Coach since 2012
Andy Sarouhan is a Bay Area native. His improvisation training began in 1992, when he joined his high school improvisation team. That event started a chain reaction that eventually resulted in a BA in Theatre from UC San Diego and an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside.
Since 2003, Andy has improvised professionally with Flash Family and the Un-Scripted Theater Company, where he had the opportunity to train and perform in both shortform and narrative longform shows.
He has been a busy improvisation coach since 2001, leading courses for ImprovWorks, UC Riverside, American Conservatory Theater, Cal Shakes, Un-Scripted Theater Company, and BATS Improv. Some of his most rewarding work has been with young people in San Mateo, where he is a coach of two high school improvisation teams, including the team with which he first performed as a teenager.
Q & A
What do you like about improv?
I love improvisation because in order to do it, I must offer my complete attention to the activity. This sort of total engagement feels more life-like than anything I know.
What was your first BATS Show?
About 10 years ago I took a six-month intensive class with BATS Improv to train in narrative longform. The training resulted in a couple weekends of narrative longform shows entitled “A Night of All Genres.” There was definitely a story about a group of clowns gone bad.
Your first improv class?
On my high school improvisation team, the H.I.T. Squad, our fantastic drama teacher Vonya Morris helped to train us at lunch. I definitely remember an occasion where we had a coach from BATS Improv come down for a special workshop.
What are your favorite formats?
I’m a sucker for Spontaneous Broadway or a longform musical. I also enjoy shows that are shortform scenes in the first act and a longform story in the second act. The Un-Scripted Theater Company has a show called “Act I, Scene II” in which they have a playwright provide the first scene of an incomplete play. The improvisers read out the first scene in front of an audience, and wherever the script ends, the improvisers create the remainder of the play on the spot. It’s amazing work.
Best moment on the BATS stage?
Once in a longform show, I happened to be playing both a homicidal clown and a dead-beat dad, and the climax of the show was the clown shooting the dad. I had to run back and forth across the stage to shoot the rifle, then take the bullet, then do the reactions of both characters.
Why should people study improv?
Improvisation has taught me that the quality of my life is based upon attention. Like other intense activities such as sports, meditation, or even great conversation, improvisation invites me to strengthen and direct my capacity to be present.
Any improv advice?
Let the humor find the scene, rather than you imposing humor on the scene.
What are your artistic influences?
I read a lot: novels, nonfiction, and philosophy. I sometimes feel that if my job as an improviser is to bring my full self to a spontaneous performance, then maybe the best thing I can do is to fill myself up with a wide spectrum of stuff. I’d also say that the larger San Francisco improvisation community is a major artistic influence — it’s an inspiring place to be an improviser because the community respects both artistry and entertainment.
Children of Men. Bamboozled. Kill Bill I & II. The Exorcist. 300. Bullworth. A Streetcar Named Desire. No Country for Old Men. True Grit. Easy Rider. (Apparently I like violent movies!!!)
Bob Marley. Andrew Bird. Keith Jarrett. Flaming Lips. Manu Chao. Babatunde Olatunji. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Grateful Dead. Fleet Foxes.
Angels in America (This opinion hasn’t changed since the first time I read it when I was like 19.)