Experiment | improv, race, food for thought

thatwasreallyfun210aboundarypushingaswell210a-defaultWhat do you get when you have an idea about bringing one’s culture into improv and an opportunity to do so for not more than 3.5 minutes?

Here is how I took advantage of that opportunity – Yo, Is this Racist or Not Racist? (aka YiTRoNR?)– That’s what I came up with.


Wait what? WHAT!?

My offering was a nod to the podcast, Yo, Is This Racist?, with its precursor and companion blog, Yo, Is This Racist?. The 3.5 minutes included –

  • an improv warm-up staple of Three Lines Scene
  • “flip cards” with racist and not racist to facilitate sharing one’s of opinion and perspective
  • optional audience participation
  • post-show food-for-thought

–  and admittedly, I did not follow my own rules toward the endby doing more than three lines,  however, as an experiment, I was glad to get it out there with the help of friends.

  • The final experimental product – Jump to the section below – “Serving up the Experiment – Yo, Is This Racist or Not Racist?” – to see the 3.5 minutes in action. Skip the rest.
  • Interested in what spurred this idea? – Read on for the details.

And while YiTRoNR was not quite bringing one’s culture into improv, it was in the spectrum and range of exploring and expressing race – social, cultural, and familial – as an improviser and an audience member.

The Idea: Colorized Improv

I have been brewing bicultural improv since earlier this year. Simply stated, my early thoughts were about creating a team that is predominantly composed of people of color, with bicultural experiences from which to draw.

In June, four un-panelists (Chang, Bell, Rodriguez, Mansbach) at a June book fair festival unknowingly reignited my interest in bicultural improv. Since then, my ideas of bicultural improv have been evolving into what I have been calling Colorized Improv, a nod to Jeff Chang’s Who We Be: The Colorization of America for the inspiration.

I have exchanged ideas with friends and colleagues not only in the SF Bay Area but also in Southern California and Chicago. To date, I am collaborating with Radhika Rao on creating and defining the general framework and elements, experimenting with improv formats, and conceiving workshop ideas and performance pieces. (More to come)

sal_shAn Opportunity to Experiment

In late September/early October, there was an opportunity to “showcase” anything for 3.5 minutes. This opportunity? The October installation of The Laboratory, hosted by Salvatore (Sal) Testa. The Laboratory was described as –

The Laboratory is an experimental improv show where 18 teams get 3.5 minutes to do whatever they want with no restrictions. It is going to be weird, and that’s going to be great. A set where everyone is a cat? Possibly. A scene where everyone says one collective sentence, one word at a time? We can only hope. A 3.5 minute of dating game? Probably. This will probably happen. 

(By the way, time permitting, Sal was very generous by letting additional teams (including those  who missed signing up or had an idea on the spot) to perform. Great host and producer!)

Raw Ingredients to Formulate The Idea

j_shThe Laboratory triggered in me the idea to create something that may be under the umbrella of the evolving Colorized Improv. I touched base friend Johnathan, who has shared similar ideas about having more underrepresented improv players, as well as scenes with cultural context. I also shared the idea with friends in Guam Improv. Here are the “raw ingredients” I worked with for creating YiTRoNR.

Improv warm-up staple – Using the improv warm-up exercise – Three Lines Scene – perform scenes that clearly are and are not racist, and perhaps scenes that are not so clearly one way or the other (arguably).

Identify / Flip cards – Guam team member, Ashley, suggested poster boards to call out whether a scene was racist or not racist. From this creative idea came other ideas from other friends for using flip cards to call out racist/not racist scenes: having the improviser self-identify; having one person serve as a kind of referee; having the audience identify; or some combination of the above.

Optional audience participation – Given the Laboratory format and surprise element, one of my friends suggested that audience members could verbally state racist/not racist and/or could use flip cards to do so. Other ideas included having and audience volunteer take part in the three lines scene or having a whistle blown for racist scenes.

Post-Show Food for thought – With 3.5 minutes, I wanted to experiment with improvisers and the audience. This included several ideas: improvisers purposely choosing to create characters or scene initiations that could be identified as racist, not racist, microaggressions, or implicit bias; improvisers performing that are predominantly people of color; audience members reacting to scene creations; and improvisers and audience members considering culture in improv.


Serving up the Experiment – Yo, Is This Racist or Not Racist?

Here is the food-for-thought.

And an award-worthy move at the end? Michael ripping in half one of the racist/not racist poster board!

If you are chewing on this, what ingredients would you keep? What would you change? What ideas come to mind for you – improviser and non-improviser – when watching this?

* The closing scene (beyond three lines)
was from a previously improvised scene
between Johnathan and me. 


Listening | as improvisers, as workspace colleagues

REBLOG. See original at Anthrocubeology.com

Listening – As Improvisers, As Workspace Colleagues


From Vince Vaughn’s quote (above image) about listening when improvising –

  • unexpected information

  • staying true to your character, who you are

  • reacting honestly

  • discovering a different direction

– it is my observation (and experience) that these four things also happen to varying degrees in the workspace. In fact, here is Vaughn’s quote when replacing the words improvising with interacting in a workspace and scene with workspace 

The main thing about interacting in a workspace is listening so if something happens that wasn’t expected and you know your character, you know what has to happen in the workspace, you can react to that in a way that is honest and it might take you in a different direction to go the same place.
– Anthrocubeologist
(plagiarizing-ish from V. Vaughn)

About this post

As a follow-up to Feedback – As Improvisers, As Workspace Colleagues , for which listening is an important skill for receiving and giving feedback, this post presents –

As a specialty coach for An Improv Mindset in the Workspace, trained to help people change behaviors and easily develop habits, I understand how to translate improv practices and philosophies for use in a non-performance context – specifically, for the traditional workspace.

