Story – Robert McKee's Creative Storytelling Magazine Issue 005 – Drew Carey - Page 35

MCKEE INTERVIEWS MARK WHITNEY a stand-up comedian. I want to be able to leave the script and talk to the audience or if something comes to my head, I want to be able to say it and then be able to go back to the prepared material. There is a joke in the show that you watched last night about Sarah Palin, and I wrote that joke on stage in that performance where I say, “Sarah Palin, John McCain’s parting gift to America: note to the war hero—we’re even.” I wrote that right on my feet, and it got an applause break, and that doesn’t happen every day. I thought, that was a keeper, but that was just organic. The only way something like that can happen is if that piece that you’re going to perform is so much a part of you that you can leave it and go back to it and be in the room. Somebody says something weird or somebody is laughing in the wrong place, and you can make a joke about the woman over here with Tourettes, and everyone can have a little chuckle, and you can come back. That’s really what I wanted to be able to achieve as a spoken word artist. It’s all a work in progress. I’m getting there. RM: That is kind of, in a sense, backwards, right? Stand-ups are writers who perform their material. They think the other way around. But you thought structure first and then improv; they think improv first, and out of that you find your structure. I believe the way you think is really the most creative way— the strongest way to work. The other can just lead to spiraling to hell. What I’m curious about is why would that be your first idea and not the other way around? How did you know that that sort of structure that you could depend on would give you the freedom to improvise because you could always come back to the material you knew? Why did you know that that’s how it had to be for yourself? of immersing myself into studying how other comedians do what they do. RM: I’m going to interrupt you because I’ve seen your show, okay? MW: Okay. RM: I know a bit about your life. Maybe you’re lying—I don’t know—but I took it to be true that once you went to jail. You headed for the law library… MW: Right. MW: It was from watching Rick Cleveland. RM: Never before that? MW: You mean in terms of the medium? RM: I mean something deeper than that. A lot of people watch Rick Cleveland, but they don’t necessarily come away with that kind of understanding. What do you think it was about everything that you did up to that moment in your life that gave you the kind of insight t