Directing NEWSish

by Scotty Myers

While the world was going through the 18-month long version of Dante's Inferno, otherwise known as the 2016 Presidential Election, Tim Kay and Jess Loria asked me to take on the task of directing them in Go Comedy!'s most politically charged production (to date), NEWSish. The monthly (well, almost monthly) 45-minute scripted show melded together the formats of The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, and Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update.

It was one of the most stressful, mind-wrenching, challenging things I've ever done.

I couldn't be more excited to be returning with a condensed version of it this summer as part of a political sketch show coming soon.

When we started working on NEWSish, we knew it was going to be a challenge. The first show took us three months to pull together. We put out a call for special guests, story ideas and video segments. We got a handful of responses and polled people we believed could do a good job, giving out assignments and working on segments. And we started writing. Lots and lots of writing. We learned quickly that having too many stories to fit into a show was far better than having to scramble to write at the last minute. 
 

A typical 45-minute NEWSish program will have between 30 and 50 segments or stories. This makes the show much more similar to a broadcast news program, rather than a sketch show. At the start of each cycle, I would lay out a schedule of deadlines, casting and stories.

We quickly learned that putting it all together was too much for one person, so we brought on another spreadsheet loving improviser, Chris Fortin as Assistant Director. About a week before our show, he and I would sit down with all of the stories and put them together into a running order.

Working on a show that's dependent on current events means that you are subject to changes in those current events. With last year's election chaos, every month several of our stories would change or be out-of-date by our last rehearsal. So a NEWSish show would have about 20-30% of its material written within 36 hours of show time. Thank God for the most patient and wonderful stage manager in the world, Pete Jacokes, for being able to roll with us through it all - including the 30-40 slides and videos that made the show work.

Finally, at the end of all of that organization, comes content.

As satirists, I believe our job is both to entertain and enlighten.

Our culture's current state of information overload has left us fairly numb to the facts (or lack of them) in the news. It takes the power of laughter, irony and satire to break through the hazy day-to-day barrage of things flooding our screens and ears. And that's how I felt we had to approach NEWSish. We had to push a story to its "did we go too far?" limits. And we had to find ways to make the audience laugh in uncomfortable moments to bring light to stories, situations and realities we miss every day. I think we did that, often enough. Sometimes we struggled to maintain our voice and our humor. At other times we got caught up in our point of view and missed the mark.

But in the end, the work we put up was something everyone at Go can be proud of.

It pushed our political boundaries and definitely made our audience, and us, think differently about our world.

And that is always a good thing.

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Scotty's theatre and improv credits include: Second City Detroit Touring company understudy, Producer of Comedy Works with The Guild at the Gem/Century Theatres, Motoprism, several Sunday shows at The Improv Inferno, The Detroit Neutrino Project & Insta-Flick, Go Comedy! ResCo, & GoU! Teacher. He is also on the administration team for Water Works Theatre Company & Shakespeare Royal Oak and currently does freelance publicity for Go!, Planet Ant, and The Detroit Public Theatre. Full time, he is the Marketing Director for Broadway In Detroit and occasionally he will perform his one-man improvised Shakespeare show, The Dogberry. 

Posted on April 27, 2017 .