4 Celebrities With Whom I Want to Improvise

I know about too many celebrities. I shouldn’t know this many people who don’t know me. Did my grandfather know which flavor of juice Elizabeth Taylor prefers? Did his father pay attention to Scott Joplin’s latest hairstyle? Did my ancestors give two shits about Alexander Hamilton’s favorite sports team? No no no.

But such is life in 2013 when you have a high-speed internet connection and just enough free time to pick this stuff up.

This is Scott Joplin. I learned he wasn't a white guy when I found this picture today.

This is Scott Joplin. I learned he wasn’t a white guy when I found this picture today.

And that is what’s happening: I’m picking it up the way my bare feet pick up crumbs when I walk across my hardwood floors. I do not seek celebrity gossip. I don’t watch TMZ or read Us magazine. Knowing shit about famous people—their likes, dislikes, and sexual fetishes—worms its way into my conscience via pop-mosis. (Which is like “osmosis,” but with pop culture. Also, I’m trademarking that phrase, so don’t get any fancy ideas.)

These bits of errata stick to me, and I can’t shake ’em off so easily. So in an effort to make some use of this lump of useless knowledge, I present to you…

1. Jack Black



I’m a way-back Jack Black fanatic, ever since he and Kyle Gass first appeared on Mr. Show. When the first Tenacious D album came out, I listened to it on repeat for two weeks straight. And I worried when, for a brief period a couple of years ago, he started to slim down. My Jack Black must remain plump, because a skinny Jack Black is 65% less hilarious. So much of his humor is in his cheeks and eyebrows (much like me, if I think about it, which I won’t anymore).

And he’s capable of being a non-jester too. He was delightful in School of Rock and The Big Year. He’ll never win an Oscar or anything, but he’s just so g-damn watchable. Put him in every movie, Hollywood, kthxbai.

The funniest Jack Black moment ever set to film is this scene from High Fidelity:

Jack Black is that rare comedian who’s both fat and kinetic. He moves around a lot. He jumps and dives and spins and hops. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him do the splits. Chris Farley had this too—a willingness to throw his entire body into the scene without any worry about looking ridiculous (as a fat dude) and the ability to pull off some rather tricky athletic maneuvers.

The Name of Our Troupe: Tenacious E

2. Helen Mirren


Most bloggers would start any discussion of Dme. Helen Mirren with a tacky reference to how well her physical beauty has held up. These classless jerks might write something like, “If I had a night alone with Helen Mirren, then I, Andrew B. of YesAndrew.com, would make love to her as if the future of the free world depended on her orgasms.” But I, Andrew B., am not so crass. No, instead I’ll say simply: AAAAOOOOOOGGAA!

But for realsies, aside from the Dame’s cougar credentials, she is a superb actor, one of the best we have. She has a surplus of gravitas without seeming humorless (you listenin’ to this, Anthony Hopkins?). She can be playful and silly, or she can turn deadly serious—all with a quick tic of her eyes or lips. There’s enough wattage in her facial expressions to light a small English village. (Sidenote: Does England have villages still? Does England have electricity yet?)

And in the few TV interviews I’ve seen, she seems like she’d not only be down for improv, but she’d be damn good at it. I mean, I’d become a ghost onstage next to her. But that’s OK, because I’d be doing the showly primarily as an excuse to ask her if she wanted to grab some Torchy’s Tacos with me after the show and, ya know, maybe, if she’s not doing anything, I dunno, maybe we could go back to my place? I have some cool DVDs we could watch. Have you seen Super Troopers yet? It’s OK.

The Name of Our Troupe: Quod Save the Green

3. Neil Patrick Harris


Recently on this site I sang the praises of the recent Tony Awards’ opening numbers, featuring a fantastic (and FABULOUS!) Neil Patrick Harris. He was astounding in that routine, and not just because he ran and leapt and sang and danced. But because in the closing seconds, when the entire stage full of performers froze, he wasn’t panting. Or at least he managed to hold his panting to a minimum. How the fuck do you dance and run (AND DISAPPEAR INSIDE A MAGIC BOX ONLY TO REAPPEAR SECONDS LATER AT THE BACK OF THE GIGANTIC THEATER) without puking, let alone without collapsing in a wheezing ball of tired?

But his physical stamina isn’t why I’d want to improvise with him. It’s because he seems like a genuine fellow, a “stand-up guy.” He’s talented as shit but doesn’t seem to walk with the swagger of other Broadway divas. He’s gay as shit and can act like the douchiest straight male on the planet without making it shallow. (Consider how straight actors portray gay guys. I rest my case?)

Plus, I think he’d support me. This is the first of the four celebrities who, aside from his obvious starpower, wouldn’t naturally drown me out onstage. He’s handsome and lean and can smile like a stripper at StripperCon, but I just get a feeling that good ole’ NPH wouldn’t show me up. He’d let me have my moments in the show. And when the show ended and the audience was giving us their standing ovation, he’d turn to me and applaud in my direction, as if to say, “You, my friend, you made this show what it was.”

The Name of Our Troupe: HOWSER!

4. Paul Qui


Paul Qui (pronounced “pawl”) is Austin’s homegrown culinary hero. He was the chef at famed sushi restaurant Uchi for years before helping open its sister restaurant Uchiko. He won the most recent season of Top Chef without ever once seeming like an entitled prick (a stunning feat for a celebrity chef). And now he’s opened his baby, the new restaurant in east Austin, qui. I have to admit, the intentional lower-casing of the name is a bit of a dandy move. But the fancy capitalization aside, qui is already receiving rave reviews and Paul’s name continues to grow around the world.

Check out this short and fantastic video for the restaurant, which is like a movie trailer for food and awesomeness:

As you can see, Qui is the ultimate embodiment of the improv theory of “instant unconditional support.” This guy makes clear that the perfect meal (or bite, or flavor) isn’t a result of only one person, the chef; but is, in fact, the result of a community of people—from the chef to his assistants, to the servers and hosts, to the person who designs the plates and forks, and the artist who sculpted the chandelier in the dining room. His approach to restauranteur-ing (it’s a word, shut up) exemplifies the idea that leadership means wanting to help everyone around you succeed.

And so while I suspect that, given his demure personality and extreme humility, Paul Qui wouldn’t be a powerhouse firecracker onstage, I’m confident he would (a) never block any of my offers, and (b) find delight in anything that happened in the show. He’s a good kid, this superstar Qui guy, and I’d welcome him onstage anytime.

The Name of Our Troupe: Spray Cheese and Caviar


And now the big question: Who do YOU want to improvise with? Answer in the Comments below!


  1. kerbey on June 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I understand NPH, and though I’m sure qui is quaint, but I just can’t get with going east of 35. I can’t go for that. No can do.

    • Andrew on June 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      You’re nuts! Some of the best food in Austin is east of 35. You’re really missing out.

      • kerbey on June 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm

        I know great food is over there, but I want it to be not over there. I want it to be more westerly. Every area needs enormous migas breakfast tacos. I do.

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