Gettin’ Close With Matt Holmes!

MattAndImprovIn the first podcast of 2015 I sit down with Philly Improv pioneer, Matt Holmes. We discuss his comedy interests, the early days of longform improv in Philly, as well as the coaching, teaching and general theories of improv. You can see him in Matt& at PHIT on Sunday, February 1st (and once a month there after) and in the Steel Stacks Improv Comedy Festival on Saturday, January 31st.

Speaking of shows- I have one on Friday, January 23rd at the Brewery! I’ll be performing with one of the darlings of Philly improv, Kristen Schier! We’ve only performed once before as just the two of us, but had so much fun that we thought we’d do it again. So Friday we debut “Mishegas!”. It’s a super organic, flowy style of improv that I really, really enjoy doing. Hopefully you enjoy watching it.

Mishegas! at the Brewery
1170 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
$5.00 , BYOB

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2015: Unfinished Business

I’m finally getting around to writing this. Like many people, every year I make new year’s resolutions. Things I want to do or things I want to change. I’ve found that over the last several years many of these resolutions keep popping up, because I’ve failed at keeping them or even attempting them. So this year I’m bringing them all back and actually trying to figure out how to make them happen.

Cutting Out the Sugars
This would be mostly from Pepsi. Over the years I have cut back dramatically. I used to be a 2 liter a day guy. This year I’ve had three 20 ounce bottles since January 1st. Basically one a week. So I’m doing ok there and I think I can go a full month again without it.

Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
Anyone that knows me knows that I haaaate vegetables and I don’t eat many fruits. Bananas and Apples and your occasional melon being the majority of my sparse fruit intake. So I need to eat more. For the most part I’ve come to the conclusion this really isn’t going to happen. I’m not going to eat more fruits or vegetables, but I will drink more fruits and vegetables.  I bought a NutriBullet on January 1st. In less than 3 weeks I have had more fruits and vegetables than, quite honestly, the last twenty years combined. Just today I had a drink with broccoli, spinach, kale, cucumber, carrot, strawberries, blueberries, banana and apple. And NutriBullet blends everything including all the skins and seeds into a drink that even I will enjoy. I find that I have more energy later in the day if I have one of these in the morning – early afternoon. Soon I’ll look at what good foods I can eat that are solid. I don’t want to juice everything.

Write a Movie!
Something I’ve wanted to do for far too long. I have two ideas that have been sitting unused for a while and it’s time to get them out there. I asked the PHIT members who would be interested in starting a writing group to get together and read each other’s work, offer feedback, etc. Lots of people are interested and I’ll be setting up the first meeting soon. So one of these movies will have at least a first draft completed by year’s end. My soft goal is to have it done by July.

Writing a Musical. At Least One Act!
I just want to do this. I don’t even know if I’d be in it. I know several people know that can write music. Time to make it happen.

Perform More!
I’ve performed more in 2014 than all of 2009-2013 combined… and it wasn’t that much. So I gotta change that. My friend Kristen and I will be doing a duo called “Mishegas” which will perform our first official show on January 23rd at the former Sideshow stomping grounds now known as the Brewery.

Write a Sketch Show!
I love sketch, but I don’t write much or perform it much anymore. I’d really like to write and direct a sketch show this year.

More podcasts!
From doing more gettin close interviews (only 5 last year. Terrible.) to doing more Stark Raven Mad and new seasons of Leftovers and Strain and whatever else we can do. I also want to advertise them.  Really try to build up the listeners, because I think the various podcasts and crews involved in each are the best. I have so much fun doing them and making some money off of it at some point wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Complete UCB Level 201 and 301
I did the intensive in 2014, so that’s out of the way. Now comes the 8 week trek up and back. Though I think that will be easier than doing what I did for the intensive- up and back every single day. UCB has pushed me out of my comfort zone as an improviser. I’m so much more used to playing slow and organically. Even in just the 101 I felt new connections being forged in my brain and I think it’s a great style to bring into different projects. So finishing up 201, which is all about the game, would be great. Plus it’s just good to get into an 8 week class and get notes again.

