What’s With All the Musical Improv Comedy?

This Year Hell Yes Fest features 2 Musical Improv Groups including the Austin based sensation known as Water Park.

Let’s dig a little deeper and see what that is all about!

Jesse: Hey Justin Strackany. You are in the musical improv group Water Park! This is Jesse Spots, associate producer of Hell Yes Fest in New Orleans. I’m being overly formal here because I am shanghaiing you into an interview. Let’s jump right into it!

Justin: OK.

Q: Musical improv looks extremely fun to those like me who have no rhtythm. Did you learn anything new about yourself when you introduced music into the comedy mix? Do you have a background in music?

Justin: The thing I love about music is it defies explanation and logic. There is a visceral response that happens when someone is impacted by music that happens at the neurochemical level. I love introducing music because it can allow people to feel sadness, joy, elation, without needing to even hear the lyrics or “get” the joke. I think it adds another layer to the audience experience. As for what I learned about myself: I think I learned that I truly need to bring an aspect of truth into every performance. As a comedian, sometimes I mask my true feelings for the sake of the joke, or to create the game. As a singer, if you’re singing a ballad about loss, or finding your purpose, or anything at all, if you’re not singing from a place of truth, the audience knows. Having that recommitment to authenticity has had a positive impact on every scene I’ve done.

I also like that musical improv teaches us to quickly get to the emotional core of a scene, because if we don’t care about it, why sing about it? I spend a lot less time on the periphery of a scene these days, because I am trying to quickly drive it to a place of emotional truth.

I do have a background in music. I was in choir for 8 years, sang professionally on cruise ships, have written jazz and choral arrangements, and have played in bands and solo projects since I was a teenager.

Q: Masking your feelings? I just want to relate to you and say I think there’s something to that, from what I’ve seen at comedy shows. I notice a lot of jokesters have difficulty showing any kind of vulnerability. I struggled for a long time with this as a performer and to this day I will hide behind a tough character if I feel exposed. Or conflict scenes. Would you suggest musical improv as a way for someone like myself to challenge myself?

Justin: Yes! This is why I think some really amazing comedians are terrified at the thought of doing musical improv. Music is a very personal experience. Many of our highest highs and lowest lows are marked by songs that left an imprint of those moments. To sing at the top of your lungs is to transport the audience to those moments in their lives, and also to visit those moments oneself. Case in point: if I were to ask you to sing a song that reminds me of someone you care about, would you do it? If not, would it be because you were afraid of letting me see that side of you? If the answer is yes, then this represents that opportunity that musical improv affords you.

Q: What are some ways Water Park has been challenging themselves as a group?

Justin: Water Park is currently trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. We first started doing “close quarters” shows, where the scenes were related by environment, but had more of a montage feeling. Next, we’ve been working a lot of doing more narrative work — creating heroes and antagonists, calling them to action, and giving the audience someone to root for. Next up: we want to invent some new forms that incorporate music and blur the lines between a rock show and improv show. We’d like to work with some live bands. We’d like to record a CD this year. We’d like to tour high schools & colleges to work with choral and theater departments. 2013 is gonna rock for Water Park!

Jesse: And 2012 doesn’t seem all that bad either! I’ve heard so many wonderful things from folks in Austin about Water Park. You must be opening up and sharing your hearts there in Texas. Justin I want to thank you for taking the trip and bringing your special brand of improv down here to the Marigny. We can’t wait for this special night!

I will totally sing a song to you about someone I care about. In a room with no windows. Also no cameras. And we’re inside a vacuum. And we’re floating in space because the world has blown up. And… no I’m kidding. You’ve convinced me. I’ve got to let my feelings out and be me!!!

Justin: You can do it! I’m excited to meet the real Jesse Spots!

Water Park is playing Friday November 9th at the Shadowbox Theater. 7:30pm Buy tickets below.

Buy Tickets for Water Park

Event registration for Water Park + Dean’s List powered by Eventbrite

New Orleans based Treats! Musical Improv will also be playing Friday night at 10:30 at the Shadowbox Theater.

Buy Tickets for Treats! NOLA Musical Improv

Online Ticketing for Nola Musical Improv + Blink powered by Eventbrite