A few years ago, Kelsey Grammer produced a television show called World Cup Comedy, and I was selected to represent New York. That was cool because it was a series of actual shows, and I was picked from around 250 improvisers in the city. It was exciting, but challenging, since all the auditions were in front of a live audience.
Performing improv feeds into other outlets of mine such as stand-up and acting. I've been able to meet and get to know amazing people. Improvisers are usually very cool, quick-minded, and fun to be around. They also usually more team-oriented than some performance artists so that's fun as well. Improv has helped me learn to be in the present more and learn to say yes to life and people more. I've also, I think, learned to be more accepting of others. You learn to embrace what's special and interesting about people when you improvise and I like to think that has had an influence with my regular life.
I was born in Memphis and grew up on a farm just outside the city. I worked in advertising and got into improv originally just because it looked fun and would help me at work. You have to think on your feet a lot in the advertising industry. Then it evolved as I actively started acting and working as a stand-up.
Actingwise, I've always been a fan of Mickey Rourke, Russel Crowe, and the usuals (De Niro, Pacino, Nicholson). From a pure comedic acting standpoint, I love to watch Paul Rudd, that guy can do it all in terms of playing a straight man or knocking it out of the park.
Improv influences in the beginning was Centralia and later on Swarm and Mother. Then Nuetrino made a big impact on me I would say in how a show can be structured and their fearlessness.
I started with the Second City Training Center here in New York. I auditioned and was selected to perform in the Second City Revue Showcase "Stop Spreading the Booze," which ran at PSNBC Theater in New York. It was an amazing cast, which included Casey Wilson, who went on to SNL. I later studied with all the levels at Upright Citizens Brigade. Then I went on to the Pit, which I'm at currently. I've been on several house teams and have taught there as well for the last few years. I was also a part of a ComedyNet instructional series called "Improv School" that was part reality show/part actual improv instruction.
At Second City, I studied with all the guys from Centralia (Kevin, Jay and Matt) and also Jack McBrayer. So, I was spoiled early on.At UCB, it was Billy Merritt, Seth Morris, and Matt Walsh. Then, at the Pit, I had the good fortune to study with veterans such as Ali Farahnakian, Kurt Braunohler, Ptolemy Slocum, Matt Donnelly, and Rebecca Johnson. It has been great because they were all amazing and have different styles and approaches.
My most rewarding improv work was probably being selected out of New York City out of so many auditioners for the Kelsey Grammer show. It came at a time when the validation was needed and it seemed to carry over to some other performance areas where a certain tipping point happened for me. Also, my current work on the Baldwins at the Pit. I feel lucky to get to share the stage with them each week. We're doing some fun things in general with our shows but are also gearing up for our second run of "Dr. Oddbody," which is an improvised horror show. A bit of "Tales from the Crypt" but improvised.
Besides World Cup Comedy, I was on a Discovery Channel show called Go Ahead Make My Dinner, and I was a host for a while on TVLand's PRIME Movies. That was cool because they let me write and improvise a lot of what I said about the movies. I just shot a thing for Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker that airs later this year. I was in a movie a while back that had some improv greats in it like Matt Walsh, Horatio Sanz, and Rob Huebel, called The Best Man. You see me on the DVD and find my words on the editing floor. I also just did two shorts that are about to come out. One's called Do Not Call and the other one is The Long Lost Love of Peter Harrison. I am scheduled to shoot a film co-starring Sunday Night Improv performers Laurel Sturrock, Todd Cowdery, Rosemary Hyziak, and Kelly Stevenson, to be directed by Christian Doherty.
I've done a lot of theater and most of it has come from people I've met along improv circles. I was in SUV the Musical, which was a New York City Fringe Festival Award-winner, and Joespeh Goebbels! Live From Hell, which won best play for the New York Cringe Festival. I played Satan in that one. The one other theater thing that really stands out is I played Richard Foreman's ego (you'd have to see it to understand it) in Being Richard Foreman. That even played at his own Ontological Theater here in the city.
My worst improv experience? The thing that comes to mind is doing an improv show for charity in someone's yard. One of the folks in the group asked if his buddy could sit in. The guy was having phone calls on his cell from the back line while scenes are going on. Then he left us cause "he had to take this" and later came back to the show to jump in a scene.
I love the shows at Sunday Night Improv because it's a wonderful rotating cast each week and it always has a real feel of spontaneity to it. You never know what's going to happen. Also, just to get to sing with the world-class pianists that sit in is a great treat in and of itself. I don't have much cause to get to sing these days, so it's a real joy.
In the end, improv is a great way to learn a valuable skill that translates to other things and at the same time you're learning a new way of seeing life. Have fun with it and support your local shows. You can keep up with me on my on my website http://www.chrisgriggscomedy.com/
I just want to keep on trucking, getting better and looking for new opportunities. The Pit is about to move into a new theater so it's an exciting time.
See CHRIS GRIGGS perform at SUNDAY NIGHT IMPROV on FEB 21