Ire Land

Parallel development happens. Sometimes improv forms get mirrored in other cities. But if your theater wholesale rips off, not one, but six shows you saw in Chicago why did you open up your own theater? Did you not have any creative ideas of your own?

In my own particular case you’ve ripped off, not only the format, but actual press release text summarizing the show. And this: “…based on the long-running iO Chicago show” just adds salt to the wound. I saw your show title when you promoted it on Facebook (we’re “friends”) and I liked it so I wondered, “Great title, I wonder what they do?” Imagine my surprise to discover you do what we’ve done for the past decade. Imagine my greater surprise to see that people I trained here in Chicago, people who have seen the Chicago show, in your cast. All you did was change the name… c’mon, do something creative. CREATE something else. And it’s not just Whirled News Tonight, it’s the SIX other shows. It’s enough to make me turn your city’s name into a verb.

Now, see, I started angry and now I’m just sad.

Students come to Chicago to learn and then return home. It is the hope that the ideas and philosophies of longform improvisation spread and grow with each person adding (or subtracting) what they seem fit. And I’ve seen it happen dozens of times before. This out and out plagiarizing just really hit a nerve with me today and each thing I discovered made it worse.

So, good luck with “your” shows and your mimeographed theater.

I’m going to have a Popsicle and calm down now.

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44 comments on “Ire Land

  1. Get over yourself you mediocre petty man. You didn’t invent improv based off of articles and it’s not my theater dipshit. There’s a reason why everybody hates you, you creep out girls and you spend all your time bitching about everything you hate about everybody. Your book is a joke and is 3/4 filled with all the stuff you hate about improvisers and the rest is Bruce Lee quotes, one of which you use twice. What a joke. Get bent.

    • When I sent you that message I thought we could correspond about this. See, I didn’t know it wasn’t your theater. Nor did I know that I didn’t invent improv based-off of articles. I did know that everybody hates me and I was aware that I spend all my time bitching about everything I hate, but I think most people do that. My book is indeed a joke, but I’m glad that you apparently read it. Thank you. I’m sorry that I used that Bruce Lee quote twice; it must be a pretty good quote. As for creeping out girls, I’ll have my wife check with our girlfriend to see if that’s true.

  2. So, I never sent an e-mail to the persons involved with the above issue, but today I posted “Sounds like an interesting show!” after I saw their post today. The person replied, “I thought you might find it interesting since it’s a copy of your show!” I send the person an private e-mail that read “Actually, I noticed the show some time ago and this was my reaction. LINK TO ABOVE BLOG.”
    They replied, “I’m not surprised by your anger. Just like your book, which spends the majority of time bitching about your hang ups you have with improvisers, you are choosing to spend time being petty with me now. Instead of seeing a copy of your show as a compliment, you want to raise a stink. My advice to everybody who moves to Chicago from Denver is, “Don’t piss off Jason Chin.” You are a petty person and you are destined to stay a sad, sad man.” and then they blocked me.
    Just to be clear, I never complained or said anything to anyone involved with this show. I never mentioned the show or its producers by name. Not even the city. But even as I write this I see he may have outed himself in these comments.

  3. “Look everyone! Look at what Paul Cross did! Look ! Look! Oh my god you guys! He should be soooooo embarassed!”
    I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve said and I think it’s funny that you want me to feel awkward about being “outed.” My name is Paul Cross, you know that regardless of your passive aggressive, “Uh, gee, I didn’t even KNOW that when I messaged Paul Cross on facebook that it was Paul Cross.” I took your classes at iO, which sucked by the way, everybody thinks so, you’re a terrible teacher and that’s why your book is such full of bullshit, because you ‘d rather spend time bitching about everything you see wrong with improv. I bought it because it had zen in it, which made me think it might be cool. Zen isn’t about spending time bitching about people. And god forbid someone sees our show and then decides to go see Whirled News in Chicago. I mean for fucks sake dude, do you not like publicity? There’s an improv theater in Denver that behaves much like you, the owner makes “his theater’s” teams change their names if they play somewhere else, or he doesn’t let them play there at all. He also has a long list of rules on his wall for improv, much like you do in your book. You should know, having been in Chicago so long, that any kind of publicity and nods to your show are a blessing. But, you’d rather play the vicitim and bitch about stuff. After you jack off to this, why don’t you get a life?

