Sunday Nibble #44: A short guide to knowing your shit #8

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

This poop will most often occur after you’ve binged on party food (particularly pot luck), when you’re on certain medications, or have had certain things to drink. It can behave like any other poop on this list, but it’s a secondary property that puts it into a category all its own.

The distinguishing feature is that what hits the water has a color that bears no resemblance to standard brown, or sometimes just for fun it may be two-toned or multi-colored. In fact, it can cover pretty much the whole rainbow.

If you’re getting red from your rump, it could be that you’ve recently eaten too much Red Velvet Cake or other foods dyed red, but if you haven’t and you don’t have hemorrhoids, then you should probably see your doctor.

Yes, it’s possible to have orange output, especially if you eat a lot of foods with beta carotene in them, like carrots or sweet potatoes.

One color not caused by food is yellow. If this starts happening, then it’s definitely time to doctor up, as you may be developing serious liver problems.

A green growler is usually caused by eating a lot of green foods, like gorging on spinach, or can also be due to food with green dye, so it can be quite common right after St. Patrick’s Day. On the other hand, green poop can also mean that your food is making the trip portal-to-portal through your body way too quickly, so that the bile in it hasn’t broken down enough to turn dark brown.

And if you would have normally had a yellow dump, you can get green instead if you have a lot of red wine or grape juice — although you really shouldn’t have any of the former if you’re already pooping yellow.

Blue butt blasts are also a result of eating a lot of food that is dyed or naturally blue.

The only one lacking is a purple poo, although you might get that one if you gorge yourself on Red Velvet Cake and blueberries. Don’t try this at home, though.

Finally, if you blow mud in black and you haven’t had Pepto-Bismol or black licorice lately, or your waste is white at all, it’s definitely doctor time. The former could indicate internal bleeding, and the latter probably means hepatitis or liver failure.

So there are many reasons you may find out that you missed the bus to brown town, but it’s not always something to worry about, and it can be an expected event that livens things up.

This is why we call this kind of poop La Caca Sorpresa

(Shout out to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research for their explanations of various possible colors, and/or colours.)

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Sunday Nibble #43: A short guide to knowing your shit #7

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

This is the rarest poop of them all, and one you’re lucky to encounter once in a very blue moon. You go to the toilet as normal and begin your routine. Of course, none of us ever knows what to expect. Will it be a cheek-ripping Decepticon, or the disappointing Phantom? Is it time to bless the Chocolate Rains down on Aquaman, or experience the wonders of an endless Anaconda?

Every time you come here, it’s literally a crapshoot.

Then comes that magical time when you squat and everything comes out almost immediately, in two or three solid plops that follow one after another like paratroopers leaping from the plane. No muss, no fuss, barely any clean-up, and you’re done. You didn’t even get a chance to open your browser.

This is Nature’s way of telling you, “Yes, you are getting enough fiber, and your diet is good.” This is the one that starts your day off right or makes your afternoon a thousand percent better. This is the one you want to share with friends, co-workers, or family by proudly stating, “I took the most satisfying dump today!”

By the way, did you ever wonder why the expression is “took” and not “left?” But I do digress.

When you experience this poop, it’s as if the heavens open and choirs of angels sing. You almost expect this one to smell like rainbows and cotton candy. You plan to buy a bunch of lottery tickets as soon as you get out of the bathroom, and you might even let someone else have the remote tonight. It’s just that good a moment.

If this happens for you every single day, then your gastrointestinal tract is truly blessed and your colon is probably more sparkly than the clean-room at JPL. You most likely pity your fellow humans.

But if this is a rarity for you, like it is for most of us mere mortals, count it as a lucky day when it’s snap, crackle, plop, and done, for you have just had the most wondrous poop of them all.

This rarest of poops is called The Unicorn

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Sunday Nibble #42: A short guide to knowing your shit #6

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

This is possibly the worst of the poops, especially if it happens when you’re stuck in a public restroom stall with only TP on hand and no sink within reach. It tends to feel pretty normal right until it gets to wiping time, and then…

You slip the paper between your cheeks, take a swipe and feel a sudden and unfortunate warmness on your finger. For whatever reason, this particular poop didn’t nosedive out. Instead, it used its little hands and grabbed the sides, leaving nasty palm prints on the door jambs, as it were.

