in character as Joey Jerkins.
J: What are some of your influences (along with Marx
Brothers and physical comedy)?
MB: Growing up, for me, I always used to stay up late watching Benny
Hill and the Three Stooges. Oddly enough, one of the people who
influenced me in movies -- itís weird to say -- but Bruce Lee. I always
felt a connection with Bruce Lee and always loved his work -- maybe his
acting isnít Marlon Brando, but what he put into it was unequaled. He
decided what he wanted to do and was a go-getter and master of his
domain. I always liked that. He directed a lot of his movies, and his
ideas of thinking outside of the box in general with martial arts.
He would take Ö martial arts is a tradition in China that they grow up
with and at that time it was very traditional and something that a lot
of people didnít want shared with other cultures, and he brought it to
America. He would also take those traditional fighting styles and add
his own elements and make them more fluid. So itís not like just showing
a certain strategic way of fighting, but he made it a little more loose
so people didnít know what to expect. As a general model for life and
pursuing creativity, I really admired him. He really thought outside the
box, and that has influenced me in trying to take things from different
angles, which is what improv teaches people to do too.
Just based on how you grow up or the people youíve been around, youíre
influenced. Everybody has certain limits they put on themselves. Improv
helps you think outside the limits you put on yourself and teaches you
to stretch the imagination further.
J: What have been your best and worst experiences in performing?
MB: One of my favorites -- on stage, I really enjoyed ďKeanu Reeves
Saves The UniverseĒ because that was the first time I was able to do not
only really be a lead in something but also do a lot of physical comedy,
do fight choreography, which considering my influences, was something
major for me to be a part of. There were a lot of brilliant performers
in that, and we got to do a musical number too, and it was all combined
into one piece. It had all these different elements, which I really
liked. At the time, when we first started, it was probably the most
popular stage thing I ever had done. We sold out our first run
completely and even had people from Keanu tribute
Web sites come check out our show.
I probably have turned down more projects than Iíve accepted. You have to feel
it out and see if itís going to be right for you and what makes you feel
good as a performer. One time I was really hesitant to do a show -- it
was a one-act that was part of a group of one-acts, four or five 15-20
minute pieces combined together in a night. A lot of times you might be
asked to do something before you see a full script. That was somewhat
the case. I said yes before I knew exactly what it was going to be. I
read the script and saw a call for someone to be naked on stage
Originally they asked me to play that character, and very rarely does
nudity actually translate well on stage or help the idea of what they
want to create. Sometimes it can, but itís one of those lines you have
to walk. In this particular case, it didnít, so I definitely didnít want
to do that. Then they asked if I wanted to do a different part, but I
also asked if there was a way to give the idea of the nudity, without
the actual nudity, because I
knew this was a small venue and it would be in peopleís faces. I ended
up rehearsing with them and the performers were really fun, the director
was great, but then it got to the point where I thought it would go the
other way, and they decided to go with the nudity. Sure enough it was
one of those things that was tasteless. It was hard for me to enjoy the
piece after that. I was performing the whole time really not enjoying
it. Itís like doing a sloppy show. I donít like doing something sloppy.
It stuck out in my mind as one of those things where Iím doing it, but
really didnít want to. We did get a review and they got our names wrong,
so they said it was me that was the one running around nude, which was a
funny irony to the whole thing.
J: How do you develop your characters?
MB: In Drop Six, I created Joey Jerkins. It was part of a group scenario
where they already had four established characters and I had to slip one
in because I had just joined the group. So I came up with a character
that balanced the other characters and wouldnít step on the others. I
think of it in terms of performing it, almost putting myself onstage in
my head as what I would want to see. Suddenly Iíll think of a line or
something that will help me spark the character. Itís very
inner-monologue-esque in how I think of characters. Or if Iím in a scene
with someone else, just balancing what theyíre doing. When you break it
down itís all about the dynamic of the characters in the scene and the
tones and everything. Sometimes it becomes really easy. If one is a
high-energy character and so is the other, there should be something to
balance that. Then I would go with something low-energy but maybe more
witty comments. I really feel it out. Itís all through feeling it. I do
a lot of at-home preparation for characters. Sometimes just looking in
the mirror and seeing what expressions this character would do. Often
whether Iím aware of it or not, Iíll find myself talking to myself as
this character or pretending Iím performing as the character to just
practice it and work it out.