  4. And we’re taking down all references to Whirled News on marketing so your brain doesn’t explode out of your big fucking watermelon sized head.

  5. Some professional courtesy is called for here. This guy is a jerk. While you may not have “invented” article based improv (though WNT was the first time i saw it) , you found a way to make it popular and profitable. If another group started doing a talent show wearing horse masks, i’d feel like i got robbed. Don’t worry about this guy.

  6. And don’t write shit that I didn’t say, I didn’t say, “I thought you might find it interesting since it’s a copy of your show!”, I said, “I thought you might be familiar with the format.”, not knowing that you were being a dick about it, I thought you were proud that someone was doing your show. And how pussy passive aggressive you are to say, “Just to be clear, I never complained or said anything to anyone involved with this show.” In your world, you spend your time complaining about shit, so don’t be surprised when you attack me and I bite back. Stand back and smell your shit Jason, it stinks. You don’t own improv.

  7. Wow Paul, get a grip and a life you whinny cry baby. You cant STEAL with out repercussions. Didn’t your lame ass school, Oklahoma Christian University, teach you anything? We in Chicago love Jason. He never even called you out, you dummy. Now we all know what a whinny cry baby you are. Ive been to your lame ass theater, you sucked. we walked out. You’re old, lame and bald, work on that shit instead of defending why you steal material. my god dude, Jesus is so disappointed in you.

    • I no longer a christian. I’ve learned a lot since college about things work and a fairy tale is not longer part of my belief system. Sorry you saw me on a bad night.

    • I don’t base my spirituality on a fairy tale anymore, but thanks for making blind assumptions about me. The Compass Players read newspaper articles and did improv scenes off of them. Who stole what?

  8. We’re missing a key element in this argument. The form and the show should come organically from the performers involved. Every unique group of players deserves a unique form. It keeps improv fresh, original, engaging, and expanding to more audiences. That’s why we should be pushing for new forms all the time. I learned that from Jason. There is nothing wrong with teaching and performing the tried and true long forms; in fact it’s essential. Your students should also know the history of that form, how it evolved, and how to put their own spin on it. When it comes to producing and marketing shows, if you are going to use an older model, just give credit where it is due. Paul, this is a totally valid conversation to have in the greater improv community. Instead of making personal attacks, maybe you could defend your position. You work with a great group of people who you are representing really poorly. Also, Jason, everyone totally hates you.

  9. Wow. You know, there are few possible ways to handle things when you’ve been caught red-handed doing something you shouldn’t.

    Allow me to introduce exhibit number #9 – The Rabid Raccoon. The raccoon, when surprised, will immediately launch an attack at the discoverer.

    (This is where I wish I had a telestrator) In this case, it appears Mr Cross’ chosen weapons were:
    – attacking Mr. Chin’s skill as a performer.
    – attacking Mr. Chin’s skill as an author.
    – attacking Mr. Chin’s skill as an instructor.
    – attacking the validity of Mr. Chin’s argument that there is any such thing in improv as creative ownership.
    – The use of large amounts of anger and profane language in his reply.

    In person, this can be a very effective technique, at least in causing tempoorary physical damage to the person or creature who’s caught the raccoon. The sheer ferocity of the attack, on a verbal and phycial level, can set the person making the discovery in a difficult position.

    However, in print, it is much less effective. While it is momentarily shocking seeing a response that is totally out of proportion to the initial statement, the words, once recorded, are trapped in amber, allowing for analysis, and eventually, exposure – they reveal the position of weakness they are delivered from.

    I’ve never attended the classes in question, or seen the shows involved, so I can’t speak to the initial accusation. But the response made here by Mr. Cross was akin to that of the aforementioned rabid forest creature, and as such, is indicative of someone who felt cornered.

    What I find mildly humorous (if there is any humor to be found in such a childish display) is that Mr. Cross, in fact, didn’t need to respond. Mr. Chin’s original post never referred to anybody by name, nor to any organization – not even a particular geographic region in the country. This literally could have been anyone, anywhere. By phrasing his writing that way, Mr. Chin had attempted to both vent his anger and still allow the perpetrator some anonymity to continue to behave in whatever manner they chose – honorable or otherwise.

