A decade ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of including Dan Grimm as the subject of The Sunday Interview. Because Dan Grimm is an Aggie: a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station. Back then, my UT blood ran deep and burnt orange. But back then I also dated blonde women and smoked Parliament cigarettes—both habits I’ve long since abandoned. So thank goodness I didn’t have this website back then, because I would’ve missed out on a fantastic source of improv wisdom.
Dan Grimm is as passionate about this art form as anyone I’ve seen. With almost two decades of experience, Dan has trained all over Texas and in Chicago (including with some guy named Del). He’s a much sought after improv coach at The New Movement Theater (and just about everywhere else for that matter). And he sees improv differently than many of us. I’m thrilled to present the maroon-souled improv honesty and know-how of Mr. Dan Grimm…
Name: Dan Grimm
City: Austin & Chicago
Number of Years Doing Improv: 19
Primary Web Presence: Facebook
Who’s your improv hero?
This is a tough question. Totally biased and unfair to answer. I can list the people who inspired/continue to inspire me…
In college on my improv troupe Freudian Slip, back at Texas A&M, it was Jimmy Leary. He made me laugh and was quick. He went on to do some acting. Most people wouldn’t know him unless they had been fans of Buffy, where he took a small role as Clem the loose skinned demon. Then there are obvious improv celebs like Del Close, who makes us all question what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we can make it a true artform without distancing it from the observer. Also TJ Jagadowski, because he makes it seem so easy, and always makes his characters vulnerable and real no matter how absurd they start.
Who is your improv nemesis?
I don’t recall his name, but years ago he ran Comedy Sportz in Dallas. I was working on the stage at a theatre they played, and they were training some new players. I overheard him correct a scene with his basis of improv. He simply said; “No that isn’t it. That’s not improv. Improv is: Line, Line, Joke.” I laughed out loud, and then pretended to sneeze to cover up my laughter, so as to not piss anyone off. I really wanted to tell him to get the fuck out of the theatre and keep going till he no longer was in improv in any capacity.
You can play in an improv show with any human, living or dead. Who do you pick and why?
Ben Franklin. The dude was everything a non-PC 1990’s improviser used to be. A drunkard, smoked and womanized. He was also brilliant and a hell of a writer. I think he would have been stellar at it. Also he’s GODDAMNED BENJIMAN FRANKLIN!
Jesus, it’s been 19 years since I started. Many beers and sleeps have happened since the first time. So I will say the Universe, or more specifically Dark Matter. The element that is out there, yet still undefinable. It must have a purpose and influence on everything in creation.
Who’s the funniest famous person?
Who’s the funniest non-famous person?
Your most memorable improv experience in 30 words or less:
Receiving a joint from Del Close after work-shopping with him.
The hardest you’ve ever laughed at an improv performance was:
Watching my best friends in the world, having a good time.
One of the most valuable improv lessons you received was when:
I discovered you may be performing and selling comedy to an audience, but a great show is not about constant “yuk-yuks” it’s about manipulating the empathy of an audience and relieving the tension from time to time.
The worst thing that ever happened to you in a show was:
Since I am divorced now, I will say it was getting married at the end of an improv show. It was a surprise to the audience and I love that, but given how things ended with my ex and I, she will forever have sullied my art in some way.
The Art Form
Your biggest onstage improv pet peeve is:
Farts on stage, real ones. Sweep edits. Both stink.
Your biggest offstage improv pet peeve is:
Improv groupies are never as lewd or numerous as the groupies musicians get.
The warm-up game you loathe is:
ALL OF THEM. I hate that shit. I will do it for the other performers, but I feel that talking with my cast prior to show, about what is happening with them is more potent than ZIP-ZAP-ZOP or whatever. I am not knocking the overall importance of warm-ups, just ME warming up.
The warm-up game you adore is:
Either a Lone Star, or PBR Tall Boy.
Your “go to” move when you’re lost or confused in a scene is:
Touch someone. Make an immediate physical connection. As animals we could touch each other before we had a common language. So if I don’t know what to communicate, I grasp to the first form of human interaction: touch.
Your “go to” character or character trait is:
Intelligent. No matter who, or what you are playing, they are more than likely a foremost expert on something.
The best way to connect with your scene partner(s) is:
Touch! I fucking just said it TOUCH. It’s instant, it’s universally recognizable, it makes people either comfortable or uncomfortable. What happens after is gravy.
The best way to end a scene is:
Early. No scene is really ever over, our players and our audience have just left it at that spot. It makes it easier to bring it back later, and explore how the rest of the show/piece has influenced that reality, if at all. Other than that, blackout and up-tempo song. Thank you, improv techs!
You’re publishing a manifesto entitled “My Personal Improv Philosophy.” What are the titles of the first three chapters?
Chapter 1: Don’t Pressure Yourself, You’re Making Shit Up
Chapter 2: Shut the Fuck Up and Don’t Talk So Much: You Aren’t in the Dinner Scene of Reservoir Dogs
Chapter 3: Proximity, Physical Contact, and Being Affected: Make Your Audience Your Bitches
The Business of Improv
How many hours have you spent as a student in improv classes and workshops? Ballpark it for us.
Well in college alone we had 3 rehearsals a week, at 3hrs a pop. So with workshops, and improv training programs… Probably close to years’ worth of hours. Like about 8000.
Have you spent more than $1,000 on improv-related experiences?
For sure, but I also look at improv as a pseudo psychology and would place anytime I went to a bar alone and bought beers while people watching has been an improv-related experience.
More than $5,000?
The funniest troupe or show name you’ve heard (that actually exists):
Oui Be Negroes. I will give no explanation for that one.
What are your biggest long-term goals as an improviser?
As an improviser, to always make it seem effortless, and to always enable my scene partners to look and be better than me.
What’s the one thing you’d like people to think when they think back on your time as an improviser?
Dan was always supporting.
Give us some analogies for your improv: If my improv were a _________ it would be ________. For example, “If my improv were a Sports Team it would be the Dallas Cowboys.”
If my personal style of improvisation were a TOOL it would be A LEATHERMAN MULTITOOL.
Community, or VICE on HBO
Piece of Technology
“Selfless, Cold and Composed” – Ben Folds Five
If you could offer advice to an improviser who was considering dropping out of improv altogether, what might you say?
If you aren’t having fun, try it again without NEEDING to be good at it.
If you could wear only one outfit during improv shows for the rest of your life, it would be:
Jeans, Converse Chucks, and a collared pearl snap shirt. Also, Under Armour boxer briefs–those things are legit.
The difference between a good improviser and a bad improviser is:
The subjectivity of the audience.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without performing improv since you first began?
Eight months. I was miserable.
Who do you have an “improv crush” on, if anyone?
Oh man, I get improv boners all the time, but I’m old and divorced. So I just improv masturbate later. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by naming people. At least any more uncomfortable than after reading the phrase “So I just improv masturbate later” and have an understanding I am doing that for them.