Joshua Raoul Brody
Musical Director since 1986
Coach since 1988
Joshua Raoul Brody has been accompanying the members of BATS Improv since long before its origin — he first worked with Barbara Scott when she was with the legendary Santa Cruz troupe Screaming Mimis in the late 70s, and soon thereafter joined Reed Kirk Rahlmann (and BATS alumnus Brian Lohmann, as well as Greg Proops and Michael McShane) in Faultline.
BATS founding member William Hall and his fellow Fratelli Bologna guested at a Dumb Songs Festival thrown by Brody’s band, the STUPEDS, in the early 80s. One of Brody’s first contacts with his wife, Juliana Grenzeback, was when she was BATS’s first producing director/stage manager/chief cook & bottle sweep, and he shared accompanying duties with Joe Paulino and Michael Whiteley.
Joshua came to improv from the pop music field, although he was always attracted to bands with a comic/theatrical flavor — the Mothers of Invention, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Moving from New York in 1974, following a brief stay at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Joshua discovered the Bay Area to be a hotbed of comical musedy acts. He quickly found work as musical director for the Pointless Sisters and the Rick & Ruby Show (who later found a smidgen of fame on the Pee-Wee Herman HBO special).
With Rick & Ruby, he went on tour with Robin Williams, both opening the show and accompanying Williams on a couple of songs. This led to an appearance on Mork & Mindy and other TV exposure, a period Joshua refers to as “when we were almost famous.” Through Williams, Joshua met and began accompanying LA improv groups such as War Babies and the Comedy Store Players, but it wasn’t until he met Lohmann and Faultline that he began to pursue the craft of improv accompaniment regularly.
Joshua is currently BATS Musical Director, accompanying many if not most of their Main Stage shows. He also is a teacher of song improvisation, often with Barbara Scott, and the two of them are members of the a cappella improv choir Tonal Chaos. He is principal accompanist for True Fiction Magazine (of which he was a founding member), Awkward Dinner Party, and other Bay Area improv groups.
Outside of his improv work, Joshua composes for film, video, corporate events, and multimedia; is part of the quartet Tango No. 9; accompanies wacky multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carney and lounge mega-legend Mr. Lucky; and was cover boy for Orchestra Nostalgico’s CD Club Foot Orchestra Plays Nino Rota.
Brody and long-time collaborator Merle “Ian Shoales” Kessler received rave reviews for Slouching Toward Disneyland, their most recent “one-man show so big it takes two guys and a six-pack of beer to do it” and are currently plotting to revive their mock folk act, And They’re Cops!, about which he says, “We wanted to be the Steely Dan of the 2000s, but it looks like they’ve got a lock on that title themselves, so we’re hoping ‘Steely Dan of the 90s’ isn’t taken.” They are also the musical arm of the syndicated public radio show Philosophy Talk.
Q & A
You always race through the “homework” you assign at the end of your song improv classes. Is there any way to get a copy of it?
Sure thing! Just download the homework instructions here
What do you like about improv?
Improv at its best is like eight or nine people all deciding independently of one another to step off a cliff, and as they all take that step at the exact same moment a meteor just happens by and instead of falling into an abyss they land safely on the meteor and are whisked away to somewhere unexpected.
What was your first BATS show?
I don’t remember exactly, but it was sometime in the first few months of BATS’s existence, when they were doing shows at the New Performance Gallery (now ODC).
Your first improv class?
I took Improv 1 three times, once with Rebecca, once with William, and once with Regina. I loved it all three times, they were all completely different, and I never got out of my head enough to move on to Improv 2.
What are your favorite formats?
Selfishly, Spontaneous Broadway and other formats I’ve directed (Elvis Musical, Beach Musical, Elvis Goes to the Beach, James Bond, and Xmas Office Party). But I enjoy just about all the other shows, from Theatresports™ to longform. I also liked some aspects of Gorilla, which have been incorporated into SuperScene.
Best moment on the BATS stage?
When I am in the second half of a show, I can barely remember the first half, let alone anything that happened in past shows. I am in awe of people who can do that.
Why should people study improv?
I think people should study song improv in particular, because it is a way into performing music that doesn’t rely so heavily on intimidating factors like talent, training, or experience. And I think everyone should partake of the joys of making music, no matter how talented or experienced they may be.
Any improv advice?
Keith Johnstone (who, in addition to being an improv guru, is a fine musician, yet has no patience for music in improv theatre) once told me I didn’t make enough mistakes.
What are your artistic Influences? Favorite music?
Growing up, I was drawn to the more theatrical and comic musicians — Allen Sherman, Stan Freberg, PDQ Bach, as well as rock bands like the Mothers of Invention, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and some aspects of the Beatles and the Beach Boys. I still like them all, although my tastes have widened a tad.
Pink Flamingos, Woman Under the Influence, Skidoo
The Bald Soprano. I also liked Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater’s Gonad the Barbarian had the single theatrical moment that affected me more deeply than any other.