The Weekly Format: The Stand-Up Opening

NAME: The Stand-Up Opening

Any improviser who has tried their hand at/come from the world of stand-up comedy knows how hard it is to perform at a bad open mic. The crowd is a mix of drunkards who aren’t paying attention and/or heckling the comic (who is up there just trying to make them have a good time) and judgmental “colleagues” who feel the need to critique every small movement in your set. Or is that just me?
Three stand-up comics, through a mishap in scheduling, have been booked for the same time slot on the same night at the same venue. Rather than be polite to each other and try to make the best of the error, they undermine each other to win the spot from an unreceptive audience. Each one takes the mic in turn to try their set, but the other two begin loudly showing their disapproval and critique the performance. When each comic has had their turn, break to the sides and begin an improv set based on the information gathered.
It’s acceptable to use pre-written material in the stand-up opening, but I recommend completely improvising the stand-up routines to make sure the show is 100% different each time. Also, the comics are supposed to be bombing at an unforgivably terrible open mic venue, so if the routines are lame it adds to the atmosphere.

Want to sponsor a badass weekend of comedy workshops and shows?

The Improv Wins Conference is this January 6th-8th in Austin at the University of Texas, Spiderhouse Ballroom and The New Movement. It’s a weekend of comedy workshops featuring instructors from Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Dallas and Las Vegas as well as shows featuring performers from all over the country. It’s the first event of its kind and it’s looking for a handful of sponsors to pull this baby off.

Your generous sponsorship of $125 gets you the following perks:

– Free admission to all shows during Improv Wins
– Four free tickets to any show at The New Movement (expiration date: Never!)
– Your business blasted on our family of social networks (including The New Movement’s twitter accounts for Austin, Houston and New Orleans plus Facebook pages for Studio8, The New Movement and Improv Wins) leading up to, and during the festival
– Your business mentioned before every single show during Improv Wins
– 1 Conference Pass enabling you to take every single workshop during Improv Wins
– The opportunity to promote your business with giveaways/promotions throughout the festival
– Your good looking banner ad on this good looking website

Questions? Want to make magic happen? Talk to co-producer Chris Trew via email (christrew AT

Improv Wins is a production of Studio8 (Comedy Central’s The House That Drips Blood on Alex) and The New Movement (producers of Hell Yes Fest and the Megaphone Marathons, as seen at FunFunFun Fest and multiple comedy festivals and tours across the country).

Important Holiday Videos

Merry Today Everybody!

We got you a little round up of our favorite festive videos to enjoy over the upcoming 12 days of Christmas!

Our first video is a serious public service announcement from the amazing folks of Spirit Desire. They’d like to remind you that holidays are about generosity, so you’d better not be stingy with human rights!

Next up on our platter of viewing delights: a little ditty about what you should like from the team behind Toothpaste for Dinner. There would be only one reason, after watching this video, why you wouldn’t be singing it to yourself all day long.

Do you get all your gift ideas from the TV? Do you like getting presents? This Studio8 video does both of those things!

Ok, so the only reason you wouldn’t have “Fuck you if You Don’t like Christmas” stuck in your head is if, like me, no carol, hymn, or Christmas hit can move this classic Monty Python song from your mind when this time of year comes along. -All time favorite.-

Lastly, we have some commentary on carolers from Royal of TNM Houston. All I want for Christmas, indeed.

5 Line Scenes: The Daily Affirmation Warmup

This is not a new video by means, as it went viral way back in 2009ish, but the core of this child’s message is pretty dang relevant and we think it would make for a ridiculously delightful warmup exercise.

Stand in a circle1, taking turns saying all of the things you like. Be sure and mention some positive things about the people you’re about to play with on stage. Mention something about pajamas.

Now you’re warmed up, feeling fun and you got to stand on a sink for minute or so2.

5 Line Scenes are short blurbs about various happenings in the improv world. Got something we should post about? Drop a reply below!

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Shocking!
  2. Props to Reagan Ward for digging up the video and passing it along

Take Your Show On the Road: Preparing for Festivals

If you’re thinking ahead, or just barely ahead, to applying to improv festivals this year here is a break down of the most relevant info for festival virgins & the festival semi-inexperienced.