Think of it as a Play-Doh pumper when you’ve gotten the dough wet first. No matter how small the opening is, that stuff is going to smear sideways on the way out. And if you have any kind of butt hair at all in your crack (which you should keep if you do) ta-da — instant Velcro® that’ll hang onto the mess tightly.

The causes of this disaster are uncertain, but it would seem to be a combination of a Decepticon and a Traitor. The solidity of the former keeps it from becoming the latter but, at the same time, the squishiness of the latter expands and turns the former into something else. And, ta-da, it’s peanut butter jelly time.

There’s really no good way to deal with this one other than using about six tons of TP to scour your crack and your hand, over and over and over. It’s either that or waddle to the quite public sink with your posterior out for all to see, hoping that no one else comes in while you try to aim the water up your crack. It’s also a reminder that bidets are an excellent idea, and why they haven’t caught on in America is a complete mystery.

Once you’ve managed to feel clean enough downstairs, you’re still going to have to awkwardly re-dress with your non-wiping hand, and then go play Lady Macbeth at the sink until you once again feel pure, all the while swearing that you are going to drink more water and eat more fiber.

You have just been a victim of The Sloppy Joe

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Sunday Nibble #41: A short guide to knowing your shit #5

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

Quite often, you won’t even detect this particular poop coming because it frequently happens during a normal morning dump. You won’t feel bloated or full, so figure it’ll be a quick trip as you settle down, smartphone in hand.

Then you sense movement. Your brown eye blinks open and the snake pokes out his head. Satisfied that he’s in the right place, he begins to slither out of his womb and into the world.

This is the Energizer Bunny of bowel movements — it just keeps going and going. Surprisingly, it doesn’t even really take any effort on your part. Gravity and the sheer mass of the thing are doing all the work for you. It may be moving slower than the line at the DMV, but it is moving.

To you, it feels like you’ve reeled out one foot, then another, and then it’s a yard. You marvel at the possibility of dropping a deuce that’s longer than you are tall, then wonder whether such a thing is even possible. After all, where could it all be hiding?

You’re beginning to regret that you didn’t weigh yourself before this one, because you’d sure love to know how much weight you’ll have lost when it’s finished. You haven’t timed it, but you’ve read four articles from the morning news feed and are starting a fifth with no end in sight. This thing is the CVS receipt of dumps.

Not once has this fecal freight train hesitated or stalled. It’s been rolling down the rails since it left the station. Far more than half of it is probably underwater by now. You’re contemplating instagramming the results — that is, if it ever actually stops coming out.

Secretly, you feel very proud of yourself, and perhaps even wonder how this can hurt so little in one direction and yet so much in the other. Then, as you’re finishing your sixth news story, you feel the tail of the serpent calmly slither past the pearly gates, which gently slide closed without any major ado.

In the aftermath, you’re surprised to find that, while this turd is impressively substantial, it’s nowhere near as long as it felt. It just decided to take its sweet time on the way out.

That was The Anaconda, also known as The Lincoln Log

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Sunday Nibble #40: A short guide to knowing your shit #4

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

This one inevitably occurs when you’re in public. Perhaps you’re in line at the mall, or at a party, or grocery shopping. Even more likely, you’re at a formal event, like a wedding or funeral.

It starts small. Just that sudden little gassy feeling, only it’s not an impending burp. Well, in a sense it is, but let’s call it an Australian Belch — it wants to happen down under. The only problem, of course, is that there are a lot of people around, so you can’t slip one out and you can’t slip out of the room. Why, what would people think if you abruptly left your pew (or a P.U.) and ran down the aisle while Auntie Lou is eulogizing your late Grandpa John in glowing terms?

So you try to hold it in, but the more you do the more insistent it becomes. You may even experience the phenomenon of feeling gas bubbles in your intestines pop, which just makes the need to toot your horn even more pressing. All you can do is clench and suffer through it until the time is right.

Eventually, you finish checking out, or they finishing checking out your grandfather, and you’re able to make your way to a safe place to play a few bars of “Fart and Soul.” You’re not even going to try to find a bathroom, you’re just going to liberate the Methane Menace into the open air, perhaps on the fly. Maybe you duck into an alcove off of the church lobby, or one of those side corridors in the mall. You might even just call “Blast off” as soon as you’re outside the market and you have the cover of noise and a breeze.

All right, captain. You’re all clear, so it’s time to announce, “Engage,” and open the shuttle bay doors. You give that fart permission to launch with an encouraging nudge, and it’s finally free to fly away.

