A Tale of Two Funnies: Beginnings (Journal)

Brandon Robinson and OJ Patterson are friends. They went to different high schools and colleges so the magic was made on the road. Cookie parties and Taco Bells later, the two find themselves on the road to improv comedy. Brandon is apart of jericho! Improv and Sketch. OJ is associated with The Alternates and Sylvan Productions. This is their tale in both text (OJ) and audio (Both).

OJ and the Alternates

Received a message from the electronic whale roads. It told of a grand meeting of the Alternates comedy group and I was cordially invited. The gathering place was a classroom in Dwinelle; UC Berkeley quickly became (unofficially) my second college.

The Alternates expanded their repertoire over winter break; in addition to stand-up comedy the group began offering instruction and practice space for improv and sketch comedy. This addition included our improv coach Zack Stockdale.

Every time I see Zack I see Miramonte. Miramonte High School, the school I graduated from, is notorious for a lot of things. One such thing is being the haven of a lot of intimidating, talented students. They’re intimidating because they are so well put together and have so many resources that they will never fail. Added to these, they’re extremely talented, smart and hard working. These kids alarmed me; they made me all too aware of my competition.

Zack was at that first meeting, nestled in the classroom along with Stuart, Mel, and Richard. Also there was Maig (pronounced “Meg”) whom I had met previously at the Naia open lounge. I would later learn that Maig is a super cool girlfriend to a fellow Alternate, but I’ll get into later. Also in the room were Jamie and Cody and slew of undergraduate girls. Bearded non-Berkeley man could never be more out of place.

The night began with a summer-campesque introducing game. State your name but throw a little pizzazz on that sumbitch with a charming verb. So instead of Zack, you’re “Zebra-riding Zack”, instead of Maig, you’re “Marching Meg”. Fun right? I froze and started crying, pushing me further out of place. Wait until you hear about when I brought out an onesie and giant lollipop. I’m full of contradictions.

Then we lost our improv virginity to string of games. That’s what improv is, a series of games with a time frame and a loose itinerary. Common staples of inprov events include: LA Freeze (where new cast members stop a scene and take over for one person’s pose whilst creating a new scene). There are storyteller games where the cast builds a story under the threat of exclusion. There are genre-changing games in which the same scene is performed multiple times of a series of emotions. There are flashback games where alluded events are performed on the spot. The rules of these games vary from troop to troop, like beer pong’s incomprehensible amount of house rules.

I quickly realized I have a problem. Every time I head into a scene, my goal is to be entertaining. This might sound oxymoronical but anybody who have done a fair amount of improv knows that a scene doesn’t thrive when everybody is just trying to funny. Improv is about paying attention and building a scene with another person, acting off and carrying beats. My improv usually leads me to clubbing people over the head with “I’M FUNNY, VINDICATE ME!” People laugh but they’re not sure why. I’m left feeling inflated without the proper pride.

My problem is my energy is always up. It’s hard for me to be subtle in a hypothetical situation. I’m too giddy. Things should be happening all the time because time is of the essence when you’re on the clock. I really need to work on that, because it usually leads to Rich and I running around screaming about dragons.

But, that’s what learning is about. Over the course of my time with the Alternates I learned to be a better improviser.

To be continued…


A Tale of Two Funnies: Episode 1

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Thank you for reading.