Looking for a Hump Night intern

How would you like to be a Hump Night intern and take my Monday night performance class for free?

Right now I’m looking for someone to help with box office, tech and setup on Wednesday nights at Hump Night. In return for working the show, you could take my Monday night improv class for free. If you are interested, please send me an email (ircmullaney@gmail.com) with any relavant tech or box office experience (not required). In addition, fill out the application for the class.

Read more about Hump Night.
Read more about my Monday Night Improv Performance Class which starts on February 4th.

Game of the Scene – An Example from Mr. Show

An actor is called into a casting office to audition. He brings his headshot and resume with him, greets the casting people and introduces his audition piece: a monolog from a play called The Audition. He takes a moment to collect himself and asks, “Can I use this chair?”

The auditioners respond, “Yes.”

The actor stops and tells them that he was doing the monolog, that question was part of the monolog and they shouldn’t respond. And at that moment, the game of the scene has begun. Here is the whole sketch to watch:

Mr. Show was a sketch show on TV, not a improv show, but the sketches from that show usually had excellent examples of game. And you can usually break them down in the same way you might an improv scene.

  • What is the basic situation?
  • What is the first unusual thing?
  • If that, then what?

What is the basic situation?

In this scene, it’s an audition in a casting office. If you are an actor, the situation will be very familiar. There is an expected flow that happens in this situation. You bring in your resume. You greet the auditioners. You introduce your audition piece. There is usually a chair in the room and it’s not uncommon to ask if you can use it. These are all ordinary details that we expect to happen. As the scene goes on, there are several other details that might happen in a typical audition.

What is the first unusual thing?

The first unusual thing is the first line of the monolog. It doesn’t sound like a monolog, but rather something the actor might actually say in the room. Which we only realize after the auditioner interrupts by answering the question.

If that, then what?

Each time the pattern is repeated it changes a little, and heightens a little. One time, the actor waits a very long time after asking if he can use the chair. Later he berates the auditioners for not responding to him. One great example is how the actor says, “Don’t just look at each other,” right at the point where they look at each other. They have a moment where the auditioners point out how strange it is that the monolog has that line right in the exact moment when they would look at each other.

If you want to know how to play a game, a good use of your time would be to watch episodes of Mr Show and break them down just like this. What is the situation? What is unusual? If that, then what? Here is a list of a few more Mr Show sketches to check out.

If you are in Chicago and want to learn the Game of the Scene from Kevin Mullaney, check out the new Core Improv Program at the Improv Resource Center. A new class begins in January, 2017.

Hump Night, January 16

Hump Night returns this Wednesday with an amazing lineup of guest performers. Hump Night is a night of improv, comedy, storytelling, music and more.

7:30 – The Improv Hour with guest teams:

  • Graystar 
  • K-Star
  • Salsation

8:30 – The Variety Hour with:

  • A story by Ever Mainard
  • Stand up by Natalie Jose
  • Stand up by Cody Melcher
  • Music by Andy Eninger

Also a special appearance by Ryan Nallen and his 31 days of Improv project.

9:45 – Mullaney Chain with:

  • Mark Raterman (Cook County Social Club)
  • Sue Gillan (Second City Mainstage & e.t.c.)
  • Beau Golwitzer (The Reckoning)
  • Hans Holsen (Improvised Shakespeare Company, Second City TourCo)

Holy crap. Look at that lineup for Mullaney Chain! I’m excited.

Come when you want!
Pay what you want!

Strawdog Theatre
3829 N. Broadway



Mullaney Chain line up, January 9th

Here is the line up for this Wednesday’s Mullaney Chain: I asked Dina Facklis (Second City Tourco, Virgin Daiquiri, Armando), she asked Jeff Murdoch (ButchMAX), he asked Jo Scott (Henrietta Pussycat, Super Human, WiseSnatch, Meow Meow Ruff) and she asked Tim Reardon (ButchMAX).

Dina Facklis Jeff Murdoch Jo Scott Tim Reardon

By the way, this is the second time Tim has been asked to be a part of Mullaney Chain. Matt Manley asked him to be in the show a few months back when we played at Upstairs Gallery. One thing I’m noticing is that not only do people choose good improvisors when they get a chance to invite someone, they tend to ask super nice people as well. The show always seems to be filled with generous, cool people and it’s one reason why I love doing it.

Feedback from previous Improvising from the Gut workshops

I’m offering a two day intensive version of my Improvising from the Gut workshop. It’s coming up in two weeks.

I thought people might want to read some feedback from previous versions of this workshop:

“What I got, was an amazingly intense experience that demanded everyone involved to put their guard down and truly emote and share… What took place in the scene work was extraordinary… At first it was interesting how well we were all doing, by the end it was almost surreal as to how well we had worked together and what it would have been if it were a complete show.”