    Thus Mr. Cross’ response, in addition to being overkill based on the previous statements made, was frankly foolish. He outed himself.

    The choice of response – style, type, content, unfortunately is in line with Mr. Chin’s original assessment. It’s the actions of someone who is particularly creative in their actions, but rather is searching for the easiest path to their end goal. One culd, venture to label that as “lazy.” I would have to think it would then carry over to all other creative endeavors Mr. Cross would become involved in.

    Sorry, but in terms of creative approach to this situation, the better choice was Mr. Chin’s.

  10. The only reason I outed myself is because someone needs to stand up to bullies. Fuck bullies. Jason wasn’t satisfied writing his smug self-important blog, he had to make sure I knew about it by:
    1) Making a snarky comment about the show on another person’s facebook post 3 weeks after he wrote the blog
    2) Message me with the blog after I commented on his comment.
    This fucking loser TRACKED ME DOWN because I didn’t give him the attention he wanted. He was provoking me. He’s a bully.
    Of course I know all of you Chicago sycophants are going to come to his aid, this is just what he wants, but I hope that some people will see this through this through different glasses besides those of kissing ass because Jason works for iO and realize that you don’t have to be embarrassed about standing up to people who claim that they own improv.
    I’m going to leave this conversation and check back in a few months because I actually have things to do besides have a retarded argument about who owns improv.

  11. Hilariousness. The ComedySportz format is branded and stuff, but short-form troupes all over the country who don’t want to pay to be part of the brand basically rip off the entire format, the team colors, the ref rules, and the structure, but just call it something else.

    I bet there’s more of this stealing going on than we know, given every year we teach 1000’s of performers from all over the country. I know a few specific performers who never got far here in Chicago because…well, heck its a huge pond with lots of fish, but they move elsewhere and the competition is now slimmer and their chance for local notoriety is larger. And it’s the awesomeness of spreading the word of improv and our craft to everyone that makes teachers like you and me so dedicated. Jason, you know what this person is about and yes you could go even harder if you wanted to. We all know what this person is really about. A very sour apple. Thank god for our Community in Chicago and thank god you’ve been a crucial piece to it for over the last decade.

  12. “A current events-inspired improv show featuring improvised scenes inspired by stories taken from that week’s headlines. When the audience arrives they cut out articles from local and national newspapers they’re interested in, put them onto bulletin boards onstage, then the cast randomly chooses articles on which to base their improvisation.”

  13. The Compass Players started by reading newspaper articles and doing improv scenes off of them. So who stole what Chin?

    • Wow, that was a quick “few months.” Yes, the Compass Players did something called The Living Newspaper. Del Close, one of the Compass Players first members, was my teacher and taught me the Living Newspaper. Knowing that I was a fan of the Pulitzer-prize winning comic strip, Doonesbury, Del personally challenged me to use long-form improvisation to create satire without it becoming burlesque. The form Whirled News Tonight does is significantly different from the Living Newspaper by my design. David Shepherd, co-founder of the Compass Players, came to see Whirled News during our first year. He and I had a lovely conversation (thanks to Chris Biddle who came with him) about satire and improvisation. He said that WNT was better suited to modern audiences than the Living Newspaper and gave us his blessing.
      Paul, I wasn’t trying to “bully” you. I wanted to make my feelings known to you and you alone. I cannot change what you decide to do, but all humans have a right to their feelings; just as you have the right to be pissed off at me. I never claimed to “own improv” but I did create and operate a unique, special show and I’m a bit protective. That being said, I never once demanded anything from you. I did not have to “track you down” because you use social media for promotion and your posts appear to everyone (but not me anymore as you have blocked me.) Also, I do not work for iO; I rent the theater for a significant amount of money, which, based on your comments, I assume you do as well.
      Please note that I have not commented on this, till now, beyond our initial exchange while you have commented 10 times.
      I do hope that if any improvisers do come to Chicago, they let me know and I’ll arrange for some free passes to shows and maybe a workshop (with me or someone else of their choosing). I’m all around Chicago, just look for me… I’m the guy with the big fucking watermelon-sized head.

