Despite what maintaining this blog might suggest, I’m a quiet improv nerd. I don’t make a habit of referring to the books and blogs I read, the videos I obsess over, the improv trivia and errata I pick up.
But that has to change today, because a couple of nights ago I stayed awake for two extra hours watching video after video of Heather and Miles. This is a duo troupe out of LA which, apparently, won UCBLA’s Cagematch tournament for, like, a year straight. Which is doubly insane considering the sheer amount of talent crawling all over Los Angeles.
Now look, I realize I may be late to the game on these two. You ultra-nerds out there may have seen them, ya know, like four weeks in a row back in November 2012, and they were amazing, Andrew, you really should’ve seen them in person. LA is the tits!
But late to the game or not, I’m staking my flag:
This is the best improv duo I’ve ever seen.
Again, not saying much for a guy who’s only two years into his improv romance, and a guy who’s never traveled for improv. Fine fine fine, that’s all true. But I’ll pit my taste up against anyone’s! In a Taste Cagematch! And my taste will win for 100 straight weeks! And my taste says that Heather and Miles are the best. HOO-RAH!
Check out this video. Seriously, click on it and watch it. It’s only a few minutes long, and it’s high quality recording:
Recovered yet? You can maybe see why discovering these two on YouTube the other night kept me awake long past bedtime. Their energy is astounding. Tim Orr told a workshop once that if you aren’t sweating at the end of an improv show, you’re doing something wrong. Heather and Miles must be drenched.
Drenched in bodily secretions or not, Heather Ann Campbell (the female half) is a goddamn superstar. Why isn’t this woman more famous? Why isn’t Heather the Heather people think of when someone says the name “Heather”? (Though I confess that when I Googled her, I was surprised to make a connection: she’s appeared in an episode of two of Whose Line is it Anyway?)
And Miles Stroth (the man half)? Watching this guy improvise in these videos is like watching Brett Favre in his heyday: playfulness, passion, intense focus. He seems to do the perfect thing at the perfect time. AND IT’S FUCKING MADE UP IN THE MOMENT!
Remember, kids, this is improvisation these two are doing here:
Before I spazz myself into a coma, let me slow down and talk about why these two are so superior at their craft.
It starts with, I think, a heaping dose of talent. Talent isn’t taught. Talent is, or talent isn’t. And some people are just better at the things that constitute good improv: great acting chops, an ideal timing, physical ease, a generous spirit, freedom, etc. So let’s not discount the fact that these two are just plain good.
But would Heather be as consistent without Miles? Would Miles nail as many scenes without Heather? Maybe. But it’s hard to imagine that they would be any better with someone else. Their chemistry is evident. Their undying support. Notice how often they’re kind of on their tiptoes, eyeing each other, taking it all in. Notice how often they seem to be ready to BURST into a little dance together:
And then there is the speed. Something about whip-fast improv is intoxicating. As an audience member, fast improv is like sitting on the sidelines of an NFL game for the first time: you had no idea just how fast it is. Lightning edits! Speedy heightening! Crisp and assured space work! Fastprov deserves its own sub-genre. (Just ask The Knuckleball Now.)
But even in their most frantic moments, these two have almost complete control. Their bodies are being used purposefully. Their minds are tripping themselves from one idea to the next, one scene to the next, one character to the next. They aren’t interested in lazing into a scene, letting a scene settle down and get comfy on the improv couch. 100 mpg 100% of the time .
Bottom line, these two are aspirational improvisers for me. If I can do regular shows that are this playful, smart, and high energy, I’ll consider it a highlight…