I spent the weekend substitute teaching for Michael McCarthy's writing classes at the iO. Here, I'm showing the Sketch-writing class Monty Python's Joke Warfare/Funniest Joke in the World Sketch as we study editing (an appropriate choice on the Python anniversary weekend, I thought). This was my first time teaching in the new building, and I'm still amazed just walking into the place. I always have to think back to the crumbling, barely building-code legal Crosscurrents cabaret, where the iO (then ImprovOlympic) first started; to say it's come a long way is hugely underestimating it. I highly recommend anyone in the Chicago area stop by for first-class improvisation (or, in the case of Dave and TJ's Mission Theatre, first-class sketch comedy), and stick around for drinks and dinner as well. It's only been a couple of months in the new building, but it's fast becoming a landmark. In fact, it's the Great Wall of China of Improvisation. Go now and thank me later.
I spent a large chunk of this weekend, as I sometimes do, substitute teaching for Michael McCarthy’s writing classes at the iO Chicago. Michael has put together a tremendous writing program that, unlike many other writing programs, actually results in students producing something by the end of each eight-week program. If the students put the work into it, they will have either a packet to submit to talk shows or SNL, a spec TV script, or even a complete pilot script. At the very least, they will have something to submit to potential agents for possible representation. It’s a nifty program and I’m delighted to have a part in it.
Michael also shows videos during the course of each class to better give students an idea of what–or what not–to aim for. This weekend, instead of showing them a TV pilot or sketches, I decided to do something completely different, and showed a Youtube clip of one of John Cleese’s early Creativity speeches. When I used to work for John, I helped him customize his corporate speeches. The clip I found predates my working with him, but there was still plenty of useful information to help these already creative students become even more creative. Sometime I’ll write more about John and the creativity speeches. I learned a lot and I think everyone will.
My old friend Michael McCarthy, who runs the writing program at the iO Chicago, traditionally runs a photo of his Pilot Script Class during their last session, when they traditionally watch Exporting Raymond, a terrific documentary that follows Phil Rosenthal as he tries to adapt Everybody Loves Raymond for a Russian audience.
Unfortunately, Michael has been in Kuala Lumpur for the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been filling in for him. I think I managed to keep all of the classes on course, but I think part of my duties have to include running a photo of the class watching Exporting Raymond.
Incidentally, it’s a very interesting documentary, particularly if you’ve ever worked in television, or even if you just watch television. We didn’t have time to watch either of the episodes with the Russian cast, but I’ll bet they’re worthwhile too.
I just realized that I never followed up my earlier post here about the iO Chicago class that I teased a couple of weeks ago. I actually do have a good reason for it, but that’s a pretty lame excuse.
I had long talked about doing a workshop for the Writing Program at the iO Chicago, a workshop based in what I know of the Monty Python approach to sketch comedy writing. (Hey, after sitting across the office from John Cleese for several years, interviewing them all many times, and writing with Terry Jones, some of it had to rub off.) Finally, after substitute teaching a few classes for Michael McCarthy recently, he said “What are you waiting for?”
So, I organized the syllabus and we prepared to schedule and announce it. At which point, I posted my earlier comments about a class of interest at the iO. Then, at the end of the day, the director of the Training Center told me he would announce the class shortly. When I logged on to my Mac the next morning, I was a little surprised to see that it had already filled up!
There didn’t seem to be much point announcing a class that was already sold out, so I didn’t.
But the good news is, it looks like there will be another, expanded class announced very shortly, so if you’re within commuting range of the iO and want to learn how to think like a Python, and learn the art of re-writing and collaborating, check back here. Or, maybe you should check back directly with the iO. By the time I get it posted, I’ll probably be too late again…