Del Close was born on March 9, 1934 and he passed from this plane of existence on March 4, 1999.
This week in March should be an annual event for any theater that purports to teach and perform long-form improvisation. There should be lectures, free classes and free shows. Why not have a free show with a Q & A with the cast afterwards?
The influence of Del Close is far and wide. Beyond the world of Hollywood comedy (Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, Modern Family, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, and we could go on and on…) his work in improvisational theater has spawned festivals and theaters across the globe and I think he’d be quite proud of that achievement.
I was lucky enough to have been his student and we had many lovely conversations on improv, science fiction and comic books. Someone (either Charna Halpern or Susan Messing) bought him a WebTV unit (which was a box you connected to your TV for internet access and e-mail. It was for people who didn’t want to commit to a computer.) Del and I would correspond once in a while, but my favorite e-mail from him was sent around 4am. The subject line was “I remember us discussing this…” and it was an article on blood diamonds. Even at the time I had no recollection of ever having a conversation regarding blood diamonds.
A talk with Del I do remember is kind of gross. We were doing a Harold in class and at one point everyone was on-stage as paparazzi hounding an ordinary woman. As the game drew to a close I said, “Yes, got that money shot.” It was a reference to an article I read on the porn industry the day before. Turns out that Del read the same article and after class we had a discussion on how mainstream entertainment was becoming more like the porn industry.
For Dr. Who fans and fans of comedy shows, Del planned to write a cross-over between the Good Doctor (who was Tom Baker at that time, I think) and the classic show, SCTV. Del was a consultant and writer for the show and (depending on whom you ask) came up with the concept of it being a network. The idea would be that the two realities would each think the other was a TV show and the characters would behave accordingly. Characters would travel to each other’s realities and see the flats and special effects even though the resident characters would not be able to see them. Sadly, this grand idea never happened.
In the past five years I have traveled to Hawaii, Florida, the Philippines, Australia and Great Britain to teach and perform long-form improvisation. Over the past sixteen years, I have met, loved, befriended, and laughed with people from all over the globe. Every week I get to see an incredible improvised political satire and I get to perform with one of the greatest casts one could wish for. I am very lucky to have the life I have right now. And I have to give thanks to Del Close.
If you’re a fan, a student of, a performer of long-form improvisation you owe a debt to Del Close and his works. Here are some links to previous pieces I have written about Mr. Close.
Meeting Del, speaking with him, taking classes from him absolutely, completely changed my life. So, thank you, Del. Happy Birth/Death Week!