10 Comedy Truths Revealed by Kate Walsh, Adam Scott, Jeffrey Tambor and Others at iO West's Improv Festival
Katie Harker/iO West Kate Walsh reveals at IO West's Improv Comedy Festival that she had back surgery so she can run on the beach naked in slo-mo.
Over the last nine years, iO West's Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival has become a love-in; a time when neophyte and master improvisers commemorate the late punk godfather of their craft, Del Close, with 100 performances, 80 workshops, an awards ceremony -- as well as Armandos.
What sounds like a round of Mexican drinks is actually a long-form improv, created at iO Chicago, that starts with a guest's confessional and finishes with a string of improvised scenes, inspired by the monologist. Subject matter for an Armando-logue is often triggered by an audience suggestion, which last week ranged from "chocolate chip cookies" to "pissing off a roof."
Like Close, who was an infamous heroin addict, Armandos are zany and trippy. At the same time, they exemplify his "Truth in Comedy" principle in action. For Close, great comedy came from a performer's personal experience. He had little patience for those fabricating their funny business without any sincerity. Luckily, Close didn't have to turn over in his grave as the celebrity comedians who showed up to guest host Armandos were all too willing to bare their souls. A look at the 10 comedy truths revealed last week onstage and off at the iO West festival:
10. Chris Farley committed "random acts of crazy kindness"
During Saturday's Chris Farley Award presentation to Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), the late SNL alum's brother, John Farley, hysterically revealed that Chris once ordered his limo driver to take a bag lady to the south side of Chicago. "She put all her bags in the car and the shopping cart in the trunk," Farley chortled. "Sometimes his charity was too much."
9. Kate Walsh had back surgery and plays a doctor on TV
In her Armando Wednesday, the Private Practice vamp revealed that "her tailbone was worked on recently. There's a joint in my back that always made me concerned about how I'm going to run slow motion on the beach, naked." The improv scenes that ensued were a wonky, but funny, mix. Somehow they connected: A Hyundai car salesman doubles as a back surgeon, a priceless Larry Flynt imitation appears, capped off by an impersonation of Walsh, sprinting slowly along the shore in her birthday suit (the performer was fully clothed).
8. Matt Jones looks like a stoner, but he's quietly revolutionizing improv
Dave Hill (Reno 911!) and Matt Jones (Breaking Bad) aka Hill/Jones flawlessly broke the improv glass ceiling by each playing more than one character in a scene -- a big no-no in the rule book since a performer cannot personally tag himself out. Reflecting on his Wednesday antics in which he portrayed a rich old man, an effeminate bar patron and a college student in one stroke, Jones says, "We don't pay attention to any rules. We completely go on instinct, like Neo feeding The Matrix. That's what you get after learning a lot of improv: Just get out of your own way and fuck around."
7. Joel Murray exercises truth in comedy and nearly cries
Mad Men co-star and Bill Murray's brother delivers a moving Armando, remembering how his mother died while holding hands with her eight children -- a hard speech for any improviser to follow. Easing the tone, Murray said, "If you live in a town where the hospital is the biggest building -- move. It's a killing center," before quipping, "Well, Kevorkian died this week, hey -- now I'm doing stand-up!"
Katie Harker/iO West Community's Danny Pudi (r.) tells his co-star Yvette Nicole Brown about his teenage masturbation days.
6. Danny Pudi's teenage years provide solid fodder
The Community star reveals in his Thursday Armando that he once believed that "masturbation brought him good luck" as a teenager, especially before baseball games. What was wonderful about self- pleasuring is that "you can imagine things that you don't actually see," exclaimed Pudi, "Like a woman holding a candelabra." The improv that transposed was an outrageous Phantom of the Opera satire where a candelabra goes missing, complete with mush mouth British characters and Peter Lorre-like personalities.
5. David Razowsky blends Buddhism with improvisation
Courtney Lindberg David Razowsky unhinges hilarity from his students during his iO West improv workshop.
Some drama and improv schools barrage their pupils with rules, but iO West guru Razowsky liberated them in his Wednesday workshop Revelations! "There is no dogma with improv, the only rule is what you're feeling in the moment," advises Razowsky, "It's similar to the Buddhist feeling of presence. It's like walking in Hell's Kitchen on an empty stomach and deciding what you're going to eat by saying 'I know when I'll see it.'"