If I am not the target audience for a film about an improv troupe written and directed by Mike Birbiglia and produced by This American Life’s Ira Glass, I am not sure who is. I made a point to see Don’t Think Twice this weekend. As I took my seat I looked around the theater and recognized the faces of several LA improvisers. The very funny Joe Lo Truglio was sitting in front of me. I wondered if they were thinking the same thing I was: who makes a serious film about improv?
I have written about my love for improv in previous posts. I am an alum of Improv Olympic and The Second City. I’ve taught improv for years. Every time I step into black box theater and see an empty stage with a couple chairs on it, I the get the chills. There’s always an urge within me to jump on the stage, to play, to see what happens.
Improv is like a splatter painting. Some say it is silliness; others claim it is art. I think it is both. Individual characters and performances can be quite silly, but the discovery that is made as a group is art. What I appreciate about the film is that even though the cast if comprised of very funny individuals, the story is about the group. The film is about the art of improv.
The question that drives the narrative of the film is one of success: what is success and what happens to the troupe when some members find success and others don’t? It is an honest story grounded in authentic characters and it hits close to home. I know these people. I’ve been there. I’m still there.
The irony of Don't Think Twice is that all the actors in the film have had what most would consider successful careers. I wonder if they made the film for all their improv friends that haven’t found success the way they did.
The film isn’t for everyone, but if you are familiar with performance theater and especially improvised theater - or if your twenties were all about hope and you’ve spent your thirties realizing how dumb it was to hope - I highly recommend it.
A WRITER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES