WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Jersey City, New Jersey
WHEN? A long time ago.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? Fort Lee, NJ
HOW'D YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN IMPROV? I have always been an improvising pianist. I’ve played in jazz ensembles and free improvising music situations most of my life. I was also the pianist at the Comic Strip from 1979-1982. It was there that I learned how to button a joke and honed my timing skills. Timing is everything! The stand-ups were always improvising skits and asking me to make up background music to their imaginative worlds that they created. Playing improv as a jazz player to playing improv for comics wasn’t that much of a stretch. Mostly, it was a matter of listening and focusing intently on the moment and not stepping on the joke. My ability to understand what “funny is” also helped.
WHO WERE YOUR ACTING/IMPROV INFLUENCES, ROLE MODELS? Jerry Lewis and Steve Martin are two of my favorite funny people. Their ability to be funny and be subtle about it, along hearing everything as if it was set to music has always been a big influence. This music is everywhere and anytime approach is how I approach playing for improv.
WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF PERFORMING? A fat pay check! And, performing gives me the chance to keep my musical timing mechanism sharp. If I don’t play in an improv setting for too long, my timing gets rusty…it goes south!
DETAIL, CHRONOLOGICALLY, YOUR IMPROV RESUME/CAREER? Improvising Jazz Pianist – 1991 to present/Improvising Comic Pianist – Comic Strip 1979 – 1982/Musical Theatre Comedy Composer/Pianist – 1981 to present
WHO WERE YOUR TEACHERS? Chico Marx/Victor Borge/Liberace
WHAT DO YOU GET FROM DOING SUNDAY NIGHT IMPROV? IS IT FUN? A fat pay check! The level of improv artists at SNI is top notch and I have fun collaborating with them in their imaginative world. Yes, it is lots of fun.
DESCRIBE YOUR MOST CHALLENGING IMPROV MOMENT? Each moment is challenging. It is the challenge of being in the moment that keeps my timing sharp.
YOUR MOST REWARDING IMPROV WORK? Writing music for musical theatre shows. The skill is compositional, but it all comes from my improvisational ability to hear funny and set it to music. Composing to a funny lyric and making it pop-off-the-page is the best. Hearing an audience laugh at the spot that you created for them to laugh, is an unbelievable high.
DONE ANY WORK IN TV? FILMS? SCRIPTED THEATER? I have written music for children’s educational television, documentary films and musical theatre. My music has won me 4 EMMY awards.
WORST IMPROV EXPERIENCE? Playing on a punch line! I did it once…I will never do it again. The standup wasn’t pleased with my timing, to say the least.
ANY OTHER THOUGHTS? If you are explaining funny, then it isn’t funny! Ha!
WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO GO WITH THIS? I hope to continue to improve my improv playing and work with more funny people. And…collect fatter pay checks!
SEE RANDY KLEIN AT SUNDAY NIGHT IMPROV, STAND-UP LABS, SUNDAY, AUGUST 17 & 24, 236 W. 78 ST. AT 7 O PM!