  14. …and we’re back.

    The problem with the exchange is that Mr. Cross’ replies are filled with so many trigger words, words with high emotional impact (mostly negative), that even if there was any rhetorical validity to his points, it’s lost. You could call it a low signal to noise ratio – lots of sound, but very little informative content.

    If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that Mr. Cross, as a video-gamer, prefers games that are just point and kill. No subtle strategy, no finding the right weapon to fit the style of combat, just “kill the enemies and hear the lamentation of their women” style shoot everything in sight.

    If I were going to coach Mr. Cross, I’d suggest taking a step back and considering a course in rhetoric, so that the concept of structuring a logical, persuasive argument wouldn’t appear to be so foreign. I’d recommend spending some time reading (Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, specifically, but a side of Augustine would be helpful as well). And finally, I’d remind him that barbarians, as a rule, never build, but rather only destroy, so adopting a bezerker barbarian strategy might not serve him well every time he argues.

    Subtlety, man. Subtlety. It works.

  15. I am confused how this is stealing if Paul mentions Whirled News in the advertising for his show. We can pull new forms out of our whimsical asses all day long, but isn’t it usually just to cover up for the sub-par improv being performed? I know when Del and I would wake up on Sunday mornings and feed each other corned beef hash in our giant bath tub, we would laugh at trying to trademark forms. “For myself and others. I say a B.I.G. verse I’m only biggin up my brother. Biggin up my borough.”-Jay Z

  16. There is a saying in writing that goes, “Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.” The point is this: Artists are always imitating and emulating their heroes. But since beeing a true carbon-copy is impossible, something new and unique arrives from the attempt. In longform improv, nearly every current form is partially a derivative of the Harold.

    There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, in trying out something you like under a couple of conditions: 1. You ask permission. 2. You give credit where credit is certaintly due.

    Cross, you are entitled to your defense but your open slander goes against the spirit and positivity of this art form. That’s improv 101. Your generalizations about how everyone feels towards Jason is unsupported. He is a friend of mine and taught me a lot about improvisation. You can speak for yourself but you’re not elected to speak for everyone else. Sorry, you just don’t have that power.

  17. I deeply regret my comments and my behavior in handling this whole thing. I apologize, Jason. Your head isnt that big. And your level at iO was fine. I wish you would’ve stopped after having your Popsicle and calmed down and not contacted me regarding your blog 3 weeks after you wrote it. All references to your show are being taken down so that nobody will know that your show inspired mine. What a wild ride his has been. Improv wins!

  18. And I should have asked you before I mentioned your show in my marketing. That was very unprofessional of me. And again, you really don’t have a big head.

  19. WOW. That was something.

    I was moved to write here (and then read all of the above) because of my involvement in a similar dilemma which I run up against all the time. People have been ripping off / borrowing / paying homage to / stealing my show – “Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind” – for decades now and I’m often torn about what to do about it.

    Every month or two since 1990 my attention is brought to “rip-offs” of “Too Much Light” all over the country. These are usually brought to my attention by young fans of our show in Chicago who then spread out all over the country and feel a devotion to The Neo-Futurists and the unique nature of what we do here (and in NYC). These reports are often outraged and laced with “HOW DARE THEY RIP YOU OFF!” language. Sometimes these notices come from my ensemble members who have standing Google searches on the various elements of the show. And then the flip-side is the beaming young college students who come up to me after a performance and say proudly say “You know we’ve been doing your show at Milliken for five years!” They’re literally thrilled about this right up until I say something like “Gee, I don’t remember signing a contract with Milliken” and then they start back-pedaling. (I do write up licensing contracts with student groups all over the world to do “30 Neo-Futurist Plays from Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind” all the time. We have very strict guidelines on how this can be done in order to maintain quality control and protect our own touring interests).

