A Movement

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This life thing is hard.

I don’t know what age that sunk in for you, but for me I knew pretty early on that being alive is hard and that it wasn’t going to ever not be.
But ideas follow each other like dominos falling, and right after that initial realization came a second realization about what would make life beautiful and worth it: We don’t get through this alone.
We’re all in a struggle to love ourselves, to care for each other as best we can, and funnel our energies into making something great. Not famous or successful, but great by virtue of these creative endeavors fitting us well, consoling us, and offering joy to others.

So that’s what I always wanted. Some way to be a part of the wonderful thing.

In school, that is what easily captured my attention; the idea of a time or a placewhere people worked together to do something joyful and make something with a voice. I studied all kinds of movements- Dada, Lo-fi, Franciscans, Feminists, The Velvet Revolution, Fluxus, Afrocentrism.

It was tempting to wish that I’d been born at some other time or place. I wanted to party with Duchamp, Man Ray, and the Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven!
Any time I fit in with a group of friends I would yearn for us to all abandon everything else and just create a movement together. In high school my friends and I spent hours planning our commune. Yeah, I went to a weird high school. I was a bit crushed when it became obvious everyone would be moving away after graduation and exploring college and jobs instead of us becoming a creative force as a group. By the time I was in graduate school I was an expert on just how cool the moments in the past were, when groups of artists banded together to live differently, and how distant I was from that kind of community. I began to despair of ever having anything like that in my life. I could live creatively, I could throw some eccentric parties, and I could build a life with my partner – but I had no idea how to find that magical place where the next creative desire was being met, the community of freedom and creation.

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I suppose, blog-reader, you might expect me to now proclaim “And then I found Improv!” but it wasn’t that simple. I did go looking for longform improv, and I found it. And I enjoyed myself. I liked doing scenes and I liked meeting funny people. However, that was about all that was going on where I started doing improv; folks having fun and competing to be funny. It wasn’t until nearly a year later when TNM was founded that something about the way I was involved with improv became “movement-like.”

What are the qualities of a movement?
Movements aspire. They are made of people who believe in change and have a deep desire to live or create differently. They are enamored of the present. They value the people within them and empower those people. Movements are unified. A movement can articulate why the people within it are thrilled to be part of it, what they yearn for as a group, and their principals: a movement is comprised of people who are not motivated by self-gratification or personal status. Movements take themselves a bit seriously. Even when they are forcefully absurd and fixated on humor, subversion, tearing down all the idols, movements have some fervor behind them. Movements belong to people. I know that I am defining the word “movement” in such a way that benevolent social and artistic movements are included while other violent movements (Nazis & Futurists, for example) are excluded, that is a bit naïve but totally intentional. Anyway, a real movement is something that fully belongs to the people of which it is comprised. Unlike a cult, a movement is the product, property, and passion of its people. They are exalted and empowered to be more than they would be by themselves and they’re all honored as creators and leaders.
The New Movement was founded with those kinds of ideas in mind. It has expanded and grown as a result of strength of aspiration, a unified creative process and goals, fervor for our shared vision, and above all a constant communal dedication to the elevation and empowerment of all of our people. We are relentless about joy, completely uninterested in drama or status, and forceful in our hustle. Improv will change because of what we’re doing here. Life will change because of what we’re doing.
The New Movement welcomes you.

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Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

 

Last weekend The New Movement participated in Fun Fun Fun Fest, and it was all the things that we are.
There was the admirable amount of hustle: we were represented in 6 different shows on the comedy stage! The winsomeness, rawness, courage: this could be illustrated by innumerable images of our infinitely silly old-timey western costumes, Mikey DoDo slathered in whip cream and making sweet love to the air, or Christrew.biz pacing the Anarchy wrestling ring. The simple revelry and coolness: I will not lie to you, I love that we get to walk around with an “artist” wristband that, however superficially, affirms my suspicion that we’re all in the exact same genus as Slayer.

However, beyond all this, is what we most are, in the core of our being.

Something that is, to me, nearly ineffable and unmistakably divine.

If I try to express this moment, this quality of our community I fall short of words. Love. That is the only one I really have for it.
You see, when we gather there is a freeing of energy like a force of nature. We are so intent on joy, so passionate about each other, so willing to envelop the moment and risk our full selves in the support and celebration of each other.
It just gushes out and there are moments of playfulness that define the word itself.
In the fields of auditorium shores we exploded in dances, games, acrobatics, purelove.

[testimonial name=”Cris Skelton ” ” last_box=”no”]

In short, The New Movement is one of the best things that’s ever happened on this Earth. I’m ecstatic and humbled to be a part of it. Thanks for this weekend, guys. I will remember it forever.

[/testimonial]

[testimonial name=”Rob Gagnon”  last_box=”no”]

The people involved in The New Movement have changed my life, I’m happier, I’m more consistently funny in ways that make me proud, I’m performing more and more on bigger stages, depression stays out of the way more often, I don’t worry about being cool, I enjoy spending time with people as much as I enjoy spending time alone… so much of my pride and accomplishments stem from this group of people.