So, your troupe has gotten some great shows under its belt and you’re thinking “even with all the opportunities within my community, we want to branch out and see the improv world and the mysteries of its festivals!” Here is a short list of what you have to have in your satchel to make that happen:


  • 1)    A great video of a full show, unedited, with adequate light and sound. A “best of reel” won’t usually cut it. You want the show to be funny but the video quality is going to count for something too. Ideally, this is not the one show you taped, but the best of several filmed shows you have in a bank



  • 2)      A purdy photo of your group & a description of the kind show of you perform.



  • 3)      Some cash. Almost all improv festivals require troupes to lay down around $30 for a shot at performing in them. 1



  • 4)      A web presence. It is standard for festivals to expect you to have either a website or at least a facebook page with a significant number of “likes.”


The good news is that numbers 1, 2, & 4 are great things for your troupe to have to be a “real” group, even aside from traveling, so if applying to festivals helps you get these things together that is another advantage to embarking on the process.

If you want to apply to some improv festivals before the year is out, here are a couple whose deadlines are just about up (for those of us who work best impulsively).

 Before January 15th

NYC ImprovFest     Host: People’s Improv Theater

ChicagoImprov Festival    Festival takes place at several theaters aroundChicago

 Before January 20th

DallasComedy Festival     Host: DallasComedy House

Show 1 footnote

  1. The Megaphone Marathons & Hell Yes Fest are exceptions to this rule, since for the first there’s no cost for submissions and the second is a “invite only” festival, financed by sponsors and show sales (not submission fees), similar to the way that music festivals are run.

Advice from Monsters

Over the past year Monsters have given us some nice pointers on Improv and how they see the world.This is a short “best of” compilation of what monsters have exhorting their fellow practitioners of the art of improv to hone and what they’ve cautioned us to avoid by waving their claws and tentacles.


Wilson "Claw Hands" Jones

King Picklesfish

Zerkzies Balthazaar

Philipa Toothface

The Ghost of Candice Winifold



Professor Issabolo

Toe-Toe Toeington





Is the iO Summer Intensive Worth $1100?

(Part 1 of a Series)

Each summer, iO Chicago offers the chance to take (almost1) their entire program in one month for the sum of $1100. Of course you’ll also have to find a place to sleep. And you need to eat. And you’ll probably want to check out other shows in the Chicago area while you’re there. So, depending on your tastes, you might be looking at around $2,000 for your month of improv.

The program as explained by the iO website:

The Summer Intensive condenses the entire iO Theater school of thought into five incredible weeks. The class meets every Monday through Thursday from 11am to 5pm for five weeks. Each week, a different iO teacher instructs the class in a particular level of curriculum. All of our teachers for the Summer Intensive are currently teachers in our Training Center. Best of all, the class culminates in a performance here in our theater!

So, is it worth it? How soon should you sign up? What can you expect? This 2005 iO Summer Intensive Alumni has some answers for you, coming in Part 2!

And, Beans! 2

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The intensive covers levels 1-4B, whereas their actual curriculum goes up to 5 and 5B
  2. True story: One time an instructor from the Annoyance Theater insisted on ending every scene with "Beans!" because she was desperately trying to be unique.”

The Weekly Format: The Elevator

NAME: The Elevator
HISTORY: This was a form that was accidentally invented in rehearsal for TNM Houston’s first Main Event in August 2011. The team that invented it, 1-Up Yours, didn’t end up utilizing it as they couldn’t perfect the form in time to compete, but I still believe that a team with fantastic group mind could pull this off in a cinch.
THE BREAKDOWN: A regular scene starts, ideally with two or three people. Others come on to provide silent environment support as background characters. When the game is heightened to an editing point, the characters in the scene are replaced by the environment support characters and a new scene with a new game is begun.
EXAMPLE: A brother and a sister have a scene over their mother’s grave. Two gravediggers enter the scene to provide background environment support. When the brother and sister scene reaches the edit point, they exit and a new scene is carried out by the gravediggers. As the gravediggers have their scene, two others take the stage for environment support. When the gravediggers’ scene comes to an edit point, the two new characters take center stage for a new scene and game. Repeat.

A Year in (photo) Review: The New Movement

The New Movement has exploded over the past year.  We have made so many new friends, produced so many new shows, logged so many travel and tour miles.  2011 was BIG. Let’s take a moment to travel through memories together!

