A Las Vegas native Phil Faiss is a truly inspiring person. We played together last year inThe Best Improv Class ever and also did a scene with our mutual friend, Jay Sukow. We laughed so much during this chat and even did a scene together! His introduction to theatre was in high school in “The Diary of Anne Frank”. He soon discovered that musical comedy was his favorite genre and hasn’t stopped. He later realized that his high school drama teacher actually was teaching improv games. He shares his journey including working at Walt Disney World and talking to guests in the Tiki room. A wonderful story of his friends at Disney who worked on productions at an empty theatre after hours including “Sweeney Todd”.
Be sure to check out “Netflix and Phil” where he chats with other improvisers and is so much fun! CLICK FOR PLAYLIST
One of the good things to come from the past few years is the proliferation of online improvisational theatre classes and the ability to play in a global community.
My friend, Karla Dingle is an amazing actor who has provided a platform for improvisers around the world to play and study together. Karla is the force behind Queen City Comedy, with the best workshops and classes, shows in Charlotte, NC, and an online community that offers talented instructors and opportunities for improvisers to play together. I’ve had the honor of studying with Karla and she is a dedicated artist whose enthusiasm for this art form is so apparent in her classes. She brings great knowledge as well as compassion, and validation brings out the best in actors.
Karla Dingle (she/her) has spent her life on the stage. She began taking theater classes at age 5 and continued to study acting until receiving her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Georgia Theater in 1998. Karla began performing improv in Charlotte in 2009 and continues to educate herself through workshops and classes at Second City, Hoopla, The Groundlings, and more. Karla is also an actor and voiceover artist.
More about Karla: Karla is the Education Director and an Instructor at Queen City Comedy in Charlotte, NC in the US. https://www.queencitycomedy.com/ She is also the Improv Director and an Acting Instructor at a local studio in Charlotte, NC. You can see her performing with Now are the Foxes Improv Comedy
Cheryl Sloane was literally raised at Second City Chicago since her mother, Joyce Sloane, was the beloved maternal powerhouse in the origins of The Second City. Joyce Sloane was the woman who found and nurtured such comedy giants as John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, and Bill Murray, She was described as a “den mother” to the actors and staff at this famed improv theatre. If someone needed a doctor, a lawyer, a wedding ring or to be bailed out of jail, Joyce was the person who made it happen. We also explore the last 20 years of Cheryl’s life. She opened G-Boutique, an upscale women’s shop where women could feel comfortable buying sexy lingerie and quality sex toys. Why lingerie? Well, Joyce Sloane always wore glamorous peignoirs. Cheryl thought everyone should have one. While owning the B-Boutique Cheryl consulted with physicians to explore sexual health and wellness for women. Since the store closed, Cheryl works in marketing and branding for Uberlube-, a silicone lubricant designed to enhance sex that has many uses including hair care. Joyce showed Cheryl to “always find the good in people” and that’s how Cheryl has lived her life. The people whose lives she touched love her and by the end of this interview, so did I!
Getting to know Molly Erdman was such a great experience! Her positive energy and honesty made this interview so much fun. Her improv journey started as a little girl when she and her best friend Suzannah. They would create stories and plays and learn all the words to favorite musicals like “Annie”. One of their performances included all the songs and dances from Thriller. By the time she was in high school, she started her first improv group, which still exists to this day. She chose Tufts for college because they had a great improv performance when she visited.
By the age of 31, she had met her improv goal of playing on the Main Stage at Second City Chicago. She moved to LA to pursue acting and improv. You might have seen her in the Sonic commercials.
During the pandemic, she realized she wasn’t missing improv and was burnt out. That’s when she decided that she wanted to do something else. Her sense of social justice impelled her to ask herself, “How can I help?” Molly decided to pursue a Marriage and Family Therapy Degree and is interning as a therapist at a local school, and she will be graduating in December 2023. Molly has contributed so much to the improv world and will certainly make a difference as a clinical therapist, where she can use therapeutic improv.
In Part 2 of our interview with Jay Sukow, he continues the story of his improv journey and his time at Second City, Chicago. His first teachers were Stephen Colbert, David Razowsky, and Steve Carell. He describes Colbert as a joyful teacher using silly play.
In his very first class, Colbert instructed students first to “get up and walk around with a string from the top of your head to the ceiling (a variation of Viola Spolin’s Space Walk) then leading with other parts of the body. At that point, Jay was sold and knew this was his gig!
The pandemic didn’t slow Jay down as he does most of his work online these days and loves the ability to work with students from around the globe.
