Thoughts after Season 1
I got the idea for this podcast about 6 months before the first episode came together. I was in level 4 and the class was feeling overwhelmed. Level 4 is all about learning the Harold format. If you’re not an improv nerd, the Harold involves 3 different threads going on simulatneously. You visit each reality in order a total of two times and then weave them together during the third pass (also called a beat). It’s a notoriously difficult format the first time you do it and after a whole semester the class was feeling really taxed. One of my classmates, and co-host of this podcast, Natalie Haddad suggested we change things up and do a Bat. A Bat is the same scenic format but instead of moving around on a stage you turn off the lights and lay on the floor. So we did and it was one of the most immersive and fun experiences I’d had in improv up to that point.
Initially, I just wanted to have more experiences like that. My personal philosophy in improv has basically been “do the thing”. If it’s something I enjoy, the only thing I need to worry about is doing the thing and finding more ways to do the thing. I am not good at schmoozing, I’m not good at selling myself, I’m not good at drawing crowds or convincing friends to come to shows. I had just been hoping that by “doing the thing” all those other elements will find their natural state.
However, I’ve learned that this simple approach doesn’t cut it when you are organizing a show. This realization has forced me to think more about how to interact with the lovely improv community we are so lucky to have here in Portland. In the interest of transparency, here are some guidelines we’ve established from these lessons learned.
- The first priority was to showcase the Portland improv community. Again, we have such a great improv scene here with shows going on practically every single day of the calendar year.
- Another priority we had right from the beginning was to be as close to gender parity as possible. I wanted an equal number of male and female guests on the podcast. If it the numbers weren’t equal I wanted to ensure that unconscious bias played as small of a role as possible. This is something I think the Portland comedy community is already leading the way on, with events like the All Jane Comedy Festival (http://www.alljanecomedy.org/) and many all female improv teams like Mom Jeans (https://www.facebook.com/momjeansimprovpdx/).
- Along with gender parity is a general inclusive atmosphere. I, for one, already know this is a lifelong journey for me. I have had more than my fair share of “learning opportunities” when it comes to making people feel included in a space. I do not intend to hide from the truth, however, and will keep working on this part of myself so that I can be a better person. This podcast project is no exception.
- We also want to feature guests in the best light possible. I wanted to pair guests in ways that would allow their unique ideas and contributions to the artform to complement one another. Interestingly, this idea can run counter to building an inclusive space. So, it is a lower priority than inclusiveness. I first and foremost want people to have a good time and feel included. Where possible, I want to make sure the guests get to have a unique experience that is exciting to listeners.
- Last but not least we want to be professional. A lot of times the word professionalism has a connotation of emotional detachment or coldness. I simply mean that this show will follow best practices that are typical of a paid gig. Although though it’s unlikely anyone will see money from this project, it is still important to make sure people’s time and commitments are valued and respected.
With the second season approaching, I know there are more lessons to be learned and many more good times to be had. I come to it with a new sense of responsibility and commitment to helping the improv community in Portland produce more awesome stuff.
Thanks for being a part of the journey!
- Alex Beeken