Top 10 podcast episodes of 2016

A lot of shit happened in 2016.

The podcast world in 2016, however, was impressive. A lot of great content, a lot of new and interesting shows, and a lot more made by people who are not straight white men. Many address the shifting political tone in the country, many offer an escape from it. At some point, I started compiling this list. 

Here it is! my top 10 podcast episodes of 2016:

  1. Another Round #35: Kwanzaa Spectacular Live (video). This may be the singularly greatest thing that happened on a stage in 2016. It actually happened in Dec 2015, but I listened to it in 2016, so I am counting it. Another Round is the perfect mix of friendship, silliness, me laughing out loud listening, realtalk about feminism/mental health/selfcare, beautiful quotes and amazing guests (Hillary Clinton, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lin Manuel Miranda, David Simon, Lena Dunham,...). Impossible to pick one episode, so I picked this–the live Kwanzaa special. It's just perfect. (thanks Anna C. Reilly for introducing me to this!)
  2. Allusionist #12: Pride. Originally aired in 2015, this episode was re-broadcast in 2016 with some additional commentary in the wake of the Orlando shootings. One of my hands-down favorite podcasts of the last few years, Allusionist features Helen Zaltzman digging deep on interesting questions of language–in this case "pride," and where its origins in the LGBTQ community. It's an interesting history of activism and evolution. 
  3. Imaginary Worlds #54: Dumbledore's Army. Imaginary World's is the newest podcast (to me) on the list, and I am loving it. Eric Molinsky interviews authors about sci-fi and fantasy, world building and the power therein. In this episode, he concludes a Harry Potter series exploring how J.K. Rowling's background at Amnesty International inspired novels that (according to the professor on the show), can make people more tolerant of diversity. Eric also interviews folks involved in the Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit coordinated online of HP fans who do good in the real world. It's an inspiring episode.
  4. Code Switch #15: What's So Funny About The Indian Accent? It was hard to pick one episode of Code Switch, NPR's new podcast about race and identity. In addition to the fascinating topics, I am learning a lot about how to have explicit conversations about race. Covering everything from black officer reactions to the Dallas shootings to trigger warnings to mispronouncing names. I chose this episode because it speaks to a conversation we have often in the comedy community.
  5. Planet Money #576: When Women Stopped Coding. Planet Money began when everyone realized we don't know anything about our financial system, but continues to produce some interesting shows about the intersection of economics and daily life. Like this episode about how there used to be as many women as men in computer science, and then all the sudden in 1984 the numbers dropped and continued dropping. Hear why, and get really mad.
  6. Invisibilia: The New Norm. After a long hiatus, Invisibilia (the podcast about the invisible forces that control human behavior–ideas, beliefs, emotions) is back and with an amazing 2nd season. I was really affected by the story of applied theater, but overall the episode got me reflecting. And really, the whole season (a mere 6 episodes) is great!
  7. 99% Invisible: Ten Letters for the President. 99% invisible looks into the little elements of design that make up our world, and this episode talks to the mostly volunteer office in Obama's White House responsible for reading all his mail and selecting 10 letters per day for him to read that represent the feelings of the electorate at that moment. I cried.
  8. Freakonomics: Has the U.S. Presidency Become a Dictatorship? I am not a Freakonomics bro (at least I don't think so). I haven't read the books, and I find Stephen Dubner to be a bit annoying. Yet, I still find the podcast pretty interesting. This episode is a real rollercoaster. First, we learn about how the President really has a lot of actual power, and that the legislative and judicial branch no longer effectively check it. So who does? The county, the party, and the administrivia of the executive branch. It's an important and complex look at modern politics. If you want a good companion episode on the evolution of the Supreme Court's power, check out this other episode of More Perfect.
  9. More Perfect: Object Anyway. Speaking of More Perfect, this podcast spun off this year from Radiolab and focuses on the Supreme Court. Each episode is fascinating and important, like this case that was intended to prevent race-based jury selection but in practice has made the problem much worse.
  10. Reply All #74: Making Friends. Reply All is a show about the Internet–it explains Internet things to me, but also tells really interesting stories about people that the Internet enables. While tempted to pick their coverage of Pizzagate or Pepe, I went with this story about a young woman who hears a voice in her head, and finds an online community of people who create more voices and foster relationships with them. (thanks Karen Schiller for introducing me to this!)

