Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Amy Poehler on the "spirituality" of improv comedy

Amy Poehler was on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross last week and while the conversation revolved mostly around her time on Saturday Night Live, her husband Will Arnett and her new NBC show Parks and Recreation, Amy did get a chance to discuss her improv background at the end of the interview. After a brief mention of Del Close as "one of the more famous guys in comedy that people don't know", she was asked if she always had confidence on stage not knowing what she was going to say:

I don't know if I always had that confidence but it always felt exhilirating in a good way to do that kind of work. It felt like you were in control even though you had no control over what was happening. I still get up on stage at the Upright Citizens Brigade, which is the theater that I along with Matt Besser, Matt Walsh and Ian Roberts that we started in New York City and now we have a theater in Los Angeles. I still perform because that feeling of it being a little bit dangerous is still exciting for me and it's good as a performer to make sure that you're not getting too comfortable. But also it's a social thing, it almost becomes the closest thing I have to a communal religious experience where you just meet up with people that you love and you do something together and there's someone witnessing it and hopefully you feel different after. I think my experiences doing improv have provided a spirituality in a way that maybe I wouldn't have otherwise.

Certainly there is something to be said about the affirmation that a live performer can receive when a joke gets a laugh. And while the audience isn't talking, there is a conversation between the performer and audience when live comedy is done right. Have you ever felt a connection between either your fellow performers or the audience? Or as a member of an audience have you felt a connection to a comedian and the crowd around you? Is there a moment that sticks out in your mind as "spiritual" or "religious"?


Pruneface said...

When everyone is laughing together, that's a community experience. You feel part of a whole when you're in an audience. I definitely think that's true, the same way you feel watching a sporting event, cheering with everyone else when your team wins.

There's also a good part in The Dark Knight Returns, when the joker sprays his deadly laughing gas over the crowd at a late night talk show, and he says "So many faces, all the same."

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Gretchen said...

Without question. the level of trust and love that we come to have for our fellow performers is unlike anything I've ever experience professionally. the ability to fail, to suck, to say something dirty, offensive and wrong and yet still "feel the love". That's beyond beyond beyond...