I have a list of ComedySportz players from other cities with whom I want to perform… and I guess that would have to be “before I die,” so it’s kind of a bucket list but not really.
I forced myself to limit the list to 50 people, because otherwise I would write down virtually every player that I’ve ever met from every other ComedySportz city. Instead, I forced myself to pick only 50.
Why? No idea, really. I like lists, I guess.
At the last ComedySportz tournament, I reffed a match — which was in itself a dream come true — and since reffing really is playing, I got to play with 16 different performers, 8 of whom were on my list. It was fantastic!
I’m uncomfortable with the idea of making the list public, because it could potentially be kind of like that awkward moment in the junior high cafeteria when a player who is NOT on the list sees that and jumps to the (most likely completely untrue) assumption that I don’t want to perform with them. I mean, I know it’s perfectly all right to have favorites (who doesn’t love James Bailey from ComedySportz Los Angeles, and Jill Bernard from ComedySportz Twin Cities?) but to not make “the cut” of 50? Well, if the tables were turned, I could see myself being a little bummed. So I don’t want to put that potential social gaffe in play.
Instead, here are things that maket me want to perform a ComedySportz match with someone. Some players on my list embody all of these; some embody just one.
1. Ability to carry me.
Now at first glance, that might seem unfair to that player. Why should they have to carry me? The simple answer is, in ComedySportz, everyone needs to be able to carry everyone else. Not every player is at that level, and some players are able to do this only for certain games. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve reached a point where I can carry other players when necessary, but I’ll never pretend that I don’t occasionally need to be carried myself. My hope is that if I’m ever performing with someone on my list that I don’t need to be carried. But I know from experience that if someone needs to be carried and their scene partner isn’t capable of doing it, both players leave with a bad taste in their mouth. (Note: there are times where nobody in a scene knows what’s happening. Those are the times to step up and fail gloriously. That, to me, is still fulfilling your obligation to your scene partners and to the audience.) Which brings me to…
2. Willingness to fail.
The hardest thing for most new players to learn is that failure is not only acceptable, it can be preferable. Fail big. Fail like you meant to fail. The audience forgives you as long as you put in effort.
3. Ability to trust me.
Some of this is obviously my responsibility; I have to give them reason to trust me. But there are some players out there who are absolutely brilliant but are convinced that they have to be responsible for making every scene good. Some players (usually from one of two cities that will remain nameless) have this rampant ego that insists that most other players just aren’t that good. I have no more use for these players than they have for me. They have to trust that I will step up and take care of my business.
4. Lack of jerkitude.
Much like the above point, there are players who are just flat-out jerks. There is a prevalent school of improv thought that basically says you should take care of yourself before you take care of your scene partner, and for quite some time I rejected this school of thought because most of the players who subscribed to this philosophy had a tendency to translate “take care of yourself” to mean “screw the others, and if I keep talking over them and ignoring their input, that’s their problem for not being strong enough to hold me back.” A huge part of improv is supposed to be acknowledging and expanding upon your fellow players’ ideas. I’ve met some hilarious players, ones who entertain me every time, that I never want to play with because they don’t give a damn about anyone else’s ideas.
In improv, being scared is awesome. I love being scared. I love having no idea what’s going to happen next. I had the privilege of playing with Doug Neithercott at ComedySportz Twin Cities a few years ago, and he is one of the most amazing players I’ve ever worked with. I never — and I do mean never — had a clue what he was going to do next. But whatever he did, it worked. It worked brilliantly, even if it meant working through failure (see point 2). I was terrified of working with him, and it was one of my favorite matches of all time. I love working with people who are so good and so spontaneous that all I can do is step up my own game.
Ultimately, I hope to play with the people on my list and learn from them — absorbing more and more of their brilliance until the day when I’m on everyone else’s list. I’ve been doing this nearly 10 years, but I still have a long way to go.