Write more for my own site!
There was lots of entries in 2014, but most were podcast related. I’d like to blog a bit more. Hey, I have things to say about stuff.

That’s just a few of the things I want to do, but they are all pretty lofty goals. To help achieve them I’m cutting out some things that drain some of my time. One of the first to go is the Sideshow at PHIT. The last monthly Sideshow will be 1/30/15 at 10:30pm. It will then transition to quarterly show probably focused on different holidays or events. I’m gonna cut back on some of the teaching that I do as well as some indie coaching. I say no to a lot of stuff as it is, so that no might just continue. I also need to transform my home environment to be more conducive to getting things done rather than sitting on Netflix watching Deep Space 9, which I’m currently doing. I gotta carve out specific time to get these things done. After all… a lot of the above things in the right hands could do wonders. Lots of unfinished business to take care of in 2015. Now let’s see what Garek is up to now…

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Recovery. It’s Not Just for the Addicted.

I don’t know what drug causes people to just fall asleep standing up the way some subway junkies do (Is it heroin? Meth? All of the above?), but I saw one today that was as close to a walker in real life as I’ve seen. Stumbling around, drooling, and eyes occasionally showing nothing but white. And she was pregnant. Some people were pointing, laughing, recording. All I could think about is the child that’s gonna grow up with this and anyone in this woman’s life that’s tried to help her. She was just some woman on the train, but we’re losing people all the time to addiction or problems related to addiction that are more well known. Most recently Robin Williams and Phillip Seymore Hoffman lost their battle. I feel terrible for them, but I feel just as much for their loved ones whose lives were impacted by their addictions.

I’ve seen first hand the power that drugs can have over someone. My own mother and father were narcotics users. Their addictions ripped the family apart. Several times. After re-marrying and joining Narcotics Anonymous they both- we all- enjoyed drug free lives for a good while. My timeline might be off there, but at that age I wasn’t exactly paying attention to these things. They both attended regular meetings and made many new friends in the fellowship. Some people that I’m still in contact with occasionally myself. Then something happened and my dad started using again. To this day I still wonder what it might have been that pushed him off that edge. Some big event that made him reach for a bottle like in a lot of movies. I can’t think of any earth shaking news. No major death in the family at the time. No legal or work trouble that I know of. No zombie apocalypse. So I’m stuck with the feeling that the drugs just won the face off that day. One drink. One pill. Until its not just one. I guess any one day can have dozens of those face off moments.

My dad got back on the wagon and then he fell off. He got on and then he fell off. I used to work at a pizza shop. He’d show up there drunk, or the delivery guys would deliver something to the house and he’d be drunk. I remember watching him come home nights in his sky blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo- a car he might have loved as much as the drugs- and trying to park. Knowing that he drove that way was always one of the worst feelings to me. That he’d kill himself or someone else. It ripped the family apart one final time in about 1997. My mom moved and I went with her. My sisters followed after not too long. He was left at the house alone with our dogs until he couldn’t even keep the house. He moved back in with my grandma and the dogs came to live with me. I went to college that same year and I’d hear from my mom about how well he was doing or how bad he was doing and that he’d been in/out of the hospital. I was distanced from it all even though I was only about 50 actual miles away.

From 2002 – 2005 I was home from college and living in Philly. In that time there was a few incidents and of course some hope. Addicts are just as good at giving you hope as they are giving you despair. The last hope filled time I remember was when, after a hospital  stay and previous diagnosis of cirrhosis, he let us talk him into checking into Livengrin. A live-in rehab facility. He got out, did well for a while, but eventually relapsed. In 2005 my mom was offered a job in Indianapolis. I feel that, had he been successful in getting his shit together, she might not have taken it. That things would have just gotten better and better for him and all around him and there would be no move to Indy. That wasn’t the case. She took the job and me and my sisters moved with her. First he was left alone in the house. Now he’s being left alone in Philly. I moved to Chicago in August of 2005- the first time I’d been really off on my own. Just like college I’d be updated on the ups and downs of dad from my mom, sister and sometimes my grandmom. A couple scares, but he kept on going like Frank Gallagher in Shameless. We talked here and there, but not much at all.

