Have you ever wondered what the world of improv is like? For six talented people in the Big Apple, Improv is their life. A big opportunity to go from the small stage to a popular late-night program for one member could change the group forever. This describes what’s happening in the upcoming film “Don’t Think Twice”. I recently had the opportunity to talk to two of its stars: Gillian Jacobs plays Samantha and writer/producer/director Mike Birbiglia plays Miles.
Gillian, this was your first time going into improv. Is that correct?
How you prepared for the role and what your favorite moments were in the film?
Well, I prepared by going to the Mike Birbiglia’s School of Improv, which was a two week sort of trial by fire boot camp that he hosted in New York. Where we both have coaches from UCB and other places come and do workshops with us and then threw us out there in front of audiences, unsuspecting paying audiences.
Then the thing that I liked the most is laughing at other people’s amazing improvs. I mean, the best part about this was being onstage with these people and seeing what comes forth from their brains and mouths – that’s the best!
Mike, the line was being frequented throughout the movie was “Has Anyone had a hard day?” Where did it come from?
It came from when I was doing a show at UCB called “Mike Birbiglia’s Dream”. I started it about three years ago. It was an every Wednesday show and the typical prompt was “Does anyone have a word or a suggestion?” that kind of thing. So, one day I was taking the subway there and I thought “Well, why don’t I try to have the show test a real-time theory that comedy is tragedy plus time. Why don’t we try to get people’s tragedies and see if can kind of flipped them into the course of the show to comedy.” It’s really been cool. We did an improve show the other night at the Del Close Marathon where we asked “Has anyone had a hard day?” and this girl had come up and said that she had discovered that her dad has been cheating on her mom with prostitutes. For like fifteen minutes, we could not find humor with it in the improv but eventually we did. It was ultimately cathartic. She sent us a really nice note on Twitter. I think comedy at its best is giving a gift to the audience, is giving a gift of catharsis. I think the more honest you can be about the reality and tragedies of life & existence, the more laughs you can have.
I would like to know from the both of you, who were your inspirations to become a comedian?
GJ: I never set out to become a comedian but I watched a lot of comedy as a kid. I loved to not practice the piano and instead watch television. I watched “Kids in the Hall” religiously. I watched “Strangers with Candy” & “Reno 911”. Back in the 90’s when Comedy Central used to play stand-up specials, I used to watch a lot of those. “Absolutely Fabulous”. Christopher Guest movies. Monty Python. “Are You Being Served”. I watched all of it but I never thought that I would be a comedian or even a comedic actor. It was stuff that made me laugh.
MB: I think when I was a kid I watched like a lot of late-night TV. I watched “Saturday Night Live” and “Letterman”. Then, at a certain point in college, I started locking into dramatic comedies like “Annie Hall”, “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Broadcast News”, “Terms of Endearment” and “The Big Chill”. That’s where I sort of landed. Those are the kind of movies that interest me at this point in my life.
Mike, how much of the dialogue was improvised?
It’s an oddly surprisingly written film about improv. It was to say that I wrote ten to twelve different drafts of the script and other and they are entirely different from each other. I would make revisions of it until the bitter end. Then ultimately, when you hire five brilliant actors like this, what you want is their emotional truth. So, they would say it as it was written and if it wasn’t feeling right – they would say it how it felt true to them. That’s what I want on the screen. What I want is to feel something that feels more like life then it feels like a movie. There’s a bunch of improvised lines in the movie but I try not to say which ones because I like the illusion that it’s all sort of life.
How do you feel that this movie would raise the awareness of long form improv?
MB: It’s either going to make it better or its going to end improv as we know it (We all laugh)
GJ: Yeah, there’s no middle ground. That was my first though – seriously.
MB: It could be viewed as the be all end all savior of improv or destroyer of all things improv and that’s for you to decide. I think that one of the things that’s exciting is the elderly people in Nantucket liked it. They’ll kind of get our Avant garde art form that people quite understand. A lot of people think its “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” but I think there is more progressive and abstract movement of improv right now that long for improv that I like so much that has been really big in Chicago for a long time. Then, New York for the last ten to fifteen years and now, its going mainstream which I think it’s great.
Check out “Don’t Think Twice” – IN THEATRES NOW