Welcome to the Theatre of the Enterprising Spirit! PARTS 1 – 2 – 3

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On the Playscript

As variously explored at 33 Gateway Lane, the realm of the individual and correspondingly the realm of the individual’s country, the realm of the natural world, and the realm of the Universe are each configured in context of the Realm of Four.

The post “A Meet-and-Greet With the Wizard” introduces the Realm of Four in context of each individual’s four psychological realms:  Intuition, Intellect, Emotion, Instinct.  One of those realms is the individual’s primary “home base” realm with one’s unique configuration of all four comprising the framework of individuality.  For the learning, evolving individual, these four realms become less segregated and more integrated in the course of time and tide.  This results in increasing degrees of self-mastery and conscious awareness.  Through that “pilgrim’s progress” of individuation, one evolves from being the chaotic compartmentalized arenas of Dorothy (Intuition), Scarecrow (Intellect), Tin Man (Emotion), and Lion (Instinct)  to becoming the coherent interactive Wizard (Self).  The ramifications of THAT are infinite!

fourTypically less recognized and poorly understood is that our external reality is configured in corresponding fourfold staging.  We experience that fourfold nature perhaps most obviously in our four seasons which unfold in a cyclical fashion.  Certainly there is a natural tendency to pay the most attention to our own “home base” realm, internally and correspondingly externally.  But the four components or aspects of diverse Realm of Four platforms are variously dynamically active in our lives whether we are aware or conscious of them or not.

Sometimes, such dynamics are active in our lives much to our conscious chagrin!    It seems likely that everyone has been in a situation or job, for example,  where you discover yourself saying the equivalent
of “I am really out of my element here!”

Well.  Anybody ever heard of cognitive dissonance?!

3560332286224954655baeee1a04765fThe Four Seasons

If it is worthy to infuse and evolve one’s internal reality with increasing degrees of learning and conscious awareness, it stands to reason that there may be merit in having an increasing degree of conscious awareness of one’s external reality as well.  Further, just because it seems like it is a chaotic world “out there” doesn’t necessarily mean it is chaotic.  Perhaps our external chaos is directly proportionate to our internal chaos.  Similarly, our internal coherence is directly proportionate to our external coherence.  Finally, since we are living in this reality of earth, as a practical matter it can only be advantageous to have a degree of situational awareness about that reality.

To that end, it’s important to be cognizant that while it may be all well and good to consider myself the center of my reality, it is deadly to consider myself at the center of any other reality.  For in our own unique “pilgrim’s progress”, it’s easy to forget — if we ever actually learned — that there are, for example, four different learning modalities or channels.  And all four learning modalities are equally important, equally valid, equally meritorious.

What?!  My way of learning isn’t the only way?  So if my way isn’t the only way, surely my way is the right way, or certainly the best way!  Right?

Uh-HUH.

SO there are four management styles, four leadership styles, four corporate platforms…. on and on to a most annoying degree.  Let’s see:  Four Noble Truths, four cardinal directions, four nucleobase types in DNA, four blood types in the common ABO blood group system, the cow’s stomach is divided in four digestive compartments….

Well, you get the idea.

And as explored in this theatre of the enterprising spirit, there are four performance stages on which to play.

Crew clear stage.  Clear stage, please.  Places, cast — places cast please!  It’s showtime!

 

 

“Curtain Up !”

planet-earth-image“All the world’s a stage…”     — Shakespeare

Through the centuries, many philosophers have wrangled with the literary references and artwork addressing the concept of the “theatre of the world”.  I’m no philosopher, but I have had great fun over the years puzzling with the concept which has also led me on some adventures in learning.  It seems to me that the magnificent theatre of our world is comprised of four performance types or “stages” corresponding to the four realms or psychological dimensions of the human being.

IMPROVISATION | LEGITIMATE | VAUDEVILLE | BURLESQUE
   INTUITION         |  INTELLECT   |    EMOTION    |    INSTINCT

Let’s take a quick stroll around the performance stages.

> IMPROVISATION <

The stage of Improvisation performance or Improv is the language of Intuition.  It is quite possible that legendary stand-up comic Phyllis Diller captures my heart and personal commendation as being The Enduring All-Time Favorite in the realm of  Improv.  Oh yes, of course, for a variety of reasons the best of the stand-up comics certainly are masters of the Improv stage.  In that vein though, I’m torn because Joan Rivers was so terrific whether on a stage or on her way to the restroom.  Wanda Sykes has long been a huge favorite.  Give her a stage or a chair on a talk show, and she can COMMENCE well, no matter what subject is tossed at her.  Who are your favorites in the realm of Improv?

> LEGITIMATE <

The Legitimate performance or Legit stage is the language of Intellect, or the brain.  Have you experienced at least one great play with great actors?  Nothing like it.  Of course, great actors can make even a mediocre play worthy of your time.  And similarly there are some superior plays — like the great musical Gypsy — that even mediocre actors can’t demolish.  I hope you have had at least one equivalent experience of my favorite – the legendary Zoe Caldwell in a play written for her called “Master Class”, about world-renowned opera soprano Maria Callas.  Do not EVEN make me commence.