My sisters visited Philly in 2008. I talked them about the trip and they told me how bad he was looking. I hadn’t seen him in years at this point, but on the urging of my mom I booked a flight back to Philly for August 29th to September 1st. Finally going back to see my dad. On August 14th, 2008 I was woken up to a phone call from my cousin. My grandmom had been in and out of the hospital at this point, so I was fully prepared for the news she had died. Only it wasn’t her. It was my dad. His body just had enough. He died about two weeks before I was to visit.

My sisters tell me that I’m lucky to not have seen him in the state he was in when they visited. I guess I’m thankful for that. Though in a way I’m thankful for all the things that I’m also sorry for. Things like being in college and not having to deal with it. Moving out of the house. Moving out of the state. Being generally distant with him in thoughts or actual distance. Though I’m sorry I didn’t talk to him as often as I could have, I’m thankful that each time I did I let him know that regardless of what he does or will do or where he is or I am- I love him. That was the only support I had left to give.

Though I feel sorry for some of those things, I don’t regret any of them. I had to get on with my life. There’s only so many last chance’s people can give out. Those chances are based on love and hope and unfortunately the chemical addictions can override all of it. You can only do so much to help people who can’t accept their situation and lack the courage and wisdom within to improve it. Addiction is hard wired into some people. It’s who they are. It’s a constant battle. So when I see someone like the walker I saw on the subway I don’t judge them. I just feel sorry for them. For their family. I don’t know what lead hear to that point. I just hope she finds her way back.

So many times I thought things were my fault or my sister’s or my mom’s or the job’s or the dog’s or this or that or the other thing. And it’s not. It’s in the DNA. Some people can experiment and move on. Some people get hooked and the will to use overpowers the will of others for it it to end. There’s a prayer called the serenity prayer that my mom taught me that got me through a lot and help me realize, even very young, that none of this was in my control nor was it my fault. You can only control what you can control and what you can’t control you need to accept.

As a result of this you might think that I would avoid any sort of drugs or alcohol. For a while I did. I didn’t have a beer until I was a sophomore in college, which for the record is still under aged. I drink a few times a month, but never alone. I’m constantly aware of how much and how often. I have not and will not try any illegal drugs. Not because they are illegal, but just because I know how my DNA is programmed and the coding extends far past my father and mother. That would not be a wise move. I like to think that I have a will power built up due to all this that could overcome anything, but having seen what I seen I know too well that’s a battle I don’t want to face. Plus… things are going pretty well for me right now and one easy way to screw that up is to start using. This is one thing I learned well from my mom. She’s the bravest woman I know. To have been an addict herself, lived with one, lived through one several times and has been able to come out clean on the other side. At some point she just had it and knew that she could take no more and had to focus on herself. I know she never stopped loving my dad, because she never stopped offering help when he was he showed he wanted to help himself. At this point she must have at least 25 years clean. Me, my sisters and now my nephews and niece are where we are because of her choice that enough was enough. She helped us all recover.

I’ve looked online but I’ve been unable to find one day that celebrates people that are 1) currently in recovery from some sort of addiction or 2) whose lives have been effected by the addiction of a loved one. Of course if they are in recovery it’s probably in an anonymous group, so who’d know? Though maybe people that feel comfortable sharing their stories that day can do so. Sometimes it’s not going to be as easy it was for me today to spot someone with addiction issues. It’s even harder to spot the loved ones of those people. So even just knowing that people you already know are going through the same thing, that you aren’t alone and that could maybe even reach out to this person to talk could go a long way. Maybe that is the step toward one of the more organized programs. September is apparently “Recovery Month”, so maybe next September you can share your story. Screw that… if you feel comfortable share it whenever you want. It could help someone.

