Nobody puts Baby Wants Candy in a corner.

If you’ve never seen a fully improvised musical by a cracker-jack improvisational team, then you’re missing out on one of the greatest achievements of mankind.

Putting a man on the moon, splitting the atom, and creating an hour-long musical based on one random title suggested by an audience; these are the things that separate us from the animals.

We all know creating a great musical can take years and years of development (and frankly, sometimes creating a crappy musical takes years and years of development).  So for those of us who have been in the business of creating a musical from scratch, there is nothing more fun than watching a musical come together right before your eyes . . . especially when the writers/actors/lyricists are Baby Wants Candy.

Baby Wants Candy is an improv team out of Chicago that specializes in this unique art form.  Lucky for you, they’re at the Barrow Street Theatre on Saturdays for the next month or so.  And doubly-lucky for you, this engagement features this guy.

I went on Saturday.  Did I like it?

Let’s just say this:  I’ve lived in NYC for 18 years now.  I’ve seen a lot of readings of new musicals.  What I saw on Saturday was a lot more fun than so many of the shows I’ve seen. And they had scripts!

Check it out.  You’ll laugh.  And maybe you’ll be inspired to write.  Because if they can write something in one hour, certainly all of us can finish what we’re working on in one month, right?

If you want to save some money on tickets for BWC, check out the discount area on www.BestOfOffBroadway.com.

Why sucking is sometimes good.

I had a hard deadline today to finish a commissioned treatment of a new project that I started working on a few months ago.

To be honest, I’ve been procrastinating on this project like a junior high school student with algebra homework.

It’s not because I don’t like the project.  I love it.  I was putting it off because I didn’t have answers to a couple of the big questions that I needed in order to write the treatment.

I finally sat down on Sat. and Sun. and forced myself to answer those questions somehow, because I did have a deadline, after all.  I had no choice but to finish.

You know what?  I came up with something, because I had to, and I finished the treatment.

Is it perfect?  No.  In fact, it may even suck.

But I’d take something that sucks over nothing any day of the week.

Because something can get better. Nothing just goes nowhere.

Why make things up when you don’t have to.

I’m developing a new musical through improv with 12 other collabovisers (improvising writers), tentatively titled Garage Band.

Garage Band is set in Sayreville, New Jersey.

Monday, all 14 of us hopped on a party bus and headed on out to Sayreville to soak up some of the local culture and learn what it was like to be a real resident.

Since we were creating characters that lived in Sayreville, we wanted to check out some of the history (a brick company “built” the town), find out where the high school hangout was (a diner affectionately referred to as ‘The Pank’ that sold scratch tickets and sandwiches with mozzarella sticks inside the bun), and see what they really thought about Bon Jovi who grew up nearby (one guy called him “Bon ‘Phony'”).

We could have spent months improvising all sorts of situations . . . and we never would have come up with “Bon Phony”.

I’m sure I’m not telling you something you don’t know already, but it deserves repeating:

Writing is the equivalent of an open-book test.  Use what’s around you.  It’s not cheating.  It’s encouraged.

You’ll never find anything more interesting, more unique, or funnier, than the truth.

It’s a lot like riding a bike.

We’re at halftime of the 2009 festival season.  The fringe is done (except for the Encores), and we’re waiting for NYMF to begin.  I saw a few fringe shows this year, and I’ve got a few NYMF shows on my radar as well.  But over the course of my entire life, I’ve probably seen a gross of festival shows.

To be honest, most of them haven’t been that good.  But that’s ok, you know why?  Most were by new writers, and that’s what festivals are for.

Over the last few years, however, festivals have faced unreasonable amounts of pressure to produce the next big hit.  I call it ‘The Urinetown Syndrome’ . . . and it’s unfortunate.

New writers need time to work on their skills in front of an audience, without worrying about whether people think they shows are ready to move Off-Broadway two weeks later, and without worrying about what the critics think.

So many fringe and festival shows are first-timers for authors.  Are we really surprised that most aren’t great?

I think first scripts for writers are exactly like the first time you got on a two-wheeer.  You’re trying super hard to balance everything, you can’t even think about where you’re headed, it takes you much longer to get anywhere, your style is wobbly, etc.

So, if you’re a writer, don’t beat yourself up if your first show, fringe or not, wasn’t fast-tracked to full production.  It was just your first script.  Be happy that you didn’t take a spill on your brand new Huffy and scrape up the side of your face (that happened to me . . . literally, when I was 10, and figuratively, with my first script).

The important thing to do is . . . wait for it . . . yes, get back on the bike and go for another ride.

I guarantee your second one will feel easier than the first, and the third will be easier than the second, and so on and so on.

Just keep wriding.

 

Three things we can learn from THAT wedding video.

If you haven’t seen Jill & Kevin’s wedding video, then you’re one of the few (I posted it below).  The “Video Seen ‘Round The World” has now been viewed by almost 18 million people.  In fact, it was so popular, it got protestors!  (You know you’ve made it, when people start criticizing you.)

But why did it go from something that they did for fun, to a global phenomenon?

Here are three reasons why this viral video was so successful:

1.    PEOPLE LOVE FUN

At the end of the day (literally), people want a good time.  Most people’s lives are filled with stress, anxiety, and more.  Watching a whole bunch of people have a good time is a good time.  The energy and fun is contagious.

2.    PEOPLE LOVE ROMANCE

No matter how many failed marriages we hear about, or how many affairs are touted in the tabloids, deep down, we’re still a sucker for a good love story. We want to believe that it’s still possible for two people to belong together. Nothing says that like a wedding, where the bride and groom look like they’re having the time of their lives.

3.    PEOPLE LOVE SURPRISES

We all know how weddings are supposed to go.  They have a format.  Most of them are formal to some extent.  It’s a serious matter dedicating yourself to another person for the rest of your life, so it should be done with a certain tone, right?  Well, here comes Jill and Kevin dancin’ down the aisle doing something we were totally not expecting.  By blasting convention, they surprised us, and made their wedding unique and remarkable, and unlike any other in the world.

So those are the three reasons why Mamma Mia is so successful.

Oh wait, I was talking about a viral video. Or was I? Wait a second.  Mamma Mia is all about fun, with romance at its core, and unexpected songs telling its story.   Huh.  Look at that.

The above three characteristics are why the video (and Mamma Mia) were successful, yes, but also why it was entertaining.  And the proper ingredients to entertainment can be applied across platforms to videos, sitcoms,  and yep, shows.  Does your show have these elements?

Don’t get me a wrong.  There are other ways to entertain people, but by the look at the number of views on that video, and of the number of people that have seen Mamma Mia, it may be that these characteristics are the way to entertain the most people.

Oh, and the other reason why this video became a phenomenon?  They didn’t try to make it one.  They just made it.

The audience took care of the rest.

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