Honorable mentions:

  • 2 Dope Queens. YQY! I love this show, it's generally the only stand-up podcast I listen to. I just didn't have a landmark episode ready.
  • This American Life #589: Tell Me I'm Fat. I always listen to TAL when it comes out, and I thought the middle of the year had some particularly great topics, including this episode about shifting perceptions of fatness.
  • Welcome to Night Vale. I'm still (very) slowly working through all of these from the beginning, and they continue to delight me. 
  • Savage Lovecast. Dan is less of a cornerstone of my listening than in the past, but this show still has a place in my heart (and my ears).
  • As this is my improv blog, I'll note that I do listen to comedy performer podcasts, as well as acting podcasts, tabletopping/RPG podcasts, and other niche shows. I was surprised as you that none of them made this list. I'd love to talk to you about them if you'd like to compare notes!

Happy listening!

Say Day 2016

Yesterday was ‪Say Day‬: a day when improvisers share how grateful we are to know and work with our fellow improvisers.

I am in Baltimore this weekend for the Baltimore Improv Festival. I'm super excited for this festival as I've heard great things. I've already seen some amazing shows, and I get to spend today with Irony City and Change Machine (some of my closest friends and most inspirational improvisers). But it means I missed the Pittsburgh Say Day festivities.

So I am carrying on my now 2 year tradition of posting some appreciations here. This has been a transformative year for me. I am beginning the journey of purposefully focusing more of my time and attention on things that matter most me (vs. things I feel obligated to do) and figuring out how to pay more attention to my mental and physical health every day.

I would love to call out every single person that has been important on this journey, but there are just too many! If I don't explicitly list anyone, it doesn't mean I don't value them. I do! I just don't want the inclusion/exclusion problem to prevent me from publicly thanking a few people here:

Nicole Havranek: You are my love, my support, my encouragement. I included you specifically here because of the impact you have had on my improv (and various other artistic pursuits). Your work is inspiring to me, and our conversations have helped me to better sort out what I want out of my own work.

Greg Gillotti: Getting to play even more with Iguanatron and teach with you again was pure fun for me. While we both enjoy similar things, you are always pushing me and surprising me, and I will always want to work more with you, as evidenced by our overwhelming slate of projects together.

Aaron Tarnow, Anna C. Reilly, and Nick Stamatakis: I don't say enough (ever?) how grateful I am for all you do and the care and attention you give to PCF. I am really proud of the festival, what we've been able to create, and I am so thankful that the three of you have taken the lead this year. I know I am a pain in the ass a lot of the time, but you still make this happen and I am so thankful for that.

Change Machine: Thank you so much for dedicating your time, energy and hard work to Change Machine these past 2.5 years. I am so proud of this team (for example).

Chris Leon: You are one of the kindest, most genuine people I know. I am inspired by your attitude, approach to life, and choice in clothing. It means a lot to have you involved in so many of my projects. 

Kristy Nolen and Mike Rubino: Since last Say Day, we've launched Beta Stage (maybe just before Say Day) and Pop-Up Night (and we've talked through a ton of other details here and there). I am so grateful for your support and continued encouragement of the projects we do together.

Mary Parker: You have had a big impact on me and my understanding of how I perform and teach improv this year. Not to mention your contributions to the community committee at PCF. You are always genuinely interested in connecting with people, whether it's on projects you're a part of or in social settings, and I really appreciate that.

Tessa Karel: You continue to show me what it looks like to lead a responsible and fulfilling adult life, and it's meant a lot that you allowed me the opportunity to use my improv experience and skills to do something more meaningful.

Woody Drennan: You just want people you work with to succeed. You are always eager to talk discuss (sometimes at length) an issue Writers Room is having, lend equipment (even if it's just something I'm doing for work), or help out however you can. 

Thank you all–and all I could not include explicitly–for making Pittsburgh a great place to live and do comedy!

Conflicted about Conflict: A Taxonomy

If you're like me, you have struggled with conflict (haha).