In a follow-up post, I will include an opportunity to be a habit detective for listening, e.g., observing, gathering information, speculating on other practices for listening. For now, consider the following for listening in the workspace.

Simply Listening, Listening Simply

One of the key practices of every improviser is listening. I shared in Feedback that workspace interactions are not too different from the relationship-based interactions between two improvisers performing a scene. Listening is not only important for performing improvisers but also for anyone involved in workspace interactions among peers, management, customers, community stakeholders, shareholders, and competitors.

As an improviser, I practice making the four choices in progression, while listening to my scene partner –

  • hear

  • understand

  • react

  • respond

Choosing to hear, then understand, then react, and then respond serves as the foundation for exercising one’s listening muscle. As an improviser, what I co-create in an on-stage, performance-based scene with my scene partner is contingent upon my listening skills.

Here is an improviser Paul Vaillancourt’s The Four Step Process – Improv Tip #3, which addresses how to listen better and listen with a purpose.

  • What did they say? What were the words – literally – that they said?

  • What do I think that means?

  • How do I think and feel about what they just said?

  • What am I going to say and do about that?

(This post is a stand-alone post specific to listening and separate from the two improv tips Vaillancourt references in his video – What They Just Said – Improv Tip #2 and Playing Paranoid #1.)

Listening with An Improv Mindset in the Workspace

Workspace interactions are not too different from the relationship-based interactions between two improvisers performing a scene. How does listening as an improviser – hear, understand, react, respond –  translate for those in the workspace? Consider this approach.

Did I hear (physically) what was said?

Hear. If not, be honest. You can say that you did not hear what was stated and that would like the person to repeat what was stated. In fact, how often do you ask (and care) to acknowledge what you heard?

Do I understand what I heard?

Understand. If not, take a breath, ask questions, and check-in. You can ask for clarifications. You can check-in to confirm your understanding, state what you understood, and if you would like, include your interpretation of what was stated. Likewise, how often do you ask (and care) to make sure you understood what was said, as well as what was intended to be heard?

What is my reaction – physically, emotionally, intellectually – to what I heard?

React. Be your own research scientist or detective. Start collecting data about yourself. Be self-aware. Do you have a physical tell, make a sound, start processing what you are going to say, check-out, or some other reaction or combination of reactions? Does your reaction change depending on the environment?

Subtext. Something to be aware of – subtext. In a performance context, subtext is the underlying meaning created by the speaker, whose manner of speaking may be conveying an additional meaning of what was spoken. In a non-performance context, such as the workspace, subtext also exists. (For this post, subtext is not addressed.)

Which communication option(s) will I use?

Respond. It is your turn to interact. Traditional approaches for responding include verbal responses, written responses (electronic, old school pen to paper), sign language responses, and in some cases (for whatever reasons) no responses. And for the first three approaches, the timing of responses can differ from choosing an on-the-spot, immediate response to choosing a response after some time has passed.

That said, how do people in your world listen to each other? What are your observations and experiences? As a non-improviser, I would love to know the following –

What qualities do you think make one person a better listener than another? Is listening a habit that you actively practice? If so, what practice(s) do you have? If not, what would you like to practice?

– – – –

I am gathering and sharing my thoughts as I evolve ANTHROCUBEOLOGY – INSPIRED by IMPROV, a CATALYST for WORKSPACE CULTURAL SHIFTS through TINY CHANGES.

Throwback | thursday, guam with chivalry


In celebration, here is a picture of me and my buds from 10th grade I think. I was 15ish here. It’s a photo of a picture that was framed by my bud Sharmi and given to me as a birthday gift.
(Guam improv team member)

AHHHH … the yesteryears of the wonder years! Photos can bring back such wonderful memories.

BUT … You know what’s even better!?

#ThrowbackThursday with Chivalry Club

10922455_690522781064427_2284258264174024453_nEvery Thursday, 10:30 pm at San Francisco’s Stage Werx (on web, Facebook), Chivalry Club (on Facebook) – a long-form improv team – inspired by your photo and your story behind the photo hosts what they call #ThrowbackThursday.

Chivalry Club describes their show on Eventbrite (where you can purchase show tickets) –

Take a detour down memory lane.

Every Thursday night at 10:30, Chivalry Club gets the scoop on a photo from your past and then turns it into a raucous, hullaballoo of improvised comedy. Every picture tells a story, so get your sweet patootie down here and share yours! We promise not to make fun of that ol’ bowl cut too much.


Hey dawg, you comin’ to the show?

YAS you are!
Submit your #TBT photos by emailing them to:
Or hashing your tweets, Instas, and FB posts with:

We’ll randomly select one or two pics during the show. I hope we get yourrrrsss!

This happens WEEKLY, every Thursday night, just one of several shows that are part of the Endgames Improv (onTwitter, web) calendar line-up of weekly shows,


Guam-ing It Up

Tomorrow, Oct 1, Guam (on Facebook) will open for Chivalry Club’s #ThrowbackThursday show. And meanwhile, Guam members will keep looking for some sweet photo memories to share.


Circa 1984: U.C. Berkeley co-eds getting ready for a night of clubbing at the now-defunct I-Beam (on Yelp, wikipedia) in San Francisco, on student night, in true 1980s fashion for true 1980s music! – Shirley

 Also, Efficient Office Practices (of Facebook) will be sharing the evening with us. SO MUCH IMPROV!11393278_1080893635273424_2653538449174402285_n

See you Thursday, October 1, 10:30
Tickets at the door ($5 or free for current Endgames Improv students)
Tickets in advance at Eventbrite OVER HERE.