J: How do you practice in the mirror like that and not crack yourself
MB: After you do it for awhile, it starts to become more normal, but in
the beginning Ö I started to do it a number of years ago when I was
doing a short film and was going to play a very physical-comedy type
character. I talked with the director about what he was looking for. I
came up with this character and had to train myself to do a lazy eye or
cross-eyed type thing. It was all a comedy but it was this character who
sniffs glue and is a little weird. Thatís
when I started looking in the mirror because I had to train myself to do
that. Itís the only way I could see if I was getting it. It took at
least a week or two. Itís a new skill.
J: And Joey Jerkins became a solo monologue in the Drop Six show.
MB: It started when we were first starting and didnít have much
material, but we had this piece called ďNova,Ē which they had already
somewhat developed, and had done it in a different fashion. I basically
had to insert a character. I was at home and thought of how could I
balance against these other characters, who all had very specific things
they were talking about, so I thought of Ďemotions,í [says in Brooklyn
accent]. Ö It was a self-help class where all of us were part of a
group, and Aliciaís character talks about feng shui, and Timís character
talks about style, so we did hat modeling.
Shortly after I joined (Drop Six), I found myself not being able to do
as many rehearsals as I wanted, due to another time-consuming acting
gig. To maintain a balance in the show, I
had to come up with a solo bit, and thatís when I decided to develop
Joey into his own piece, which Iím glad I did because thatís one of my
favorite characters to perform.
J: Some people think improv should be done purely for its own sake and
others think its purpose is to generate sketches.
MB: It depends on what peopleís process is to develop things. I donít
think itís necessarily to say this isnít a way to learn. That seems like
youíre putting yourself in those limitations. As an improviser or sketch
performer, youíll never know it all. Thereís always someone out there
who can teach you something different. As soon as you think you know it
all, youíre putting yourself in your own limitations again.
J: What are Drop Sixís further plans?
MB: We have a lot of new sketches in the works. Weíre consistently
coming up with new ideas and creating. Weíre definitely applying for
more festivals. Itís always in the back of performersí heads that we
would love to have a living doing what we love without all the side gigs. With sketches itís hard, you can tour around for a long
time and do all of that, but eventually what it has to come down to is
television or something where you can get advertising involved. Thatís
been in our heads for awhile -- potentially become another Kids in the
Hall or Upright Citizens Brigade, but who doesnít want to do that? Who
doesnít want to take it further into other creative outlets?
Computers are like the new television, and fewer and fewer households
donít have them so theyíre thinking of that in terms of prime-time slots
where people will go to the computer and watch this tonight. But also
even for television, thinking of it as a preliminary test, see how they
do on it, see what their creativity is, and if they like it, maybe move
them into a television slot. Itís like doing that trial run and seeing
how it goes.
J: So Web video provides more chances to perform?
MB: Also itís cheaper -- even though they have tons of money and
potentially could kick out some from the executives (salaries), and
actually do more projects (laughs). But itís cheaper for them to produce
things for the Internet. They make their money through sponsors and a
lot of that is still involved, somehow incorporating sponsors into your
show. Itís fun, itís another way to be creative and get your creative
output in viewing range of people.
J: Are there other ways the Web changes whatís possible, where there are
limitations on stage that there arenít on video?
MB: Definitely it has potential to expose you to greater amounts of
people. We see a lot of this happening already through websites like YouTube. Tons of people are putting their work up there. In fact weíre
thinking of taking clips from shows weíve done and putting a sketch up
there for people to see, that they find interesting, or they laugh out
loud while looking at their computer and then want to come see us live.
That can even help feed the live shows. But itís another creative outlet
to do some work. Not everything translates from stage to film. Itís
another way to express the way we are and our vibe on film. You
definitely still want to have that energy.
Thatís one of the things I like about Drop Six so much. I feel we have a
unique energy compared to a lot of the sketch groups or just stage shows
in general that Iíve seen. Itís very inviting and we stay away from a
lot of blue material. It almost feels like weíre family friendly. We do
that for ourselves too -- seeing what we can do without using a raunchy
effect or Ö who knows, maybe next week weíll explore some raunchy stuff
-- I donít want to count it out because thereís definitely some good
stuff in raunchy (laughs)!