Early on, we avoiding conflict and focus on agreement. That's because greener improvisers tend to fight for no reason, so as instructors and coaches we push toward like-minded characters early on.

But when I go to see a movie or play, I want to see characters grow and change? I want to see them go throw moments of struggle and see what they are really made of. During Kevin McDonald's recent sketch workshop, he pointed out that for him there is a difference between comedies with lots of gags like Anchorman (he found it funny but it didn't stick with him) and Airplane (also funny but lasts, he cared more, and is also based on the 1957 drama Zero Hour!).

My solution: rather than talk about avoiding or leaning into conflict, how about we talk about two different kinds of conflict?

Manufactured Conflict

"Conflict is about as necessary as the Mad Scientist's daughter in a science fiction film." - Truth in Comedy, Del Close and Charna Hailpern

This amazing quote refers to what I would call Manufactured Conflict or Improviser Conflict. It is two improvisers arguing, either over the facts of the scene that are not yet totally clear, or just for no good reason. And it comes from a place of fear.

We fear that nothing interesting is happening in the scene, so we manufacture a more "interesting" scene by disagreeing with people. Here are some common patterns that lead to Manufactured Conflict: 

  1. This sucks: Borrowing Susan Messing's language, this is when one player dislikes his or his partner's choices.
    "Ugh a Florida vacation, I'll turn into a lobster!"
  2. Missing essentials: For no good reason, we are missing something we need (in order to get to the actual scene).
    Say we are robbing a bank. Virginia asks Opal, "You got the guns?" Opal replies, "Oh I thought you were bringing the guns..." and we see two minutes about who was supposed to bring guns. 
  3. Picking Fights: For no good reason, a character picks a fight with another character.
    "That is not how you [whatever object work the other player is doing]"
    "Ok kids get in the car." "I don't
    wanna get in the car."

If the audience isn't waiting with bated breath to see how the conflict resolves, it is probably manufactured conflict.

Dramatic Conflict

"Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are." - Stephen Moyer, actor

I was frustrated with avoiding conflict because as this quote indicates I felt that moments of conflict were when you saw the truth in people, and I wanted to create those moments for characters on stage. I started using the term "Dramatic Conflict" from Ken Adams' How to Improvise a Full-Length Play to refer to this other type of conflict. The key difference is that in this type, the actors' objectives are what is in conflict and the audience can see those objectives from the work on stage. 

Here is the high-level picture (mostly from Adams with my notes and commentary):

  • Two players begin discovering circumstances (he calls this the platform).
    Virginia sits at a chair miming a desk, papers, etc. Tom pops his head in the door:
    Tom: I'm going to head out early to catch the end of my son's soccer game.
    Virginia: I'm glad you're here, Tom. These numbers just aren't adding up.
    She motions to the chair in front of her.
  • We have hit what Adams calls the Moment of Engagement as Virginia's objective has impacted (in this case obstructed) Tom's. This puts us into Dramatic Conflict.
  • During much of the scene, the characters will struggle to achieve their objectives.
    Perhaps Tom replies, "You haven't finished the IRS audit!"
    Perhaps Virginia orders dinner.
    Perhaps Tom brings out photos of his son.
  • This is still different from the improvisors attempting to achieve their objectives, which is often the case in Manufactured Conflict. This might entail an improviser introducing information that hurts her character but helps tell the story of the scene (like in the IRS line above). The players are still agreeing and collaborating to tell the story of the conflict and the audience is watching the struggle, the loss, the journey those characters take.

Now just because both characters have an objective doesn't mean they have to be at odds with one another. There are more types of conflict, and more ways beyond conflict to put characters through a struggle. This is not a prescription, just a useful idea for advanced improvisers and perhaps a way to worry less when you feel you are in a good scene that has "conflict!"