    So the question is what to do? This is my livelihood after all and I have a family and bills to pay and it’s not exactly like I’m rolling in it. But when I contact these folks they have a similar Rabid Raccoon response that Mr. Cross has above – “Aren’t you thrilled that we’re honoring you by doing your show? Do you have nothing better to do than to come down from your high and powerful mountain and squash us poor college students who are just trying to have fun? We even list you somewhere in the program as an influence! Get a life!” I won’t come down off my little bohemian grotto to go into why I think these responses are ill-informed, but I must admit it does sometimes make me feel like The Man. Sometimes that feeling lasts right up until I look back in my records and find that these young fun-seekers did indeed contact me about getting the rights to do the show legally right up until I told them our limitations and informed them they would have to pay cold hard cash. At that point somehow the internet failed. Other times I find they never bothered to contact me in the first place.

    I will say, after two decades of this happening, that I have recently taken a more liberal view of how to let the kids do what they want with my work. I’ve recently started licensing the format of the show itself without our material in it nor our title on it and let them run wild in any direction they wish. Is this a mistake? I too have a “horse’s mouth” story with Del Close although I have never set foot in iO nor seen a show at Second City despite having taught Neo-Futurism there. I befriended Del at Powell’s Bookstore where I worked for seven years and finally, after “Too Much Light” started selling out in the very late ’80’s, asked Del how I could protect it. “You can’t” he said, “you simply have to be the best at doing it.” I’ll buy that, and I think I do that. But I also need to feed the kids, and frankly these rights contracts really help in that necessity. I’ve always used my friend Mark Smith as a cautionary tale: if he had trademarked “Poetry Slam” in the beginning wouldn’t he have to struggle less and create more art today? Or would the Poetry Slam never have taken off to be the worldwide phenomenon it is today?

    • Greg, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it. There are so many improv shows that are just vague copies of another show and I understand parallel development or even outright “stealing.” In my initial blog post I mention that what really stuck out to me was the direct lifting of my original press release text. That told me something. I know with Whirled News we try to be the best at what we do and we’ve survived 9 years and almost a dozen “news-based” improv/sketch shows (sometimes in the same theater!) When I hear of another show similar to Whirled News, I look at it just out of curiosity but I almost never contact the people involved. After all the comments and a bit less stress (I had a new show opening on Saturday night) I’m more of a “Meh, whadda ya gonna do?” mindset now.
      Greg, remember that 2 person panel we did in the old Lakeshore Theater? That was weird. I admire and respect you, sir. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  20. Rocky “The Rabid” Raccoon here,
    I’m learning a lot from this experience. I appreciate Greg’s recent response. As someone who produces my own shows (that aren’t a rip off of Jason Chin’s or The Compass Players) I would have a problem with someone copying my “Redneck Romeo and Juliet”, “Redneck Wedding Dinner Theater” and my upcoming “Mafia Macbeth.” I intend to franchise “Redneck Wedding Dinner Theater” and maybe other shows, since I’m getting old and need to think about my retirement, and I would be livid if someone found out about my show, copied it, and used my show as an inspiration, without my permission or some kind of papers being signed that resulted in me getting some money. All of the aforementioned shows are improvised within an outline, so if someone were to somehow have access to my outline and characters, that would be an issue with me, as they would be doing a duplicate of my show. If someone were to do their own version of those shows, I guess I wouldn’t have any reason to be concerned because it’s not exactly stealing my show, rather my idea.
    Proprietary information is tricky. In improv, where is the line drawn? Since straight improv isn’t scripted, where is the line drawn with stealing improv shows? Jason points out that since the theater I produce shows in has “done what he’s done…with 6 shows” (I’ll quote him directly, something I hope everyone on this thread will do) I can only guess that he’s talking about (and correct me if I’m wrong Jason):
    Makeshift Shakespeare (improvised Shakespeare, not my show)
    Idiom (Armando, my show)
    The Distort Report (improvised scenes based on news articles, my show)
    The Samurai (Harold, my show)
    Hit and Run (improvised musical, not my show)
    The Duel (2 team competitive, not my show)
    Now, the majority of the other shows that go on at the theater don’t use the same forms as Jason’s theater, but, like someone pointed out in this thread, all long-forms are a spin off of The Harold. But, the question is, just because the most popular improv theater in the world does these “forms” and created them, does that mean that nobody else in the world can do these “forms”? To me, that is not in the spirit of improv. Improv doesn’t win if nobody else can do a Harold, Armando, improvised musical, improvised Shakespeare, have a competition, or do improv off of news. Improv is limited if people get proprietary about forms. Sharing and making your partner look good is one of the tenants of improv. Shouldn’t we all be doing all we can to share our forms? It’s improvised, not scripted.

