Bt5w: The Journey From Home to Home Again.

posted Mar 3, 2012, 6:50 PM by Wiremu Tuhiwai

Why oh why is it you don't know what you have until it's gone?!
April 7 2012 I will lose two people who have sculpted part of my personal and artistic life. Two people who you haven't seen on 'That American Sitcom' or 'That Kiwi Sketch Show' which is better than that Radi Radi Rah Bull S! Two people for any complete strangers would say if they saw them in the street;
'Oh she dresses nice, and he looks like Steve Carrells and Woody Allen's love child.'
Merrilee and Josh are not strangers to the comedy scene, the real grassroots of comedy and improv. No they are the most under rated writers, thinkers, producers, laughers, improvisors, entertainers in this country. And now, they jetting to the bigger smoke of Melbourne Australia, where they can release more of their creative juices on stage and heres hoping on television as well. Because Wellington, NZ Arts Capital can not afford to give them and many other local talent the means and funds to break the scene.
With many contacts in Oz anyway, I see no problem for them to make it, bigger and better.
Will I venture? I would like to think so. I have a lot to thank them for. Sadly, I have not done what I had initially set out to here a few years ago. And I know I disappoint them sometimes, now or before, which is the must frustrating thing for me. It hasn't been until I realize I'm going to lose my second family that I now must fend myself. They were my training wheels so to speak, now I must learn to ride by myself. A lone wolf who has always been the follower. Must now lead his own way, his own journey. Who must now seize the sword.
Why oh why is it you don't know what you have until it's gone?
Because sometimes, its moments like these that make you actions define who you are and not what you or others see.
Merrilee and Josh have shown me everyday, that talking the talk is one thing. But walking the walk - now thats an adventure. And as Odin, Mohammed, Ranginui, God as my witnesses - I will have another adventure with them. 
My 'sister' and my Yankiwi partner.
I love you both.

Living in improvland

posted Aug 6, 2011, 4:42 PM by Merrilee McCoy

Cross-posted from Merrilee's blog.

Living in improvland (and never wanting to leave)

I have been living in improvland for five days now.
My days consist of:
7:30ish - wake up and curse the nearby construction noises (and the sun)
9:30ish - head to the theatre for forum of the day
2pm - workshop of the day
5pm - dinner
7:30ish - show
10pm - head to watering hole to talk yet more improv til the wee hours
2-3am - get to sleep.

It's literally mind altering. In improvland, everything is possible and is worth doing. Games can be played at any moment. Jokes, smiles and hugs are part of every conversation. Fast friends are made and it's lovely. In improvland, the real world is to be ignored if at all possible.

After my last post, I was actually invited to play in the Inspired by Strindberg show. The short version of my experience is that I will remember it always.

I had so many discoveries throughout the show. I felt reaffirmed as a performer, whilst also being delighted and surprised by my fellow cast members. I find it hard to accurately describe in words how much I felt inspired onstage, as well as heartbroken by the wonderful story that was told. For the first time ever, I cried real tears onstage! I've re-lived that moment over and over since it happened, and I'm still unsure where it came from. I guess that I was just 100% there.

The plot (in a nutshell) centered around two families who were to be joined by a daughter (Olga) and son (Pieter) getting married. The sub-plots revealed that:

  • Pieter was cheating on his fiance (and was generally a prick)
  • Long-time servant Olaf was in love with Olga (who had no idea, of course)
  • Olga's father had had a relationship with Pieter's mother
  • The families generally hated each other (think the Montagues and Capulets)
Olaf (played by Felipe Ortiz) was entirely lovable and innocent, and obviously the 'right guy' for Olga. What transpired between them was a heartbreaking scene where Olaf questioned Olga about her love for Pieter, whilst secretly wishing to profess his own. Later, Olaf saw Pieter liaising with Anya (another servant). There was a scream in the night and the last scene showed Olga discovering Olaf after hanging himself.

There was an audible gasp from the audience when this was revealed. I met multiple audience members who left the theatre deeply moved by the play, many still sobbing. It took me a couple of hours (and several debriefing conversations!) to come down myself. 

I am still reeling from the fact it was all made up right then and there. The play felt and looked like a scripted show. Every character played an essential role. It felt effortless! It highlighted to me the possibilities for improvisation that can so often easily be forgotten. We can do convincing drama that shows real emotion, using theatrical conventions. 

I am deeply and profoundly moved, and I will never forget this show. 

I am honoured that I could play my part in telling the story. My thanks to Per for casting me, and massive thanks (and admiration) to my fellow cast members Rama, Felipe, Glenn, Jenny, Cathy, Nick, Randy, plus Kettil and Tristan on music.

I feel more convinced than ever that I don't just like improv, but I actually need it in my life. It's a really deep feeling right in the guts (so to speak). 

Comedy of manners, please

posted Jul 7, 2011, 3:07 PM by J S

In the history of comedy no other genre has been more respectful than the "comedy of manners" genre.

The first foray into this genre was Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, which was significant for heralding a polite phrase for the term "overrated." Etiquette demands that when one is criticising a humorous piece which relies heavily on tired gags, cardboard characters and hackneyed dialogue that one use the title of Shakespeare's greatest overvalued work.

