Welcome to Improv Interviews with Margot Escott, LCSW. Improv Interviews are podcasts with innovative improvisers from all over the world and therapists who are using improvisation in their clinical practice.
More about Margot Escott, LCSW: Margot Escott incorporates over 35 years of experience as a counselor, speaker, and teacher in her wellness classes that are designed to use humor, play and improv to achieve well being. In addition to teaching and performing improv professionally, Margot has presented workshops and seminars on “Therapeutic Value of Humor and Play” on a national level and was a featured speaker at the Chicago “Yes, and” conference on Improvisation and Mental Health.
I was fortunate to meet Ellen Schnur at the Yes, and Mental Health Conference held at the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago, September 2017! We recently reconnect through Beth Boynton, and the seminars Beth has been co-hosting with Ellen on Medical Improv. Ellen and Landon and I did a fun improv scene that you can see here.
Ellen is passionate about experiential learning and helping everyone on the team to “Be the Difference” and work better together. After 25 years in business and training, she grew tired of the endless PowerPoints and toxic cultures. She dared herself to take classes at 2nd City – fell head over heels with improv and moved on to iO and many other theaters. She began studying Applied Improvisation and best practices in leadership, team, and work cultures. Ellen is now Chief Possibility Officer at her company, ImprovTalk, Inc. and collaborates with Jim Mecir, ten year MLB veteran pitcher, born with a club foot, who is the most resilient and inspiring teammate she has ever met.
Join me and meet the multi-talented musician, improviser, actor, and author, Will Hines. Founder of The World’s Greatest Improv School Will is a beloved teacher in the improv world. He started at UCB in NY and then LA. I really enjoyed chatting with such a relaxed and authentic person. We talked about mutual improv teachers like Jimmy Carrane and Jay Sukow.
Daniel is a delightful artist, actor, writer, and improviser that I met in a Susan Messing workshop this summer. He has taught thousands of young and old folks acting and improv and produced many plays. Daniel is one of only four people who graduated — twice— from the Player’s Workshop Of The Second City; once in 1992 and then a few weeks ago after the studio reopened. Daniel is also a 1995 conservatory graduate of the Second City Training Center.
Join me and meet the multi-talented improviser, actor, and true gentleman Brian Palermo. In his early days at the Groundlings, Brian was lucky enough to play with, learn from, and direct a gaggle of Big Name Comedy People that include Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, Lisa Kudrow, and many others.
I met Brian at the Vintage Improv Festival this fall and loved his style of teaching. In our chat, we talk about his career in film and TV and his many years with the Famous Groundlings improv group. He is a beloved improv teacher; he’s been a regular in The Crazy Uncle Joe Show – which is The Groundlings’ weekly long-form set – every Wednesday for 19 years! The longest-running long-form set in L.A. https://www.groundlings.com/shows
“You can’t help growing older, but you don’t have to grow old.” George Burns
Almost a decade ago, my family sat in the hospital waiting room, waiting to hear the outcome of the surgery I was undergoing to repair the damage caused by a sudden cerebral aneurysm. My surgeons appeared with the good and the bad news for my family. I had survived the surgery, but my surgeon warned, it was too early to know if I would recovery my memory or ever speak again. To which my brother responded, “Too bad about the memory.”
As you can tell, I grew up in a family that laughed a lot. The 1950s were the stage for the “First Act” of my life. It was filled with hours of us gathered around a black and white television laughing along with “Leave it to Beaver,” “I Love Lucy,” Imogene Coco, Sid Caeser, Jack Parr, Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, Ernie Kovacs, George & Gracie, Carl Reiner. Regardless of what was happening in the world, these shows made you laugh and feel better.
Inspired by these comedy greats and by the work and teachings of Norman Cousins and others like him on “The Healing Power of Laughter & Play,” I used my “Second Act” to become a social worker and tour the country holding workshops to teach other therapists to use humor and play to help their clients.
I did recover my memory and to my brother’s dismay, my ability to speak following the surgery. But recovery took time and a friend suggested I try an acting class in a local community theater to help me through this period. My first classes were in a rundown former bar that had been abandoned during the great recession. Some of my classmates were actual rats and cockroaches. The teacher of the class was a charismatic fellow who taught improvisational theater. Although following directions was challenging, I had so much fun at the first class that I decided to sign up for a six-week class and have continued taking Improvisational Theatre classes and workshops ever since.
