Scott Lichtor performs as a talented improv comedy actor. He also created a new show – The NORMAL Show – debuting in October 2018.
When the word normal is mentioned, I wonder why someone has spelled the name Norman wrong. Or perhaps they meant Norma?
While not named either of those names, Scott talked with me about the show in an interview. Read below for the transcript of our discussion:
How would you describe The Normal Show to someone who doesn’t know anything about improv?
The NORMAL Show is an attempt to make a completely normal improv show. Most of the improv that people are familiar with features a lot of crazy characters and situations. My goal for this show was to stamp out that craziness and give the audience a nice and comfortable show that is completely normal.
Of course, knowing what improvisers are like, this might be really difficult! So I’ve prepared a number of challenges to ensure that the improvisers stay in line and DON’T get crazy! Hijinks may ensue along the way, but by taking what some may call “out there” measures, I will ensure that this show will conclude with some very NORMAL improv.
What will a more knowledgeable crowd get out of the show?
The NORMAL Show will feature a number of challenges that improvisers have probably never seen in a show before. Moreover, these challenges will be layered in a way that will create a very unique, energetic, and fun show.
I hope that these sorts of ideas might really tickle experienced audiences in unexpected ways. I also hope that The NORMAL Show can inspire improvisers to try out other new ideas in improv to really push the boundaries of what improv can be. That’s a lofty dream for a show that promises to be very, very silly, but sometimes there is a wisdom to the silly!
What brought you into coaching?
I got involved with improv coaching because I was inspired to master improv/comedy to a further degree and because I really wanted to teach others how to master improv. I believe that one of the best ways to master any craft is to try to teach others that craft. This is incredibly difficult and scary at first, but true learning is almost always difficult and scary at first! I also just love the feeling of having a positive effect on others, and one of the best ways to do this is through teaching!
Before teaching improv, I taught computer science at a community college. The feeling of seeing somebody first understand and apply a new concept is just incomparable – it’s amazing to see their new abilities and to see the joy that that new knowledge inspires. I love that feeling, and I really want to get better and better at teaching and at helping others so I can hog that feeling all to myself!
Often things we liked as a kid reflect in our adult lives – how is that true for you?
When I was a kid, I loved watching The Simpsons with my family. It is just such a funny and warm TV show, and I loved experiencing all that with the people I was closest to.
Today, I still chase that sort of experience! I dove into improv to try to create and enjoy the same kind of silliness and comedy shown in The Simpsons. And the beauty of the improv experience is that you construct that joy with other people you are close to – people who can become your family!
So, in a way, my embrace of improv is a way for me to recreate the experiences I had growing up in Chicago and watching The Simpsons with my family at 5:30 and 6 on Fox 32 – those were the days!
If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning a medal for?
In the past few years, I have become an incredibly irritating driver who tries to brake as little as possible. Not in a dangerous way – of course, I will always brake if there’s a sudden stop ahead of me! But I try to look ahead and anticipate traffic patterns and traffic lights ahead of me, so I know exactly how to drive to eliminate the need to break.
For example, if I see that a block ahead cars are stopped, I’ll stop accelerating, even if it drops me below the speed limit. If there was an Olympic event associated with braking as little as possible, I think I’d be a real contender. I’ve learned a lot about how traffic lights work (when they are likely to change), I’m willing to be super annoying to drivers around me, and I can singularly focus on this one, stupid task. Let me give it a shot, IOC!
If you could make a podcast, what would it be?
I’ve had this dream for a little bit about making a podcast that attempts to solve some incredibly small “crime” – like solving the mystery of who took the last water bottle from the refrigerator. This would essentially be a really stupid parody of shows like Serial, but the idea of getting really into the weeds on something that doesn’t matter really tickles me. Maybe one day I’ll make this podcast! I just need an appropriately small issue to investigate…
If you could write a TV pilot, what would your plot be?
I had an idea for a show about superheroes solving social problems that I thought would be pretty entertaining. The beauty of it: it’s exactly what it sounds like! It’d have a handful of superheroes - like Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Aquaman, etc - and their goal would be to solve social problems in the world, like racism/world hunger/income inequality.
Each superhero’s power would be pretty ill-suited to solving these critical and complicated issues in the world, but these are the issues that are pretty important! In a way, it would be like throwing fictional superheroes into the normal world, where these are the problems we face, rather than supervillains trying to take over the world. I think it’s a fun and silly premise that could also be interesting to examine. Somebody fund me!
What advice do you have for people looking to do improv?
Just dive in! And be gentle with yourself! Improv is going to be scary, and sometimes you’re going to feel that you’re not good/funny/smart enough to do it. But the truth is, improv is a skill sort of like learning the piano. Pretty much nobody just sits down at the piano and immediately can play some fancy song (dang, I really wanted to come up with a really difficult classical piano song, but I know nothing about music!).
They start not knowing what to do, and, though practice and instruction, they get better and better until it looks like their play is effortless. Improv is the same way! But I’d argue improv is a lot more fun! So dive in, experience that fun, and remind yourself that you are always learning and getting better!
(editor’s note: as an improvisor and classical pianist I think they’re both fun. Scott disagrees and that’s okay, I guess different people think different things are fun. Weigh in – and pick a side – in the comment section.)
What was a memorable show that you were in the audience for?
There was a show I saw maybe six months ago by a house team at BIG called Lekker that blew me away. Most of the show was very funny, but the last scene was completely different in an amazing way. It featured two neighbors (played by Danny Hughes and Roy Taff, if it’s ok to use names here) who were talking to each other about their relationship as neighbors.
This scene was building on some weird and funny stuff that happened between these neighbors in prior scenes, but what was so cool about this final scene was that instead of being really funny, it was actually incredibly genuine and sweet! There was just a real friendship that came through between these characters, and that sort of naked amity was surprising to me and also incredibly fulfilling!
Before that show, I thought that the goal of all improv was to be silly and funny, but this show shook my world by showing me that there’s an incredible value to improv scenes that DON’T try to be funny, but just try to be real. I don’t think that I’ve been very good at making those kinds of scenes in my own performances, but that show inspired me to try to be a more genuine performer who connects with and cares about the others performers and characters in scenes. I think it creates much more enjoyable and deeper shows, and that feels wonderful to me.
View our calendar and ask our staff about the next performance of The NORMAL Show. You can also find Scott on Tuesdays with Harold Night team Batmath, at houses in Baltimore and in many indie improv troupes!!
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