SH Sean Harding/blog
First Showcase
Friday, March 9th, 2007

As I mentioned in my last post, my first improv show ever was last night. That’s right — I had never before performed in front of anyone except my kind and generous classmates and teachers. The show was a student showcase, for the end of the winter session of classes at Unexpected Productions. Classes 200 (us), 300, 400 and 500 performed, and we went first. I won’t keep you in suspense. I had an awesome time! I think it went really well, and it was a blast performing in front of a real audience (drinking real beer). My performance wasn’t the best I’ve ever done, but I’m very satisfied.

I wasn’t terribly nervous going in. I was mostly just wound up. The show was supposed to start at 8, but it didn’t really start until around 8:15. Those fifteen minutes were the only time I started feeling a little nervous; I think I let my pre-show energy peak around 8:05, so mild anxiety briefly set in before we hit the stage. But it was fine, and as soon as we started I felt great. I’ll have video of the whole show up soon, but in the interests of getting this up I’m only including the scenes I’m in (sorry guys!).

Johnny and Lisa started with a great Scene by Numbers with the suggestion of “a spider.”

Next, Brad, Charles and I played Chain Murder Endowment. I introduced it and did the first endowment to Charles, then Charles did the second endowment to Brad. I explain the whole thing in the video, so I won’t rehash it here. But basically it’s a game where you try to get another player to figure out your suggestions, communicating only in gibberish. Then the second player does the same for the third player (often compounding any misunderstandings made in the first round). It’s great fun.

Next up was Movie Review, which you all know is my, ummm, favorite game. Brad and Tony played the reviewers, and everyone else acted in the “movie.” I think it went reasonably well. This is the one in which I’m least pleased with my contribution, but as a team I think we made it work.

After Movie Review, Charles, Lisa, Tony and I did a Tag Team Monologue.

Following the Tag Team Monologue, Johnny, Nancy and Tony did a very nice scene in Quadrants. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in it, so no video for now (it’s coming, I promise).

Finally, we closed the show with a Growing and Shrinking Machine including everyone in the class. I love Growing and Shrinking Machine when it works, and I think this one worked fairly well. We’ve done a few in the past couple of weeks in which multiple people completely forgot a scene (including me), so I was really glad that didn’t happen in the show! (This video is on YouTube, because MySpace kept crapping out when I tried to upload it. Blame MySpace for how long it took to get this posted.)

Overall, it was an awesome experience, and I can truthfully say that I can’t wait until I get to do it again. I might even invite more people than just Becky next time. I’d like to publicly thank Jennifer Eolin for her encouragement — there’s no way I would have been up there last night if it weren’t for her. And thank you also to all of my other friends who have been encouraging me! You guys are awesome!

To close, here’s a picture of our class taken right after the show.

Benadryl and improv do not mix
Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Spring is just around the corner. It is my second favorite season, right behind summer. In spring, the weather only sucks 95% of the time, compared to 99.9% of the time in winter. Even better, spring means that summer (with a mere 70% suckage here in Seattle) is on the way. But spring brings one horrible thing: allergies. My eyes and throat get itchy, my sinuses get congested and I am prone to bouts of uncontrollable sneezing. It really is no fun at all, and I can’t live my life that way. So I have to turn to drugs.

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of solutions. I try Claritin almost every year. I’ve sprayed Nasonex and Flonase up my nose until I can’t smell anything else. I had a brief relationship with Allegra. But no matter what I try, nothing works nearly as well as good old cheap, over-the-counter Benadryl. Benadryl usually knocks the allergy symptoms right out. Unfortunately, it also makes me drowsy and clouds my thinking considerably.

Yesterday afternoon, my allergies were really acting up, so I popped a Benadryl. My singing lesson went relatively well, but by the time I got to Playground, I felt like I was in a dense fog. I could barely keep up with the clapping warmup, and the scenework I tried to do was nearly a disaster (saved only by the fact that I limited myself to very small contributions). I think my brain was operating on a delay of at least three seconds. Every time we started a new exercise, I tried to evaluate my ability to do it, and I almost always decided to sit it out. I ended up sitting on my butt most of the night. That’s not the way I like to participate in Playground, but it was really the only sane course of action.

Tonight, we have our first real show. In front of people who aren’t our classmates. Ack! I’m really excited, and not all that nervous, but I suspect my nerves will increase gradually as showtime approaches. I only have one rule for myself tonight: no Benadryl.