So, there I was in my “Third Act,” recovering from brain surgery and a double knee and double hip replacements. I was the eldest member of my improv group and I was not as agile as the predominantly young white men who made up the group. If I played a game that required sitting on the floor, I wasn’t sure if I could get up again! I suppose it’s not surprising that I was often cast as someone’s mother or grandmother. But I kept going because my teacher encouraged and validated me and soon, I began teaching as well. Being part of that improv team and working on supporting and loving each other was an incredible mind-blowing experience for me.
I wanted to learn everything I could about this improv and went to different parts of the country to study improv at festivals. Each time I attended a workshop, I came home with renewed energy and commitment to play. For 9 years I was fortunate to attend the Annual Improv Festival at Will Luera’s FST. I learned from so many terrific teachers and discovered that I could make choices! Through the festival, I met many folks that I’ve studied with on Skype and continue to do so on Zoom.
I left that team about five years ago and ever since then I’ve been teaching improv which I have learned in my “Third Act,” which is my love and my mission. As a psychotherapist I’ve applied improvisational theater techniques to my work with people with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases along with their care partners, people with anxiety and depression, and people on the Autism spectrum.
The results have been terrific, and I believe I get as much out of teaching than my students do.
Several years ago, I started a podcast called improv interviews. Because there were a limited class-opportunities in my area, I wanted to talk to other improvisers, play with them and learn more about improvisation. Through my podcast — Improv Interviews — I met terrific therapists and other professionals who use improv clinically to help others. I have been blessed to interview some of my favorite improv teachers including David Razowksi, Jay Sukow, Aretha Sills, Jimmy Carrane, Susan Messing, Racheal Mason, Joe Bill, and a host of other wonderful improvisers.
Improv became the theme of my “Third Act” when I was 61 years old. I’m 71 now and am thrilled to meet other improvisers like Miki Manting and the folks at “Vintage Improv” who are making their “Third Act,” the best one ever by embracing improv.
The Pandemic has hit the theatre and improv world very hard. Improvisers rose to the challenge and immediately began offering online classes and workshops to support people through this difficult time. Being guided by Acceptance and Yes, and… we are resilient folks and giving hope and inspiration around the world.
Margot’s next workshop, “Improv for Wellness” starts soon. Contact her via email for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Join me and meet Peter Margaritis, CPA, CGMA, business coach, and author of Improv is No Joke, who uses applied improvisation to inspire people to achieve higher levels of success in their business. Through the improvisation tenets of Yes, And, keep it simple, collaborate and experience, Peter teaches his clients to embrace C.H.A.N.G.E. (Creative | Humor | Aspire | Navigate | Gracious | Ethical) and realize their visions and goals. I was lucky to meet Peter through my good friend and improv coach Jay Sukow, and I know you will be glad to get to know him too.
When asked about why he uses applied improv in his work, Peter says
“Applied improv is all about the ability to draw upon your experience, knowledge, and education to apply them in a way that meets the needs of the person you are talking to or working with – and it can be taught.”
Join me and meet the multi-talented Patrick McCartney who is a talented actor, improviser, and teacher who has studied with and taught some of the most respected names in the entertainment industry. We learn about the great teachers who inspired Patrick’s teaching style and the effects of COVID-19 on the industry from his home in NYC.
Patrick’s improv journey began in Chicago in the late 1990s where he studied with the legendary Del Close and Mick Napier. He spent two years in Chicago’s Second City Touring Company Blue Co where he toured the country with Ali Farahnakian, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey. Currently, Patrick teaches all advanced levels of improv, as well as Acting for Scripted Comedy at the People’s Improv Theater in NYC. Some of Patrick’s former students include Eric Stonestreet, Julie Klausner, and Ed Helms.
Join me and meet my friend Deana Criess, as we talk about the magic of musical improv and her work using improvisation games and techniques with her students at the Perkins School for the Blind. Deana is a professional improviser, master instructor, director, writer, and performer with a specialization in applied improvisation. Deana’s work has been featured on PBS, NPR, KBS (the Korean Broadcasting System), The Boston Globe, CNN, and Slate.com. Her original musical comedy, Lube had a sold-out premiere run in Boston.