improv games

Hey, Dion—What’s Your Connection to Jimmy Fallon?

By Heather E. Schwartz

Dion Flynn appears August 30 at Proctors in his one-man show, “The Only Brown Kid in the Trailer Park.” He’s also famous for his impressions of President Barack Obama on “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Dion and Jimmy met years ago right here in Albany. They formed a friendship, then lost touch for several more years. Once Jimmy made it big, Dion was reluctant to contact him. Dion vowed to wait until he had something to give back, something to offer as a fellow artist. Here’s how he knew the right time had finally arrived.

Flynn & Radnor from "How I Met Your Mother"

Flynn & Radnor from "How I Met Your Mother"

I had training from NYU and working professionally on stage and T.V. But it wasn’t until I had some personal balance that I was called forward. 

It happened when my school friend, Josh Radnor, told me he was going to appear on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” “Should I say, ‘Hi’ to Jimmy from you?” he asked in a text. Josh was the star of “How I Met Your Mother.” Though I’d lost touch with Jimmy, Josh and I were in almost-daily contact. 

I was in the cafeteria of the Veteran's Hospital in NYC, eating lunch after the last of my therapy sessions when a voice inside said to me: “Ask (Josh) if you can go with him.” 

Clockwise: Jimmy Fallon, Bob Saget, Dion Flynn, Dave Coulier

Clockwise: Jimmy Fallon, Bob Saget, Dion Flynn, Dave Coulier

By this point, a number of my demons were sorted. I was learning that expecting love from an audience or for a performance was not an adequate plan for meeting one’s human needs. The audience is too phantasmal, too far away, not personal enough to really exchange the love I needed to be exchanging in this life: Love for others. Love (or at least esteem) for myself. And love between me and some greater Force. 

When all of these were in place and I no longer thought my deeper needs ought to be met in showbiz, by showbiz, then I was ready to make my approach. And the great Force couldn’t have made it any easier for me to get in there. 

Jimmy Fallon, Dion Flynn on set of "The Tonight Show"

Jimmy Fallon, Dion Flynn on set of "The Tonight Show"

I received my inner command and texted Josh back: “Can I go with you as part of your entourage?” He answered, “Sure.” And Jimmy and I were reunited backstage. Jimmy hugged me up, made a fuss, asked where I’d been.

When the time is right, you can't stop the Force and when the time is wrong you can’t force it anyway. I’d spent years waxing down my surfboard, and it was finally time to ride.

MopCo Presents: Dion Flynn "The Only Brown Kid in the Trailer Park

THIS SUNDAY, August 30th @ 7pm, GE Theater at Proctors!


Take a Master Improv Class from Dion Flynn:

After his show on Sunday, he will be staying to teach an improv class on Monday evening!

You may have heard that our friend Dion Flynn, who plays Obama on the Tonight Show, is doing his one-man-show at Proctors on Aug. 30. We are so excited to announce that he is doing a workshop at Mopco on Monday Aug. 31st from 7-9. 

Dion is amazing. He may be the best improviser we have ever seen, or at least is right up there with the best, no kidding. And he is an incredibly insightful teacher.


Meet the author

Heather E. Schwartz has always had a passion for writing, grew up to make a career of it, and was surprised when she struggled to write this bio. In addition to writing, she loves laughing, improvising, and dreaming up crazy ideas. 

Come Make Up Songs!

Admit it. You were skeptical when you read that class description for Mopco’s “Sing Your Butt Off! Summer Music Class.”

Beginners learning to improvise songs? you scoffed, inwardly. Impossible!

Nevertheless intrigued, you wanted to know more. You wanted to know what happens in the class. How this is possible.

So I went ahead and asked for you. Here’s what Mopco Musical Director Mark S. Meritt explained.

 1. The class covers aspects of melody, harmony, working with an accompanist, and basic song structure. The building blocks, really, for creating a song.

2. Students who’ve improvised before can use their improv skills to create lyrics (otherwise known as just plain words). The only difference here is the words are set to music. 

3. Students who haven’t improvised before will still be able to do this because the entire process is broken down into simple steps.

And suddenly, learning to improvise songs sounds like an attainable goal, after all.



May I Ask a Question?

By Amy Nolte, Mopco member and instructor

One of the basic “rules” you hear early in building your improv muscles is that if you want to be a good scene partner, then “don’t ask questions.” 

Wait a minute… Our mentors and improv instructors encourage us to think, “If this is true, what else is true?” which, I will point out, is a question. And isn’t there is an improv game where the point is to keep a conversation grounded in reality while only asking questions? To even get more meta, we ask questions in real life; why not in improv?  

So what is an improviser to do? 

Personally, I would encourage improvisers to think about improv as having not “rules” but rather some guidelines that can help us navigate our scene work successfully.  When we ask open-ended questions that don’t offer any information in our scenes, we put pressure on our partners to fill in the blanks.  There’s a huge difference between asking, “Why are you crying?” as opposed to, “Are you crying because you didn’t get the part of the tree in the school play, David?” Although questions legitimately exist in the real world, you’ll find that the ability to make stronger choices and gravitate away from open-ended questions in your improv really does happen the more you practice this skill. 

I recently gave a group of improvisers homework to think of ways to turn questions into statements, or take baby steps by asking questions that inform.  Over time, improvisers learn to make definitive statements like, “David, I’m sorry you didn’t get the part of the tree in the play. It’s okay to cry, honey.”  Can questions occur in that scene naturally?  Of course they can. The conversation could easily continue with the question, “That Jenkins’ kid didn’t get the part, did he?”… but it helps that we’ve established a base reality, a relationship, and some context already.  Taking a tip from Mopco’s “K.I.N.D.” improv (Know, Inform, Need, Delight), a question that defines a relationship and informs your scene partner certainly is a big “yes-and” to all of those components…and a good place to start. 

So, what do you think about questions in your improv work?

Man, we are bussssyyyyyyy at Mopco Headquarters


Here we go!!!


Be Brave!

By Heather Schwartz

Does the thought of taking an improv class both intrigue you and scare you to death? If so, you’re not alone, especially if you don’t think of yourself as a performer. Let’s face it: In an improv class, you’ll be doing stuff—i.e. performing—in front of at least a few other people. It’s not the kind of thing everyone is naturally inclined to jump into.

Surprisingly, though, respected, talented, well-loved professional performers often experience those same feelings that might hold anyone back. Judy Dench lives in fear as a performer, according to The Stage. And E! Online reports Adele has a nervous habit of tossing her cookies before shows.

Why do tormented souls continue performing when it creates so much stress? That’s a question to be explored further in another post. The simple answer is this: Performing creates positive feelings, too. There’s a payoff. And it’s so amazing it’s worth working through some anxiety to get it.