Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Superego's Jeremy Carter and Matt Gourley talk improvisation

See the men behind Superego this weekend.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 10:27 AM


Improvised comedy podcast Superego is currently in the middle of its third season. The lead duo of Jeremy Carter, PhD, and Matt Gourley, PyT, rarely perform live, which makes their appearance at this weekend's Kansas City Improv Festival that much more of a must-see. You can catch Superego Friday, September 16, and Saturday, September 17. Saturday's performance will feature SNL's Jason Sudeikis. More info here. We spoke with Carter and Gourley via e-mail about the show, and how the live performance differs from what you hear on the podcast.

The Pitch: The podcast attracts a lot of special guests: Drew Carey, Paul F. Tompkins, Patton Oswalt. Do they reach out to you? I imagine Jason Sudeikis and Drew Carey's involvement with improv had something to do with it.

Matt Gourley: In the beginning we naturally had to reach out to people. They weren't coming to us. In the past year or so, the balance has shifted towards people connecting with us. That's been truly fantastic. Having an actor or comedian you admire already want to be on your show is not something I imagined when we first started recording this dog and pony show.

Jeremy Carter: We were told through a friend that Paul F. Tompkins enjoyed our podcast. As for the rest, we have contacted them via friends we have in common. Matt began doing ComedySportz in high school and has been friends with Jeff Davis of Drew Carey's 'Whose Line Is It Anyway' and 'Improviganza'. I am from Kansas City and began performing at ComedySportz in 1992. I met Jason Sudeikis there and was involved in a sketch comedy group called Der Monkenpickle, as well. In fact, Mark McConville and Matt Gourley will be performing at the Kansas City Improv Festival this coming weekend with Der Monkenpickle, which I'm sure you know.

Is there a balance between new ideas and recurring characters that you try and maintain?

MG: I think there is in terms of the recording process. We revisit characters just as much as we record new concepts, but what makes the final show is solely a matter of whether it's funny or not. I've been trying to make a Maggie the GPS sketch work for quite some time now, and it just hasn't clicked.

JC: We enjoy having recurring characters. Sometimes sketches for those characters don't work, so we scrap it and come back to them. We don't labor something if it isn't working. It's comforting. But we don't want an entire episode of characters the audience has heard before. We like to do round robin sketches that allow everyone to jump in and participate, especially with a guest.

What concepts lend themselves best to bringing a character back?

MG: Whenever we feel we can make it better than the last time. It isn't always the case, but if we can't top the last one, there's no point. That's probably the main reason there hasn't been another Maggie, because it is a little limited and it's better to remember the old girl fondly than beat a dead horse. Same with the one-time 'M' sketch. It seemed to hit really well, but it's such a one-note joke that there's nothing else to do with it. I highly doubt we'd ever do another. Maybe in a live show. Characters like Shunt McGuppin, Imogene and Giger lend themselves to multiple sketches because something as simple as putting them in a new environment creates a whole new take, and that's always fun.

JC: We generally come up with a character by acting like some bizarre personality, and the rest of the guys react as either the straight man or crazy people, depending on the character. We don't go for concepts as much as we try to choose places where there is room for strong characters to emerge.

Are there any ideas that seemed funny and just tanked once you got going?

MG: MANY. 'White Collar Comedy Tour.' Boo. That was my idea. We naturally seem to stay away from anything with a comic premise. Anything that has a joke in the title. Once you reveal the concept, there's always a little bit of a letdown. A good character scene is just that: a good scene about a character. Not to make it too 'Inside the Actor's Studio,' but that's what we strive for.

JC: We keep our concepts very simple: a call center, school announcements, commercial testimonials, etc. Often coming up with a funny idea doesn't last very long. If the suggestion is funnier than anything we can come up with, there's nowhere for the sketch to go.

How do you feel the show has changed over the course of three seasons?

MG: It's definitely grown in terms of production effort. Also, it's becoming more absurd, and I notice we're starting to feel a lot more comfortable not making any sense. Or at least making an abstract form of sense, anyway. My favorite of all the senses.

JC: I feel we are faster when it comes to creating ideas and finding the meat characters. Matt is an editing master now, so that has gotten even tighter and the production quality has improved, but I think the difference between when we began and now is we have more awesome celebrity guests! The essence of the show has not changed.

How does the live show differ from the podcast — a lack of editing?

MG: Yeah. Much more preparation. We'll be heading to Sketchfest early next year and will likely do a live recording of an episode, so that will require more forethought than usual.

JC: Yes, a lack of editing. We haven't performed live as Superego very often because we like the radio style performance. It's loose and fun when we're onstage. We have the touchy touchy good times.

Finally (and this is more for personal curiousity than anything else), when is the Shunt McGuppin album coming out?

MG: This one's all yours, Jeremy.

JC: We have finished the vocals for the Journeymen album on 11 tracks! James Bladon is a brilliant music editor for television and a great musician. He is handling the album, and we're very excited about it. I don't know how much longer it will be before the album is released. I've never done this before, but I love the songs that Mutt Taylor and Shunt McGuppin have recorded. And bless you for asking! We're close. I wish I could give you a release date.

Further showtimes and tickets can be found at the KC Improv website.

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