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by T. Mike

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just a line

Part 6
AUSTIN - Day Two (collect 'em all!): Tales From The Classrooms

      Our improv classes start in earnest. Thanks to karaoke my voice sounds like I've smoked two packs a day for forty years, which is funny to me 'cause I'm only thirty-nine. So naturally my first class is the music and singing improv class. It's jam packed with me and this other guy about whom all I can remember is his name is a country. We have to make up songs based on the other guy's suggestion. I suggest "toothpaste" for him. For me, he suggests "rape." I suggest he's a jerk and that we take it outside. Fortunately for him, the teacher is one of those stereotypical big, burly choreographers who love bench pressing and show tunes or I'd have given Mr. My-Name-Is-A-Country what for.

      Elsewhere, Rob and Jason take an improv class taught by Gary Austin and Gary Austin's Hair. Gary Austin's Hair is a shiny, luxurious mane of beautiful gray shading to silver. You should see it outside on a sunny day - wow! Gary Austin is the guy who lives under it and gave Pee Wee Herman his first too-small gray suit and red bow tie. So we should all be grateful, really. You know, actually, I heard it was really Gary Austin's Hair who got Pee Wee Herman started and Gary Austin waltzed up and took all the credit, but Gary Austin's Hair was too cool to make a big stink about it. Anyway, that's what Gary Austin's hair told Rob and Jason as they three snuck out of class for a beer break as Gary Austin kept on lecturing.

      Another class experience Rob, Al and I all got to share was with Larry Moss, dialect expert. We'd thought we'd pick up a few pointers on how to ridicule the accents of people different from us, have a few laughs and go home. How naive we were. Larry, apparently through no fault of his own, had gone three days without sleep, but that may have been the pills talking. Unfortunately he was still conscious enough to keep making eye contact with us, which prevented us from napping. Eventually he stopped teaching us anything useful and began exhorting us in a manner somewhere between a 12-step program and a junior high pep rally. Then, not sure if he got paid no matter what he said or only if we learned something, he switched back into teaching mode, suckering three hapless volunteers into standing in front of the class for thirty minutes for no apparent reason. Several clever women got away by claiming they had to "work". We men were not so clever and with a sigh, started to gnaw at our own legs, hoping to get all the way through before our brains exploded in self-defense. Eventually, after four or five days, Rob and Al and I escaped via a brilliant scheme in which we told him we had to "work."

      My class with improv guru Del Close was actually very interesting. He divided us into two groups and told each group to invent, on the spot, without talking, a "tribal ritual." Luckily, my group hit upon the idea of sacrificing captives taken in battle before the other group did. Our god, Uklu, was well pleased with our sacrifices and we prospered. Boy, were our crops bountiful! After a few generations, we had settled most of the club, developed primitive farming implements and weapons from formica and linoleum and were poised to conquer the neighboring tribes and restaurants, when Del ended the exercise. Actually, improvising a whole civilization wasn't that hard, but making it funny is. Del told us about the time he and a friend improved Scientology in the 50's while high on heroin. Sure it was funny for a while, but he pointed out it's getting less and less funny every year. I took away from that class a newfound respect for improv, a valuable skill-building exercise, and a lifelong devotion to Uklu, the many-eyed one. All hail Uklu!!

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