Making an album

Yes, I’ll date myself and call it an album (at least I’m not calling it an 8-track). Recording an album is one of the most exciting and challenging things I’ve ever done.  I’d put it up there with pregnancy and giving birth, and that’s saying something.

Big Improv Love

I just got back from Femprovisor Fest in San Fransisco, an all female improv festival.  Going to improv festivals is kind of like going to camp; I always talk too much, stay up too late, want to do everything and see every show, make new friends, reconnect with old friends, and come home exhausted.

On being an author

I wrote a book last year!  I can't believe I can say that!

   

I actually co-wrote it, with Bob Baker, and it's called "The Improv Comedy Musician: The Ultimate Guide to Playing Music with an Improv Group".  It's about how to do the kind of playing I do on Whose Line, live with your own improv group. 

   

Although I've been playing for improv for a long time, since my days at The Second City and The Annoyance (both in Chicago), I never thought

What am I doing now?

- I'm excited that Whose Line got picked up for another year!  We'll start taping some time after the new year. yay! 

      

- I've just launched my new book, "The Improv Comedy Musician: The Ultimate Guide to Playing Music with an Improv Group". It's about what I do on Whose Line and in live shows. I co-wrote it with my pal Bob Baker, and we've even sold copies

I am grateful

This week I feel like a working musician, and I'm loving it.

On Tuesday, my friend Tera Hendrickson and I recorded a track that got a placement on the tv show Gotham! Our friend Drew Powell is a regular on the show, but that's not how we got the placement. Tera did some amazing singing in French, and I got to play cafe style piano & accordion. Oo la la!

Wednesday night I went to a screening of After Auschwitz, which I was honored to have written the music for. What a beautiful film producer Jon Kean has

Whose Line Live is going back to London!

Wow, I've got a big summer ahead of me. First and foremost is a run of Whose Line Live at the London Palladium!  We played in London last year, but it was sort of a last minute booking, so there was very little advance PR possible.  And we were still selling out by the end of the run.  The audiences were really enthusiastic and the reviews were great, so we're going back, with shows from June 9-19.

    

The cast will be a combination from the American & British shows. Our host, Clive Anderson, is like a rock star in England, with a smart, dry sense of humor.  Josie Lawrence is also a British favorite.  And the Americans will be myself, Linda Taylor, Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood, Greg Proops and Jeff Davis.

    

Here's a link to the official website where you can order tickets.  cheers!    

http://www.londontheatres.co.uk/london-palladium/

 

Whose Line is it Anyway: The Longest Running Gig Ever

Whose Line Is it Anyway has been not only the best gig I've ever had, but also the longest running, and in all sorts of different variations.  First we did 8 years of the TV show for ABC. Then I went out on the road with Drew Carey and the Improv Allstars for several years doing live shows all around the US and Canada, and even a USO tour in the Middle East. Then the TV show came back on the CW network, and we're in our third year with Aisha Tyler as our new host.

Now we're going to London this summer to do a live run of the show at the Adelphi Theatre with a combination of the American and British casts.

Why do I love being a Sweet Potato?

The Sweet Potatoes at Republic of PieI've been blessed to have made my living as a musician since I was in my early 20's.  I've done everything, including accompanying dance classes, piano bar, music for kids, wedding bands, original bands, writing and playing musicals, improv live and on television, and film scoring.  I wouldn't change a thing I've done. Even the bad gigs have taught me something, even if it's "I don't want to do that again".

 

But this band, oh, it's my true love.  My favorite thing is that I get to write whatever I want, and not worry if it's "radio friendly" or anything else.  I can write songs from my experiences and observations, which at this point feel like a lot.  I'm not in my 20's anymore, I'm married, I've got kids, I've taken my knocks, paid my dues, been around the block, had the joys and losses that come with living and loving. The subject matter feels endless to me, and this band feels like my true creative outlet.

Getting Suggestions for Improv

Suggestions for Taking Suggestions

   

Taking suggestions from the audience is an important part of improv performance.  Try to really connect with your audience and let them know that their suggestions are important and essential to the show. Ask them to give intelligent, thought provoking suggestions. They might not, but it can’t hurt.  And remember, if they think you’re not really taking their suggestions, they will turn against you.