    • When you put something in quotes, it’s a direct, literal statement from the person being quoted. The statement you quote me as saying is incorrect; these are the proper quotes, “… you do what we’ve done for the past decade… rips off, not one, but six shows you saw in Chicago…” Not “done what he’s done…with 6 shows” (so you actually did NOT “quote him directly…”)
      Your logic is faulty and does not address the questions posed in the original post. WHY do shows from another place? Why not create something wholly unique for your unique city and audience?
      Also, based on your theory at the end of your comment, I can assume you would have no problem with a “Country Capulets & Montagues” or “HillBilly Shotgun Wedding Theater with fixin’s.” Of course, it would be a race to see who “Tony & Tina’s Wedding” (playing non-stop since 1988) would sue first.
      Again, from my original blog post, duplicating an improv show happens all the time, but six?! All at one venue? You ask, “But, the question is, just because the most popular improv theater in the world does these “forms” and created them, does that mean that nobody else in the world can do these “forms”? That is a disingenuous question; iO Theater (owned by Charna Halpern) has never asked anyone to cease and desist. I never asked anyone to cease and desist. I question the motive behind the duplication. I question the plagiarization of a show summary. I wonder where is the impulse to create something new, something wholly your own, instead of merely aping what others have done.

      • For someone who wanted to have a dialog you are making it really hard to do so Jason. It seems that you are right about everything and I am wrong about everything. And for someone who has so many grammatical errors in his book/pamphlet, you would seem to be the last person to correct someone in relation to that. You misquoted me in your posts and Ive had the courtesy to use your own words. You conveniently dodge each valid point and question I pose with elitist diatribe. You are like a king on his throne dismissing everyhing that doesnt fit with your opinion. But I’m afraid this emperor doesnt have any clothes because I am making valid points and you are too afraid to respond to them. I know when I’ve given someone the attention they wanted and I’m no longer needed. Which seems to be where all of this has led. So, if you feel like addressing the points I made I will be happy to engage you in a conversation. I’m wondering how we both have time for this. I think we may both have bigger issues that need resolved because this is obviously not just about a retarded argument about who owns what forms. I made a point about most of the other shows I do and the theater I play at doing non io form shows and that seems to not catch your attention. And i highly doubt that tony and tinas wedding is going to sue me for my own outline and characters for my wedding show. Thats ridiculous. And your head isnt really that big. It’s not big at all actually.

    • Whew! So I don’t have a “big fucking watermelon sized head”, but from the lack of apology for the rest of the vitriol I assume I still am a “… mediocre petty man… dipshit. There’s a reason why everybody hates you, you creep out girls and you spend all your time bitching about everything you hate about everybody. Your book is a joke… What a joke. Get bent… I took your classes at iO, which sucked by the way, everybody thinks so, you’re a terrible teacher and that’s why your book is such full of bullshit. After you jack off to this, why don’t you get a life? …you were being a dick about it… how pussy passive aggressive you are… Stand back and smell your shit Jason, it stinks. You don’t own improv… fucking loser TRACKED ME DOWN… He’s a bully.”

  21. I will be more specific in my apology. I am sorry for all the ugly things I said about you. You were my least favorite teacher at iO but you were still a good teacher. It was iO for crying out loud. Everyone was a good teacher. You were my least favorite because you spent most of your time dogging improvisers instead of focusing on what to do. It seems as though that hasn’t changed about you. I do remember the individual notes you gave me after classes and they were really helpful and you were gracious to do that after class. As far as the jackin off I just think that theres some deeper motive for all this nonsense on both of our sides. And again, I’d like to reiterate, you have a normal sized head.

  22. And technically, in all forms and purposes, you did track me down. You facebooked messaged me after you found out it was me who did distort report. You can call it anything else but the fact is you wanted me to find out about your blog and you were trying to get a reaction out of me. Congrats, you did. But now I’m trying to have a valid conversation with you about your concerns and we are still dealing with you licking your wounds. You pissed me off. I reacted accordingly. I apologized. Let’s move on.

