You have to really admire the inventors on the televisions Shark Tank. Putting themselves out there with an idea, often with little funding and resources. Believing in a product and the willingness to try to come up with a viable plan. Putting together what they can with what they have. These gritty creators often make a product and iterate, while most of us wouldn't even try. They have the willingness to ask for help. Perhaps that's why we admire the show.
The original Japanese version of the show went by The Tigers of Money. Before the show came to American networks, I recall watching the BBC version called Dragon's Den. Hannah Jeffrey is producing a comedy show inspired by the television hit, as she explains in the below transcript:
Tell us all about Shark Tank. How might you describe your show to someone who knows nothing about improv?
If you’ve ever seen “Shark Tank” on TV, you’ll feel right at home watching the improvised version of the show! In our show, the entrepreneurs solve the audience’s every day peeves on the spot and pitch the solutions to our panel of distinguished Shark-provisers. Watch your problems disappear and root for your favorite pitch to score a hefty investment from the Sharks!
For the more knowledgeable improv crowd, what do you hope they’ll take away from the show?
This show is all about heightening. Just like on TV, the action should build and end with the most exciting moments. That’s why we try to start off small and build to the big stuff — the highest deals, the craziest inventions, the weirdest companies. Our cast works really hard together to make sure we’re all on the same page and not trampling each other in the middle of a show, since it’s one person vs. a panel of five.
What’s the story of how you entered into improv? (Why/When/How etc)
My parents actually signed me up for my first class in January 2016. It was my first year out of college, and I was still living at home, so they were the ones hearing the most about how much I wanted to try improv and pursue comedy. I guess they were getting tired of me talking about it all the time, so they got me classes for Christmas to shut me up.
What other skills might people in improv develop to further enhance themselves in their craft?
Improv is a team sport, and it’s crucial that everyone on stage respects each other. Nobody has a good show when they’re feeling uncomfortable or left out. Plus, improv requires you to be up for anything. You learn flexibility really quickly because it’s impossible to plan an improv scene — it’ll never happen the way you think it will.
What brought you to Baltimore and Maryland?
I was born and grew up in Baltimore County, left for a few years to go to college and then moved back home because rent at my parents' house was free. I haven’t left again since, although I have moved out of my childhood bedroom.
Often things we liked as a kid reflect in our adult lives? How is that true for you?
When I was little I wanted three things: glasses, braces and an inhaler. I set myself up to be a stereotype, so I let my nerd flag fly.
What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to?
I’ve never gotten a piercing or a tattoo. I don’t really want any tattoos because I feel like anything I commit to now, while I’m 24, won’t be all that relevant or meaningful when I’m 96. I’ve also never gotten a cavity, but that’s not something I want to try; that’s just me bragging.
Describe your ideal way to spend the weekend?
My perfect weekend consists of ZERO plans. The less I have to do, the better. And also, nobody can contact me. I sit in my jammies on the couch and watch tv with my boyfriend and my dog until we get hungry and then we order food and go to bed at a reasonable time. Maybe we do some Legos or a puzzle. And at two separate points throughout the weekend, I have pasta. The pasta should either be angel hair or fettuccine and NOTHING in between.
If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning a medal for?
I’m really good at cup-stacking because I broke my leg in ninth grade, and while everybody else played volleyball, I sat in the corner in my cast and cup stacked by myself. I sat out of gym for about three months. So, yeah, I got good.
What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
My favorite TV shows. I watch the same shows over and over and over again until I can recite the dialogue and I’ve analyzed every character. However, I’ve been told that my level of expertise is not always appreciated and apparently I “ruin shows” with all my “spoilers” and “extra information nobody asked for” but whatever.
What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten around to it?
Last winter, I had some really bad seasonal affective disorder and decided I would sign up for spin classes as a motivator to get out of the house and do something good for my body. I never went. But then a guy from the cycle studio came into the cafe where I work, and I told him I had signed up for classes but never went, and he said to come in anytime and they’d honor them! That was six months ago. Still haven’t gone.
Outside of improv, what do you spend time doing that you enjoy?
If I’m not at work or at the theater, I’m probably at home watching tv and/or doing a puzzle, working on a LEGO set or napping. I’ve also been known to dabble in chalk art, which means my hands are often multi-colored, and that’s a fun icebreaker.
If you could make a podcast, what would it be?
