On Sept. 21st, I drove down to LA to participate in the first annual SlapCon, a convention of pratfalls, silly stage combat, and comic stunts. Organized by the great comic juggler and comedian Scot Nery, SlapCon was a two-day tour de force in learning and exploring the ins and outs of physical comedy. The convention was held at an amazing homemade gym attached to the home of Jack and Jeri Kalvan. With tall ceilings, crash mats, padded flooring, and mirrors galore, we were primed to get nice and bruised and sore for the weekend.
Day one began with introductions and a quick primer on basic slaps, hits and falls by clown Tuba Heatherton. We then broke up into teams to eventually present a short slapstick act of our choosing at the end of the second day. Stefan Haves was on hand to teach multiple amazing workshops over the course of the two days--on clowning, trips, falls, and double takes.
In the middle of he first day, the entire group happily devolved into a free-for-all of unstructured lessons on various falls, hits and kicks--especially some long falls onto a big crash mat. This is where we really got to know what the needs and the skill levels of the individuals were. It also became clearer in what the direction SlapCon wanted to point itself.
After the free-for-all, the group sat down for a long discussion on the definition and history of slapstick. I was of the opinion that maybe at the next SlapCon, we could go through slapstick through history and maybe try to recreate it. From Vaudeville or even much earlier, through the Chaplin/Keaton era, through Three Stooges, through movies like Singing in the Rain, through television shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show and Three's Company, all the way up to Jackass and Tosh.0 today.
Then we got back on our feet for more structured work with falls and double takes with Stefan.
Day two began with a great workshop on Alexander Technique by Kate Conklin, giving us some incredibly useful tips on how to perform outrageous acts of lunacy, while paying close attention to our body's alignment, so that we can keep what we do safe and effective.
Then I began my workshop of silly stage combat. The night before, I sat down and wrote out a 20-second, 3-person fight for everyone to learn. I demonstrated each punch, kick, and grab separately as the whole group paired off. Then I built the fight sequence for each group of three. Everyone dove into the challenge with relish and enthusiasm. It seemed to be a big sweaty success by the end of it.
After dinner, Scot asked us all for one last presentation of our own devising, either solo or in small groups to show to each other. Scot, Amanda and I put together a three-person fight where I played a douchebag with my bitch on my arm trying to get past a bouncer to get into a club. The bouncer would get the best of me before being walloped by the bitch. The real highlight, though, was Jon, Jareb and Momo as they picked up their original, first-day presentation, and pretty much added a ridiculous summary of the entire two days into their story.
After many tearful goodbyes by everyone, the group did one final (funnily unsuccessful) exercise before disbanding into a alcohol-induced lovefest.
Very much looking forward to SlapCon 2.0 next year!