  23. Direct Replies:

    PC: For someone who wanted to have a dialog you are making it really hard to do so Jason.
    Paul, coming from you, based on your comments on this blog alone, is insanely laughable.

    PC: Ive had the courtesy to use your own words.
    As I’ve pointed out, you misquoted me. I was correcting the misquote(s).

    PC: And technically, in all forms and purposes, you did track me down.
    Again, that’s not how Facebook works. You show up in other people’s newsfeeds automatically. I read about “The Distort Report” and read more about it. I knew you ran it for weeks. And then it kept coming up. No tracking necessary. That’s like saying you had to track down someone’s opinion on Chik-fil-a.

    PC: I made a point about most of the other shows I do and the theater I play at doing non io form shows and that seems to not catch your attention.
    What is your point? That only half of the duplicate shows are yours? Okay.

    PC: But, the question is, just because the most popular improv theater in the world does these “forms” and created them, does that mean that nobody else in the world can do these “forms”?
    Of course not, and not one person has said that you shouldn’t. Again, I never once requested you stop a performance. I requested that you look at why you do shows. Denver is such a fun, interesting city; create something FOR Denver. Why not create something new and original? UCB does Harold shows and ASSSCAT3000 (Armando) but no one cares because they also innovate and have created dozens of new and exciting shows specifically for New York. To paraphrase noted chaos mathematician, Ian Malcolm, “I’ll tell you the problem with the improv shows that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You watched what others had done and you duplicated it. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of others to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you put it up, and packaged it, and promoted it for everyone to see under the guise of honorable fellowship.”

    PC: To me, that is not in the spirit of improv. Improv doesn’t win if nobody else can do a Harold, Armando, improvised musical, improvised Shakespeare, have a competition, or do improv off of news. Improv is limited if people get proprietary about forms. Sharing and making your partner look good is one of the tenants of improv.
    Actually, improv doesn’t win if you don’t innovate. Improv doesn’t win if you don’t create. One of the tenets of improvisation is to heighten and explore… “Yes, And…” so you’re just not parroting someone else’s line (“It’s raining today.” “Yes, it is raining today.” As compared to “Yes, and it’s awful that we don’t have home to go to.”) Like any data, improv shows lose quality the more it’s copied. And if you’re assuming that the Chicago shows you have duplicated are your “partners” because you mention them briefly on your website you are mistaken.

    PC: Shouldn’t we all be doing all we can to share our forms? It’s improvised, not scripted.
    Do you charge an audience for your shows? Do you charge your students for your classes? Why not publish the outline and characters for your upcoming shows? You don’t, and you do charge money for shows/classes, because you care about your product. You produce them and, I assume, are protective of them.
    AGAIN, I never asked you to stop doing anything. I was upset, just like you have been. I never mentioned you or your shows. There are many shows that duplicate shows in Chicago and I’ve never once had this reaction and I’ve never once been attacked like this. In fact, just over the past few days I’ve had some lovely conversations with a group in Brighton, England about their “news-based improv show” that THEY felt was too close to Whirled News. With respect and courtesy we collaborated and came up with alterations to make their show more their own. It was never the form, Paul; it was the plagiarized press release and the cumulative effect of all six duplicates (of which you are the producer of three.)

    Paul, I know you feel otherwise, but I did not wish start a fight with you. I wrote my blog and it sat there with no identifying marks. When we first exchanged remarks on your Facebook page, I thought I would take the opportunity to let you know how I felt in private, but I never once attacked you personally or professionally in public. You have done both to me.
    Anyway, Signor Cross, my reply to you is final. I want to congratulate you on your new business and I’m sure you’ll do very well and good luck to you. Thank you.

  24. When this post first popped up on my FB wall, I didn’t even bother to click and read. Jason’s blog has some interesting things to say about Chicago, but since I don’t live there, it’s a bit down on my “must read” list (usually catch up before a trip there).
    However, when it popped up again, several days later, well, now I had to check out what was so important.
    Imagine my surprise when my OWN CITY is mentioned! Whew… got to catch up!

