GUEST COLUMN BY LARAINE NEWMAN
When I started mentioning this talk I was going to be doing at Chautauqua, my friends who knew about the Institution went absolutely nuts extolling its virtues.
“A summer camp for intellectuals” is how my friend Kelly described it. I laughed and said, “What the hell do they want with me?”
I meant that sincerely. I didn’t go to college and have never written anything this comprehensive, especially from a prompt that didn’t come from me, but I must say, writing this lecture has been a delight. And when the request to speak in this series included improvisation and comedy as an aspect of it, I became much more comfortable and subsequently excited about imparting what I know. I love talking about comedy. In all its permutations.
One of the many things I learned in researching this talk is that right now, “The Art Of Play” is in the zeitgeist big time. I discovered that there’s actually an Institute of Play and an assortment of applications that go beyond the expected, like using it on people with Alzheimer’s.
Another friend told me about something she went to called “The Silent Play Experiment” in downtown Los Angeles, so you see, it’s everywhere.
It’s as if the nation is discovering the myriad benefits of playing: cognitive, creative, mindfulness, et cetera. Just in time for summer, too. Weeeee.
My introduction talks about the artists who contributed to my early development, as well as my personal experiences with improvisation, humor and playing and how the principles of these activities have a beneficial reach of astonishing proportion.
I’ll be talking about the early days of The Groundlings and “Saturday Night Live,” and I’ll show how the improvisational background of the cast pulled us out of some pretty uncomfortable situations. I’ll be talking about how improvisation impacted my parenting style.
At the end of my talk, I show how the form of improv has evolved into exciting and original shows. There were so many wonderful shows I won’t able to mention because of time, but hopefully during the Q-and-A people, if they’re interested, can ask about that as well.
Laraine Newman is an Emmy- and Annie Award-nominated performer, who studied mime with Marcel Marceau in Paris. A founding member of The Groundlings, Newman was also an original cast member on “Saturday Night Live.”