Coaching inspiration, part 2

In coaching inspiration, part 1, I discussed my motivation to change my coaching style from giving notes that I felt in my own work were not motivating me to improve in the long term. Here's part 2:

2: The only one who can teach you is you

In my experience, my real breakthroughs have come when I am on stage feeling for the first time what it is to improvise a certain way. I have had some really great discussions with experienced players, I've had some great and inspirational teachers, and I've read some amazing books. But for me, I really learn when I have digested that, actually changed my work in some way or another (started walking the walk), and start feeling the impact on my scenes. Sometimes (often?) I will feel like I really get something logically from reading it or discussing it, and it's only years later when I make a move on stage that the gears click into place and I realize that I am just now truly understanding it.

So that mindset raises the question: how can we as coaches encourage others to grow? 

Well, it shifts the focus from my opinion of a team's work being important to their opinion of their own work being important. Opinions are like assholes (everyone has one), especially about something like how an improv set went. Whereas traditional scene-by-scene notes might give a team an impression of the former, I will now lean toward asking a team about their opinions of a set. The hope is that over time they will develop a sense of what inspires them and how to create the necessary environment for their own fun more consistently. The show felt great? Why? What felt great? What were you doing that led you to that feeling? What could you do again to more consistently replicate that great feeling? Another show felt shitty? Why was that? What choices do you make that lead you to feeling one way or another?

A few caveats here: I do still note technical misunderstandings (e.g. when to use a tag versus a sweep), form issues (e.g. how is the opening intended to go), and individual find blindspots. In these cases I follow the advice in Directing Improv as much as possible (too much good stuff to reproduce here). Most of my notes I keep for myself. These help me build a rehearsal (or many) with the goal of training the instincts of the performers over time.

Does this work? TBD. I find that I have been much more successful at getting teams to make lasting changes. I also get feedback that some (many) players struggle to grow when their only feedback is self-reflection. 

Coaching inspiration, part 1

When I was actively performing and directing theater, I found that every ~4 years I'd learn that everything I knew about theater was wrong.

Improv revelations have been more evolutionary than revolutionary, but if anything at a faster pace. This post is attempting to describe my latest thoughts about coaching improv based on some recent reflections.**

Coaching IMO comprises three main activities:

  • Helping a team define or refine their style and goals
  • Designing and compiling exercises (possibly forms) to push the team closer to those goals
  • Giving notes and challenges

The trouble with notes


The challenge of notes is the limitation one coach's power. Yes I can give a team notes. But how many improvisers write them down, review them before rehearsal or a show, let them sink in and change the way they play? And if they change that improvisor's behavior for one rehearsal or one show, will the next change build on the last? Or get thrown out the window when she changes something else?

I was the improviser who wrote a lot down. And it just got me in my head. I was playing from a place of obligation. I was trying to dance around a litany of notes rather than playing from a place of inspiration. I was owned by my head and not my gut. I still play that way some times, in some situations. But I have tasted and seek the freedom of playing from inspiration. And it has encouraged me to think differently about coaching others. 

So what would replace notes?

If notes put me into a place of obligation, then what is a reasonable alternative?

1: Train your instincts

First, I had to shift my point of view. Let's think of practice as a place to train instinct and performance as a place where performers trust and run on instinct. Rehearsal is swinging two bats, and the show is all muscle memory. I don't believe there is any value to thinking about anything a teacher or coach has said while you are on stage. On stage, shorten the distance from head to mouth (or foot or jumping hug). On stage, every move is the correct move. That is not lip service. That is truth.

This is a hard concept for me to explain to new groups (or old groups!). Because you may still make a move that we (you and I, us as a team) will talk about afterwards. Or that you will think about and wish you had done differently. That does not imply you should have done it differently in the moment. You followed your gut and that is always correct. In the long run, those conversations and reflections ideally help to re-calibrate your instinct. 

The one thing we can't recalibrate is moves you don't make. Sometimes I will have players who will say something like, "Yeah I really wanted to... (edit there/make this move/enter as your grandma)." Those are moments where they either didn't trust their instinct or thought of a better idea later. Hard to do much about either. If you can make it through a 20 minute set trusting all of your instincts, you will not only be a better improvisor, but I think you will feel you have already reaped dividends from your time and monetary investment in improv.

More on this next week. This post is already long.

