There are few things that I enjoy as much as improv and podcasts. Until recently my schedule has not allowed for much of either. Luckily all that is changing. I just started a new improv class, and two weeks in I am prepared to say it is the best one I’ve ever had. I also have a couple of improv teams that are starting to achieve liftoff. So everything is coming up Steve-zee. It’s also summer, which means there is very little activity going down at the undisclosed high school where I make money. I still have to come in, of course, because support staff doesn’t deserve a vacation. I’ll try not to sound bitter though, as a couple of months of monotonous busy work is allowing me to catch up on podcasts, particularly Matt Besser’s improv4humans.
Besser is one of the founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade, so he’s kind of a big deal in the community. His position allows him to bring in amazing improvisers to participate on improv4humans. This includes his co-founders (Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, Amy Poehler), hilarious veterans, some of the edgier element, and even relatively fresh faces new to UCB’s Harold Teams.
I haven’t listened to i4h much since the new year began. In fact, at the beginning of last week I was backed up to an episode from the end of January. In the last several days I have listened to about twenty-five episodes of the show, and such bingeing has only deepened my appreciation for the program.
In each episode Besser brings on three (or sometimes four) fellow improvisers to do what they do best. Their scenes are inspired by stories, YouTube videos, interviews, on-air debates, or sometimes even live music. Scenes can go absolutely crazy or stay rather reserved, but Besser is always the constant. His ability to alter his gameplay style to that of his fellow improvisers is almost magical. He can play more straightforward stuff with members of The Swarm (like Sean Conroy or Billy Merritt), but he doesn’t bat an eye when a guy like Paul Rust throws out the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard (like Tom Petty’s mustache being stolen mid-concert). He can play incredibly dirty with people like Jon Gabrus or John Gemberling, but completely switch it up when necessary. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Besser taught improv to most of his guests.The show wouldn’t be nearly as successful without him at the head, as you can see in some of the other improv podcasts on the ‘net.
Every episode of i4h isn’t amazing. Some can be a little dull, and every once in a while the show will get bogged down in a rant or argument. But it hits way more than it misses. If you like improv you need to listen to the show. Even if you don’t think you like improv, give improv4humans a chance. You may be converted.
improv4humans is available on iTunes via the Earwolf network. The two most recent episodes are best-ofs, featuring many different guests from the last few months.