– Patrick McInnis

“I liked everything about the class… the warm ups were perfect… the exercises lead up to the scene work well… and there was a causal but learning atmosphere tended by Kevin… and his notes were specific and personal to each individual yet as an observer to scenes I learned as well. Kevin has an ability to and break down complex organic thoughts and simplify them… therefore making it easier to ‘grab hold’ of and ‘work with’ these ideas. I came out of the workshop with a better understanding of MY improv and I think this would be a great class for 6-8 weeks.”

– Ben Jones

“Your workshop was one of the my top highlights from the Del Close Marathon. I found it immediately useful in my work the next night. I was more patient, more observant, and less anguish about inventing things to say than I’ve been in months. You opened my mind and emotions in a way I’ve not experienced in my improvisation training. I am telling all my friends to take this class! It will not only make you a better improviser. I dare say it will make you a better person.”

– Justin Zell, Co-owner/Instructor, Steel City Improv Theater

“I would definitely recommend this workshop. It’s one of the few that seems to directly improve acting muscles. It strips away everything except the actors affecting each other, and gives you practice using your natural energies to inform a scene. The exercises in this class transformed the way I perform on stage for the better.”

Will Hines, The Stepfathers, UCB Theatre, Co-Host of the UCB Theatre New York Podcast, and the Associate Academic Supervisor for the UCB Training Center

“Yes, I’d totally recommend this workshop. You don’t have to think about what you should be doing or what’s right for the scene, you can just do whatever impulse you have. It’s quite freeing!”

Kirk Damato

“It lets both new and experienced improvisers hone a very particular skill — observing and responding to your scene partner — that is fundamental to all improv, but for whatever reason can get lost in the shuffle of daily improv classes and performance. It feels like a back-to-basics approach without being simplistic or boring for experienced improvisers.”

– Silvija Ozols, The Stepfathers, UCB Theatre

“I’d absolutely recommend this workshop to a friend, and already have.”

– David Siegel

“I took eight workshops during [the Del Close Marathon], and (not to disparage the other wonderful classes I took) yours was by far the most helpful to me. I get recurring notes about staying connected to scenes emotionally, and your exercises were perfect for that. The going from repetition into scenework exercise was particularly useful for me, and it completely got me out of my left brain. I would highly recommend the workshop to friends. It’s unlike anything else I’ve taken. I felt like it broke my brain in a great way.”

– Brynna Campbell

“I whole-heartedly believe that every improviser should take this workshop. I can only speak for New York, but this workshop helped maintain performers’ authenticity in a scene, no matter what the scenario. That’s something everyone can use.”

– Cory Palmer

” Improvisers, in general, need more of this kind of training. You kept us up on our feet most
of the time and your insights on acting, as well as improv, were
always helpful.”

– Mark Grenier, Magnet Theater

“The awareness/reminder of gut emotional reaction as a tool created opportunities in scenes the very next time I walked on stage.”

– William Cybriwsky

“I enjoyed how the workshop built patiently on itself. The Meisner-ish techniques are really great for people like me who is UCB trained and always looking for game. This made me jolt out of that and be organic from start to end.”

– Peter Kim, Executive Director, End Games Improv

Hump Night opens January 9th

January 9th is opening night of Hump Night, a new comedy night at Strawdog Theatre. It’s an ecclectic evening in three acts:

  • 7:30 – The Improv Hour, featuring indie improv teams and student teams
  • 8:30 – The Variety Hour, featuring music, standup, sketch, storytelling and improv
  • 9:45 – Mullaney Chain, an improv show featuring Chicago finest improvisers

Opening night line up includes:

  • Other People’s Children, Dinosaur & McGarnakle in the improv hour
  • Lady Love, The Shock Ts, Candy Lawrence, Caitlin Bergh & Chad Briggs during the variety hour
  • And Dina Facklis as the first guest improviser in Mullaney Chain

WHERE: Strawdog Theatre’s Hugen Hall, 3829 N Broadway 2nd Floor, Chicago
WHEN: Wednesdays 7:30 – 10:30



Feedback from recent students

Here is some of the feedback I got from my last Improv Performance Workshop. Robert Carter has been my assistant for the last couple of classes, so some of the notes refer to him as well.

Here is some of the feedback I got from my last Improv Performance Workshop. Robert Carter has been my assistant for the last couple of classes, so some of the notes refer to him as well.