Then you realize with a sinking feeling that this shuttle was carrying a full cargo which did not make it into the open air. You’ve now experienced the exact opposite of The Phantom because you have just crapped your pants.

Meet The Traitor

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Sunday Nibble #39: A short guide to knowing your shit #3

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

This one can come on just as strongly as Chocolate Rain and it may even come with sudden cramps. All you know is you’d better get to the facilities stat. You think you have barely enough time before the howitzer fires as you settle onto the pot, brace yourself, and then… nothing.

Okay, maybe a little assistance is required, so you bear down to try to exorcise the demon hiding in your rectum. There’s more rumbling and gurgling and maybe another cramp, so you give it another hard push and then it all comes out for what seems like an hour.

What’s most noticeable about this one is that while you don’t feel anything, you hear a lot. Your butt is now a thundercloud hovering over the upper Mid-West during the worst storm of the season and, while you don’t have lightning shooting out of your rosebud, it sure as heck sounds like you do. The windows rattle and you might even knock a picture or two off of the wall. Your pets have long since gone into hiding, and pity any roommates or loved ones who are in the same building. Did they hear you? Oh yes, they most certainly did and, by now, they can probably also smell you.

“This is going to be a full can of Febreze job,” you think to yourself as your butt-tuba continues to play its solo in your personal Symphony Number Two, First Movement. Perhaps, sloth-like, you won’t even have to poop for a whole week after this one.

At least the sounds on the inside have stopped and so has the cramping, but since this is a full symphony, there are still a few movements to go, broken only by the brief silences between them.

Then, finally, the clouds part and the Sun returns. You can’t wait to see exactly what monstrosity just used your heinie for some base-jumping. So you look in the bowl and there’s nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada. This movement was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

You expected so much but, alas, ‘twas but a fart.

This is known as The Phantom

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Read the next installment.

Sunday Nibble #38: A short guide to knowing your shit #2

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

You knew that going to that new Indian-Mexican fusion place last night was a risky idea, but you’ve eaten there before and the food is just so damn awesome that the flaming chipotle sag paneer and tikka tacos with a side of chutney and mole salsa you had were totally worth it — until the next day, when you suffer Mahatmazuma’s Revenge.

It begins with a bit of rumbling and gurgling, then soon turns into a mad dash for the can, where you fumble your clothes into position for emergency evacuation, have a seat and, before you can say “Check, please,” the remains of last night’s meal blast out of you in a torrent that could launch a rocket for Elon Musk — and that’s just the beginning.

You didn’t even realize you could have this much in you, but every time you think you’re done, another wave hits the shore and firehoses its way out your nozzle. And the sound… oh, the noises you’re making! Just pray that this hit you at home and not anywhere you’d have to use a public bathroom, because the farts and gurgles and splats and splashes echoing in the porcelain bowl under your posterior could drown out all seven stages at Coachella combined, and the smell would make a skunk retch.

Did I mention how spicy that dinner was? Well, you’re experiencing that spiciness all over again, only this time via a more delicate opening. You subconsciously start humming Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” as you hope that it’s over, but you’re only halfway there. Now you’re regretting buying that rougher TP because it was cheaper. Like Spider Man, the aftermath isn’t going to feel so good.

When it finally seems like you’ve blasted out all of your internal organs, there’s one last, final hold-out, the only solid bit of the experience — the sad little turd that had to wait until the deluge was over. At least this job only needed one painful wipe. You glance in the bowl before you flush and mutter, “Holy moley,” because it looks exactly like the Mexican sauce that came with last night’s food.

My friends, you’ve just experienced Chocolate Rain

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Read the next installment.

To be or not to be… fearless in comedy

There has been a lot of debate lately over what is appropriate in comedy or not, but let me give one example from 37 years ago. And here’s an interesting add-on — 38 years before this music video came out was just after the end of the Nazi reign in Europe.

So… we are about as far from this video as its intended satirical target was when it came out. But more on which after the jump. Please give it a watch.

Okay, yeah, there is a lot of shit to unpack here, but I’ll start with the obvious note. All of this was created by Mel Brooks in order to market a film he starred in at the time, To Be or not to Be, which was itself a remake of a Jack Benny movie of the same name that was originally released during WW II.

Both films absolutely parody Hitler and company, by the way. Benny was far more daring because he did it while that asshole was in power, although Brooks certainly earned the right to remake it by virtue of being Jewish.