Later in the 1800s the Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde, had the good graces to tactfully pull himself away from his full-time job creating genteel quips for the sophisticated, so that he could further the genre by writing The Importance of Being Earnest (which I sincerely loved) and Lady Windermere's Fan (of which I am not an admirer). Both plays courteously dissect Victorian norms to create comedies of a highly deferential nature.

In the 1900s writers like Noel Coward, P.G. Wodehouse and Talbot Rothwell had the sense of propriety to take the comedy of manners into the 20th century with good form and a proper sense of protocol. 

If nothing else comedy of manners give due respect to the objects of their ridicule. 

Slapstick (or smacktwig) comedy

posted Jul 7, 2011, 3:06 PM by J S   [ updated Aug 12, 2011, 2:12 PM ]

Slapstick comedy, funny or not, the intrigue of this style of humour lies not so much in it's ability to arouse laughter but in it's ability to spark electrifying controversy (positive and negative) among charged comedy critics.

The standing of slapstick comedy is often vertically debated by comedy critics. Whether it should elevated to an actual art form or lowered to a subordinate stature has only served to heighten the debate and bring it to the zenith of comedic discourse.
The flavour of the argument has often been polarised by those who find high brow or low brow comedy more palatable, despite that this has always been a matter of taste.
These critical humourist's appetite is never satiated by  simply experiencing the joy of someone getting a pie in the face, and they relish the moment they can again chew on a tasty morsel of debate as to whether this constitutes laughter in it's purest form or degradation masquerading hilarity. This has always been a bone of contention for me as I consider the entire argument to be half-baked.

Some argue that it does not even belong in the category of "low brow" and should more rightly be placed in the realm of the protruding brow as archeological evidence does show that Neanderthals did use wooden tools on each other for amusement.

Before we go any further dissecting the debate, it would serve us well to understand the origin of the word
"slapstick." It comes from the word batacchio which is the sound an Italian person makes when they are struck with two wooden slats fixed together. There was much experimentation in the early days but ultimately it was found the hitting Italian people produced the funniest results by far. Thus the batacchio or "slapstick" was named.

Ultimately this debate will rage on as to whether slapstick comedy constitutes genuine comedic practice or not, however I am sick of this debate and hope an anvil falls on the head of those who take comedy too seriously to enjoy people getting physically injured.

Have you ever noticed...observational comedy

posted Jul 3, 2011, 9:47 PM by J S

To me observational comedy is the funniest thing that I have ever observed on stage.

Some people think pointing out the obvious is a conspicuous, transparent and plain way to make people laugh. But I think observations are not as easy as they look.

You actually have to pay attention to something to say "Have you ever noticed _____", and you have to a grasp of bargaining to say "What's the deal with ____". These sort of things aren't easily picked up upon (I'm not sure if you've noticed that or not).

As you can see observations are plainly noticeable for anyone aside from the blind. But even the blind pick up on things as long as they are within their reach. Otherwise you have to hand it to them.

One last thing about observational humour: have you ever noticed that a lot of observational comics ask open-ended rhetorical questions?

Sitcom homage #4

posted Apr 12, 2011, 8:37 PM by Merrilee McCoy

In between rehearsals, we're spending our time making these for your enjoyment.
Well, it's for our enjoyment also - re-living fave sitcom moments and just generally being silly...

Sitcom Homage #2

posted Mar 28, 2011, 7:16 PM by Merrilee McCoy


Who remembers "Perfect Strangers"?

posted Mar 23, 2011, 5:19 PM by Merrilee McCoy

... we do...

The Most Fun Funeral

posted Mar 16, 2011, 4:10 PM by Merrilee McCoy

 by Merrilee..

The Most Fun Funeral
Friday, 18 February 2011
Written and Performed by Anne Brashier
Directed by Robin Kerr

I had the pleasure of being present for the ‘World Premiere’ of The Most Fun Funeral last week. Before seeing this show, I had not really considered the possibility of putting the words “fun” and “funeral” together in the same sentence. In fact, I’ve only been to a couple of funerals in my life and they were just bizarre experiences that felt awkward and unhappy.
In contrast, through this show we find out that Anne has attended quite a few significant funerals (both her parents’, plus her grandfather’s). She effortlessly takes us on a journey through her experience of these events, playing multiple characters along the way and propelling the show along with her infectious energy.
The Most Fun Funeral is a mash up of funny and tragic, fantastical and real (which is generally my fave kind of show). Afterwards I did find myself thinking about funerals and death, not in a ‘doom and gloom’ way, but in the sense that it WILL happen some day. I think I’d like my funeral to at least be one part party too.
Modern society is built on a denial of death. We create new medicines to keep people alive, save our hair from falling out or take 10 years off our faces. Back in ‘the day’ people used to gather in the town square to watch hangings/ beheadings etc, and it was more common to have dead bodies on public display. I believe today we have a much more mediated experience with death – primarily through TV and films. I think it has a huge affect on our relationship to death and dying. Of course, this show is also a mediated experience, but I felt like I actually got something real out of it.
Unlike CSI, Anne did not show us fake dead bodies. She instead gave us a peek into her personal experience of life and death, and how she’s been shaped by these experiences. I was entirely grateful for her courage and generosity in sharing herself with us through The Most Fun Funeral.

Entering the "Search for a Flatmate 2010"

posted Nov 28, 2010, 11:47 PM by Merrilee McCoy   [ updated Nov 28, 2010, 11:50 PM ]

We spied this video online today:

So, here's my audition tape for being their flatmate:

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