TNM + UCB in Austin

Anthology: Mechanical Bullsh*t @ TNM Austin

The Neighborhood @ TNM Austin

The New Movement NOLA @ TNM New Orleans

Lowlights Carnival @ TNM Austin

TNM NOLA @ TNM Austin Megafest

Dallas Comedy Festival @ Dallas Comedy House

Tim & Micah @ Hell Yes Fest Austin

Rogue @ TNM Megaphone Marathons Houston

Megaphone Marathons Austin

Megaphone Marathons NOLA

Marathon after party YOU! YOU! YOU!

Mothership @ TNM Austin

TNM NOLA’s 1st Level 5 Graduation

Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin

Hell Yes Fest NOLA

And for bonus…

We did so much traveling to see each other…

And worked on crazy shows…

And threw so so so many parties.

We should be exhausted but we aren’t. 2012 is going to be even bigger. Hello, Future.


Fancy New Edits


The festival-talk got flying at Hell Yes Fest in New Orleans a few weeks ago and the discussion group turned its attention to a re-occurring conundrum: what to do about lame sweep edits? They take energy out of scenes by causing improvisers to “wait” to be edited. They look a bit silly. If the folks on the side miss one everyone feels sad. And, in general, they just don’t get anybody excited.

Editing at the Megaphone Marathons 2010

So what other options do we have? Recently folks in The New Movement have been playing with French Edits (editing by entering a scene/every entrance is an edit), Fluid Edits (the scene “morphs” into another scene rather than being “edited” in a traditional sense) and other permutations. But, nothing had really clicked on a grand scale. Then we got to talking about a level one class recital Katelyn and Skippy in Houston just had.

By lots of bad luck, Katelyn and Skippy were the only two improvisers from their class who were able to come to their level one recital. By lots of great fortune, they have fantastic chemistry and it was more fun to challenge them to do a short two person show than to combine them with improvisers from another class. Being impossibly brave, these two ladies agreed to do their first public improv set ever, as a duo. Right before they went up, Skippy turned to me and said “Wait, how do we edit?” Of course this was a simple question, if you’re in a two or three person group you have to self-edit. So I replied “Just look her in the eye and walk toward each other.” It was flawless. There was no confusion and their recital was a joy to watch.

So that is the new standard edit. In Houston our level one through five students have all been instructed in self-edits and they’ve replaced sweeps as the assumed way of transitioning from one scene to another. Among the major advantages of this development is an empowering of the improvisers on stage.


No longer waiting to be “saved” by their peers the improvisers in a scene must get used to feeling their shared highening path and finding their “out.” It also encourages students to think of their role in the scene as totally active: just as we encourage improvisers to begin a scene with confidence and authority, they can now always practice ending their scene in the same way.

I expected there to be some confusion about how to edit in this way or a tendancy for students to “bail” on scenes before they’d fully developed. That hasn’t been the case! Edits are still sometimes missed by the improvisers on stage but with less frequency than with sweeps and implementing the new system has been just as intuitive as the old reliance on the sweep edit ever was. However, there seem to be two principal drawbacks to self-editing all the time. The first is that there might be some confusion when playing with improvisers from other comunities where sweeps are the only accepted edit. I don’t think this is too much of a threat though, just like eliminating a standard sugestion, it is easy to understand this small diffrence and adapt to it. The second drawback is that sweeps have so long been a major part of our vocabulary that they’ve become esential in discribing other types of devices and the role of support work. It becomes increasingly important to stress the active listening and suportive roll of the on-sides performers when they’ll no longer be counted on to trot across the stage.

The end of the sweep edit’s dominance will be painless and fecund. As improvisers, starting at level one, learn how to feel the end of their own scenes they’ll no longer be intimidated by performing in smaller groups or taking ultimate responsibility for the pacing of their own scenes. Furthermore, self-edits seem to encourage a more focused attention on the piece as a whole. Improvisers who previously might have been thinking “When should I edit their scene?” appear to be increasingly engaged in listening, not for the end of the scene, but to its content. Therefore, they are more ready to tie together threads between scenes than to merely anticipate their end.

 Sweeps are dead, long live the Self-Edit!