It’s no secret that Andy Sloey is one of my favorite St. Louis improvisers. And in part, I owe much of my awesome improv experience to him. As the co-owner/co-founder (along with Kevin McKernan) of The Improv Shop, the local mecca of longform, he has helped create a training center and theater that has bettered the St. Louis community.
On stage, Andy is full of energy and joy; he plays openly, from the heart – whether that’s about sex stuff or his love of video games and Star Wars.
He eagerly supports newer players and shares encouraging words with more seasoned veterans. He truly wants to see everyone succeed. You can check him out when he plays with my Harold team, Bluebeard.
Here’s Andy and I improvising to a suggestion of COTTON
Meet Andy Sloey:
Why did you get into improv? How long have you been doing it?
The details are fuzzy, but I think my first exposure to improv was in late grade school or middle school. I was a theater nerd, so it must have popped up through theater games, or something like that.
Improv has been a thing I’ve always done in some capacity since then. It formalized a bit in high school when my friends and I started an improv club. We watched Who’s Line religiously, and tried to emulate that. I kept at it throughout college, and eventually started performing with the old CITY Improv in Union Station before moving to Chicago to get formal training. So, most of my life I guess.
How would you describe your style of play? In other words, what sort of scenes/shows do you have the most fun doing?
I like to have fun all the time (obviously), and I try to avoid cutesy bullshit as much as I can (which sometimes is not much). I love it when things are real, emotional, vulnerable and heated (either positively or negatively). I mean, I’m only going to be this person for maybe 3-4 minutes onstage before they blink out of existence, so why not be them at their very best (fun) or very worst (probably more fun).
Can you regale us with a tale about the best or worst scene/show you have ever done?
There have been so many worsts. Seriously. So, so many. They all kind of mash together in my head into a smorgasbord of awkward, dumb, inane, pointless crap performed in front of other improvisers, businessmen, random attendees on a roof, or a hapless bar crowd.
So, here’s one of my favorite shows I felt good about: Kevin and I did a Mrs. Somebody show in the basement of Brennan’s last year before the new space opened. I don’t remember the suggestion, but the first scene started out with both of us as city aldermen coming out of a town hall meeting that had gone horribly awry. It was so much fun. We got to see a bunch of ancillary events and characters, and it all built the story of two men, one of which had become crestfallen with his life as a public servant. Kevin nailed some call back involving my character leaving his job at Circuit City, which led to his kids to never having batteries for their wii-motes – it nearly killed me.
What do you do to find inspiration for improv? In other words, do you have a life? If so, how do you spend it (besides pretending you are someone else on stage in front of large groups of people)?
I have two kids, Ian (10) and Ella (5), who keep me busy most of the time. They are a constant source of inspiration. I drive a lot, so I usually listen to either NPR or a mess of podcasts, which keep me in touch with the world and crap. When I’m not parenting, driving or doing something improv related, I like to play video games. A lot. I also like to talk about them, ad nauseam.
Can you share some words of wisdom with those just starting out?
Be patient, both in your actual scene work and in your progression through this stuff. It took me years of practice and performance after completing study at various training centers before I actually felt okay with anything I was doing.
Also, and probably more importantly, YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Just you. The fact that you are a human being with thoughts, interests, feelings and emotions makes you SUPREMELY INTERESTING. You don’t have to do so much, you don’t have to push – just be yourself, because you are enough.
What is the best improv advice or note you have ever received?
A coach I had told the entire team to “cut the cute shit.” We were like “What do you mean?” and he was like “You know what I mean, don’t wink at the audience.” We didn’t really know what he was talking about at that point. Eventually we figured it out.
Don’t be cute – don’t betray the reality of the characters you’re portraying by letting on that you are improvising. When you’re up there, you ARE these people. When you wink at the audience, when you acknowledge to them that this is just a make-em up (as a joke or bit or whatever), you are lessening the impact and gravity of everything you’re trying to do. So cut it out because wtf.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned from improv that translates to your real life?
I love this quote from Amy Poehler – “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” Its spot on.
Be open and try not to judge anyone or their ideas. It’ll make you a much cooler, happier person.
Do you have anything going on that you’d like to plug?
Nothing specific really, anything and everything that’s going on at The Improv Shop. We are currently registering for classes that will start in mid-October, so that’s cool – check out theimprovshop.com for info and stuff.
Also, my Xbox Live Gamertag is Slobodad, so if you have a 360 or Xbone and want to play Destiny with me, the ball is in your court.
What St. Louis improviser(s) would you like to see answer these questions?
Carrie Vaughn, Joe Tank, Big Jizz (Zach Gzehoviak) and Kevin McKernan
(Optional…well, more optional than the others). Is there a video, podcast episode, blog post etc about improv that you find particularly inspirational or inspiring?
You can also see my thoughts, second by second, on the scene we did together, right here.