Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tim Mason "KC Improv Festival" interview

This year's KC Improv Festival will feature dozens of performers who dream of making it big in comedy. For many, the goal is performing on the Mainstage of the Second City, Chicago's "temple of satire" for the last half- century, and a breeding ground for stars of Saturday Night Live, movies and hit TV shows. And more than one KC-born improviser has already made it big—Jason Sudeikis, who's performed at KCiF since the festival came back in 2007, is taking the year off to make a movie.

This year, Rockhurst High School graduate Tim Mason returns Friday and Saturday, September 14-15, to play with his trio, Don Tremendous, at the Off Center Theatre in Crown Center. He, Tom Flannigan and Andy St. Clair performed together on the Second City Mainstage—now, they'll ditch their scripts and make things up.

We asked Tim about his KC roots and what to expect from their show.

How'd you get your start in improv? What made you think, "Hey, I wanna do that?" 
I got started in improv because some friends of mine and I went to see ComedySportz. I think maybe I had seen some of the old BBC Whose Line Is it Anyway Shows but this was the first time I ever saw it live. We kept going back and every time we did, we'd yell out stupider and stupider suggestions until finally one of the performers, Trish Berrong [also KCiF Marketing Director], suggested we join the High School League. We did and then Trish broke off to form Lighten Up and took me and a couple friends with her and invited us to join the actual cast--so my Senior Year of High School, I was actually performing on weekend nights for paying customers. From then on, I was hooked.

What made Chicago seem like a good idea? 
Chicago. Well, I went to college in Milwaukee and I had always heard that Chicago was the home of improvisation. So a couple times I took some friends down and watched some of the amazing improv that Chicago has to offer. To be honest, after college, I had the idea that I was going to be a classically trained theater actor and got a job in summer stock for one season doing Shakespeare. After three months of that, I decided that was a HUGE mistake and I moved to Chicago to do what I really loved in the city that loves improv.

What did you love most about being at The Second City? 

What were the coolest experiences you had? Performing at Second City was amazing. It's like being a part of a huge club that happens to include some of the greatest comedians of the past 50 years. The coolest experience was definitely performing in the 50th anniversary extravaganza--all the alumni who came back and we all just hung out backstage during the show--it was truly amazing. My favorite moment during it was talking to David Steinberg about his role in getting the Smothers' Brothers kicked off TV while waiting to go on to do our parts. So Cool.

What's it like to perform scripted shows vs. improvised sets? 
At Second City we are doing the same sketch show eight times a week for a whole year and, frankly, it gets incredibly boring. People are still laughing at what you're doing, but, in my head, I'd be making lists of what I need to get at the grocery store. The improv sets are freeing and really a nice place for the creativity to flow again.

What can we expect from Don Tremendous? 
With Don Tremendous you can expect some grounded scenes - played, if not to the top of our intelligence, at least close to the top of our intelligence. Andy and Tom are honestly two of the smartest improvisors I know. We don't always do smart things, but at least we have the capacity to know what the smart choice is and then choose to be goddamn stupid.

You performed in the KC Improv Festival the first year it came back...what's it gonna be like performing in your hometown again? 
You know what? I used to get stressed out performing in KC. All the friends, family and people I haven't seen in years coming to watch what I do--but, now, honestly, having seen the amazing improv scene that Kansas City has created, it makes me super proud and honored to come back and perform--but, even better, to see all the great improv that the Kansas City folks do. I love it.

What's next? 
Next? Don't know. The thing a lot of people do after leaving Second City is to move to either NY or LA--but I have no desire to do that. In fact, I have a huge desire NOT to do that. My wife and I love Chicago and we made the decision to make a living in the town we love. And, to be honest, since so many of my friends and peers have been leaving town, I've found it way easier to book roles in Chicago. Commercials, Voice Over work and even some of the TV shows filmed in Chicago--way easier to book when the pool gets smaller. I hate to say it, but as more folks leave Chicago, the better my career goes. I should probably keep that a secret, but I'm super happy and I find it the ultimate irony. On a related note: if you are a thirty something goofy looking white guy who's funny and thinking of moving to Chicago...don't do it. There is nothing for you here.

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