or Tina Fey who said that most of the time in improv you spend sucking. Maybe 10 percent of the time hits the mark. I don't have the Second to None DVD handy so until it gets returned to me we can just guess about who said it.

After a recent Improv Trick student showcase, a student approached me and apologized for failing. Firstly, I didn't feel that the student had failed. Secondly, if by their own standard they had failed then at least they have a way to measure their success. Perhaps, if they're lucky their will to improve will be strengthened. To be quite fair though, sometimes the lesson has less to do with actual failure and more to do with how we deal with our fear of such.

As I had mentioned, I'd recently had some experiences that were getting me down. I won't elaborate on those here, but suffice it to consider that suckage happens. The best thing to do is get off your ass and do it again!

Here are some podcasts that address this notion:

Loserball - Jill Bernard teaches an exercise designed to help students embrace their failures. You can listen to her interviewed on the Improv Resource Center Podcast.
Zenprov - Marshall Stearns and Nancy Howland Walker built an entire podcast around the theme of failure: Failure and Space.

Bonus: since this post was about comedy and referenced Ira Glass, it might be well to link this interview. WTF - Marc Maron interviews Ira Glass

Now with video!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There's a moment you know...

An entire Broadway production of Spring Awakening is on YouTube! It's clearly a bootleg, but really worth watching. I'll add that if there's a touring production nearby, you should go out of your easy to buy tickets and watch it live. In the meantime, set aside 2 hours to watch one of the best shows of the decade!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blackwater Rafting!!!

This is a video of Jill Bernard doing a solo improv musical. The show is called Drum Machine. Holy Mackerel!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Digging in!prov

There's a ton of improv stuff available on ye inter-tubes lately. I faintly remember the days when Harold was only a hushed rumor and you had to fly somewhere to watch one. Nowadays improvisers can watch them on YouTube with little to no effort. Them kids these days...

Here's some stuff I've been finding on the interwebs lately:

Some Things I Learned as Artistic Director of the UCB Theatre, by Anthony King

Here are two clips from Whose Line is it Anyway, featuring Robin Williams!

TEDtalks: Charles Limb - Your Brain on Improv

Next, the basics of Improvisation in one short and easy to digest package!

Lastly, a letter from the late and great Phil Hartman to aspiring comedian Mike Scott
Letters of Note

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A variety of scenes for study!

A question we could start with is "what makes good scenes?"

Here are some classic openings:

Star Wars


Actually, this video only contains the opening speech. You can watch the longer video here:

What is it about these scenes that make them so memorable?

When Harry Met Sally

Young Frankenstein


edited to add:

Homework from week 3

Carol Burnett - Sorry, part 1 and 2

Monty Python - Four Yorkshiremen

Here's a link to The State.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Evening Primrose

Back in the days before YouTube, I went to the Museum of Television and Radio (now the Paley Center) and watched this whole thing. As a giant musical theater nerd, it was cool to see this long lost footage. I guess it's on DVD now. I'd like to pick up a copy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Time to start saving!

I'm planning to hit Europe next year. Here are some things I'd like to do over the course of two-ish weeks.

Here's a short list of places I'd like to check out in Europe:
Belgian Comic Strip Center - What can I say? I'm a big fan of Belgian cartooning. You might be familiar with Tintin or the Smurfs. There's just a certain quality of line that I've always appreciated. Heck, in researching this entry I found this amazing little tour: Brussels Comic Strip Walk.

Moi, j'm'en fous je triche - I want to play board games in French. They play a lot of the same games that I know, only they play in the language of love.

By the way, the pic above is from a filler game I've been enjoying recently. Travel Blog by Vlaada Chvatil is a ton of fun.

I want to take yoga classes and dance the lindy hop too, maybe catch some improv shows if they exist, all the stuff that I love doing at home, but more expensive and foreign. I'd like to eat cheese, yogurt and lots of fruit. Perhaps take in a game of petanque if I can find anyone to play.

