To be polite or impolite

July 18, 2014

photo by Charles Guthrie

My good friend Ben Noble has a blog about improv, I’m Making All This Up.  I was honored to be his first interview/improviser profile.

One of the questions he asked me; “What is the best improv advice or note you have ever received?”  prompted me to include this nugget, “Don’t be polite.”  He then misquoted this as “Never be polite on stage,” in a follow up post; Leveling Up.

This, in turn, (possibly) prompted one of the instructors at our Improv theatre/training center to post his thoughts in the St.Louis Improv Facebook group.  His advice; “Do be polite.”  This spurred a very well thought out debate among my fellow improvisers, which is awesome for our still young and growing scene.

I couldn’t weigh in on that debate at the time, but I wanted to clarify my thoughts right here.

I am a polite person.  I will gladly hold the door open for anyone following me in or out of a building/room.  On the road I will wait for people joining traffic, allow pedestrians to cross (isn’t that the law?) sometimes to the frustration of the other drivers behind me.  If I was in a grocery store I would let someone with a smaller order go ahead of me.  It’s my nature.

When I started doing Improv I was glad to know that this, already inherent, character trait would serve me well.  Good improv is built on supporting your scene partner.  Sometimes you have an idea for a scene and someone says something which goes against that.  You know what?  For a good scene, you drop your initial thought and go with theirs.

However, there was one area where this politeness was hampering my chance to get stage time (which is the best way to improve your skills.)  In certain situations I would wait on the side of the stage with a killer idea, hesitant to step on any toes by coming out with my initiation.

The note to not be polite broke through this.  Suddenly I felt empowered to make my moves.

Now, here’s the but; We’re not really talking about politeness.  It made sense to me at the time, and still does in my own little brain world, but what we’re really saying is be bold.  You should not use the idea of not being polite to always steamroll the less confident members of your team.  If you always find yourself being the one to go out, bring out that hesitant player with you.  Do that enough and you won’t have any under-confident players left.  That’s when you’ll have to start fighting for your stage time, and that’s when the shows start getting great.


It’s your round – The story of “Burger Shots” : part three “Location, Location, Donation?”

October 15, 2013

Late June 2013 : We had a logo, a re-written script and a team ready to help us make the film.  All we needed was a location.  Somewhere that could easily be converted into a “Food Bucket” fast food restaurant.

Although we had the main cast already set (The Exacerbaters) we were planning on holding auditions to fill a few extra roles, and also for our 48hr film project which was coming up.

The auditions were to be held at Lab1500, where the initial Short Film pitch meetings themselves had been held, so I met with Jeff Stevens (of Coolfire media) to organize exact time and place settings.  During lunch I mentioned the difficulties in finding a location.

He told me about The Diner in Sauget, Illinois.   Jeff promised to talk to the owner, Judee Sauget, and I planned to go scope out the location itself.



I arrived at the diner and was instantly impressed.  Yes, this could be our food bucket.  The tables had the look of a fast food restaurant, the design was simple enough that it could be adapted.  On the wall were stills from the film “23 Minutes to Sunrise” which was shot there.  As I looked over the pictures, a woman sat at the booth in front of me asked if I was interested in buying the DVD.  It was Judee.  The exact person I needed to speak to, who just happened to be there having lunch with her daughters.

She gave me her card, allowed me to take some photos and asked to see a script.

IMG_20130603_125225 IMG_20130603_125202

A serendipitous meeting indeed.  Her response to the script was very positive.

“Just read BURGER SHOTS and really laughed.  You are hilarious.  Of course, you can shoot it in the DINER.”

Our location was found!

All we needed now were a few more actors, and some insurance.  Easy.  Well, the first part was.  We had a very high quality of turnout for the auditions, and kept all the actors on call for our 48hr film project.  Finding insurance, or even finding out HOW to find insurance proved to be a little more complicated, and when we finally did get a quote the amount pushed this project temporarily out of our reach financially.  Unless we could, maybe, raise some money on a crowd funding website like



Friend File :- Alex Ringhausen

October 1, 2013

Okay – so I’m basically pimping my own friend – and reblogging something I wrote for my sketch groups page.

But!  I have a whole different circle of followers on mine, and I want EVERYBODY to know this guy…

Friend File :- Alex Ringhausen.

It’s your round – The story of “Burger Shots” : part two “What’s inside of this bucket?”

September 16, 2013

At the meeting, people vote for their favorites with color stickers.