Jay shares his belief in the ensemble which influenced his choice to be a teacher/coach and work with improv groups. He loves working with people who aren’t necessarily interested in stage improv, but rather in self-discovery.
Jay Sukow is one of the most respected and beloved improv teachers today. He shares his childhood with a nurturing family and how he became the man he is. His parents gave him a ticket to his first Improv class and he found his passion. He studied at Second City, IO, and Comedy Sports. Jay shares a wonderful story of spending an afternoon with David Shepherd. We chat about our admiration for the “mother of improv” Viola Spolin. Jay shares his ups and downs in the improv world. He is very funny and a truly humble person. #Iknowjaysukow
How wonderful to get to know the delightful Dr. Peter Felsman. He is a therapist, improviser, and researcher. Peter has written several papers and research studies on improv including The use of improvisational theater training to reduce social anxiety in adolescents with Colleen M. Seifert, and Joseph A. Himleb. He hails from New Jersey and was in a family with several psychotherapists, so he knew his path at an early age. In his first stage performance, he played Winnie the Pooh. He told his mother he didn’t like it and she asked what he wanted to do. He replied, “I want to be absent.” He was on stage again in Middle School, playing Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, which was his final performance. He shared that Uncle Henry had to yell, and that was something he was unfamiliar with, as he grew up in a “sound-sensitive” home.
Peter switched to the “Pit,” got a music degree in percussion, and played for many staged performances. He had five degrees from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. He earned a BA in psychology, a BS in social psych and MSW, and then Ph.D. in social work, where he began his research work. In 2019, he held a postdoctoral associate position at Stony Brook University. The position was a joint appointment at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and the Social Competence and Treatment Lab. He described a meeting with Alan Alda that left a lasting impression on him.
He took his first improv class in college and was immediately inspired to learn more. He later studied at Chicago Second City, the IO and Annoyance, and several other improv schools. His journey into improv and therapy is fascinating and as a therapist, I certainly appreciate what he is contributing to our field.
Meet my brilliant friend, Amy Seham. She wrote the groundbreaking feminist look at Improv in her 2001 book “Whose Improv is it Anyway?” and is currently working on her updated sequel coming out this summer. Amy is a remarkable person, a historian, author, improviser, actor, director, playwright and so much more. In our interview, she talks about the amazing family she grew up in and her early love of all things theatrical. We met at a Patti Stiles improv workshop and she is really fun to play with. I know you will enjoy this special podcast.
Amy Seham is a director, author, professor, and improvisor whose book, Whose Improv Is It, Anyway? Beyond Second City (2001) is a ground-breaking study of race, gender, and power in Chicago improv-comedy. Her writing on improv has been published in The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies and in Radical Acts: Theatre and Pedagogies of Change. In the last 20 years, Seham has created improv workshops for social workers and professional actors in India, college students in China, and children in the Dominican Republic. She has offered classes at Second City in Toronto, Fringe Benefits in LA, and the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis taught for Funny Woman Festivals in Minneapolis and Chicago and given workshops for colleges and universities across the country. Her 2016 keynote address for the Mellon Foundation Series on Comedy and Gender at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, launched a new book project, Improv for the 21st. Century, to be published by Routledge in 2023.
I was so fortunate to chat with Dr. Matthew Tolliver! Dr. Matt Tolliver has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision with a concentration in Leadership. He is a certified Professional School Counselor (Pk- adult) and elementary school teacher (K-5), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), and an Approved Licensed Professional Supervisor (ALPS). He is the owner and operator of Tolliver Counseling and Consulting Services, LLC, which includes workshop development and delivery using applied improvisation. He is an adjunct professor at West Virginia University and a member of the Fearless Fools improv comedy troupe.
Meet the wonderful Nathan Keates with a Master’s Degree in Autism from the Tizard Centre. He is currently involved in a doctoral research project on autistic adults and anxiety, investigating changes from an improv course. Nathan began teaching improvisation in the UK in 2006 and quickly expanded his teaching to the United States. In 2007, he found a love for applied improvisation for autistic people and his enthusiasm continues to this day in his practice, teaching, and his research. Nathan’s classes have been taught in festivals, schools, colleges, community centers, and theatres to students from seven years old to students who are now retired. As a qualified teacher in the UK, Nathan brings a spontaneous and rationalizable approach to his teaching and currently conducts research with autistic people. Learn more about Nathan on his website NathanImprov.com for his improv-related materials and information.