When a comic decides to do a character as their act, it is making a commitment to one particular point of view, one particular persona. And, within that set of limits, there can be unlimited freedom. It is not for everyone since most comics have a healthy ego that demands undisguised attention. But some comics like an added artistic challenge, like Andy Kaufman. And so it is my honor to introduce to you, Smork Bolson. He is erudite, a bit out of touch, and ironically unironic. The comedy of Smork Bolson is mellow with sharp edges. This is a man seemingly of small words but maybe not. It just depends upon how long he is going to tolerate you.
The best way of looking at Smork Bolson is to not stare. Just look. Just listen. And let the comedy come to you. Deadpan. Droll. Maybe even a bit of steampunk–or maybe not. One thing’s for sure, Smork Bolson is not to be toyed with. He is serious about being serious and that’s what makes him hilarious. I hope you enjoy this conversation between Bolson and myself. I turned it into something like a card game as I had a stack of questions from which I drew from. It turned out to be a fun game and you might enjoy playing it with a friend. And getting back to our subject, be sure to stop by and check in on what Smork is up to at his new website. There are plans for puzzles, games and wordy amusements plus you’ll find a blog there too.
From clockwise: Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, Molly Tellers, & Nicole Santora
The sketch comedy troupe Day Job presented two shows at the Ballard Underground this last Friday and Saturday. Day Job is made up of what could very well be the only all-female sketch comedy group in Seattle. The members are Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, Molly Tellers, and Nicole Santora. The foursome is currently a threesome as Nicole is out on maternity leave. I caught the Saturday show which featured the comedic talents of Clara Lewis, Casey Middaugh, and Brittany Tipton.
The show kicked off with a long music intro as Clara Lewis took the stage. She wasn’t expecting so much music but gladly shimmied around. Then she launched into a most inspired set on millennial woes. There was also perfect use of fart jokes. In my view, a strategically placed fart joke will carry you through thick and thin. Placement one: Clara clued us in on how she craves letting her guard down and be able to fart if she chooses. Okay, something the audience can instantly relate to. Placement two: Clara distinguishes between letting a fart fend off a bad date before it happens and avoiding a fart end a good date before it happens. All very funny stuff. Clara provided a very quirky and charming set.
Music was everything for Casey Middaugh as her set was a mix of spoken word accompanied by a ukulele. Casey has a winning smile and easily won over the audience with her whimsical sense of humor. It seemed to come from a sweet, and lovingly loopy, place with a touch of Andy Kaufman and Lily Tomlin. Casey gracefully gave us a short tour of her childhood via anecdotes and even a song she wrote when she was six years old. It’s quite an awesome song involving teenagers, Hawaii, and Hula hoops.
Millennial woes from a different vantage point made up Brittany Tipton‘s set. Brittany was very generous in opening up to the audience. From where she sits, low expectations are nothing to sneeze at. But, if you want to hear a more ambitious attitude, then Brittany was game. She invited the audience to take part in a quick and free therapy session before she became a professional and would have to charge an arm and a leg. One brave soul came forward and claimed he was having misgivings about his career choice. Brittany, with a wink and a ton of irony, did the best to reassure him.
And then it was on to a variety of freewheeling and fast-paced sets by the Day Job comedy group. Let me say here that I was very impressed with everything I saw. When you think about it, on any given night, a comedy club is likely to have an all-male show. Of course, we have great female comics and we need to see more of them. Saturday’s show was an excellent example. Is the female sense of humor any different from the male view? Equal, at least. Maybe even better. It seems that certain details in character studies might be handled with more care from a feminine perspective. Sometimes males need to tap into their feminine side. That said, the Day Job crew were on their A game.
One of the most inventive and fully realized scenes from the Day Job set was Molly Tellers as a father clumsily trying to help his teen daughter, played by Caitie Auld, match up with the coolest boy in her high school, played by Kara O’Connor. I’ll break this one down as best I can. Molly has a gift for taking on her characters with a fun and physical gusto. Much of it depended upon just the right goofy voice along with spot on body language. It’s an immersive quality she achieves as she channels her version of a Homer Simpson-like dad. Caitie, as the teen daughter, is a whirlwind of emotional despair. She nails her teen character with determined grace. I think Caitie is a wonderful talent with a delightful presence. Kara, as the most eligible bachelor, is hilarious. With effortless ease, she taps into all the bravado and posturing of a hot teenage boy.
Comedy is a serious business. Let that sink in for a moment. It’s a dangerous business too. Why else would some people rather have an eye poked out than stand up on stage and let it all hang out in the world of comedy improv? One of the best places in the whole wide world to answer such questions, and so much more, is iO West.
I laughed, and learned, so much from my visit to iO West. And it left me with plenty to process and incorporate into my own life, comedy-related or not. Let’s just say that what goes on in improv applies to life in a myriad of ways. Want to be a better problem-solver? Improv has got you covered. Want to be more creative? Improv all the way. Oh, yeah, want to be a better comedian, actor, and/or writer? Improv! Lucky for you, iO West is not only the place to see improv, it is also the place to train in improv. It also happens to be the place all the winners go to, like Amy Poehler. You know, the coolest and most successful comics and writers on the planet.
Go with your first instinct. That’s the golden rule. You think you’ve got something funny to say? Say it! Blurt it out and see what happens. You can see how that would apply to other aspects of your life. Everything under the sun, really. Don’t be afraid to go with your first thoughts. That’s what I got to see at a high level of skill. These were performances put on my teams of comics. Each team takes the stage and begins with a cue from the audience. They’re given something to work with and then create a narrative. How about the scintillating theme of…condiments? Or the alluring topic of being called a…schmuck. What is a schmuck, really? Well, a loser. This process of making with the funny is known as “Yes, and…” or “The Harold.” What it all comes down to is that this kind of contact sport comedy is as good as its players.
I took in a couple of sets from two fierce and hilarious House Harold teams, Heyday and King Ten. The key is trust. Each player makes a leap of faith that what he or she blurts out will be caught by another player and will either continue or be redirected or will be discreetly obliterated.
The object of the game is to not think, or not overthink. Do that when you’re writing. Just write. You already know this. But it always helps to remember that. You just do it. You edit later.
An improv team is both writing on the fly and editing on the fly. Heyday and King Ten are master storytellers able to create whole worlds from a single audience suggestion. Each team is made up of stellar players, like Heyday’s Mort Burke. I knew I’d seen him before somewhere. I saw him at the Seattle Improv Fest a while back. I really appreciate his droll style. If you’re performing at iO West, you’ve got the chops after many years of hard work, like Karen Graci, who is part of King Ten and is also an instructor at iO West. She has a distinctive bubbly vibe to her. Well, like I say, each player has his or her own unique qualities.
For me, I would love the danger of performing on stage. You would feel naked on stage, wouldn’t you? Ever have that dream where you’re naked while in a classroom full of students? Usually, you’re also taking a final exam. What does it mean? You want to bare your soul? You want to be, if you aren’t already, a nudist? How about: Everything is peeled away and you’re being tested. I have that dream a lot and I like it. I think it means I want to challenged. Reminds me of a comedy show I recently saw in Seattle and one set had a comic incorporate a confessional narrative with actually stripping down to nearly nothing. There’s a need in performers to expose a greater truth, let people see them raw. Yes, comedy is a serious business. It’s also an empowering business. Brings me back to the concept of “Yes, and…”
iO West is located at 6366 Hollywood Boulevard. If you are visiting Los Angeles, you need to go here. Did I mention the great drinks at great prices? Yes, you can order from the comfort of your own seat while watching the show too. If you want great comedy, if you want a taste of the real LA, then visit our friends at iO West right here.