> VAUDEVILLE <

The stage of Vaudeville performance is the language of Emotion, or the heart.  Jack Benny was of Vaudeville by the way, not Burlesque; I’ve heard people make that mistake.  I’ve always found him terrifically brilliant. Lucille Ball as in “I Love Lucy” — and I don’t care to know the person who doesn’t — was an accomplished Vaudevillian of the highest order.

> BURLESQUE <

The stage of Burlesque performance is the language of Instinct, or the crotch.  I met an old authentic Burlesque queen well over four decades ago in a roughneck bar in a logging town on a small Alaskan island.  Being familiar with the classic stage musical Gypsy which takes place on the stages of Vaudeville and Burlesque, I was imprudently young enough to ask point-blank if she had developed a stripper gimmick.  She delightedly declared “Hell, yes!” — and proceeded to show me.  It was that experience which proved to me once and for all that the human body can defy gravity.

“There is that smaller world which is the stage, and that larger stage which is the world.”  — Isaac Goldberg

Cultivating cognizance of the four different stages of performance and correspondingly the four psychological stages means exploring the degree and range of meaning and values central to each of the stages.

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Let us enterprising spirits play  —  so “light the lights!”

 

 

The Intuition of Being:
IMPROVISATION

There are four theatrical performance stages — Improvisation, Legitimate, Vaudeville, and Burlesque.  The most abstract yet potentially complex and refined stage is Improvisation, or “Improv”, which corresponds to the Intuitive realm.

Let’s take stage!

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Improvisational Theater, sometimes called just Improv, is a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed. In its purest form, the dialogue, the action, the story and the characters are created collaboratively by the players as the improvisation unfolds. Improvisational Theater exists in performance as a range of styles of improvisational comedy as well as some non-comedic theatrical performances.
Improvised performance is as old as performance itself. The original performers were storytellers. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Commedia dell’arte performers improvised based on a broad outline in the streets of Italy and in the 1890s theatrical theorists and directors such as Russian, Konstantin Stanislavski and the French, Jacques Copeau, founders of two major streams of acting theory, both heavily utilized improvisation in acting training and rehearsal.

The skills and processes of improvisation are used outside of performance as well. It is often used extensively in drama programs to train actors for stage, film and television and can be an important part of the rehearsal process. It is used in classrooms and businesses as an educational tool and as a way to develop communication and brain-storming skills. It is sometimes used in psychotherapy as a tool to gain insight into a person’s thoughts, feelings and relationships.

— excerpted and cleaned up from WIKIPEDIA

Each of us have all four internal psychological realms comprising each of us —  Intuition, Intellect, Emotion, Instinct.  We are each home-based in one of the four realms as the fulcrum of our nature, and the other three are vital in comprising our personal fourfold configuration accordingly.

Similarly, all four modalities or elements of any external four-tier reality — like the four performance stages — are equally vital:  equally important, equally valid, equally meritorious.  Where would we be if we didn’t have all four seasons?  Which season would you have us boot out — like, Spring maybe?  Likewise with the four performance stages — which stage do you want to discard as having no value?  Improvisation, you say!?  Not in this lifetime!

                            SPRING                 SUMMER             FALL                 WINTER
IMPROVISATION | LEGITIMATE | VAUDEVILLE | BURLESQUE
   INTUITION         |  INTELLECT   |    EMOTION    |    INSTINCT

Further, consider if I live myopically as in a vacuum in my home-base realm of Intuition.  The consequence of that is I may not comprehend, let alone experience and benefit from, Emotion in my life if I’m not engaged with my Emotional aspect of my personal fourfold nature.

Now that to me would be just plain screwball.  That means I ergo cannot have personal internal appreciation of Emotion’s corresponding external performance stage of Vaudeville!

Similarly, if I live myopically as in a vacuum in my home-base realm of Intuition, I may not comprehend, let alone experience and benefit from, Intellect in my life if I’m not engaged with my Intellectual aspect of my fourfold nature.  That means the I ergo cannot have personal internal appreciation of Intellect’s corresponding external Legitimate performance stage.

I know I’m not the sharpest stick in the woodshed.  But surely I have never been myopic like that!

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It only makes natural sense that if one is internally home-based in, say Intuition, one will naturally gravitate in some fashion or another and as circumstances allow to the Intuition component of external or exterior four-tier platforms or structures.  This becomes only particularly problematic, if not onerous, when one is myopically engaged in one’s Intuition and does not comprehend that there are four internal realms and four external realms or stages.  In that scenario, the myopic Intuitive is active out in the world, functioning under the delusional presumption that one’s internal vantage point is representative of everybody elses’ internal vantage point and also represents how the entire external world functions.

Oh-oh.  I certainly won’t wax nostalgic on commencing how I *might* have been mighty guilty of lapsing into that lopsided condition time and again through the years!

In the ancient Sufi tradition, people who live isolated and myopically in one of the psychological realms rather than evolving and integrating their four personal realms are called “sleepwalkers”.  That’s why there are all those endless references in Sufic poetry and literature to the concept of awakening.

