Michael Bass is a Comedic Renaissance Man(tm). Since joining Washington Improv Theater's One-Sixty-One in 2003, he has been a part of several of WIT's biggest productions, including; the one-of-a-kind improvised movie Neutrino, the recently sold-out Seasonal Disorder, the political-spoof POTUS, the festival-crushing Dr. Fantastic and the improv "Titans" of D.C., Superbest.
That is what Mike likes to do. He keeps his audience guessing on what he will do next. You may swoon at his relaxed and easy going approach to the stage, but don't let your guard down. His quickness to the punch is lighting fast, it is up their with the city's best.
Outside of improv Mike is also heavily involved with some of the city's best film making, which includes production, editing, and performance work in several award-winning 48HFP projects. He also continues to work with his buddies from college, The Big Honkin', who produce web shorts - Jesus Christ Supercop, and currently, The Defenders of Stan.
The Defenders of Stan is the longest running series in the history of Channel 102 and on Feb. 4 in New York the latest episode will be screen (and will become available online at Channel 102 and The Defenders of Stan Website).
Whether it is on stage, behind or in front of the camera, Mike continues to have success. He'll be back onstage beginning Feb 19th, 2008 when his team "Polygamy" enters into Washington Improv Theater's 2nd Annual F.I.S.T Tournament.
When did you realize that you wanted to do comedy?
Well I've always been a performer of sorts – I was the ham as a kid and always liked making people laugh. I figured out in college that comedy really was a skill that one could study and hone. I found that I enjoyed thinking about what was funny and why.
[Hit the jump for the rest of Mike's interview, plus the latest "The Defenders of Stan" video.]
Who were some of your earliest influences? What about them captivated you?
I discovered late night TV in 7th grade and started quoting Sandler, Meyers, Farley movies with my friends. It was edgier comedy than I'd seen. A lot of it was just silliness, but it showed me a new way of being funny, I guess.
Where did you first start doing improv?
I first started doing improv in college – at James Madison University. The first troupe we put together was specifically for a run of shows at an on-campus restaurant attempting a dinner theater. We rehearsed a bunch of games and the crowds dug it. I actually remember doing a game called "emotional symphony" and I was assigned "elation". So my first big laugh was essentially channeling Meg Ryan's fake orgasm from When Harry Met Sally. It was hacky, but I was assigned "elation" every night of the run.
What do you enjoy bringing onstage?
I think my style is pretty relaxed. I've learned to not try so hard in scenes but rather let scenes develop naturally and assist the comedy of any given situation to come out naturally. I also find that I'm very reality-based.
Do you enjoy the process of writing? How do you think your improv training has effected your writing style/process?
I don't really. Improv has really developed my skills as a storyteller and given me a great understanding of HOW to write – even though I don't. Improv teaches me how to establish patterns and when to break them. It teaches the importance of pacing, scene dynamics, and believability. At the same time, I think improv has made me lazy. Why take the time to write something when I can just make it
up? I've never been good at motivating myself to write.
What about performing live do you enjoy? Do you ever want to convey a message?
The energy from a live audience is the best. It's a shared artistic experience between performer and audience. One does not exist without the other.
Convey a message? That there's more to improv than "Whose Line is it Anyway?" And that there's more to the DC comedy scene than Capitol Steps.
What's hacky to you?
I think that not playing to the highest level of your intelligence is hacky. OR taking advantage of an unintelligent audience is hacky too. See "Blue Collar Comedy Tour". And by "unintelligent", I really mean "uninformed". Telling a bunch of fart jokes to an audience that's never been exposed to anything better than fart jokes
Credibility is key.
It's relative to the individual. Anything that makes you feel dirty or guilty is hacky – and we're all guilty of that from time to time.
How do you feel about doing comedy in Washington DC?
DC is an awesome and unique city. The Arts community here is really supportive and does quality stuff in dance, theater, and comedy. I like doing comedy here. It's a big city, but has that small pond kind of feel. Besides, it's our nation's capital for crying out loud. I think it'll be even better when the rest of the country realizes that DC is more than just a bed of corruption and politics. And I think it's getting there.
What is your day job?
I do video production. I work for the cable company, putting commercials up on TV and producing PSAs, etc. Not a bad gig at all.
Were your parents supportive of you doing comedy?
I've been really blessed to have supportive parents. They never dissuaded me from pursuing comedy or performance opportunities. Thank God they didn't want me to be a doctor or take over the family business, etc.
Where do you plan on moving next?
Probably NYC, but I'm not sure when. I'm a NOVA native, so I'm feeling the itch to change my scenery. My wife is a dancer and would love to pursue the dance world of New York too. It's tough though - the older I get the less energy I have to really "hit the pavement" of a new city. We'll see what happens.
I want to state, however, that I wish DC was not such a transitive town. There are plenty of wonderful reasons to stay here. And if we continue to build the arts/comedy communities here, I think we'll start attracting more positive attention to DC.
THE DEFENDERS OF STAN- The Gift Of The Magi(c Cards)