Ooh, here's an idea: let's visit spooky places. Anyone got any ideas?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A bit on Viewpoints

I took a workshop with Eric Hunnicutt during the Los Angeles Improv Festival a week ago and really enjoyed it. He taught a shotgun class about Viewpoints which really seemed to mesh with the things that I understood about movement.

What's the essence of this Viewpoints thing? From my two-hour exposure, I'd say it's a technique for teaching students different ways of describing, seeing and interacting with the world around them, broken down into chunks like "Space," "Shape" and "Time."

This technique seems like the kind of thing I could learn to apply in my dance classes. It's a really cool set of techniques that I'd like to learn more about.

Also posted on: The LindyGroove Technique Blog

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Comedy - In Vitro

I've been reading the Second City almanac of Improvisation, by Anne Libera. Here's an excerpt from an article by Tina Fey:

I'm always surprised when I meet someone who thinks that sitting and writing is the only way of creating comedy. It's like meeting someone who thinks that in vitro fertilization is the only way to make a baby. You want to say, "No, there's this whole other way of doing it that's natural and sometimes pleasurable."

Damn, I love that woman. I think I read Bossypants in one sitting.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sita Sings the Blues

Some time, when I have an hour and a half to sit in front of a computer, I really want to watch this movie. Here it is, above for your viewing enjoyment!

Here's the website: Sita Sings the Blues

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lovable Hipster.

Bought this book at the South Pasadena Public Library for a quarter. Saw it listed on Amazon for $195. That's a bargain.

It's about a little beatnik girl who has a pad in New York. I read it in twenty minutes and loved it.

Like Dig! Here's an unaired Suzuki Beane television pilot from the youtubes:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I'm reading Light on Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar. Here's an excerpt from the introduction:

Svadhyaya. Sva means self and adhyaya means study or education. Education is the drawing out of the best that is within a person. Savadhyaya, therefore, is the education of the self.
Svadhyaya is different from mere instruction like attending a lecture where the lecturer parades his own learning before the ignorance of his audience. When people meet for svadhyaya, the speaker and listener are of one mind and have mutual love and respect. There is no sermonizing and one hear speaks to another. The ennobling thoughts that arise from svadhyaya are, so to speak, taken into one's bloodstream so that they become a part of one's life and being.
The person practicing svadhyaya reads his own book of life, at the same time that he writes and revises it. There is a change in his outlook on life. He starts to realize that all creation is meant for bhakti (adoration) rather than bhoga (enjoyment), that all creation is divine, that there is divinity within himself and that the energy which moves him is the same that moves the entire universe.
Philology is not a language but the science of languages, the study of which will enable the student to learn his own language better. Similarly, Yoga is not a religion by itself. It is the science of religions, the study of which will enable a sadhaka the better to appreciate his own faith.

Here's a video from MC Yogi:

Give Love!

Friday, March 11, 2011

What I learned in my time away...

and how I learned it.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts on Improvisation, I took a good long sabbatical from improvisation. There's a little 'why' there, and a lot of what happened in the duration.

Where was I at the time? I had been the little-seen player in the ComedySportz team in Santa Barbara. I think the team probably had no idea what to do with me and I don't believe I was ready to learn what I needed to learn from them. I left them when I left Santa Barbara to head to the Pacific Conservatory for Performing Arts in Santa Maria. I was asked to leave that group at the end of my first semester there. I was beginning to feel like there were things I needed to learn that I wasn't going to learn there. I remember Paul, the president of PCPA saying to me "this isn't stand-up." So I moved back home to Los Angeles and in a little while I took Judy Carter's class on stand-up.

Some folks question the notion of a class on stand-up comedy. After having taken Judy's class I can say that it's a craft that can work in the classroom. For me it wasn't until the final practice before the final class that any material came together for me. It was partially just the pressure and also something that my practice partner noticed: I wasn't making eye contact with her.

I'll say that was a revelation! No one had mentioned that tid-bit to me before. In college folks often assumed that I was pretty confident. Perhaps they confused the idiosyncratic outfits I wore with confidence. Some folks perhaps believed that I was too cool for them. Looking back on it now, I can imagine that I was more alienated than cool. Ah, perspective.

