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This comedian did 1,000 improv scenes last year—in Google Hangouts

There were some glitches.


Cece Lederer

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 17, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 8:47 am CDT

So you’re two weeks into your new year’s resolution, and you really want to quit. Reading is hard. Cheese fries are delicious. Being generous sucks.

So here’s a 2015 success story to keep you going.

Morgan Phillips, a comedian and improviser who performs with Upright Citizens Brigade house team Lisa From School, had his 20-year improv anniversary at the start of year and wanted to mark the occasion with an experiment: Inspired by e-mprov, a site that connects improvisors via webcam, Phillips decided to do 1,000 online scenes in 365 days.

I found out about this project in December, when Morgan was positive he wouldn’t make it. He had over 200 scenes to go, and only 30 more people scheduled, so he turned to Facebook for a final appeal to the improv community. There was a flood of volunteers. He did 28 Google Hangout scenes on Dec. 14, ending up with over 1000 total scenes.

Some things about improvising online are easier. You can do it whenever you like (we did our scene at 9:15am), and you don’t need to shower or put pants on. A lot of things are harder. About one in four scenes were preceded by technical troubleshooting. If Morgan and his partner hit a glitch mid-scene, they just had to roll with it. When the signal dropped completely, Morgan was forced into a monologue, stalling in the hopes that the other person would be able to reconnect and finish.

Despite relying on the camera and a Wi-Fi signal to make the scenes, most took place in typical improv locations (restaurants, job interviews, haunted houses, doctors’ offices, suburban living rooms, spaceships, etc.) rather than acknowledging the unique situation.

Possibilities for space and object work were limited in these talking-head scenes, but improv is at its most magical when it turns limitations into opportunities. Seeing the performer’s facial expressions in detail is something you usually don’t get in live improv.

The limitations of technology also offered new opportunities. Phillips mostly performed in his Brooklyn basement apartment but connected with comedians from as far away as Rwanda, Indonesia, and New Zealand.

So when you’re staring at your unused running shoes, or worrying that you haven’t cracked that book on authentic Korean cooking yet, or dithering over that charity donation, think of this dude and just do it already.

Photo via 1000scenes/Tumblr 

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*First Published: Jan 17, 2016, 1:00 pm CST