The Short Film Pitch night on April 30th 2013, went better than I could have imagined.  I had a minute to pitch my “Burger Shots” idea, here is my original pitch in written form:-

Imagine a group of people on a pub crawl, but instead of hitting bars and drinking, they are visiting fast food restaurants and binge eating. That’s the premise of Burger Shots, a 5 minute short film. The best part about this is, although it will be a standalone piece, there is a delicious (pun intended) twist at the end, which we hope to expand into an online mini-series.”

I didn’t quite deliver the pitch word for word, but it got the attention of the those in attendance.  People wanted to help with everything from shooting to production design.  I set a deadline for getting it made by the end of June, after The Exacerbaters would have a 48 hour film project under our belt.

My first goal was to write another draft of the script to get it down to four pages, with a view to creating a viral friendly four minute film.  At the same time I tasked Kieara Crisp, (who had volunteered to work on art design) with the design of the fast food company logo’s : Fort Ivory (the original setting of Burger Shots), Milk Majesty, O’Donalds, President Burger and my throw away name Food Bucket.

A few weeks later we met up to look over her ideas, she showed me logo designs for O’Donalds, and President Burger which were great.  A design for the Milk Majesty that had my head spinning…  then this  :-


(c) 2013 Kieara Crisp


(c) 2013 Kieara Crisp

To say I was impressed by this would be an understatement.  Suddenly, in my mind,  “Burger Shots” became more than just a sketch about binge eating.  Any creative person should be familiar with the feeling you get when you are suddenly presented with an idea that excites you, I immediately wanted to start playing in a world where a “Food Bucket” could exist.  I asked her to make one more logo, and crudely sketched an idea – a cow, a pig, a chicken, all struggling to climb out of a bucket, with maybe a puppy and cat – and a little hint of horse.  The result is the logo you should have already seen but I’m going to include again here without the wording.


(c) 2013 Kieara Crisp

I immediately rewrote the script to change the location to a Food Bucket.  In my mind – all we needed now was a viable location.  Simple right?  Oh – then you don’t know me very well.


It’s your round – The story of “Burger Shots” : part one

September 9, 2013



Just over a year ago I joined a group of friends on an amazing comedy adventure.  We formed “The Exacerbaters”, a sketch comedy team.  I’ve blogged about that here, and here, and we have our own blog here.

This is the story of our next short film, “Burger Shots”.  I can’t remember exactly when I first had the idea for the sketch – except that it was in KFC in Plymouth, England, which puts it at least eight to ten years ago.

The premise is simple.  “What if we went into a fast food restaurant and consumed multiple rounds of burgers/food like we do drinks in a bar?”  I saw a cluttered table of fast food debris, a bloated consumer pushing up from the table.  “My round.  Burger?  Burger?  Burger?” pointing at his friends.  I saw people downing fries and slamming the empty carton down.

I pitched this idea, at one of our very first Exacerbater meetings.  It was liked, but all agreed it needed to be a video sketch.  We quickly decided that for our first show, we would focus on live sketches.

“Burger Shots” as it became known, finally got written as a screenplay earlier this year, shortly after we uploaded our first video sketch “SaniPorn – A Plumber Calls”.   Our porn parody worked, in my mind, because of our limitations.  We filmed partly on an iPhone, partly on a tiny handheld HD camera.  The sound was unusable, and I lacked the software to fix it simply.  The hoops we jumped through to get the overdubbing were ridiculous and technical, and boring.  When I wrote the “Burger Shots” script, I wanted more.  I wanted our ideas and the talents of the group to be produced at a quality worthy of film festivals.  I couldn’t afford to buy any equipment or better software.

We were clearly going to need some help.

At about the same time I finished the script I heard about a Meetup group in St.Louis the Short Film Pitch Night.  Ideas people, filmmakers and anyone who is interested, can go along and pitch an idea for a short film or web series.  The attendees choose their favorite projects and form a team to get the film made.  One of the films from the first meeting, “The Homeless Network” made it into the St.Louis Filmmakers Showcase.

This, I realized, was how we would get “Burger Shots” made.  In my script I had created a whole new world of fast food restaurants to avoid advertising existing ones, and any lawsuits that may result from copyright infringement.  That was going to take production designers, and help.

We were about to find out that the Short Film Pitch meeting would be the easy part!

Women be shoppin’. For men?

August 22, 2013


VirginMobile phones have a feature that suggests popular Apps – or more likely sponsored Apps. Scrolling down through it’s suggestions I found this.

I can’t decide if this is an empowering idea (for women) or a little patronizing.

Just check out this from the App description :-

“Each day, hundreds of bargain-hungry shoppers connect to Checkhimout to pursue their dream date.”

We all know how women love to shop and men love to harass and creep.  Finally someone has solved the equation.