I don’t know. This started as a quick blurb about a walker that I saw on the bus and how bad I felt for her, her family and her unborn child. I didn’t intend on sharing as much as I did. It’s not usually my style, but what the hell. If you’re reading this and can’t even relate to what I’ve talked about then I envy you. If you read this and are currently living through someone else’s addiction and need someone to talk to, just let me know. If you yourself have an addiction please get help, because it is not just you that you are hurting, but everyone that cares about you as well.

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Improv 201 and Improv 301 starting in January 2015!

Session 1 classes for 2015 are now online! Yes, we’ve done away with the season names and we’re strictly numerical now. Below are the two classes I have coming up. Sign up by December 26th and save $50 off the full enrollment cost!

And don’t forget, if you’re on an indie team and looking for an experienced eye- let me know.

Dates: Thursdays, January 8th, 2015 through February 26th, 2015
Times: 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Class Location: Philly Improv Theater, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Dates: Sundays, January 4th, 2015 through February 22nd, 2015
Times: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Class Location: Philly Improv Theater, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

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Matt Nathanson VS. Too Many Cooks

Too Many CooksUnless you’ve been avoiding social media for fear of TV spoilers, the political postings of friends you don’t want to lose respect for, or because it’s just good to avoid it from time to time… then you’ve probably seen the video for Too Many Cooks. Too Many Cooks is a video created for Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. It parodies a bunch of tv show openings, but it goes beyond that. So far beyond that. It’s as genius as it is insane.

The theme song is sung repeatedly and gets in your brain quickly and it’s harder to get out than a ceti eel. This was my problem until recently. The song was stuck in my head for days. Then on Saturday someone sang “Laid” by Matt Nathanson at karaoke. Over the next day a battle played out in my head, but as of right now Laid has won out. A most unlikely hero. Thank you, Matt Nathanson.

To anyone else currently suffering from Cook’s Syndrome, I hope you find your Laid. Below are clips of both videos. Maybe Matt Nathanson can help you too. Good luck!

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Stay Dead! An Improvised Horror Comedy

Stay DeadTonight begins a mini-run for a show I’m directing called “Stay Dead! An Improvised Horror Comedy”. This will be the 4th year in a row I’ve directed something like this. The first three years were the Asteroid! Improvised B-Movie shows. We did a few of them in 2011, then we did full runs in 2012 and our ending run in 2013. That show won the 2012 WitOut Award for Best Short Run Show. They earned it too. It was such a fun show. A double-feature of two, 25-30 minute improvised “b-movies”.

Stay Dead! is sort of a successor to the B-Movie for me. Just like B-Movie, this show is completely improvised. No one knows who they are going into the show, if they will live, if they will die, where the show is set. Nothing. This can certainly lead to a plot that might not be the tightest horror tale, but it most definitely makes for a really fun show the audience can ride along with. Unlike the B-Movie which was two separate movies, Stay Dead! is just one set of about 40-45 minutes. Though the shows last weekend were both closer to 55 minutes. Two sets that involved time-traveling wombs, shit people, and lots of pizza.

I was hesitant to take this on when originally asked, but am glad that I did. They worked really hard and allowed me to bring in some really great people to help round out the already fun cast. They also allowed me to name the show and attach an exclamation point, which is more or less, a staple of shows I direct.  I’m really proud of how far this show has come in such a short time. Practices were a blast and even lead to some new improv games for me. Thanks to each of them, to PHIT for putting the show up, to Chris  Calletta for the awesome art, to anyone that’s come to the midnight shows last week and to anyone coming to shows ahead. There are four shows left and you should definitely check them out. Click the link below for tickets.

Through the use of various horror film tropes the cast creates a frighteningly funny show never seen before and (like many of the characters) never to be seen again! Everyone will die. Not everyone will STAY DEAD!

October 30th 7:30 p.m.
October 31st at 7:30 p.m. and 12:00 a.m.
November 1st at 12:00 a.m.

Philly Improv Theater
2030 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Cast: Gab Bottoni, Andrew Coppola, Josh DePowell, Tom Hannigan, Derrick Hackett, Rick Helpa, Alyssa Jackson, Brendan Kingston, Nicole Labrecque,  and Kevin Ruth.

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