I have an idea for a podcast (and if anybody steals this idea before I do it, so help me, I will FIND you and YELL at you) where I interview people who have various jobs and ask them how they want to be treated. I’ve worked in the service industry for a long time, and there are so many things I want to tell people to NOT do to servers/bartenders/baristas/cashiers. My best friend is a nurse, and she hates it when people
If you could write a TV pilot, what would your plot be?
I actually have written exactly one pilot to date, and it was about a college newspaper. I wrote it for a script-writing class in college, and it just so happened to be when I was editor of our paper. I did not go far for my inspiration. Also, the script was garbage.
What’s a story you’d like to share that doesn’t necessarily have a connection to improv?
I think this is a very telling story about me: In kindergarten, we made time capsules that we weren’t supposed to open until we graduated high school. So at the end of high school, I opened mine up and it had cute little facts about me, including what I wanted to be when I grew up. I gave myself three options: a waitress, a secretary or a crossing guard.
What in your personal life influences you either as a performer or a person?
I have severe anxiety, ADHD and general panic disorder, so I’m constantly checking myself to make sure I’m in a good headspace. I’m a chronic over-thinker. But in improv, I can easily lose myself in a character or scene, and all of a sudden I don’t have to think.
What kind of work do you do? How does your work or career influence you as a performer?
I studied journalism and started to pursue a reporting career when I realized that I wasn’t really interested in reporting bad news every day. I’ve worked in the service industry since high school, and I’ve always gone back to it when I needed a job. Now, I work in a French cafe, and it is DELICIOUS.
How has improv influenced your life outside of the theater for the better?
I’m far more open to other people’s ideas. I’m not an incredibly adventurous person, and I’m super uncomfy with change. But knowing that I always have to be ready for the unexpected in improv definitely translates into my day-to-day.
What’s your favorite improv game and why?
Kitty Cat Career!!! Everybody sings “meowmeow meowmeow meowmeow” and then one person acts like a cat doing a job. Whoever guesses the kitty cat’s job correctly gets to go next. It’s so dumb. I love it. Meow.
What’s the strangest improv suggestion an audience member has ever given you? What happened from there?
During one of my first conservatory shows, I was getting the suggestion from the audience and I heard a man yell out “SCROTUM!” I turned to see my dad, giggling like crazy. My dad is no longer allowed to give suggestions at improv shows.
Editor's note. What was then known as The Conservatory is now Harold Night.
What advice do you have for people looking to do improv?
You can’t beat yourself up about improv. Even though we all do it from time to time, it’s a really ridiculous thing to get super worked up about. Improv at its core is very dumb. It’s silly and weird and not worth the time spent agonizing over specific lines or scenes. If you look like you’re trying too hard the audience will pick up on it right away. They want to see you having fun, and that’s what improv is all about anyway.
Describe a memorable improv scene from a show that you were in?
I remember a scene from my first conservatory team, Mommy’s Wine Club (rest in peace), where Julia Gerhardt and I were rival runners at a track meet. At one point, she asked me who my inspiration was, and I said it was her. The rest of the scene flowed so easily, and I couldn’t figure out why until our coach pointed out that we made the scene about our relationship, not what we were doing. Ever since then, I’ve tried extra hard to make sure my characters have legitimate connections to my scene partners.
What was a memorable show that you were in the audience for? What made it memorable and what did you take away from it?
The first BIG show I saw was GUS at Single Carrot. People were standing outside the door just to listen to the show. I remember thinking these people were so funny, and I wanted to know them so badly. At one point, they asked for a volunteer, and I raised my hand. They gave me a bell and told me to ring it whenever I felt uncomfortable. They then proceeded to try to make me uncomfortable for the next several minutes. It was awesome.
Editor's Note, I found this archival footage of Hannah's reaction to GUS at Single Carrot. She didn't remember being in the video.
Tell us about what have you learned in improv? Is there a story about being a student, a performer on a team, or as a teacher?
Improv is all-inclusive. Nobody gets left out of improv because if you leave somebody out, you might be leaving out the best ideas or most fun choices. I tend to go into everything with preconceived notions, but they’re almost always proven wrong when it comes to improv.
The next performance of Improv Shark Tank takes place at The BIG Theater on Thursday, January 17, 2019. View our show calendar or contact us for future showtimes.
Various BIG members and friends contribute to the blog. Enjoy!