Tonight I’m going to see the Kelly Cash Show at USM. It’s Phil Jackson’s last show in NY before he moves to LA. Fittingly, it is an indie show.
In my time at UCB (about 3 years now), I don’t know if anyone has had more of an impact on my trajectory as an improviser than Phil Jackson.
Back when I was in 401, John Purcell and I went to go check out our pals Free Kittens at the Dreamboat show at USM. The show was great. After the show John and I were hanging outside talking to Free Kittens and Phil came up to us and said, “You guys are on that hot new team, Curtains right? Curtains is the hot new team.” Curtains had just won Indie Cage Match and that’s what Phil was referring to.
The thing is, we had never met Phil before. Yet, he knew John and I. He knew Curtains existed. He was on Harold night and we were just in 401 and here he is being encouraging to us outside of a show in which he himself just killed it. 401 is a weird time for an improv student, you’re running Harolds for the first time and you’re filled with all that anxiety surrounding the prospects of advanced study. I can’t even effectively quantify how much that it meant to me and John that Phil came up to us that night and said that. It was awesome.
In the few months that followed Curtains did the Dreamboat show at USM, Kelly Cash at USM, Improv Nerds at the UCBeast (twice) in large part due to Phil. These were higher profile shows in the indie community and we were always treated with respect and celebrated by the veteran people involved. This was huge for Curtains as a team.
Within the year that followed, Improv Nerds at the Beast had become one of the best improv shows around and was the place to be for a lot of the folks of my generation (and others) on Sunday Nights. I was there all the time.
One night they were shorthanded and Phil asked me to host Improv Nerds with him (I was just a student at this point). It was the biggest vote of confidence in me as an improviser I had ever gotten. We had a really fun show and then we did the jam with everyone. Around that time Phil asked me to be one of the rotators of improvisers who perform in the Jam sets. At that time, all the folks who were rotators were all on house teams. Another huge vote of confidence. It’s something I’m forever grateful for and I can’t thank Phil, Brandon, Chelsea, and Steve enough for.
These are just some bullet points, Phil’s done countless other things for me like perform with me basically every time I’ve ever asked him to, recommended me as a coach to some of his students, and just hear my thoughts and talk shop with me. All of this stuff has had a profound impact on me.
I’m just one person though, there are literally hundreds of people Phil has positively affected in his time here in NY. I look up to him in a lot of ways but this maybe most of all.
Now Phil is leaving and that positive force in our community (especially in the indie community and to those folks coming up) is heading out west. I’m going to due my best to pay it forward to some younger folks like it was done for me to help fill that void. If you’re a vet in the community and you’re reading this I hope you do the same. Encouragement from someone you look up to is invaluable to an individual and is one of the core strengths of this community. Let’s keep it going.
1. No holocaust stuff until after the first group game.*
*Unless you like, have to, you know?