    OK, so now I’ve caught up, and Jason, it’s a tempest in a teacup. I didn’t even have to see Voodoo’s name to know which theater you were talking about, for one simple reason: Neither Bovine Metropolis or Impulse would stoop to this. Voodoo Theater is in an up-and-coming neighborhood, trying to make a name for themselves and draw crowds to the area. Just outside ballpark, surrounded by pawn shops and shelters, and recently-opened brewpubs and restaurants. No one knows the future of that area (we have our fingers crossed for sure!). I have been outside the theater watching people walk out mid-show. To be fair, I’ve also seen people walking out laughing after a good night. But from the experience several friends have had at various shows, it is the lesser of the improv theaters in the area.

    And that may be why Mr. Cross decided to incorporate a WNT-ripoff into the theater’s retinue. Improv in Denver is done very well at the other theaters. Are there other forms that Voodoo could have run with? Sure, probably, maybe…. but do them as well as the others? That’s a tough nut to crack. So they grabbed the forms that the others don’t do much of, probably hoping to set themselves apart — ala Buntport and theater.

    I wish the Voodoo luck, but if Westword gets wind of this “debate”, they may be best off casting Mr. Cross loose and cut their losses.

  25. In the spirit of fairness…

    Mr. Cross has shown himself to be trainable, and that he has levels, and layers, and even a soupcon of humor blended in.

    Mr. Chin, it’s your turn. When someone who has chosen to ride onto the field of rhetorical battle against you falls on his sword, it is a grand thing to be gracious and let him leave the field of battle with their admission of defeat.

    I’d argue you tarnished your victory a bit by your responses to the apologies. I’m sure you were angry, but you let it, at least for a moment, get the better of you, just as it did when it made a “rabid raccoon” of Mr. Cross.

    You didn’t HAVE to have the last word, sir. But since you felt it necessary, you should have taken the high road and been short, succinct, and compassionate in victory. Instead, you chose to do a rhetorical rehash. You may have been in the right, morally, in this issue, but rubbing that fact in to an opponent who is retreating doesn’t parse as compassionate.

    In the end, I am glad that cooler heads prevailed, and hope the passion displayed in the rhetoric will translate as well into the performances both of you are destined to bring forth in the future.

  26. So, it ends? Just when I thought we were gonna figure this whole thing out. I mean, I calmed down and started a real dialog on my side instead of barking back at you, people started taking my side……………Oh…I see what happened here.

    One last question. Is it cool if The Distort Report memorizes a WNT show and then does it as a sketch show. I’d call it, “Whirled News Tonight as performed by Idiom.” And of course I’d give you full credit.

    I’ll be working on a list for you of worldwide theaters that have copied iO forms so you can keep yourself busy with more blogs. If they don’t respond to them, I’m sure you’ll figure out a way for them to do so. You seem pretty good at that.

    And to reiterate, as always, your head is so normal sized that I want to kiss it!

    Keep spreadin’ the love Chin! You da man!

    Impwov wins!

  27. And then Mr. Cross has to come back again…

    Mr. Cross, you’d won a few style points with your last few points. But then you have to go and make what appears to be an attempt to have the last word in the argument.

    Now, if _you’d_ taken the high…well, perhaps e’en the middle road here, you would have walked away appearing to have gained a modicum of control, dignity and maturity.

    But my guess is someone prone to rabid responses must have an issue with that – because instead, here, you went for a few attempts at subtle insults. But Mr. Cross, your idea of the boundarioes of subtlety vary widely from what most other do. So your rhetorical lashes were not really all that subtle.

    What’s worse, though, sir, is that by doing so, you pretty much undercut most of the credibility you gained with your calmer responses. In fact, if I might borrow some vernacular from a younger colleague, it frankly made you look quite like a…what’s the term again…ah, yes. A dick-head.

    Mr. Cross, you made mistakes here, you almost rectified them, then in your final post you turned around and tried to hurl a rhetorical hand grenade back into the room. Perhaps it’s a scorched earth sort of policy? In any case, it backfired. Rhetorically, your response tripped you up, and in the end, you did a faceplant in front of everyone, causing them to again question the veracity of EVERYTHING you say.

    Mr. Chin’s exit was not gracious. Neither was yours.

    Now, both of you, please, channel these energies instead into producing better performances for your audiences.

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