Which brings us back to the linked video, which I hope you’ve watched because, again… unpacking time.

First of all. the year was 1983. Brooks was around 56. Rap music was barely a thing white people knew about. Second, Brooks unabashedly decided to headline the music video as… Hitler. Nowadays, this probably wouldn’t fly, but there was a little bit of a precedent at the time he did it in ’83.

See, he’d made this little film called The Producers in which two con-artists attempted to make a fortune by over-funding a musical about Hitler they thought would fail, except that it didn’t. And Brooks quotes one of the more famous lines from that film and the Broadway show: “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party!”

Anyway… once the video gets rolling with Brooks as hero Hitler, we pack on more levels with some S&M women and some clearly gay dancing boys, the latter of which brings up one often missed trope in Brooks’ oeuvre: While it may have seemed otherwise, he was always homo-positive in his works, just like Blake Edwards. Sure, sometimes it was only via pure Camp, but look at the ending of Blazing Saddles, for one. And for another…

The film I’m bringing up here, Brooks’ To Be or not to Be, was the first Hollywood feature film to even mention the fact that homosexuals were exterminated in the death camps, and the actor who played the role of the character who revealed that information was in real life a grandfather who came out really late in life, and whom Brooks met while going to a drag show in the Valley.

But I think I did digress. Here’s the point. Sure. Brooks played Hitler in a 1983 music video. But do you know why? Simple. It was in fact to ridicule the shit out of people like him. It’s also why he made The Producers and To Be or not to Be, or anything else.

If anything, Brooks exceeded at destroying his enemies by taking on their personas. And that is something that should absolutely be allowed and not fall to cancel culture.

Only the targets of possible hateful humor should be able to judge it, and if a member of a particular identified group happens to be creating that humor with a purpose, that’s their decision.

Some of the performers on RuPaul’s Drag Race glamp it so far over the top that they bring every possible negative stereotype about gay men being flamboyant and effeminate to the table and then double down. But that’s the point, and they are presumably all representative of one part or another of the LGBTQ+ community.

Comedy can be offensive, but remember that word has two meanings. The one people think of in this context is humor that, well, offends someone, either by insulting something near and dear to them, or is definitely designed to cause anger, outrage, or emotional harm to someone from an identified group.

I’m not defending the latter by any means. In fact, exactly the opposite. But regarding the first part, a lot of people are easily offended by different things but this doesn’t merit the comedy being banned. It just tells that audience member they probably shouldn’t follow the comic.

For example, imagine a routine in which a comedian describes their day and how it went off the rails, but every single thing that went wrong was clearly absolutely their own fault. The only target of the piece is the comic telling the story. A lot of people would probably find it engaging, funny, and relatable.

But then you have those handful of people who are suddenly absolutely offended because the punchline to the whole thing is: “Then I looked at the clock and realized that it was only 10:30 in the morning. Shit!”

Yes, there are adults, believe it or not, who literally lose their shit at any kind of cursing, and it can be as extreme as the comic using “dammit” or “crap” instead, or it may only be trigged by the holy Anglo Saxon curse word supreme, “fuck.” But the reaction has nothing to do with the humor and everything to do with the person.

I mentioned previously that comedy should be offensive, and this is where the other term comes in. If you’re a football fan, have military experience, or work in PR, then you’re probably already thinking it.

Offensive can also mean to go on the attack at its most extreme, or to take action against an expected negative consequence in advance. For example, a famous celebrity may have been photographed by paparazzi in an intimate moment with someone not their spouse and realized it. The offensive action in this case would be for that celeb to just come right to the press and say, “Okay. This happened,” and then apologize for it. That neutralizes any value in the photos and blunts the scandal instantly.

But that’s not funny. The way comics use comedy offensively is to do what’s known as “punching up.” That is, going after targets with greater power and privilege than the comic and their audience.

Doing an entire routine about how stupid the bagger at your local supermarket is and yet they want a $15 an hour minimum wage? Punching down and highly offensive.

Doing an entire routine about how the CEO of that supermarket chain can’t shop in their own stores because they have no idea how groceries work, and then extending that to a series of everyday situations to show how out of touch that CEO is? Punching up, and hilarious.

“He tea-bagged the scanner in the self-check aisle because he thought it was some sort of testicular cancer screening machine.”

