I was born in Philadelphia sometime in the 1970s. I grew up in South Jersey. I first got involved in improv when I started taking classes at HB Studios. I had a teacher there named Rasa Allen Kazlas, who was pretty strict, and I needed that at the time. I was very broad and silly as a performer, and she hammered some skills into me. She was also supportive as a teacher, and enjoyed seeing people's work, including my own. My influences were people who took control of their work, like Woody Allen, although I don't think I have much in common with Woody Allen. I was very much influenced by watching SCTV and Saturday Night Live as a kid, and always enjoyed creating my own characters.
When performing I get to get "out of my head," which I think is important in improv. To leave everything else behind for an hour and not think beyond what is happening in the moment. I have learned over the years to not look back at an improv performance afterwards and evaluate what I did or beat myself up for something that I thought didn't work. When the show is over, it's over.
I have also learned to always be committed on stage. It was a rookie mistake for me to think something was going poorly and lose steam. First of all, it's not up to me how the quality is - the audience may be enjoying it immensely, even if it doesn't seem great to me. And second of all, if you, as a performer, can show real commitment and focus to what you are doing, it's always going to have some merit.
I did improv and sketch comedy for four years with Unusual Suspects, which also featured Sunday Night Improv's Juliette Moore and David Haitkin. We did extensive runs at Surf Reality, back in the day, and also did shows at the Producers Club. That was from 1999-2003. Also during that time, I was in the rotating cast of Klaatu with Greg Sullivan. In 2003, I started doing my own solo shows and touring with them. That was a different kind of improv, to be riffing on top of the written material with the audience.
My teachers over the years have included SNI's Tom Carrozza, who has become a friend of mine, and was an early supporter of having me in SNI. He's a great guy and he often sends me YouTube links for obscure commercials and other odd things.
I went to school for Film and Television at Temple University. I've been in some indie films over the years, and wrote, directed and starred in an indie feature called Kin in the 90s. I do enjoy many aspects of making films, but it's not the same as the instant connection you have as performer in front of a live audience. So, I hope to keep doing both, and to get more into producing my own work. At some point, I would also like to have a stretch as a sketch comedian on television, and it would probably be in a project I would create on my own.
My most challenging improv moment... I did my solo show Hooray for Speech Therapy in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a few years ago. The show is about my life growing up as a stutterer. At one point I said, "I don't know if any of you ever saw the production of Jesus Christ Superstar I was in in Williamstown, New Jersey." A woman in the audience wanted to include herself in the show and yelled out, "I did!" I said, "Well, you don't have to stay for the next five minutes because I'll be talking about it." She then said, "I can't leave! I'm in a wheelchair!" Sure enough, she WAS in a wheelchair. The place became completely silent. I said, "There is only room for one handicapped person here, woman!" Everyone laughed and I was back on track. Whew!
As for my most rewarding work, I think it's the work I'm doing now because I've reached the point where I am just enjoying what I'm doing and not afraid to experiment. Performing is really a privilege. Even if there is just one person in the audience, it's a privilege that I have the opportunity to perform for them and enjoy the process. I don't take it for granted.
Right now I am preparing to tour Canada and the Midwest with a show I wrote and perform in called The Last Straight Man In Theatre. I play all the characters and I interact on stage with a film that plays throughout. It's like a 3-D movie, only the actor is literally out of the screen. I started doing the show last year, and it's gotten some very good reviews. I will be having a ten-week run of it in the fall in Brooklyn.
Worst improv experience? Hopefully if there was one that was awful, I have forgotten it! But, really, the worst experiences were years ago when I was very hard on myself as a performer. Now I'm fully enjoying myself.
Doing Sunday Night Improv is fun! I think what I enjoy most about it is that I get to work with new people every time I do it. I have no idea what level of experience the performers I'm working with have, and I don't care. We all meet, and 20 minutes later we are an ensemble in front of an audience. That's pretty cool.
I'd like to add: visit my website: http://www.KurtFitzpatrick.com/
See Kurt Fitzpatrick on Sunday, June 6, at SUNDAY NIGHT IMPROV. Also see a video of a past performance in our VIDEOS section.