Anyway, that practice partner taught me to look her in the eye. She asked me to look directly into her right pupil. Such a huge lesson. Good looking girl too, but I don't think I ever saw her again after that showcase.

Shortly after that I did an improv class at the Ice House in Pasadena. We had one showcase, but fell apart after that. I can't say I really had discovered what it meant to be a team player at that point. I was still doing a bit of stand-up, but finding that world to be really bitter and hard. There were a few cool folks who stick around in my memory. Some good gigs, but mostly I remember folks being jealous of other folks and not having a real support system. I started my sabbatical some time after my last stand-up gig. Was doing some work at the Public Access studio in West Hollywood, but time marched on.

I didn't recognize it as a sabbatical when it began. I had moved on.

The next thing to fill my life was Lindy Hop. That's swing dancing, if you've never heard of it. I discovered the dance some time between September 4th, 1997 and now. It took many of the things I was needing to learn and put them into sharp focus. Also, I had been a dancer in my youth and really needed an outlet for my physical creativity.

Here's an overview of Lindy Hop: it's an American dance born in the jazz halls and ballrooms of the early 20th century. It's loose and free-form, but works with a structure. It requires an understanding of one's own body and playfulness with one's partner is more often than not rewarded. If you're curious what the dance looks like, you might click on the "Lindy Hop" tab to your right. There are a few clips there that will give you an idea.

It seems to me now that Lindy Hop has been one of the most important and fulfilling elements of my life. In Lindy Hop, I was able to put the phrase "Yes And" to work literally in a way I wasn't ready to do in my past on stage. That is to say that after years of dancing with folks I understood what it was to be in the moment in a substantial way.

In fact I remember in the late 1990s watching a class that some San Francisco dancers had taught on the subject of improvisation and feeling that the classes were really shallow. I saw a very simple mirror exercise and I didn't see the teachers really even taking that exercise to its fruition. It was after that when I developed the class I came to call "Adventures in the Groove." That class is central in the way I view the Lindy Hop and reflects many of the ways I feel about taking creative chances in the world.

Here are some things I learned from Lindy Hop that have influenced my Improvisation:
1) There is someone with you, whether you remember it or not.
2) It's better to play with the person with whom your are dancing than some other person about whom you may be wishing.
3) When someone does something you don't expect, it's way more fun to accept it and perhaps augment it than it is to put up defenses.
4) What's the point of fear? It's not like there's a bear on the dance floor.
5) Listening is more than hearing. Using my senses is an important way to tune in to the world around me, not to mention the person with whom I'm dancing.
6) Everyone was a beginner at some point.
7) There's always more work to do.

These are just several notions that come to mind after more than a decade of dance.

Anyway, as I mentioned in other posts, I've returned to improvisation pretty solidly. I finally have been admitted to the Monkey Butler level 2 class and am working on my long-form improv chops there. I'm also in the teaching track with Bill Chott and The Improv Trick. Next week I'm hoping to audition for The X-Ecution, which is essentially a contest. I see it more as a creative pressure cooker and the notion of joining really excites me.

In dance, I teach the LindyGroove Technique Class. My partner Fancy and I will be flying down to Tucson in two weeks to teach a workshop. Excitement abounds.

More recently I've also begun studying yoga. The way I see it, these things all work on the same principles. It's all about play. Just starting on this track now and it has been greatly enriching.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Del Close!

Del Close is one of the key improvisors in history. It looks like it's his birthday, so here's a clip of him describing one of his inventions, Harold.

Tangential, but I like this video too.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bouncing through my skull

Merry Go Round, by the Brady Bunch.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I want to sit and watch this whole thing.

Here's a video that I want to sit and watch: The Comic Imagination. It's a two-hour long panel discussion. Don't know anything about the Philoctetes Center. But anyway, I'm finding this interesting.

On a completely separate note, one image that sort of resonates with me as a yogi is the image of a crusty towel. You know the kind - sitting in the locker room long-forgotten. Add a little moisture and wring it out and it gets a little less crusty. That's how my body feels after a good practice.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


This is a short we shot last weekend. I didn't know I'd be dancing in it. It was a good time overall!

