Stand Up + Improv = Comedy Gold

It’s the time of the year where comedians near and far have come together to make city of Austin laugh it up. Moontower started this week and although I didn’t get tickets to anything I managed to snag a free pair of tickets to Demitri Martin on opening night and was surprised to learn that stand up and improv have a lot in common… well duh, right?

When someone finds out that I do improv, I always get the “So, say something funny!” I roll my eyes and respond, “I’m not a comedian.” I’ve seen several stand up shows before, but watching Demtri Martin I felt like I was actually shown that comedians are improvisers. Although I know I have all the skills to do improv (Thanks to Merlin Works!) and step in front of an audience and perform from the top of my head, for some reason the thought of standing up in front of a crowd telling them jokes in hopes that they will actually laugh, freaks me out! To be clear, I understand there are huge differences between the two, but what I want to focus on is the incorporation of improv in stand up.

I asked local comedian, Kerri Lendo, what she thought about the use of improv in stand up and here’s what she had to say: “I think an audience always responds well to a joke they can tell is improvised. It makes the experience of the show feel more personal and unique. It’s what keep people coming out to see live comedy as opposed to just watching it on TV.” AHA! That’s exactly why I was so excited about the Demitri Martin show! There was one instance where he actually asked the audience “Anything you want to talk about?” Yells of random suggestions were thrown at him. Just like when asking for a suggestion at the beginning of an improv show, he accepted a few of the subjects he heard, repeated them and commenced hilarious improvised stand up. Once I knew that he was getting material from us, the audience, I knew that show was JUST for us! Knowing that the comedians job is to stand up in front of a crowd and perform material that they’ve written, as an audience member, I kind of had this expectation that it has to be good and consistent and they probably won’t steer from the material. But such a large chunk of his show was based of the Austin audience, it caught me off guard in the best of ways! It was a full rainbow with Comedic Gold at the end.

If you’re an improviser in town, there’s a large probability that you’re seeing some Moontower shows this weekend. So, I would encourage you to not only prepare your laughing muscles but to be on the look out for some mad improv skills incorporated into the act! Who knows, maybe Fred Armisen or Marc Maron will use you for a bit!
Happy Moontower, y’all!

About Ashlee Medlin

Ashlee is a graduate of Merlin Works, a Teaching Assistant and sometimes blogging intern.

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