My question to men and women alike is… How do you feel about this?

trending? yes we were.

April 25, 2013

I didn’t really want to have to re-explain all this, so here’s some info on what I spent the first month of January doing.  Plus, I have no idea why the picture of the Monkey on the typewriter, and myself as a baby are also appearing.  Some strange WordPress thing I guess.

The Exacerbaters

You may have noticed for a few hours on Wednesday April 24th 2013 that our short film “SaniPorn – A Plumber Calls” was trending on

This was pretty exciting for us.

To celebrate this, here is a tale of how the film came to be, by Jaysen.

“It all started forming in my brain box after I watched a documentary on NetFlix called “Cleanflix“.  The film is about a company called Clean Flicks, based in Utah, which takes R-Rated movies and edits any objectionable content out of them, so that they are acceptable for Mormons to watch.  I won’t get into the whys and wherefores, watch the movie.  It’s good.

Now the irony powered, comedy machine in my brain set me on this train of thought :- What if a Mormon wants to watch porn?

They’d have to make an edited porn, that was safe for…

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Life Sandwich

March 25, 2013


I made this sandwich for lunch today.  It’s got Hummus, mushrooms, lettuce, avocado, tofurky slices and pepper jelly in it.  Quite frankly it was too much for one sandwich.

As I sat down to tackle this monstrosity, I realized that this sandwich (and pretty much every sandwich I make that doesn’t involve peanut butter and jam [yeah, I’m English – deal with it!]), represents my life.  Or, at least, how I live it.

Many people would have been content with the hummus and lettuce.  Some might think adding the tofurky slice should probably have been the cut off.  But, no!  I had to add an avocado, and then squeeze in the tomatoes.

My New Years plan (I won’t say resolution), was to focus on one thing at a time this year.  Concentrate on completing one creative project before branching out to the next.  3 months in, 3 short films I’ve been involved in, a half written short story, no blog posts (for my blog, until now) and a pitch to create a digital web series later, and what do I have?

We’re two weeks from our second Exacerbaters show, “Orgy!”, and I begin rehearsals for the remount of Stupefy! tonight.

All I’m saying is, there’s avocado and tomato all over my floor, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

NaNo 2012 : Weekend Two, (Days 10 – 13) The Wall; up and over.

November 14, 2012

NaNo Daily Target :- 1667

My Daily Target :- 2200

Day Ten Total :- 197  Day Eleven Total :- 2345

Day Twelve Total :- 3171   Day Thirteen Total :- 3086

Total Words Wrote :- 27202 (+5532 NaNo -1398 Pers.)

I had a party on Day Nine, then I hit the wall.  Hours of free time stretched ahead of me on Day Ten, try as I might, all I could do was jump and grab at the sheer face of brick doom.  It wasn’t made of writers block, thank god, it was just plain old hangover brick.  I could even see how I was going to get past it, but not without tearing my pants in the condition I was in.

So I gave myself a day off.  I was way ahead for the 50,000 target, lagging on my 70,000, but I knew this; beyond the wall lay miles and miles of literary highway.  On Day Eleven, with a little effort, I climbed the wall and dropped to the other side.

I was free!

Surprises in my Novel this weekend :- The first thousand words of any day seem to be the hardest.  My ‘hero’ has a really violent side.  Bad men are more fun to write than good men.

Have you hit ‘the wall’ yet?

NaNo 2012 : Days Six, Seven, Eight & Nine! – Reality sets in.

November 9, 2012

I didn’t vote. The ‘man’ wont let me. Doesn’t stop me from wearing the sticker though!

NaNo Daily Target :- 1667

My Daily Target :- 2200

Day Six Total :- 1743  Day Seven Total :- 878

Day Eight Total :- 2412  Day Nine Total :- 2278

Total Words Wrote :- 18403 (+3401 NaNo -1397 Pers.)

I thought I was untouchable.  I thought I would easily be able to knock out 2200 words, and blog about them, every day in November. On Day Six (Election day here in the US), I realized maybe that was going to be difficult.  On Day Seven reality broke into my little world, shook me by the shoulders and slapped me round the face.  A combination of still feeling under the weather, actually having to work a normalish shift (9 till 4:30 – what tha?) and other distractions, led to a less productive few days than I had hoped.

Today could have been a big catch up day – but I’m having a party.  A housewarming party – only two months since I moved in.  Not bad!

Surprises in my Novel this week :- My main guys naivety runs broader and deeper than I thought.  Somewhere inside me lives a sadistic and perverted prison warden.  I might be straying into allegorical areas.

Why do I write questions at the end of my blog?  Is anyone ever going to tell me how their week went?  Dolphin.