See Todd Cowdery at Sunday Night Improv on SUNDAY, FEB 15 at 7 PM
I was born in Whittier, California. When? A few hours after the contractions started. I grew up in Durham, North Carolina, however.
I wanted to be an actor sometime in elementary school and continued pursuing it through high school, college, and after college. In the midst of my acting education were various improv workshops, acting classes with improv games, and two- to three-person scenes along the way. Then in my mid-twenties I left acting, and pursued other interests. Around 1999 or 2000, I rediscovered improv and just got caught by the transfomational power of it. I've been doing a lot of improv ever since.
My role models? Oh man, there are a several. I'm grateful to have worked with some really great improvisers over the past 10 years that have influenced me a ton. My biggest media influences for comedy were Danny Kaye, Sid Caesar, and the Sid Caesar Comedy Hour cast, Bob and Ray, and Ernie Kovacs. I also used to listen to Firesign Theatre, the Goon Show and Beyond the Fringe.
What I get from improv is a tough question to answer. Not because I don't know but because I kind of know in my heart more than my head. Let me see if I can get some words around this without getting too “woo-woo” about it. It's about the joy and satisfaction of being part of something bigger than myself. I mean, while I'm the one up there performing, in order to do it, to do it well, in order to walk out into the great unknown – with no script, no idea of what's going to happen next, in front of an audience no less – takes being able to trust, no...to aspire to live in a place where what happens to me just isn't all that important. Not in some fatalistic way, but secure in the knowledge, the experience, that what makes improv really work is focusing on making other people look good, on trusting the first thought that comes up, and in saying “yes” rather than trying to protect any internal story we have of ourselves.
In short, performance requires me to be sufficiently present to love other folks more than myself. And living in that space creates this enjoyment for people who come to watch or really, since the audience is involved too, to play along.
So, in the end we are all, performers and audience, in this space of creating something together. And that's just life changing. It's a breath of fresh air. And living in that world of improv onstage results in living improv offstage as well. Life just opens up. That's what performing does for me.
My teachers were primarily Keith Johnstone and many wonderful folks at Vancouver Theatresports in Vancouver, Canada and Bay Area Theatresports in San Francisco.
My most challenging improv moment came during a bar-prov show at a micro brewery/restaurant in the northwest where the ambient noise was so loud that we, the players, could hardly hear ourselves and the audience could barely hear us. My memory of it is like a bad dream. Since then I've studied more mime...
Most rewarding moment? What really stands out is a two-person show I used to do with this amazingly talented, salt-of-the-earth guy John Clancy. We wanted to develop a show with the purpose of building community.That was our objective. While the show would start with the audience focused on us, our goal was that by the end of the show we would just bow out and folks would find more value in relating to each other than in relating to us on stage. Those were very fun shows. Just a kick to see folks interacting at the end of the evening, to realize that improvising, play, and story-telling could bring folks together.
I have done and will continue to do film and TV work he re n thvBN Yes, that's part of what brought me to New York in 2004: the goal to do more scripted work. And I have done some Off-Off Broadway Stage Work and some film and TV projects but even after moving away from improv for about two years, I gravitate back to it.
Why do I do it?
Why I do this? Hey, any chance I get to perform is fantastic. I'd love to be performing several times a week. I really enjoy teaching and corporate training as well and would like to be doing more. I'd love to get back to community building shows and working with special needs groups as well.
Sunday Night Improv is a blast. I love walking in and meeting cast members right before we go on and then, instant trust. Just throw ourselves out there and see what happens. It's just life-affirming.
TODD COWDERY, IMPROVISER: GROUPS
ComedySportz NY Performer The Broadway Comedy Club, New York 2006-present
Theatresports Performer Vancouver Theatresports League, Canada 2000-2004
Theatresports Guest performer Unexpected Productions, Seattle 2002
Theatresports Guest performer Bay Area Theatresports, San Francisco 2002,2003
The Impro Lounge performer Melbourne Comedy Festival, Australia 2004
Longform Impro performer Melbourne Comedy Festival, Australia 2004
Standing on the Stage Co-founder, performer Eastsound, Washington 2000-2004
Fragile Little Egos Founder, performer Bellingham, Washington 2004
Dead Parrot’s Society Guest performer Bellingham, Washington 2003, 2004