YesAndrew.com has a soft spot in its improv heart for this week’s interviewee, Ms. Teresa Kubos York. Teresa was in my first troupe, The Seven Eight Sevens, and thank god for that. Her improv is balanced, supportive, and tends toward the silly and absurd.
Last year, Teresa moved from Austin to San Diego with her husband, Justin York (co-founder of the ColdTowne Theater), where she has proceeded to ignite the Southern California improv scene. Say hello to our first ex-patriot subject…
Name: Teresa York
City: San Diego, CA
Number of Years Doing Improv: 6 years
Primary Web Presence: Facebook
Who’s your improv hero?
Right now my improv hero is Jimmy Carrane. He’s painfully truthful about his hang-ups in improv and says the things that we feel, but don’t want to admit. He’s managed to run a successful podcast and encourage a slow and thoughtful way of playing in his classes.
Who’s your improv nemesis?
Nice try! My improv nemesis is the detached improviser. He/she is afraid to commit to the scene and become emotionally vulnerable. Yet! He/she is super witty and is revered because of this alone. When I’m on stage with this person, he/she says something demeaning to me to avoid connecting. I try killing them, but they won’t die. They just won’t die.
You can play an improv scene with anyone. Who would you pick?
As overplayed as he is, I’d want to do a scene with Jesus. I think he would give me some great offers, start positive, and be emotionally affected in the scene. Also, we could sustain the scene for a long time since we’ve essentially heightened a lot already. I think he would also use some metaphors with fishes or water and these would inform our characters immensely.
Who first encouraged you to try improv?
I would have to say my father. He is a country-western musician and used to rehearse a lot at home. He would put on music and start singing to me. Eventually I learned the lyrics and would sing along and dance around the room. This was my foray into performing. He taught me how to entertain. From there, I was always working on the way I presented something to anyone instead of perfecting a physical craft like sewing or pottery.
By making people laugh, I felt a sense of approval from them. Combining my sense of humor with my love for performing led to me singing up for classes at the Hideout when I moved to Austin.
Who’s the funniest famous person?
Who’s the funniest non-famous person?
Your most memorable improv experience in 30 words or less:
Seeing TJ and Dave perform in Austin. After that, I thought, “Ah, here is where the bar is set.” TJ was Dave’s boss in a scene and put his legs up on his imaginary desk. Dave, as the employee, tried to do the same, and TJ kind of waived him off. Dave immediately put his legs down, but the subtly of TJ’s move amazed me. I was astounded, inspired, and giddy.
The hardest I’ve ever laughed at an improv performance was:
I think it’s interesting that the more I do improv, the less I laugh at watching shows. I feel guilty for expressing that, but I think it gets harder to laugh when you’ve seen things done before so it doesn’t feel as magical as it might to an audience member. That said, Aphasia at Out of Bounds in ’09 (I think?) was hilarious. So committed to the absurdity! Pimprov also produced tears of laughter.
Your biggest offstage improv pet peeve?
I am a rule-follower at heart (which is why I desperately need improv in my life), but it still drives me crazy when someone is goofing around in a rehearsal and doing anything but the task at hand. I think there is a place for playfulness, but not when it inhibits an exercise or the good use of other’s time.
Your most hated warm-up game is:
I don’t really hate it, but Hotspot. I love music and appreciate lyrics so much, that I loathe the idea that we only choose another song to save the person in the middle. When someone chooses “Happy Birthday,” I usually get angry at that person. “Really? That one? There are so many other songs to choose from!!” I get too wrapped up in the music and then forget the actual point of the game.
The best way to get into character is:
Get into your body. Contort yourself and let your voice and point of view be inspired by that physicality.
The second best way to edit a scene is:
Come out and say / do / be the thing that the characters in the scene may be avoiding. The audience is probably craving it so much that you’ll get a laugh and then be edited (for better or worse).
The best way to connect with the other person in the scene is:
Make eye contact. Make eye contact. Make eye contact. Make eye contact. Touch them and maintain eye contact.
The third best way to make a scene funny is:
Pay attention to what got a laugh from the audience. Whatever that was, do it again and heighten it.
The Business of Improv
About how many improv courses have you taken (not counting one-off workshops)?
I’ve taken about 20 classes at six different theaters. The Hideout Theatre, ColdTowne Theater, Merlin Works, The Institution Theater, National Comedy Theatre (SD), and UCB LA.
What festivals have you performed in outside of Austin?
I will be performing at the Los Angeles improv festival in a couple of weeks! I hope to go to more festivals.
Have you personally spent more than $1,000 on improv related expenses in your lifetime?
More than 5,000?
Yes, most definitely. I am kind of afraid to make a final tally, but I am of the mindset to take as many classes as possible from as many different theaters as possible. I used to say that if I wasn’t cast in a show it’s because I needed to work harder on my craft. I feel like I’ll never be done, and I’m perfectly fine with that. How we can say we’ve mastered something that comes from nothing?
The Funniest Troupe Name You’ve Ever Heard (That Actually Exists):
Ice Tits. They are a Harold Troupe in LA.
Your 2013 improv goal:
Do more musical improv. I’ve always had an ear for music, but I never played an instrument for a dedicated period of time. I want to marry my passions and create a troupe just for this purpose.
Your lifetime improv goal:
Find that perfect troupe where everything clicks and the dedication is real. It’s almost on the same level as finding a life partner, I think.
Your goal at your next show:
Have the most honest reactions as possible to the offers from my partner.
What is the one thing you’d like people to think when they think back on your as an improviser?
That I surprised them with each show. I don’t want to become predictable or fall into doing bits.
You’re invited to a private cocktail party. When you arrive, it’s just you, Del Close, Keith Johnstone, Wayne Brady, Amy Poehler, and Hall of Fame Quarterback Joe Montana in attendance. The party is nice. You drink a couple of glasses of wine while you chat with the distinguished guests.
At the end of the night, Amy announces that, after conferring with the other improvisers in the room (aka, everyone except Joe Montana), they would like not only to form a troupe with you, but they’d like to use their collective resources to promote it on a worldwide tour, which would happen every year. With these heavyweights at your disposal, you stand to earn more than $500,000 per year for simply doing improv shows with four fantastic improv minds. You’d perform at the most extravagant theaters in the world—the Sydney Opera House, the Tokyo Technodrome, that place in China that looks like a bird nest (the “Bird Nest,” I believe it is), and Radio City Music Hall—along with a bevvy of famous, smaller venues like CBGBs. In other words, they want to make you rich doing what you love to do.
“The only stipulation,” Amy says, “is that you must gouge out one of Joe Montana’s eyeballs in the next thirty minutes using only this wooden spoon.” And then Amy Poehler pulls out a wooden spoon.
Montana will be strapped down. There’s no chance of him fighting back. You’re perfectly safe. All you have to do is gouge out one of Joe Montana’s eyeballs and you can live a dream life forever. He’s even signed a document swearing not to sue or seek criminal charges. You’ll get off scott free.
Amy turns to you, the wooden spoon in her hand, and asks, “So?”
What do you say to her?
“That’s not a wooden spoon, that’s a witch’s broom!”
I’d then throw it out the window? I don’t know! Sinning is bad. Eyes are sensitive. Improv rules, but I do have a soul.