PF, LS & CSz in LA. Go us!
Monday, March 5th, 2007

As many of you already know, Becky and I went to Los Angeles last weekend. The Office session at Paley Fest is what brought the trip about, but hanging out with our friends was really the highlight of the weekend. It was so great to meet so many great folks we’d never met before, and to spend time with such wonderful people. I only wish we could have stayed for longer!

Here are some photos from our trip. We’re usually really good at taking photos. On most vacations, we come back with hundreds (or thousands) of photos. But for some reason, we didn’t take nearly enough this time around. I think we were too distracted with all the other stuff going around to remember to pull out the camera!

Us in the hotel room right before heading out to Paley.

The Paley-going gang after the show.

Playing with Wendy’s dog Cannon.

Jennie and I at iO West before The Lampshades.

Kevin, Tori, me and Becky.

Becky, Wendy and me.

Me and Karly Rothenberg.

Me, Kate Flannery and Becky after The Lampshades.

Scot Robinson and me.

The ComedySportz-going gang after the show.

Finally, this nice lady asked us for a picture, so we went along with it.

Thanks to everyone we met and hung out with for an awesome weekend!

Ebert I ain’t
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Call me crazy, but I like almost every improv exercise and game I’ve ever done. I’m better at some than others, but I nearly always enjoy them. That streak of improvisational bliss ended last night. I came to the realization that I hate the “Movie Reviewers” game. I’m not saying it’s just not one of my favorites — I actively hate it. This is a new experience for me, but there’s no denying the truth.

If you’re not familiar with Movie Reviewers, the basic idea is that you have two people who act as movie reviewers and a number of other people to act out the movie. It usually starts with a suggestion (often a movie title). Then the reviewers start out with an opening like the beginning of a movie review show, and then they intro a “clip” (ideally with some good offers for the movie actors), generally from early in the movie. The other players act out the clip, bringing in their own ideas. Then the same thing happens with a clip from the middle of the movie and again with the end. Simple enough. It doesn’t seem evil. It’s easier than a lot of other games. Yet for some reason, I just can’t stand it. I don’t like playing the reviewer, I don’t like playing the actor and I don’t even really like watching it.
This is all really too bad, because Movie Reviewers is a favorite of a lot of people in my class. And far be it from me to be the party pooper. I’m sure there are things I love that other people hate. So I’ll suffer through it. But no one can stop me from complaining about it in my blog!

TIBTIL: TiVo Series3
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

There are two types of people in the world: people who take their TV watching seriously, and people who don’t. If you know me at all, you know I’m in the first group. TV is serious business, and it requires serious gear. I don’t fool around. That’s why I swear by TiVo.

I’ve had TiVos since early 2000, and I can’t live without them now. I would literally keel over and die if I didn’t have a TiVo in my life. I told you this is serious. Didn’t you believe me? Anyway, last year, we finally decided to join the revolution and upgrade to HDTV. We went to Costco and got an awesome new TV (likely subject of a future blog). Great idea, right? It sure seemed like it, but there was one little problem: TiVo didn’t make an HD-compatible DVR. However, Comcast has its own HD DVR, and I really wanted HDTV. So I forced myself to ignore the warning bells ringing loudly in my head and I swapped out my main TiVo for a Comcast DVR. BIG MISTAKE. Wow. What a piece of crap. It’s (marginally) better (in some ways) than using a VCR (if you ignore the splitting headache it will give you). But really, it’s a pale imitation of a real TiVo. So I was thrilled, nay, overjoyed, nay jumping up and down with excitement until I passed out when I heard that TiVo was finally releasing an HD unit, the Series3, late last year.

Getting my hands on a TiVo Series3 was not an easy feat, but I was able to track one down at a BestBuy 30 miles away. When I got it home, I hooked it up and I was immediately in heaven. I was back to the same great TiVo experience, with the same polished interface, but all in HD with more storage space than any TiVo I’d ever had. Add in digital cable, full Dolby 5.1 audio, THX certification (I’m not sure what that means other than a cool startup sound, but what more do you need?) and a nifty new front panel display, and you have the best TiVo ever made. I kicked the Comcast DVR directly to the curb, and I haven’t looked back.

Yes, the TiVo Series3 is expensive. Much more expensive than a cable company DVR. But the experience is just that much better. I think it’s worth every penny. Besides, didn’t we already agree that TV watching is serious business, worthy of serious equipment? Yes, we did. So you know what you have to do. Go. Now. You can thank me later.

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