Pull the Trigger

Pull the Trigger

A huge portion of my improv and performance philosophy are encompassed in these 3 words. So I am ongoingly stoked that David Kantrowitz made one of his Improv Artvice images out of that quote from my classes.

I am none the less stoked that the quote was submitted by me myself. He’d asked for quotes!

Crank up the brightness on your screen, then stare at this image for 45 minutes before starting your next show. If you’re not sure what to do, blink – you’ll see this key instruction seared into your eyelids.

Pull the trigger.

Any trigger will do.


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Already happening

I’ve found a missing piece in my definition of the “setup” phase at the beginning of the scene. That piece is “what’s already happening”. I’ve been searching for the right wording for that, for years. I think that’s it.

So, in the first moments of the scene, the setup phase, your only job is to discover/determine:

What kind of people are you
Who are you to each other
Where are you
What’s already happening

No need to be funny or even interesting at this stage. Just find/decide these things, and go from there. Once you know you’re two friendly bishops on a rowboat waiting for the fish to bite, you can keep building. Add points of view to the characters. Those will lead to emotions. Which will lead to action. Will will change the initial setup. Which will constitute a scene well on its way.

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Language is a lossy format

Language is a lossy format


Language is a technology, a means of trimming something into a portable form. Stuff is lost in that trimming.

It’s a lossy format.

Like jpegs or mp3s.

What, then, Mr. Metaphor, is the RAW or FLAC equivalent?


Analogies: Barn door

Your mouth is a barn door.
Your body is the barn.
Want the good stuff to stay in your body and move the body and make good things happen? Keep the goddamn barn door shut.

Words are an expression of energy. But they’re not theater.
In improv, you are creating theater. So keep the energy in your body for as long as you can. While it’s in there, it will keep moving around and moving you around.

Show it before you say it. Make that your rule.

And then a lot of the time you will not need to say it.

Think of your mouth as that barn door – once the energy of the moment has done its job, and you’re ready to move to the next moment, you can let it out by saying something about it. But if you still need those cows to do stuff for you; well, keep ’em in there, and let ’em shake the barn.

Analogies: Love

Love is a harpoon that’s already in you.
If love is happening, the harpoon’s already in.
You’re not getting it out without ripping and hurt.
All you can hope is that the ship the rope’s tied to has got a good, friendly captain. Because wherever they drag you, you’re going.


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Quotes: P!nk

“I don’t want to be the girl that has to fill the silence
“The quiet scares me cause it screams the truth”

She’s right on both counts.

You don’t want to be that person that fills the silence.

It does scare you.

And the quiet moments do scream the truth.

Stop scrambling to “figure out” what’s going on here in this scene. Stop. Go silent. Stay attentive.
What is actually happening will become apparent.

Not deduceable — Apparent. Clear. You’ll feel it.

The audience will too.
Real is always better than manufactured, however close the manufactured version gets.
To find the real, though, you have to shut up and let it talk to you. It’s very polite. It won’t interrupt you. You have to make room for its voice.


Other pop stars agree.

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert

Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani

(Kate Hudson's mom)

Goldie Hawn

the 3 Pillars of Excellent Scenework

Teaching, coaching, studying, performing, and thinking have distilled things enough for me to begin giving students what I’m calling

The 3 Pillars of Excellent Scenework:




Emotion on the part of the character.
Decision, bold decisive action, by the improviser and, often, by the character.
Silence used, kept available, and defaulted to by everyone involved.

These pillars are standing on a foundation of the basic fundamentals we are all given in level 1: Agreement about the reality we’re creating. Support and taking care of each other. Attention. Care. Serving the scene over the characters. Specifics. Clarity. Simplicity. Devotion. Trust.

Once you’ve got that basic foundation in play, emotion, decision, and use of silence can raise your scenework to the next level.

These are things present in excellent scenes and likely missing from the mediocre.

And when in doubt, or in a stall, adding any of these three will likely get things moving again.

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Nick Offerman

“I always call performing live “giving the people the medicine,” because when you’re engaged in it, you can feel the sort of soul magic being exchanged between the performer and the audience—exactly what Aristotle was talking about in his Poetics—and you’re giving them medicine and they’re giving it back to you in a cathartic way, with any luck. That’s still what really drives me.”

-Nick Offerman

Students, veterans, performers of all vintages, if this doesn’t ring a bell, hang in there. Keep working. Keep growing. Keep performing. Stay open. At some point this will happen, and you’ll never again be in serious danger of permanently giving up performing.

Because this is what it’s for. This is what it’s about. And once you’ve served the on-stage half of that function, you’ll always want to keep doing your part to make sure it keeps happening.

When it does happen, you might not even exactly spot it at first. You’ll feel something. You might just think that that was an especially good show. But as it happens more often, you’ll realize that there’s something more than just quality of content setting those connected times apart from the others. And if you’re like a lot of us, you’ll get a little mystical about it. And if you’re like Mr. Offerman, you’ll know that that’s right and feel free to proselytize. Feel compelled to, even. Don’t worry. Anyone you turn off wasn’t the one who needed to be told.

Full interview here: http://www.avclub.com/articles/nick-offerman-on-parks-and-recreation-kabuki-and-f,82589/
What a wonderful man.

Quotes: Big Daddy Kane

“If you know like I know, instead of messing around
Play like Roy Rogers and sllloowww down.”

    — Big Daddy Kane, “Ain’t No Half Steppin'”


Pretty straightforward. Slow down.

Time is dilated when you’re on stage. One second feels like five. Five seconds feels like 25. Six seconds feels like an eternity.

So we rush to fill what feels like a cavernous silence – and fill it with nonsense.

Nonsense that then gets in the way.

Slow down. Let this moment have its moment. When it’s done, the next moment will show up – and you won’t have to manufacture it. It’ll be there already.

Your Role

the improviser is both the exorcist who casts demons out
and the conjurer who invites them in

– Lucas Hazlett