The Python Process
With Kim “Howard” Johnson
Howard has just returned from spending most of November on the road with John Cleese (including a stop at the iO), and is anxious to present the his own insights into the Monty Python writing process, and how it can work for you. This eight-week workshop will immerse participants in the Python creative process, and by the end of the eighth session, participants will have completed, polished sketches which can be presented on stage and/or filmed as a sketch show or revue.
The first two three-hour sessions feature a detailed look at the Python process as Howard, occasional collaborator and former personal assistant to John Cleese, will discuss the general Python approach to writing and the various writing styles of the group members. Monty Python’s Flying Circus clips will be shown which demonstrate their styles, and clips from pre-Python and post-Python works will also be featured to demonstrate how their styles evolved. Howard will also discuss his own experiences and offer an insider’s perspective concerning their sketch-writing. Finally, students will be assigned to write a 2-3 minute sketch in the style of Eric Idle, and be prepared to cast it and read it the following week.
During the third session, the class will discuss the Eric Idle-inspired sketches, including any problems experienced, and students will briefly cast and rehearse their Eric Idle sketches before reading them for the class. Afterward, each one will be discussed in detail. There will be homework: each student, on their own, will also re-write one of the Idle-inspired sketches. The fourth week’s session will include readings of the Idle-inspired re-writes, followed by discussions on how they were changed and how well the changes worked.
The fifth session will see Johnson discuss the Terry Jones-Michael Palin and John Cleese-Graham Chapman collaborations, with video examples, and students will form pairs. In this week’s homework assignment, students must collaborate with another person in the class and write a sketch in the Jones-Palin or Cleese-Chapman style.
In the sixth session, each team will read out their Jones-Palin or Cleese-Chapman sketches, followed by a discussion. Then, as before, a different team will re-write that sketch for the following week. And, as a second assignment, each team that wrote a Jones-Palin sketch must write a Cleese-Chapman sketch, and vice versa. Of course, there will be video clips to illustrate points.
The seventh session will begin with readings of the re-written sketches and discussions about the collaborations. The new sketches will be read as well, followed by analysis. Students will be asked to work together to decide on a running order, edit sketches, or otherwise assemble the material into a 20-30 minute presentation.
The eighth and final session will see rehearsal of the sketch show, which they will present at the conclusion of the class to an invited audience.
Kim “Howard” Johnson has been associated with Monty Python since they first landed in America. He wrote a Monty Python fanzine, joined them (and even appeared) in Life of Brian, appeared in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, has written four and a half books on the Pythons (including The First 280 Years of Monty Python and Monty Python’s Tunisian Holiday), co-written a screenplay with Terry Jones, and served as personal assistant to John Cleese. He directed the U.S. premiere of Buchanan’s Finest Hour, written by Terry Jones and Michael Palin, at the Second City etc. He was also a founding member of the Baron’s Barracudas (the first house team of the ImprovOlympic—now the iO), co-wrote Truth in Comedy with Charna Halpern and Del Close, and wrote The Funniest One in the Room: the Lives and Legends of Del Close, the biography of his longtime friend. He has performed, taught, and directed improvisation and comedy for many years.
When: Sundays from 12-3pm beginning January 4th
Where: Writing Room
How much: $305.00
How many: 16 maximum
How to Get a (Literary) Agent
With Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy is an older version of you—and in two hours will basically tell you what he wishes somebody had told him regarding the murky world of TV literary representation—how to get notice, how to get read, and how to get them to work for you in under two hours (NOTE: Two hours is the length of the workshop…the other stuff might take longer).
1. How to prepare the best, most relevant portfolio possible, based on your professional goals, and your emerging brand
2. How to develop the biggest narcissistic, pyro-technique, display of your wares
3. How to focus on the right representation
4. How to get them to read you
5. How to get them to help you, help them, help you, etc…
Michael has done all these things, and in the process has written for SNL, “Sesame Street,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Mike and Molly,” and many Comedy Central projects. Along with creating the writing programs at The iO West, The iO Chicago and The Second City—he created a series for Channel Four in London, a comedy festival in Ireland and a morning radio show here in Chicago.
When: Wednesday, December 17th from 5:45pm-7:45pm
Where: Chris Farley Cabaret
How much: $28.00
Scenework with Craig Uhlir
With Craig Uhlir
This class offers students more scenework with direct feedback and notes. This class will focus on scene creativity and we will run both short scene exercises and also longer length two person scenic explorations. Build better scene foundations and play into creating with your partner beyond the initiation. Strengthen your work and increase your personal satisfaction with the scenes you are in.
This class is for post iO graduate or students who have completed through level 3.
This elective is comprised of 8 classes.
Craig Uhlir has been learning/playing at iO since 1996. He was on teams with names like Varmit and Spank until becoming an early member of the house team Deep Schwa and later a member of the house team Valhalla. Craig still plays on Deep Schwa and following a six year run in the two man show Middle Age Comeback, he now plays every week with Prime. Craig toured with the Second City for over two years culminating with a tour of Kuwait and Iraq for the USO. Craig spent two years in Las Vegas performing for The Second City at the Flamingo, as well as teaching there too. Craig also played with ComedySportz Chicago in the 2000’s, and has hosted iO’s Jam on at least three separate stints starting all the way back in ‘97. Jam.
When: Wednesdays from 4-7pm beginning January 7th
Where: 3rd Beat Room
How much: $250.00
How many: 18 maximum
Creating & Refining Solo Material
With Paul Thomas
Writing and performing solo comedy scenes is a craft. Unlike stand-up comedy, it’s easy to do because theater audiences are much more forgiving. Like stand-up comedy, it’s extremely hard to do well. If you lack killer written material for yourself, this class will get you going, plus it’s also a great start for a solo show. The class focuses on creating compelling characters, crafting structurally sound, multi-layered scenes, being a better actor, and performing with confidence and discipline.
Paul Thomas has performed his critically acclaimed solo sketch show Comedogenic or parts of it at the New York Sketch Comedy Festival, Chicago Sketchfest, iO Chicago, SketchfestNYC, the Public HouseTheater, Just For Laughs Chicago, and the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival. His epic web series Ped Crossing, based on one of his solo sketches, was featured by The Onion’s AV Club. Some of other his moving picture work has screened at the Just for Laughs Festivals in Montreal and Chicago, the L.A.
Comedy Shorts Festival, and the Chicago Comedy Film Festival, amongst others. Paul is also a stand-up comic, and is a cast member of Chicago Underground Comedy.
When: Sundays 12pm-3pm, beginning January 4th
Where: Opening Room
How much: $280.00
How many: 10 maximum
With Dave Asher
This class is good for anyone from the beginner who doesn’t feel comfortable singing to the expert who loves to sing. If your goal is to improve, you will. Exercises cover the range from group sonic explorations to solo songs, from rhyming choruses and choreography to truth in comedy with music. The focus is on applying the basic long form tools of agreement and group mind to the realm of music. This is a very organic connection. Finding the games of things, making patterns, keeping a rhythm, and supporting your teammate’s moves are essential to good improv and become even more relevant when the stakes are heightened to the point that music becomes necessary. Finding the truth in a moment brings even more rewards. There will be a performance night at the end of the eight-week session
When: Fridays, beginning January 9th 6:00pm – 8:00 pm
Where: The Opening Room
How much: $180.00
How many: 18 maximum