Remember this line from Arrested Development, delivered by the always amazing Jessica Walter as the amazingly vile Lucille Bluth: “How much could a banana cost? Ten dollars?” In eight words, this captures how out of touch with the “little” people she is, and how much she likely pays for common items compared to them, if she does the paying at all.

“A hundred and fifty dollars for a pair of panties? It’s a steal.”

And so on. The point is that you’d have to be pretty unaware to watch Brooks’ video and think that it’s an endorsement of Hitler. You’d also have to be pretty blind to not realize that Brooks rigged it to appear heteronormative while being jam-packed with homoeroticism.

Watch the video again, and pay attention to the male dancers. There’s the hidden message. In 1983, it was the very beginning of the AIDS crisis and just over a decade past Stonewall.

For the pre TQ+ LGB audience at the time, the real question was: “To be or not to be… myself?”

Image © 1983 20th Century Fox, courtesy the imdb gallery page for the film.

Screamin’ Muskrat Love!

UPDATE, March 16, 2020: As the COVID-19 situation rapidly evolves, we have decided to postpone the show for the safety of our cast, crew, and audiences. The new premiere date is tentatively May 8, 2020, but watch this space for future updates.

UPDATE, July 5, 2020: And, as we will remember from history, theatre ended in March of 2020, at least for a while, so Screamin’ Muskrat Love! was put on permanent hold when it became clear that May wouldn’t work, either. Ironically, this is the second time this same play almost made it into production, with the same Producer/Director but then, due to circumstances beyond our control, it didn’t happen.

Hey, fans… if you’re in Southern California and want to come down and see a farce that I wrote, now’s your chance. It opens April 3rd at Defiance Theatre Company, directed by Charlie Vaughn, and with an amazing cast. Here’s our trailer.

Hell, that makes me want to see it, and I wrote it. The play itself was actually based on true events from my own life but which were then spun way out of control. But I’ll be writing more about that next Thursday. Stay tuned!

(Warning: This play contains adult themes and nudity. PG-13 at least; possibly an R.)

Going completely out of my head

I took a circuitous route into the world of improv performance and although I’d had acting training as part of my minor in college and have appeared in various theatrical productions both then and in the more recent past, my primary focus was behind the scenes as a writer. I hadn’t had any formal improv training up until a few years ago.

Now, as an actor, I didn’t have a problem developing and holding onto a character, and as a writer I was creating them all the time, generally acting them out in my mind as I transcribed their words. Of course, it’s a lot easier to do it in these situations because you have the one luxury that improvisers don’t. Time.

So when I was playing an entire Shakespeare show with an Irish accent, I had the time to learn it and practice it and make it stick because it had become second nature. Likewise when I played a bear, or the trippy Spanish-speaking mystical Jesus stand-in in Tennessee Williams’s weirdest play, I had rehearsal time to make all of the discoveries in the text and the performance in order to hone the character.

Contrast that to improv, where if you’re lucky you might get a character prompt and have twenty or thirty seconds to think about it while the referee explains the game to the audience. More likely, though, you only get mere seconds, if that, as the ref turns to the audience for a scene suggestion and you won’t know what it is until they turn back and shout, “Your suggestion is earbuds. Players, are you ready?”

“Yes!”

Whistle. “Begin!”

And that’s all of the character development time we get. Early on, it would always trip me up and I’d wind up playing myself because I was too busy trying to come up with the “platform” of the scene — who, what, and where — for however many of us went on stage to start, or to fill in  if somebody provided part of the platform.

What? Create an entire character on top of that? Are you crazy?

As I’ve written about previously, I learned that my big challenge was letting go of thinking, but it wasn’t until our ComedySportz Rec League coach and improv mentor shared a particular technique with us that I suddenly started to make big breakthroughs.

It’s called VAPAPO, but I’m only going to discuss a couple parts of the acronym so you can get a taste. If you really want to know all about (and get some great improv advice that applies to life as well), you can go buy Jill Bernard’s Small Cute Book of Improv for only five bucks plus two dollars shipping. It’s only fair, since she created the method.

There’s a logical split between the two halves, with the APO being a more advanced and trickier take on the VAP, so I’ll just explain the first three letters and how they helped me.

In case it wasn’t clear already, VAPAPO is a quick character development technique, one that can be activated instantly at the top of any improv scene and quickly drop you into a character. And remember, it doesn’t matter what character you land on. It’s even good to surprise yourself, because that will take you further out of your head and lead to more discoveries and surprises for you and the audience.

