Being Fearless: An Interview with Eric Thompson of Double-Blind Improv

Eric Thompson

What is Double-Blind Improv?

It’s a short form improv show, so similar to shows like Whose Line is it Anyway?, but the unique thing we do is random draw. So all of the games are drawn randomly and I will prepare more than we need for a show and we put them all in a hat.

That sounds Fearless, why did you decide to produce that show structure?

When I started thinking about starting a show, I was marathoning through Whose Line is it Anyway videos. I have always been a fan of short form and I wanted a chance to do it more. And I figured if I wanted to do it more, I should produce a show and make it happen.

Has your show changed through time or stayed mostly the same?

It’s changed quite a bit. The first time we ran the show was at the first Die Laughing. We premiered it there and it was fun, but it was not what you would see as Double-Blind today. At that point, the games were not random draw yet, the games were numbered but the players were all random draw. It also started with more players which means that some people were only in a few short scenes. After that I changed it to random draw games and reduced the number of performers to six.

It sounds like it is one of the more challenging structures for an improv show. You really challenge the performers. Speaking of challenges, have there been any big challenges to producing this show?

Yes there have been a lot of challenges, some of which were more, I guess, self-imposed. When I first started the show I was not as involved with the performing scene, I made it a goal to cast an equal number of men and women just because that’s what I wanted to do. I started hearing from a handful of performers that they were thankful that I was doing this because there can be, as there always has been in comedy and performing in general, there are always gender issues, but it is something I have tried to work towards and keep it even. I wanted to make it not be a thing, just something the show has always done. Along those lines back in February I did a show that was all women. So all 6 cast members plus Lauren Haven did the hosting duty for me. I made a point to not have any gross advertising like “Ladies’ Night” or anything because it was just a normal show that happens to have all women. It is a challenge for me sometimes to work in more diversity because we all have little bubbles we are in and I am trying to expand mine with this show.

It’s interesting you have said you are trying to do the best you can with these self-imposed challenges but have there literally ever been any shows that were not self-imposed challenges, like a show that went off the rails?

I remember, there have been times where things have gone odd or a little off the rails but there is one show that stands out, and it was one show Bill Young was in. Planning is tricky. Because everything is random, I do my best to make sure everybody understands every game. During the show, it became clear Bill didn’t quite understand the game Narrate. The idea behind it is it’s like film noir style, so you can step out towards the audience and give your inner monologue and then step back into your character and scene. He was totally confused with how that was supposed to work, so when it was a scene with him and Salsa, he literally stepped out into the audience and started narrating what was going on on stage like he was Salsa’s inner monologue.

Hey, that sounds like an improv structure that could be kinda funny.

Yes if it was planned out that way, totally it’s something that could work. I remember during that scene there were people in the audience who had seen the show before or done improv before and understood it and they kept looking over at me because I wasn’t hosting myself, Patrick Bauer was hosting that night. People kept on looking over at me like, “what’s going on?” and I would just shrug because what am I gonna do? I am not gonna walk on the stage and be like, “No no no, you are doing this wrong. Stop the show!” But that’s the beauty of short form, that after a few minutes it is done. It can be great or it can be horrible but either way it is done. For the record I think all of them great, some of them in their own ways but I think in general all of the scenes have their high points that are worth celebrating, and as much as that went off the rails, it still was one of my favorite moments ever for Double-Blind.

From left to right: Eric Knight, Dawn Krosnowski, Matt Allex, Molly Glover, and Tim Wick perform a scene at Double-Blind Improv

Well, even failure can be funny, falling flat on your face is quite funny or at least can be. In a related question, is there a show that stands out as personally the biggest show in Double-Blind?

I have a few answers for that because, depending on what you are talking about, biggest can be a couple of different things. I will start off with the sad one first, so we were asked to perform with a show called “I Am St. Paul” a few years ago. It was one of our first paid corporate kind of shows. It was a really great event, and we were all excited. The day of the show I got a phone call, and that was the day that Bill Young passed away. I am gonna keep that story short, but we were there to put on the show and seeing everyone there pushing through all of that… The phrase, “The show must go on,” people say in jest but it is really true. That was one of my biggest learning moments in performing.

In some of the other big moments, putting on an all-female show was amazing, I got to meet a ton of people I had never seen or performed with because people knew I was planning this show and they got me in touch with them. The audience was really engaged. They had a blast. It was a really fun time and I want to do that again.

Also, we have done Double-Blind with the Masquerade halftime show at CONvergence and this year was an amazing year, the audience was packed and there were people in the back standing. There is nothing like asking for a suggestion and hearing maybe 2 or 3 before it just becomes this roar and then you have to quiet the crowd down to continue, or a real straight forward joke in a scene just has this cacophony of laughter. It’s an incredible experience performing for that many people.

I remember, they got really enthusiastic, just shouting out.

They were also really respectful. And that is something I think is unique to the CONvergence crowd, because when I asked for suggestions they were rowdy, but once we were past that it was like, “Cool this is the part where I am quiet and watch.” It was great and really kind of a unique thing for a crowd that big.

I think they were respectful because it was a rare moment that they knew you would get their references and suggestions so there was that kinship. My final question is, you know Double-Blind Improv is part of Fearless so in what way would you say your show is Fearless?

I’d say in a couple different ways, but in reality all of these things coming together. Improv is a pretty scary thing for a lot of people. We take suggestions from the audience and anything we do is based on that, so not knowing what is coming next is a fearless thing. And being ready for anything, I think, because you don’t know what game is going to be next and you don’t know if you are going to play it or not. So each time something is drawn there is this unknown energy to it which, I think, makes the audience buy in a bit more, but it’s definitely a big challenge for performers. The people I bring in are up to that challenge because it’s not a standard cast. It mixes people within Fearless and people in the performing community who are not. I’m putting people in shows who have never performed together, and they are gonna be doing scenes that they don’t expect and they don’t know who they are gonna do them with. It is random and slipshod as you can get yet somehow it works. And especially tricky is lately when we have a keyboardist there, so you have people who have got to sing and you don’t know who is going to be up there and who is going to have to sing. That keeps everyone on their toes and I think that is why it’s Fearless.

Come see the next show the third Thursday of every month! Doors at 7, show is at 7:30 at Honey in Minneapolis and tickets are 5 bucks.

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