GrooveCat TV Improv Company
Improv is coming to TV ... and to a streaming service near you
There's not much new original TV available right now. Or coming for the immediate future. The double-whammy of a writers' strike (Writers Guild of America) and an actors' strike (SAG-AFTRA) is taking its toll on everyone, including its audiences.
The issues underlying the strikes are very serious. However they're resolved, they'll affect the entertainment industry for a long time to come. But in the meantime, expect a lot of reality series to be broadcast. A LOT. Like game shows, they're relatively inexpensive to produce. Best of all, from the studios' perspectives, they don't require writers or actors. Good for the studios, not so great for the rest of us.
Industries, though, have a way of being disrupted. We hear about them all the time in the worlds of technology, medical services, and transportation, to name a few. Why should entertainment be any different?
It's not. That's a good part of why the writers' and actors' unions are striking. AI (and its potential for abuse) and the success of streaming services are turning the industry on its head.
But guess what? Actors and writers don't have to sit on their hands hoping and waiting for a favorable outcome. No, we're trained to go out there and make our own content. And that's what some of us are doing.
Welcome to a new type of improv comedy. It's riding the wave of some of these very disruptors that are shaking up the entertainment industry in unexpected ways. What's different is that it has the potential to empower the very people who are making it: the actors vs. the studio executives.
Allow me to introduce you to the GrooveCat TV improv company.
Industry disruptors are double-edged swords. They cut jobs, but they also provide
huge opportunities for those who can recognize them.
Sometimes it's the underdog who ends up on top.
Beyond Second City
I've always loved improvisation and its cousin, extemporaneous speaking. (My favorite event when I was a member of my university's competitive speech team.) Once upon a long time ago, I studied with Second City in Chicago and with the (now defunct) Atlanta Highwire Comedy troupe.
Fast forward to early 2023, when I picked up improv again with classes taught by an Emmy award-winning director and the founder of one of Atlanta's longest running improv troupes. David Webster, affectionately known as "Web" to his friends and students, has created a new, experiential form of improv that he's eager to bring to TV and streaming services. Pure improv: no pre-planned skits, forced humor, or one-joke comedy. Nope, this is improv that touches on real life and evokes authentic emotional responses in its audience. It is DIFFERENT.
Forget wacka-wacka comedy. This improv is EXPERIENTIAL.
Remember "Seinfeld," the show self-described as all "about nothing?" It was definitely about something: the small, often humorous, everyday experiences and annoyances that we all go through. It was genuinely funny and its episodes resonated with most of us.
Web's improv is kind of like that. His company, the GrooveCats, performs experiential improv that's grounded in real human experiences and feelings. Students are taught not to go all out for the big laughs from a single joke, but to evoke authentic emotions from the scenes we play. And when we, the performers, truly put ourselves in these situations and honestly feel what our characters would be experiencing, then the scene takes on heart and depth and resonates with our audiences. As for the funny, well, it comes naturally from the bizarre situations our real characters find themselves in and the improv games we play to move the scenes along.
And it WORKS! See for yourself in November 2023 when we come via a streaming service near you. Watch this blog for details and then catch an episode or two when it airs. Let me know if you think this type of improv works for you! It won't matter if you decide to participate as a member of our live, in-person studio audience or as part of our digital community watching from wherever or however you like. You'll have the same chance to participate by throwing out improv suggestions as any in-person participant (or heckler, for that matter) might do.
Improv makes me a better actor. The ability to live in the moment, connect with the scene and other actors, and react spontaneously and authentically is the basis for good acting.
Striking the soul of acting: stage, screen, or voice over.
Now let me give you the actor's perspective. True acting is re-acting. It's all about being in the moment, taking in the actions around you, and responding as any real person would to what others in that scene or saying or doing. And this is what improv teaches: to listen and react. Web's GrooveCat company goes one step further by bringing the essence of stage, screen, and voice acting to improv. And that's EMOTION, which gives every scene importance and weight. Not many - if any other - improv companies do that.
This is another reason why I'm enjoying being a GrooveCat: it makes me a better actor. Period. I have another tool in my belt for accessing the deep emotion and purpose that a character is feeling and bringing it to whatever scene I'm in. You may have heard of the Meisner acting technique, which teaches how to be in the moment. Well, so does this form of improv. The Stanislavski acting method trains actors in the art of "experiencing" by accessing deep wells of emotion. Web's improv does so, too. Personally, I like improv takes the best of two of the most acclaimed acting techniques, melds them together, and applies them to subtle comedy.
Furthermore, I think that this type of improv, especially as Web is positioning us for live broadcast, is at the forefront of unscripted TV. There's historical context, too. Think back to the writers' strike (Writers Guild of America or WGA) in 2007-2008 when all scripted TV shows went on hiatus for the duration of the strike. That's when the reality series format truly took off. Now just look at how many unscripted series we have today, and how many more being planned, especially with the SAG-AFTRA actors' strike looking to last through the rest of 2023. People want their entertainment and they like it fresh. Can't get much fresher than improv, both in the literal and figurative senses. (Translation: content is continually being created anew and the subject matter can - let's be honest - get rather raw.)
Where do I think we're going? In the near term, on a popular streaming service. Long term? Well, let's just say that 15 years ago, reality TV was a relatively inexpensive answer to traditionally scripted television shows. I think we're going to see broadcast improv shows like the GrooveCats storm those parapets in the coming years.
Laura's Quick Tips
Disruption is not always a bad thing, even though it feels that way at the time.
There's always the urge to balance: the more we're fed pre-packaged, bland "entertainment" by computer, the more people crave authentic human experiences.
Embrace new ventures. You never know where they'll lead you!