So… what do the V, A, and P stand for? Voice, attitude, posture. Pick one, dive into it, and boom. Instant character.

And it really does work. We recently spent an entire workshop practicing each one of the letters, and I surprised myself with what I came up with. For example, Voice is simply that, and a great place to just play around. Experiment with what it’s like if you speak higher or lower; use an accent or dialect; alter the natural rhythm of your speaking between staccato and drawn out; whatever you can imagine. Then take whatever voice you landed on and live it the character it creates.

You’ll find that focusing on the voice affects everything else you do in the scene. For example, in one exercise, I started playing around with a very drawn out, Mid-Atlantic sort of accent, and it wasn’t long before it affected everything else, so that I was standing very upright with my chin in the air, literally looking down on everyone else, and boom — judgmental, elitist  critic of everything was born.

Of course, quite the opposite happened when I let my voice become very become very… stutter… and doubtful about… everything, doubling back, restarting, repeating, etc. And suddenly I found myself with very submissive and docile body language, though still a lot of energy. It’s just that all of that energy was suddenly be expended in self-defense, self-deprecation, and justification attempts of everything. Instant neurosis!

The second letter, A, is for attitude, which just means picking a general outlook on life. Is this person optimistic, pessimistic, hopeful, cynical, naïve, jaded, or whatever? Grab one and run with it. Now imagine how it can change a scene. Let’s say the other performer begins with, “Margaret, happy birthday. I made your favorite breakfast for my favorite daughter. Pancakes!”

Grab an attitude and stick to it, and you could reply with…

“Pancakes, mother? Seriously? You know I’ve eliminated gluten.”

“Pancakes? Oh my god, my favorite. I love you mommy! Did I mention that’s why I’m never moving out?”

“Pancakes. Waffles. Toast. Whatever. Brent dumped me. Life is bleak and meaningless…”

Or so many more, because in improv there are no right answers.

Note that not only do these give your character a strong point of view, they give the other improviser something to react to in an equally strong way, It’s a gift in both directions.

And this brings us finally to P, which is for posture, although you can also think of it as physicality. Basically, it’s everything your body is doing and, personally, I’ve found it to be my strongest “get out of my head” tool. If I just throw myself into some odd shape or movement and follow that, voice and character tend to follow automatically.

Of course, it does work the other way around, where the voice or attitude will tell the body what to do, but for be the advantage of working from the body up instead of the brain down is twofold. There’s the obvious and aforementioned getting out of my head, but the other advantage is that it’s often good to start a scene with some silent space work instead of just launching into the dialogue, so taking the posture/physicality approach kills two birds with one stone.

It gives you something to do and creates your attitude about it in silence while allowing a moment for the voice and character to emerge.

There’s an old joke from my stage acting days that usually emerged when doing period pieces that were not in modern dress, and it was this: “When in doubt, play the costume.”

Funny thing is, it works. Why? Because the costume can dictate your posture or physicality without you even having to try. Imagine that you’re playing in some Victorian era show that has all of the women in bustles, corsets, and high-heeled buttoned boots. Or that puts the men in high, tight starched collars, waistcoats and tails. That gives you a much different physicality than, say, a cast in jeans and T-shirts, or full Elizabethan regalia, or doing a nude scene.

In every single case, you’d move differently as a human and an actor. The trick for improvisers is that we don’t actually have the costume, we have to imagine it, but if the suggestion for your scene is, say, “hazmat clean-up,” what a gift from your audience is that? Because, from the get-go, you’re suddenly wearing one of those bulky hazmat suits, and everything else about you comes right out of that.

Or it should. And the best part is that even if you have three or four performers onstage all doing the hazmat suit thing, the experience of being in it will affect each one of them differently, so that you won’t get a cookie cutter. Rather, you’ll get a smorgasbord.

The following quote is apparently from Jill, but it came via my improv mentor and I can’t find a link back to an attribution for her, so please take this as another plug to buy her book, because it’s full of gems like this that, again, reply to the real world as well: “The fact that you don’t have the same life experiences or perspective as everyone else on your team is your superpower. The ways in which you are uniquely you are an asset. Improv that stays the same and draws from the same well is dull and will die out. You’re necessary. Shoot across the sky and illuminate the night.”

And that, dear readers, is how you get out of your head and experience the wonderful juggling act that is doing improv.