Although I have always admired Steve’s work, I’ve really only gotten to know him over the past two months through our work with the upcoming Little Improv Shop of Horrors sketch revue. He brings a unique point of view and sense of humor to the community, so I was excited to hear his thoughts about the art.
Steve is a man who’s never forgotten how to play like a kid. Every time he takes the stage – whether that’s for an improv scene, a rehearsed play, or a sketch, he walks on with an infectious childlike wonder. He’s never afraid to question the reality around him, and he makes sure everyone playing with him is having a great time.
I can’t say for sure, but it seems as though Steve is never in his head. He’s never worried about what the audience is thinking. He just takes each moment as it comes.
Here’s Steve and I improvising to a suggestion of…I don’t really remember. But it was fun!
Meet Steve Springmeyer:
Why did you get into improv? How long have you been doing it?
I had done a lot of standup comedy in the 80s when I was in my twenties. When I turned 50, I had the wild idea to try to get back into it. I did a few open mics and shows around town, and I quickly discovered that too much had changed (in me mainly and in standup somewhat) in the twenty years I’d been away from it. It wasn’t a lot of fun for me.
The standup community in the 80s was a lot like the improv community is now: it was supportive and welcoming and diverse and just had the feeling of being a big family. I still have very good friends today from that group. As I was becoming discouraged with my re-entry into standup, a friend mentioned that someone was teaching long form improv in town. That someone, of course, was Kevin McKernan.
I signed up for classes (July 2010?) without knowing what long form improv was all about; my only experience with improv had been with short form. I had been part of a short form troupe (The Boat People) that performed on the Goldenrod Showboat during my standup days.
In the early days of The Improv Shop, Kevin was breaking into abandoned buildings on Manchester in Mapelwood and holding classes there. He claimed to have a lease of some sort, but I think we all knew better. No A/C, no heat, but in spite of that, I became quickly hooked on being a part of what was a fledgling, truly artistic community. Since there weren’t regular shows back then, it wasn’t until I was midway through level 2 that I saw a long form improv show (Harold Night at Improv Boston). I was part of the second graduating class and the resulting house team, Roundtable.
In addition to improv you do a lot of writing and acting. How has that affected your improv?
It’s my opinion that all of our artistic endeavors affect each other. My experience has been sort of serial in nature, without a lot of overlap. Theatre in high school and college, standup in my twenties, theatre again in my thirties and forties, writing in my later career, improv in my early fifties, and most recently I’ve been working on sketch writing and performing. The current endeavor is probably the closest I’ve come to integrating most of what’s preceded it, and it’s proven to be a lot of fun.
As a longstanding member of the STL improv community, how have you seen it change and grow over the last five years?
Then: No heat, no A/C, no shows.
Now: The Kings of Comedy have palatial digs in the CWE with an ever-expanding slate of shows.
How has being a more senior member of the St. Louis improv community affected your experience?
Do you mean that I’m old? Improv has enriched my life in so many ways, and I’m very fortunate that is what I’m doing right as I was heading toward retirement. There were a lot of “leaps of faith” as I transitioned from the working phase of my life to the “being” phase. Improv training certainly helps me achieve some semblance of comfort during risk taking. I don’t know what I thought retirement was going to be like, but it’s way, way better than I could have imagined. Not having a job (by choice, of course) is the best job in the world. I give improv a lot of credit for the attitude that helped me get here and my experience now that I’m here.
What is the best improv advice or note you have ever received?
“Let go!” I have accepted it’s something I will have to work on implementing over and over and over again. For always.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned from improv that translates to your real life?
Say yes. Take a chance. Give gifts. Receive gifts. Be grateful. (one lesson, in five movements)
Do you have anything going on that you’d like to plug?
“Little Improv Shop of Horrors,” Halloween sketch show at the Improv Shop. 10:00 p.m. on 10/18 and 10/25. 8:00 p.m. on 10/31. Be there or risk being murdered by a monster.