Back on the set of Whose Line is it Anyway

It was the craziest deja vu going back to tape a new round of Whose Line episodes after almost 9 years off. Everything was the same but different. For one thing, we shot

Whose Line FAQs

Can you send me the sheet music/MP3 file for the Hoe Down (or Irish Drinking Song)?
This is the question people ask me the most. I’m sorry, but all the music on Whose Line is the property of the show, and they’ve chosen not to publish it, so it’s not available in any form.


 However, I have created a 2 cd set, Improv Karaoke,Vol. 1which has tracks in different styles (including one similar to the Hoe Down) designed to be used for song improv.  It also has demos, tips and pointers to help you get started.  It was so popular, I also made Improv Karaoke, Vol. 2 with more musical styles for your improv pleasure (including one that's a lot like Irish Drinking Song).  You can find out more at: www.improvkaraoke.com

 

I’m a musician and want to play for improv groups, how do I get started?
The best way is to immerse yourself in it. Go to lots of improv shows and listen to what the musician is doing. I’d suggest taking an improv class even if you don’t want to be an actor/improviser. It will help you get to know improvisers in your area, and teach you the basic elements of improv. Then start an improv group yourself, or ask an existing one if you can play with them. Most improv groups are thrilled to have a musician who wants to work with them. Often times the musician is the only one who gets paid at the shows!  And study lots of different kinds of music, try to get a basic grasp of what makes a style of music (like blues or reggae) sound like that style.

 

I also highly recommend Michael Pollack's excellent book Musical Direction for Improv and Sketch Comedy

 

Can you give me a phone number or e-mail address for Ryan/Wayne/whoever my favorite is? I’m his biggest fan!
Not a chance.

How to be a musician in an improv group

HOW TO BE A MUSICIAN IN AN IMPROV GROUP

 

I was interviewed last year by someone doing his master's thesis about being a musician in the context of an improv group. It was so interesting to talk with him in an analytical way about something I've learned in such an intuitive way.

 

One of the questions he asked was one that people often ask, “How do you learn to be an improv musician?” I don't really have a set answer for that. It's such a niche within a niche, so all I can tell you is how I learned to do it.

 

On the Road with Drew Carey and the Improv Allstars

During the time we were making Whose Line, and continuing after, various groups from the show toured doing live shows. I mostly toured with Drew Carey and the Improv Allstars.  In 2002 we did a USO tour of airforce bases in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman.  In 2005 we hit the road for a 10 week, 60 city tour, playing all sorts of venues and traveling in every vehicle imaginable.  We even had a show cancel because Hurricane Katrina flattened the auditorium. 

We also played in Las Vegas for Super Bowl Weekend for several years.  A couple times rock legend, Joe Walsh, sat in with Linda and I!  We got to learn a bunch of James Gang, Eagles and Joe Walsh tunes straight from the source.  I couldn’t believe I was playing “Rocky Mountain Way" with Joe himself.

       

Starting out on Whose Line is it Anyway

Whose Line has been the most amazing gig for me.  We started out doing six hybrid episodes, shot in America but with the British host.  We ended up doing 216 episodes over eight seasons with Drew Carey as the host.  It was the most fun, intense, crazy job I’ve ever had.


I got the audition through Ron West, who I knew from The Second City in Chicago, and had become a Whose Line producer.  I’ve played lots of live improv with almost every improv group in Chicago and L.A.  I auditioned with Brad Sherwood and Wayne Brady, and we all got hired out of it.

 

When we started out, I was the only musician, but then they added Linda Taylor on guitar.  Later on we also had horn players sometimes. I didn’t know Linda before she auditioned, but I could tell from the minute we started playing together that we were going to get along great. We've done lots of projects together since then. 

 

We would tape over a three day weekend, and did tons of games that would later get cut into the shows.  And yes, we were really improvising, but no, they’re not that funny all the time. The secret is in the editing. Some of the games would go well, some not so well; that’s the nature of improv. (And actually, if something went really badly, they would keep it, because that can be funny too!)  And although we were good, the editing made us look more brilliant than we actually are.

 

We had lots of guest stars in later seasons.  Richard Simmons was of course totally crazy! But my favorites were Sid Caesar, who was a perfect gentleman and flirted with Linda and I, and Florence Henderson, who we'd all I’d grown up watching on The Brady Bunch.

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