Inside the Improv Green Room: Bert Kreischer

Originally posted June 29, 2008

I’ve come to realize that being an MC is a lot like being the opening theme song to a sitcom.  You have to set the tone for the whole show in a very short amount of time.  Also, most people probably don’t appreciate the importance of selecting a theme song for a sitcom.  Step-by-Step’s is a great example:

Step by step

Day by day

{Day by day}

A fresh start over

A different hand to play

Only time will tell

But you know what they say

We’ll make it better

The second time around.

And oddly enough I feel that these lyrics apply to my most recent weekend stint at the Improv with Bert Kreischer.

I had worked with Bert last year, probably 5 months after I started doing stand-up.  That weekend went OK.  I was still really new to stand-up; the feature act was also very green, relatively speaking; and the audiences were full of people who got their tickets free from Improv.com (translation: they wouldn’t have been there if they would’ve had to pay money).   The shows were good and as a starting comedian, I was pleased with my performance.  But that was then.  This was the second time around.

I wanted Bert to return to Pittsburgh and see how my act has developed.  My goal at this stage in my career is for traveling comedians to be comfortable and happy with me opening for them.  Hopefully, they will go back to New York or L.A. and tell other comedians “Hey, when you head out to Pittsburgh make sure you get Jeff Konkle to open for you.”

I feel like this weekend was a step in the right direction.  I’ve become more confident with my crowd interaction skills and I’ve added some interesting pieces to my act that I think help me stick out.

If you read about the last time Bert was at the Improv, you know that he thrives on uncertainty and can somehow manage to bring comedy into awkward situations.  For example, Bert is from L.A. and therefore is used to more ethnically diverse audiences.  Apparently, it must have been free Mayonnaise give-a-way at the Waterfront that weekend cause the white people were out in droves.  On Sunday’s show, we finally had like 4 black people in the audience.  Bert called them all on-stage by alluring them with free tequila shots.  He proceeded to do a 5-minute improvisation that he called “Translation.”  Basically, he would say something like a white guy would say it and then have each black guy convert the saying.”

Bert: Hello, I think you’re pretty.  Would you like to go out sometime?

Black Guy:  What up shorty?  I saw you from over there and was definitely try to holla.

It takes a lot of balls to pull audience members that deep into your actual show.  You risk two huge things.   One, the rest of the audience could feel alienated.  They came to see a comedian, not a bunch of random people on stage.  Two, the audience members might not be funny.  You are really putting all of your eggs in one basket.  But Bert was always able to control the situation while making it seem chaotic.

Hopefully, the word will spread to NY and LA that I’m a good person to ask for when coming to the Pittsburgh Improv.  I think I made it better the second time around.

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