**Two caveats: 1) Coaching takes many forms. If I am coaching a practice team of new students or subbing someone else's team, this may look different. 2) I am not prescribing this as the way anyone else should coach or saying I'm the best coach. I've gotten both positive feedback and constructive criticism on this style of coaching. This is just offered as my thoughts on my coaching.

It's Comedy Week!

Proclamation of "Comedy Week"

Pittsburgh City Council declared this week Comedy Week in celebration of Pittsburgh's growing and kick-ass comedy scene!

It's also the week of the 2nd annual Pittsburgh Comedy Festival. So head on down to Pitt's campus to check out:

  • Bombardo, with the wry Aubrey Plaza, teachers and performers from UCB in NYC and LA, and comedy that has been termed "weird,” “psychadelic,” and “full of cats."
  • Todd Glass: I have so much respect for a comic who takes his comedy seriously. You know him from Louie, Mr. Show and his podcast The Todd Glass Show.
  • Over 30 acts from all over the country. I can't pick a few to talk about because I am seriously excited about all of them.
  • Kids Comedy Cabaret: I am so proud that PCF could help enable such a truly imaginative show.
  • Six workshops featuring everything from sketch from the co-founder of the "feminist Onion" to Shakespearean improv to viewpoints! 
  • Talking Funny: The PCF Comedy Panel where you can ask Qs and hear As about comedy as an artform as a career from Todd Glass (Comedy Central, Louie), Chlesea Clarke (UCB NY Instructor, Bombardo), Marcy Jarreau (UCB LA Instructor), Jared Pascoe (Docherty Talent Agent) and Aaron Kleiber (Gotham Comedy Live, Pgh Mag Best Comic).
  • Parties, free food, happy hour, winding through the Cathedral loading dock. Does this all sound fun to you? Sign up to volunteer!

Beyond Yes And: Information that Matters (part 3)

In part two of the Beyond Yes And series, I talked about players digging the same hole in the beach–adding information that is moving the scene in the same direction.

Let's revisit our example and try to stumble in the same direction:

Janet: My cousin Ralph is sick.
Frank: Yes, and I will take his shift.
Janet: Yes, and we could never forgive ourselves if you died tonight.
Frank: Yes, and Ralph's illness is his fault, but I'm to blame for swearing to protect you.
Janet: Yes, and what a foolish oath given what's out there [she looks].

Now we're getting somewhere! Here is a scene where I don't feel like it is work from line to line (again, hard to tell on paper but work with me). Five lines in and we feel like we get what sort of scene this is, what could be fun about it, what sort of role Frank and Janet have to play.

So what is different?

  • Contrast the scene in part one:
    • Most of this scenelet is "about" Ralph on the surface, but rather than re-iterating the "Ralph is sick" information each line adds new information. For example, Frank's first line tells us that Frank and Ralph work/have shifts together and Ralph's sickness seems an imposition to Frank. That's a ton of information from 5 words (and their delivery) compared to the no real info we got from "he is vomiting on my shoe."
    • That information makes it less about Ralph at all, and more about Frank, Janet and their situation. While there is no heavy exposition, we get a real sense for who all 3 of these characters are and what this universe is we are creating from these 5 information-packed lines.
  • Contrast the scene in part two:
    • Both players are digging the same hole, though notice that it takes form and shape as the lines progress. This is good. This is collaborative scenework.
    • The first line is about poor cousin Ralph. By the second line we see Ralph's impact. By the third we see the impact is truly Frank's sacrifice. And so forth.

I cheated a bit here by skipping what could be a 3rd step. The information I am adding in this 3rd scene is also some emotionally charged information. That is what I call the information that matters. The information that matters to the two human beings in the scene. The reason I skipped it is that I believe the first two tend to lead to the third. Especially when we get to this part:


At first, this seems like a lot of new rules to replace or (WORSE) pile onto existing rules. I urge you not to do that. From my POV, you don't need rules. I am breaking this all down so you see why it works not how to do it. 

The long answer: I believe that many improvisers upon hearing a line will make a lot of assumptions. For some it is visual, for some it is more logical, but they get made. Take for example, "My cousin Ralph is sick." When you hear that, what pops into your head? Where are we? Is Ralph in the room? Is Janet upset about this news? Glad? Take all those assumptions that are already in your head, and make your next line packed with some information from them.

