Monday, May 17, 2010

Interview with Andy St. Clair

Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things going in the Windy City?
Andy St. Clair: Good. Ready for the summer to come. Don’t be a pussy summer. Get here. Summer in Chicago is really really great.

DS: When did you decide to go into improv and sketch comedy?
ASC: Um, I think in 1998. I moved up to Chicago to be a “real” actor and just kinda fell into sketch/improv. I’m glad I did.

DS: What was your improv training like? Is there any particular thing that an instructor said that has really stuck to you?
ASC: Well, I did all the things people do now in Chicago. Took class at IO/2nd city. I might have had one class at the Annoyance. Maybe. The best training I got was I was lucky enough to be apart of a team out of my level 1 class at IO and got to work with a lot of great people. That group became a group called “People of Earth”. So, every week in my first year of improv I was getting to do Class/Rehearsal for improv group at IO/Show at IO. I had been doing improv 2 months at that point. So, that was good for me. I had a lot of great teachers who all taught me something different. Peter Gwinn was a big influence in my improv life. He was the coach of my IO team and did that for 5 years.

DS: After several revues on ETC and being able to participate in the 50th anniversary Mainstage show, you decided to say retire so to speak. How did this decision come about?
ASC: Sometimes it’s just time to go in whatever it is you do. You do shows at 2nd city and after doing it for 3-4 years, not having any time to do whatever it is I wanted to do, it was just time to go and it’s for the best. It’s scary and fun but it’s the future (robot noise).

DS: When did you join the Second City National Touring Company--and how long were you with them? What did you do do to climb the ladder through the system?
ASC: I got hired in fall of 2003 but got on a tour company in January of 2004. I was with them till Feb 2006 when I then moved to Las Vegas and wrote a show in Vegas. To climb the ladder at 2nd city I fucked everyone I could. Kelly/Andrew/Monica/Robin/Beth/janitors/Lois Kaz/Ruby/Craig Taylor….it didn’t matter, I fucked them. Eventually they had to give me another job. I had seen them all naked. Or, I have no clue how the ladder climbing goes. Just do good work. Be funny. Hope for some luck. There are a lot of talented people at 2nd city and not everyone gets to do a stage.

DS: "Taming of the Flu" was your first revue on the Mainstage. What was your initial reaction when you found out you would be promoted to Mainstage?
ASC: I was in shock. I always wanted to do a mainstage show but after “Studs” opened up on the ETC I was kinda happy with just being an “ETC” guy. So, I didn’t see it coming and was blindsided.

DS: What are some of your favorite characters to do?
ASC: Funny ones. Are you asking in a 2nd city show or just in general? Honestly I don’t know but I’m sure if you asked 10 people that know me or have seen me 2 times will tell you I play this: Stupid Kid/Asshole boss/Asshole neighbor/Asshole Coach. I’m not an asshole….I don’t think. Maybe I am. Ah fuck it. Honestly, my favorite characters are funny ones. Go with your instincts kids.

DS: What's the process like when it comes to writing a new revue? How early do new scenes start joining the running order?
ASC: The process is long and fun. It’s getting to write a show with 6 performers who hopefully all want the show to be funny. You get to try out jokes and scenes for 10-13 weeks for 300 to 600 people a night. How cool is that? People pay to watch you act like an ass. Sometimes you don’t even know what is going on you just go out on stage and hope you don’t say “fuck” to many times in a scene.

The running order and new scenes all start and end with the director. He or She makes those decisions. Normally though about the 1st or 2nd week new scenes start appearing in the show.

DS: When did you join Carl and the Passions? Who is Carl anyway? What's it like to perform with such a great ensemble?
ASC: I joined CATP in 2004 or 2005. I think 2004. Carl is Paul Grondy. Actually I think CATP was a name The Beach Boys use to call themselves before they went with The Beach Boys. I could of just made that up as well. I’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of great ensembles. POE/3033/CATP/2nd city etc and mainstage. The people always have your back and believe in whatever it is your doing no matter what. That really is a freedom that is hard to explain but once you have it there is no going back.

DS: What do you usually tell new improvisers when they are just starting out?
ASC: I tell them a few things.

#1) Quit being better then me.

#2) Have fun. You’re playing make em ups. If you don’t like it or are going to get mad the entire time find something else to do.

#3) Listen to your fellow performers. Listening is how you get better.

#4) React. Make strong bold choices.

#5) Quit being better then me. I say it twice to really enforce the point.

DS: What's your first memory of Second City and what would be your favorite?
ASC: My first memory was watching the show “Psychopath Not Taken”. My favorite show ever at 2nd city. It’s so damn good. Also, the first thing I remember seeing at 2nd city. My theory is that the first show you see there is always your favorite. Turns out to be true for me. TJ was in it. Kevin Dorff. Stephanie Weir. Amazing. It was the moment I had to at least give this “improv comedy” thing an honest hard working try.

My favorite 2nd city memory for myself? So many. Hard to just choose one. I made Harold Ramis’s wife piss her pants. That was a proud moment. Probably my favorite is spending time with the casts and having serious conversations that go like this:

Andy: I think if I say “Let’s slip it in his butthole” that that is funnier.

Cast Member: I think you have to say “Let’s slip it in his asshole” it’s funnier.

Andy: Really?

Cast Member: Yup.

Andy: I’m going to say “butthole” this time and just hold on that word and see if it gets a laugh.

This isn’t an actual conversation (or is it) but you have serious discussions about the stupidest things and can’t believe you just said that in all seriousness.

DS: You were quoted in the AP about having to sign an autograph for an audience member and were flattered when they said they can't wait to see you on SNL. How often does this happen to you?
ASC: At 2nd city, that happens all the time. Which is a great assumption. Let’s keep that going. It’s just in the history of 2nd city. People think you do 2nd city and then go to SNL. Which is positive thinking. I’m glad Chicago people and the city of Chicago is so positive. Nowadays walking the streets like a bum it doesn’t happen as often. So, the next time you see me will you say it to me?

DS: You also said Second City was the Yankees of Improv? What does this make IO? The Annoyance?
ASC: 2nd city: Yankees of improv. Biggest team in town. Has the most money. Gets whoever they want. You always want to play for them. Glad when you do. Like being in the building. The best.

IO: The team you love and started out with. Has the craziest old Jewish lady running the team. You want to kill her but love her at the same time. Sometimes when she speaks you have to go and say “don’t listen to that”. She is a great lady and a great manager. Loves all or most of her ballplayers. She is also my friend so I can’t say to many bad things about her. But, she crazy. I love it. I’ll go with Chicago White Sox. Charna is Ozzie.

Annoyance: Fun ass team. Ran by a crazy man who would rather talk about fucking a goat then improv. Luckily this team has co-managers and the lady co-manager is the brains. She keeps it all together. Whew. These managers are fun and do some great magic. Magic. Like card tricks and shit. Hypnotism. Mind tricks. Amazing. Anyway, you can do anything at this theatre and to be honest it’s freeing. So, for this team I’ll go with the Colorado Rockies. Mainly cause I don’t know anything about the Rockies but I hope their clubhouse is like the Annoyance theatre.

DS: Lazy Tuesday or Lazy Sunday?
ASC: Lazy Tuesday. For a lot of reasons. Mostly good. Mostly.

DS: Thanks again for joining Chicago Improv Celebrity News. Is there anything else you would like to add?
ASC: Two dimes and a nickel is the same as a quarter.

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