“My favorite thing about the class was that it was focused on ‘doing.’ We spent a lot of time up on our feet, doing scenes and running pieces. In this class I felt like you and Robert struck just the right balance between sharing your point of view as teachers with the class and then allowing us to experience putting your lessons into practice.” –John Sexton

“What did I like? Really, just about everything. I like that we spent most of our time on our feet ‘doing.’ And that exercises seemed to be pulled from a broad spectrum of improv and acting disciplines. And that our notes, whether group or individual, were always reasonable and applicable. And that you and Robert both have (and impart) a real passion for the craft. In short, I derived more from 8 weeks with Kevin Mullaney than I did from 40 weeks at Some Unnamed Chicago Improv Institution.” -Mathew Fenton

“It was a great experience, and I learned so much from you, Robert and everyone else. A lot of the exercises we worked on have really helped inform my process, both as a performer and as a coach; in particular, I think the explanation of how to form a situation at the beginning of a scene let me learn new ways to approach setups and initiations. In addition, the acknowledgement/nodding exercise helped give me new ways to support scenes I didn’t initiate. This has been especially useful for me.” -Phil Caron

“My favorite part of the class was that each week felt like a response to the previous week/most recent show, rather than like it was simply the slave to a rigid preordained curriculum. I loved that our strengths and weaknesses (as both individuals and as a class) were not only being identified and pointed out, but then actually worked on, which is an experience I’ve never had in an improv class before. I genuinely feel like there were concepts that were huge weaknesses for me at the beginning of the class that made legitimate progress towards becoming strengths by the end of it, as opposed to just being vague conceptions of things I should be conscious of in the future, which is what has often happened in other classes I’ve taken.

“Also, I think it’s important to note that this class was really fun. Everyone was really supportive, and I feel like each person’s unique style was celebrated in such a way that it led everyone to do better scenework than they might have done otherwise. I feel like the class—occasionally, at least—brought out the best in me, and that definitely was also one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much (and would love to do it again!).” -Kyle Reinhard

I am offering two more improv performance classes for the new year. The January class on Tuesday nights is sold out, but there is still room in the Monday night class starting in February.

Improvising From the Gut – Weekend Intensive

In this two day intensive class, you will learn how to begin scenes by observing and connecting with your scene partners and trusting your gut. By owning your reactions and provoking reactions in your scene partner, you will build exciting, unpredictable and fun scenes with strong emotional games.

In this two day intensive class, you will learn how to begin scenes by observing and connecting with your scene partners and trusting your gut. By owning your reactions and provoking reactions in your scene partner, you will build exciting, unpredictable and fun scenes with strong emotional games.

Kevin Mullaney
Kevin Mullaney

When is the class?

Class meets Saturday January 19th and Sunday January 20th, noon-4pm

Where is the class?

Upstairs Gallery
5219 North Clark Street
Third Floor
Chicago, IL 60640

How much will the class cost?


Applications for this are closed.

Who is Kevin Mullaney?

Kevin Mullaney is the current Artistic Director of the Chicago Improv Festival. He was the original Artistic Director for the UCB Theatre in New York. He was also the first director of their training program. Before that he taught at iO Theatre and directed their touring company, the iO Road Show. He is the host of the Improv Resource Center Podcast and has acted in recent productions by WildClaw Theatre, Caffeine Theatre and Will Act For Food. Find out more about Kevin Mullaney here.

Just try nodding yes

I came across an extremely simple idea to help improvisers who have trouble with agreement, which is just about everybody. Just nod your head yes when you are listening to your scene partner. I tried it in a class recently and it works quite well. You don’t have to think specifically about yes anding what they say. Just nod yes a couple of times, especially right before you speak. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to agree to what they’ve initiated.

I thought of trying this because of two things. First, I had heard of a study that asked some people to nod yes while they listened to an editorial. Afterwards, they were more inclined to say they agreed with the editorial than people who were encouraged to shake their head no while listening. The difference was rather large, not just a statistical blip. It suggests that nodding your head up and down causes something in your subconscious to make your conscious thoughts more agreeable. Second, I watched the video of a show that my class had performed. I was looking for things we could work on for the next class. In the first moment of the first scene, before anyone started talking, one of the students was shaking his head no… even before he heard the initiation of his scene partner. Watching that made me think of that study. And that made me think, “I’m going to make my students nod yes constantly and see what happens.”

And you know what? It worked. They actually were much more agreeable. I suppose that doesn’t really prove anything. This was directly after I gave them several notes about how they weren’t agreeing very well in their show. So perhaps it was simply a physical reminder to be more agreeable, but it sure seemed to work.

There were a few students who struggled with it. They didn’t like nodding. Perhaps it felt a little silly or artificial. But if they really tried nodding, they had no problem agreeing.

The day after the class Robert, my assistant teacher, pointed out that he thinks that more than a couple of great of improvisers do this unconsciously and he gave a couple examples. I think he’s right, and I’m going to do it regularly too until it becomes an unconscious reflex for me.

Update September 17, 2016: Today in class I encouraged students mix affirmative words and utterances while nodding. For instance saying things like yes, uh-huh, right, and yep while their scene partner was talking. It really does work.