When I was writing this example, in my mind the sickness had dire consequences. Maybe for you, Ralph is skipping school or we're all dogs or something. 

To sum up: yes add information. No you don't need to invent it. Just say what's already in your head. I know this is not as easy as I make it sound.

The shorter answer: YETI. YETI will focus you on emotional content, on relationship truths, and on adding information right at the top of your scenes. 

It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward. -Buddhist proverb

Beyond Yes And: Stumbling in the Right Direction (part 2)

In part one of the Beyond Yes And series, I talked about what it means to add information (instead of details) in every line. But is all information even useful? 

Let's revisit our example and try to add information in every line:

Janet: My cousin Ralph is sick.
Frank: Yes, and he is vomiting on my brand new shoe.
Janet: Yes, and those are expensive looking loafers.
Frank: Yes, and can you believe they were hand-me-downs from my grandpap!
Janet: Yes, and they just don't make shoes like they used to...

In this revised scene, we do a bit better job of adding new information in each scene. Instead of finding different ways to say "Ralph is sick," we are saying new things. 


Why doesn't that feel much better? Chris Trew at The New Movement used this metaphor: think of the top of a scene as a wide open beach full of infinite possibilities. Each bit of information added is one of the players digging into the beach. Sometimes we make many small shallow holes all around an idea. Or sometimes we dig deeper into one hole.

This scene again follows the "Yes And" rules and even my guidance to add information in every line. Only now that information is making many shallow holes. Let's count the holes!

  1. Poor sick cousin Ralph
  2. Poor ruined Janet's shoe (Frank contributes to this hole)
  3. Frank's grandpap
  4. The good ole days

You: Ok I see your point. But in the last example, the lines were all about the same thing and that was a problem!
Me: Yes, now you're getting it!

We want to be adding information, but adding information that all points in the same direction. If this sounds hard, it's only because you've been improvising so long and you are used to (perhaps even good at) inventing things. We get in our own way.

The ideal place is allowing yourself to stumble. No need to think your way from one line to the next. To hold these "rules" or "guidelines" in your head. You just stumble forward line to line, listening intently to your scene partner with your eyes on the same prize. More on the how next week.

Beyond Yes And: Information in Every Line (part 1)

Both my YETI approach to starting scenes and the Change Machine form rely on adding information in every line. But what exactly does that mean? And what type of information is valuable to add? Why did I rename the blog a few months ago? I will answer these questions (and more!) in this short series. 

Early on in our improv careers we are taught "Yes And." Often this is taught as saying the literal word "Yes" followed by the word "and." At least this is how I learned it, and taught it myself in Level 1 classes.

This may be a necessary introduction, but it is not sufficient for our improv to become easy (i.e. stop feeling like work). To get the momentum of a scene building, we need more than "yes and." Allow me demonstrate:

Janet: My cousin Ralph is sick.
Frank: Yes, and he is vomiting on my shoe.
Janet: Yes, and his face looks awful green.
Frank: Yes, and we should get him to a hospital.
Janet: Yes, and they will have doctors who can cure him!

This scene is a reasonable "Yes And" example IMO. And if played with interesting and believable characters, it could be fun to watch. I still think it feels like work. With every line, each player is inventing new facts about Ralph.

My thesis: those 5 lines are really just adding one piece of information.


The distinction I am making is between "details" and juicy, bite-your-teeth-into-it bits that I call 'information."

So while Janet and Frank are adding a lot of details–e.g.

  1. The cousin is vomiting
  2. Frank is wearing a shoe
  3. The cousin's face looks green
  4. The cousin is so bad off to as require a hospital 
  5. Hospitals have doctors
  6. Doctors cure sick patients

I would argue all of these are really ONE piece of information: Janet's cousin is sick. It's the bit we started with. Details #5 and #6 aren't really specific to this scene. If anything #2 is a new bit of information, but is likely just added to support #1, a reformulation of "the cousin is sick."

Improvisers, even vets, will often tread water like this. Usually we are just filling silence and it's easy to repeat what's been said, sometimes we are being polite or waiting for something "interesting to happen," and on rare occasion we do this purposefully to allow time for our partner to get their premise on the table. 