My schedule has been full of Orccon. That's next weekend at the LAX Sheraton from Friday through Monday. I'm excited!

We're holding a performance by Dungeon Master on Saturday night! Also, free Monster Energy Drinks for the folks who enjoy our late night festivities!

It might just be me, but I'm going to set up a Twister Yoga practice at least once that weekend.

Also, if you're interested in attending, I need volunteers. Send me a line at and I'll let you know how you can help!

Here's a geeklist about what I expect from my volunteers: Strategicon - Guide to Good GMing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

4 Decades of Whimsy - the clips.

This is an addendum to the post I wrote last week, 4 Decades of Whimsy, in which I outline my birthday plans.

For those folks who are curious what all my birthday events are about, here are some clips:

Lindy Hop

Here's the classic Groovie Movie, the film that inspired so many of us over a decade ago. I remember the night I shared this clip with the back room at the Derby. Oh, man, them's memories.


I don't have audio at the moment, but at some point I'd like to listen to this clip. I haven't watched it fully yet.


Here's Anusara Yoga founder John Friend, speaking at a yoga conference.

Board Games

Watching people play board games on YouTube might not be the best way to experience it.

Okay, so play is the operative word. Come play with me next week!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

4 decades of whimsy

I'm turning 40 this month. It's time to figure out the celebration plan!

Essentially, I'm inviting folks to join me for my weekly activities, which include yoga, improv class, Lindy Hop and board games. Here's the catch: I ask that everyone come to the activities with which they are least familiar. For instance, if I know you from board games and dancing, then you'll be urged to improv and/or yoga. Or if we met doing yoga, you'll be invited to come check out LindyGroove or improv. Everyone is still welcome to play in their comfort zone, but I'm challenging everyone to break out a bit. Does that make sense?

There are a lot of free options to be had. I'll explain more of those as we go.

Here's the schedule:
Saturday, January 22nd
4:30-5:30pm - 7 Dollar Yoga at Mission Street Yoga

Sunday, January 23rd
10:30am-Noon - Mixed level Yoga class at Mission Street Yoga
5:00-7:00pm - Improv class with Monkey Butler, Burbank

Monday, January 24th
8:00-10:00pm - One Buck Butler - Come watch me perform! Entry is one dollar. EVERYONE IS INVITED!

Tuesday, January 25th
9-midnight - Joe's Bar and Grille - Lindy Hop

Wednesday, January 26th
12:30-1:30 - 7 Dollar Yoga at Mission Street Yoga
8-11pm - Game Empire - board game party

Thursday, January 27th
7:30-midnight - LindyGroove - Lindy Hop

Friday, January 28th
5-11pm, Game Empire
- board game party

Sunday, January 30th
4:00-6:00pm - Improv class with the Improv Trick! FREE!!
6:00-9ishpm - ASSSSCAT, improv show, Hollywood

Here's my Amazon wishlist. There are many items on here that can be bought for a penny plus shipping. If you feel like splurging for bigger ticket items, then be my guest.

Also, to be perfectly honest, I usually do improv on Tuesdays, but I felt like the schedule needed more Lindy Hop. Come check out La Granja's Game Night at IO West at some point. I'll probably be there!

Improv class - The Sunday class is free. Class with Nathan Davis of Monkey Butler. Media City Church, 269 East Providencia Avenue Burbank, CA 91502-1433
Mission Street Yoga - New students that live within a 10 mile radius of South Pasadena are eligible to take their first class for free.
Joe's Bar and Grille - There is no cover charge for this event. I think there's a bucket of love if you'd like to support.
LindyGroove - The first 10 folks who send me their email addresses can get free admission on January 27th. I'll save this for folks who haven't already been to LindyGroove. Please RSVP before January 24th.
Game Empire - Come hang out! Drinks and candy for sale. Buy a game if you like supporting local businesses.
ASSSSCAT - The Sunday show is free, though donations are suggested.

edited to add: Now there are videos! Check out 4 Decades of Whimsy - the clips