[/testimonial]

[testimonial name=”Lisa Friedrich” last_box=”no”]

This weekend served as a reminder of all things accomplished by truth, beauty, freedom and love. the support and love i’ve seen first to ninth hand is incredible.

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[testimonial name=”Chadwick Smith”  last_box=”yes”]

Maybe even the best weekend ever. But those moments during the M83 show with The New Movement just doing our thing and getting everyone invovled was pure magic and love. UBH all around.

[/testimonial]

 

 

All the Best Things in Our Short and Precious Lives

Last weekend The New Movement participated in Fun Fun Fun Fest, and it was all the things that we are.
There was the admirable amount of hustle: we were represented in 6 different shows on the comedy stage! The winsomeness, rawness, courage: this could be illustrated by innumerable images of our infinitely silly old-timey western costumes, Mikey DoDo slathered in whip cream and making sweet love to the air, or Christrew.biz pacing the Anarchy wrestling ring. The simple revelry and coolness: I will not lie to you, I love that we get to walk around with an “artist” wristband that, however superficially, affirms my suspicion that we’re all in the exact same genus as Slayer.
However, beyond all this, is what we most are, in the core of our being.

Something that is, to me, nearly ineffable and unmistakably divine.
If I try to express this moment, this quality of our community I fall short of words. Love. That is the only one I really have for it.
You see, when we gather there is a freeing of energy like a force of nature. We are so intent on joy, so passionate about each other, so willing to envelop the moment and risk our full selves in the support and celebration of each other.
It just gushes out and there are moments of playfulness that define the word itself.
In the fields of auditorium shores we exploded in dances, games, acrobatics, purelove.

Oh I get it, you think I’m being overly effusive. Here are some other, better spoken, friends on the topic —

Cris Skelton wrote: In short, The New Movement is one of the best things that’s ever happened on this Earth. I’m ecstatic and humbled to be a part of it. Thanks for this weekend, guys. I will remember it forever.

Rob Gagnon wrote: The people involved in The New Movement have changed my life, I’m happier, I’m more consistently funny in ways that make me proud, I’m performing more and more on bigger stages, depression stays out of the way more often, I don’t worry about being cool, I enjoy spending time with people as much as I enjoy spending time alone… so much of my pride and accomplishments stem from this group of people.

Lisa Friedrich wrote: this weekend served as a reminder of all things accomplished by truth, beauty, freedom and love. the support and love i’ve seen first to ninth hand is incredible.

Chadwick Smith wrote: Maybe even the best weekend ever. But those moments during the M83 show with The New Movement just doing our thing and getting everyone invovled was pure magic and love. UBH all around.

Carnivalesque

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It is the day after Halloween, that meditative day where we ask important questions of ourselves like “Is there still candy in the bowl?” or “Why don’t they ever play The Simpson’s Halloween episode ON Halloween?” or “Is comedy about cultural critique and subversion or just random revelry and spectacle?”

I mean it’s kind of an important question, you know what I mean?

If there is candy in the bowl then I should probably eat it now before the holiday candy-amnesty wears off.

But on to this question on the purpose and nature of comedy- Look, I know a lot of comedians are in this for the “not thinking too hard” part. There is a little myth around comedy that says anything can be made fun of, that comedy isn’t difficult, and that a little plucky irreverence can make anyone “funny.” You know better. You’re a student of the absurd, and you know it’s a complicated topic; not just a matter of coming up with a good pun and putting on a hilarious wig.

On the other hand, it’s no forgone conclusion that comedy is supposed to make you think. There are plenty of popular comedians who don’t necessarily foreground our societies’ interior struggles. Comedy is generally seen as escapist.

And it is. And it should be.

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And yet…

This is what I mean about Halloween. We have a holiday that is here for the whole culture to put on a masquerade, to feast, to take a sidelong glance at fear and a jab at mortality. It is the comedian’s holiday above all others.

The Carnivalesque is serious.

From ancient, ancient times there has been an idea that society suffers irrevocably if the “rules” aren’t tossed out from time to time. Without an opportunity to revel and bask in a world turned upside down the status-quo becomes stagnant, violent, and unaccountable. So the carnivalesque aspects of culture are there to defuse the bomb. But they do more than that too… they point out that power which can be playfully challenged isn’t immutable.

Participation is magic. When a person *participates* in something (not watches or consumes, but participates) she becomes aware of her own authority.

So Halloween plants a seed. A small seed that says “your rule-breaking is celebrated; tonight your frivolity, sarcasm, sexuality, or social trespassing will be paradoxically appropriate.” Protesters do the same thing; they encourage whoever is not protesting to participate vicariously, to go beyond simple catharsis, to express their latent desires for a different social structure, a different kind of world. Comedians are called to invoke the authority of the absurd and challenge the false solemnity of cultural norms. We are called to imagine a world that is different, playful, permissive, excessive, and in so doing spread an infectious lust for participation and freedom.

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