I'm here to address the former. What does it feel like when we add information in every line? And how, practically, do we approach the work such that it's easy to do (that's my whole point after all!)? Well I ended with more questions, but it was just too much for one post. 

As this series builds, I will reshape that scene so information is added each line. In the mean time, watch this opening scene of Cakcowski & Talarico's performance at the 2014 Pittsburgh Comedy Festival. Watch it line by line. There are a few lines that repeat info (particularly when playing to the rhythm of the scene) but Craig and Rich freely add information on most lines. It makes it feel like we are watching a scene in progress. It brings laughs more often from the crowd and it quickly builds a solid foundation for them to explore. Enjoy!

Say Day

Today is ‪Say Day‬: a day when improvisers can share how grateful we are to know and work with our fellow improvisers.

My father died when I was 18. We were (and are) a loving family, but I still vowed to make sure those I love knew how much they meant to me during my life. I'm on vacation this week and missing the celebrations in Pittsburgh. So while I believe the idea is to say these words in person, I am acknowledging some people here instead.

There is not enough Internet to acknowledge everyone who has had an impact on my improv life. Even if you are not specifically called out here, if you are reading this, you are definitely an important person to me, so thank you!

Greg Gillotti: You are a constant source of inspiration to me. You are so dedicated to teaching and performing improv for all the right reasons, and you are pure joy on stage. I count myself continually lucky that you choose to play with me in so many groups and for so many years. I wish we had more time to sit and talk, so I could learn more about everything you do.

Nilesh Shah: You were the first person to tell me that the amount of effort I put into running a team was unusual and appreciated, and I needed to hear that. I am always thankful when you are on stage with me because you play in a way I am incapable of. 

Irony City casts past and present (Ben, Amy, Anna, Jocelyn, Adam, Scott and Scott): You are the reason I am here, my friends and extended family during my twenties. You showed me that improv could be more than yuck-em-ups, that we could have fun and create something fantastic on stage, and you gave me a lot of sandbox to play in. And now that we have evolved to a much more collaborative team, you are the team I feel most at home with on stage. 

Justin Zell and Kasey Daley: You catalyzed the growth of the Pittsburgh improv community, gave me my first classroom with students who came back week after week, cast the first Pittsburgh house teams, and encouraged drinks at Park House. For this, I will always thank you.

Ayne Terceria: There are many projects I see and wish I had thought of or want to do myself–Uncumber shows are so beyond anything I could do myself that I just admire and enjoy them. You have an incredible and creative mind, and I am honored to call you my friend. And I love the rare occasions we have to improvise together: you are fearless and push me to play on the cliff's edge. 

Tessa Karel: When I grow up, I want to be Tessa Karel. A lot of my admiration for you is non-improv and I'll suffice to say you have a kind heart. On stage, you so consistently find your fun in a way that seems so true to your personality rather than folding to anyone else's ideal. That is, at its core, all I strive to do.

Asaf Ronen: You epitomize for me the kindness and humility of improv celebrities. From the few hours you spent with me on the phone helping after reading your book to feedback you gave me on my workshop one sheet over coffee, you have been so generous to someone who at the time was just a stranger. I am thankful to consider you a friend and mentor.

Woody Drennan: You have a strong sense of what good improv means to you and how to teach it, and long conversations with you have contributed to a complete transformation in my coaching and teaching style compared to a couple years ago. You ask me to be in projects without caveat, and I admire your self-confidence and your no bullshit attitude.

Arcade Founders (Jethro, Kristy, Mike, Abby, Randy): You are juggling the needs of a business and a community, and in doing so guided by good hearts and a desire to make the comedy community in Pittsburgh a better and more fruitful place for artists. I am honored to have my face on your wall and a place at your theater.

The Pittsburgh improv community: Ah, like any community you have been a source of joy and pain. But both are important ingredients to a life well lived. You have provided me some of my dearest friends, my fondest memories, support for my most ambitious projects, and the teams that have shaped my passion for an art for which I care quite deeply.

Looking forward to the next 10 years!