Bryan Fornachon is a real man. I’m not exactly sure what he does for a living, but I know it has something to do with trains and physical labor. Five year old me is interested due to a love of trains. Twenty three year old me is interested because I am finishing up this blog post from the comfort of a temperature controlled desk and couldn’t imagine having to lift an object heavier than my coffee cup. As a whole, me is interested because I appreciate and respect people who do things that I cannot.
On stage and off, Bryan is effortlessly funny. Whether it’s an unexpected physical reaction, a funny face, a strange noise, or a surprising use of a normal object, he injects each scene with his unique energy and brings interesting characters to the stage. He makes bold choices, unlike any bold choices I naturally make or even think to make in a scene. He’s a joy to play with and a joy to watch because he’s so un-emulate-able (is that a word? With enough dashes it is!). But you never get the sense that Bryan is doing something just “to be funny.” He’s just being Bryan.
Here’s Bryan and I improvising to a suggestion of PICKLES.
Meet Bryan Fornachon:
Why did you get into improv? How long have you been doing it?
It all kind of started by accident. When I was in high school, I took Children’s Theater as an elective every chance I could. We basically reenacted Disney movies for the surrounding grade schools. Usually pretty poorly, but it was really fun. My teacher, Mrs. Bright, convinced me to join the speech team (probably to get me out of her class) and I competed in the Original Comedy category. It never really went anywhere, except when we took an after-hours field trip, my senior year, to City Improv at Union Station. What the fuck was this?! How were they doing this? They called it… short form. But it was made up? All of it? What?! My mind was pretty blown after the show. I never went back.
Well, not never. After I went to Indianapolis to pretend to be a mechanic (Gas! Trucks! Big Block Engines! Speed! Beer! Women! NASCAR!) I moved back to the St. Louis area and decided to give the ole Improv another look-see. After the show, I talked to the director and he asked me to come audition to be on the regular cast. I auditioned. I was cast. A few months later, the club shut down.
I’ve been doing improv, on and off, for about 7 years.
How would you describe your style of play? In other words, what sort of scenes/shows do you have the most fun doing?
I am a firm believer that sometimes you can say more by not saying anything at all. I really like to portray emotion with this weird, expressive face that I have. It’s goofy looking and people tend to stare at it, so why not use it to my advantage?
I also like to play in shows with improvisers I’ve never played with before. I learn loads about myself and I feel like there is more honesty in the scene. It forces me to really listen to my scene partner because I won’t try to anticipate a move like I would with a regular teammate. Good show or bad, I always have fun.
Can you regale us with a tale about the best or worst scene/show you have ever done?
The Harold. It’s made me my best friend; It’s made me my worst enemy.
I specifically remember performing with my best friends (Empty, Full of Donuts), at Brennan’s in the basement. The Harold, if you don’t know, has a very specific order of operations (like F.O.I.L.!) and when you do any of the operations in the wrong order, well, the outcome can be disastrous. Also, you will throw you’re entire team for a loop when you, without warning, accidentally skip over an entire scene and go into a game that no one is ready for. I immediately realized my mistake, but had no way to let my teammates know what the hell was going on. I’ve never wanted to disappear harder than in that moment. I cringe thinking about it. Thanks a lot for bringing it up.
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 pretend to be someone else on stage in front of large groups of people so I don’t have to have a life. I’ve come to realize, Life IS improv. Improv IS life. Whether you do it in front of strangers or with your closest friends, you are constantly improvising. Unless you’re in Telemarketing. Those assholes have a response for everything!
Can you share some words of wisdom with those just starting out?
Slow down. Take a breath. React.
Are you listening? You should be.
Silence is golden.
That 4 seconds of silence can say more than 30 minutes of babbling.
What is the best improv advice or note you have ever received?
Playing at a 10 doesn’t mean cranking the volume. It’s your level of commitment to the character and the world you’ve helped create. You own it, it doesn’t own you.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned from improv that translates to your real life?
You can learn so much by talking to someone’s eyes. People give away more details about themselves through their eyes than they do by talking. Remember to always check in with the person you are speaking with.
Do you have anything going on that you’d like to plug?
I want you all to go see an Empty Full Of Donuts show. I love these people and I wouldn’t be the improviser I am without them. They’re kind of talented, too… I guess.
What St. Louis improviser(s) would you like to see answer these questions?
Timothy Francis Walsh, Colin Dowd, Lauren Vemuri
(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 make anything anything!
And if you missed last weeks, post, check it out here – The Power of “No, But.”