In contemplating such considerations in context of “A Meet-and-Greet With the Wizard”,  where would our four comrades — “and Toto, too!” — be if they hadn’t joined forces and collaborated on their quest!?

Stating the obvious, Dorothy (Intuition) would still be wandering around the territory of Oz not realizing she actually had the power to go Home; Scarecrow (Intellect) would still be hanging around not realizing he had a brain; Tin Man (Emotion) would be frozen in place thinking he did not have a heart; and Lion (Instinct) would still be bullying his way around the forest like a fraidy cat instead of living courageously as king of the forest.

Let’s cast the net of that unhappy scenario out a bit.  The Wicked Witch of the West would still be manifesting her wickedness all over the place, while holding in spellbound captivity the Flying Monkeys as well as the troop of soldiers at her castle.

HENCE, there would be no actualized Self.  That is to say,  in the analogous correspondences of our Oz story, there would be no real Wizard.

 

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Improv players working in pure Improvisation, whether individually or in a group, are challenged to use their Intuition in grabbing onto the inspiration generated by the topic or subject matter upon which they are to act.  In typical Improv “stand up”, players build an act over time that generally scores well with a variety of audiences.  But they are always tuning in and playing with the audience in the course of the act.  Naturally a player always has some gambits and sure-fire scores up the sleeve to pursue in case their intended act isn’t playing out successfully with the audience.  So the Improv player, whatever aspect of Improv he or she is engaged in, has to keep alert, nimble, adaptable, and flexible at all times in navigating a performance.

I had been focusing on the realm of Improvisation and figuring out my favorite players in that realm, which basically consisted of Improv stand-ups.  Really, it was very simple for me to identify my favorites — Wanda Sykes.  Joan Rivers.  Phyllis Diller.  Oh — and good grief of course I had not thought of Chris Rock!  He’s brilliant!  And Eddie Murphy….  The list was getting longer.

Enough, that was fun, I concluded.  Those performers have given me so much laughter over the years!  I’ll now move on to figuring out my list of favorites in Legit.  That’s that, cut-and-dried!

Well.  So I thought.

Now mind you, I surely should know better at this point in my life.  Every single time I take that single-minded attitude — well, that’s it, no more here, finis, move on — some juncture is actually extant that I need to wake up to, some excursion, some consideration, more work to do.  For the truth is, I lose sight of the fact that when I am authentically “done” with whatever and can move on, I implicitly KNOW that fact — and simply move on.  No proclamations, no drama.  If I linger, thinking about how I’m “done”, determining I’m finished, getting all self-satisfied about it, turning what’s actually an innocuous moment into a High Holy Day of accomplishment — those are cues that I am most certainly NOT done!

That I haven’t yet learned how it goes for me and I still fall now and then into that little trap of ego of my own making only serves to demonstrate I will never be the sharpest stick in the woodshed.

It occurred to me that it  would be fun and intriguing to find out who my best friend, Gregg, considered his faves in Improv.

“Oh, that would be hoot,” I thought to myself.  “I must remember to ask him sometime.”

Gregg was blessed with great natural talent, great height, great looks, great speaking and singing voice, great show biz drive, and a great genius brain entailing essentially a photographic memory.  Given all that, it should be no surprise that Gregg was an accomplished song-and-dance man by the time he was 16 and moved to New York City.  After five years out there, he moved to Los Angeles in 1952 under contract with the  Fox movie studio.

x3e_8f7c305The six-footer with eyes of blue, a seasoned song-and-dance pro at 16

The Fox contract yielded nothing much and soon seemed like a dead end to Gregg.  As he puts it, “Fox brought me out here and then forgot I was here.”  That was actually just fine with him.  Destiny works that way sometimes because the contract was the bridge that got him to the City of Angels.  Gregg quickly began to rise in prominence in all things “show biz” in television, radio, print media — not as an actor, but as an entertainer on the niteclub – cabaret – jazz club scene, host of his own television and radio shows, newspaper arts and entertainment critic — all concurrently, all successfully.  Really, it’s unbelievable to the point of being unnerving.  On and on went his wonderful career, for decades after decades.  He completely retired only a year ago, for crying out loud!

x3e_8f7c294Gregg at 18 in New York City, working in the biz and doing seasons of summer stock —
all absolutely against the rules as an acting school student,
but don’t judge harshly:  he did have to eat, pay rent, pay acting school tuition…

God forbid Gregg should have ever had to focus on only one area of show business — he would have been “bored to sobs” as the Brits say.  In a way he is “show business”.  His knowledge and understanding of show biz is encyclopedic and masterful; his lifelong experience in show biz is vast and extraordinary.  Lord knows I have certainly never been in the business professionally — no-way-no-thank-you-not-my-thing!  But it’s because of him that I have been underfoot in show business for a long time out here in the City of Angels.

What’s important here is that he mastered show business, and he certainly remains a genius.  What matters is that he is the most gracious, nicest, most genuine, and the finest of decent fellows you could ever meet.

“Who is your favorite in Improv,” I demanded of Gregg unceremoniously one day, out of the blue.  The demand was apropos of absolutely nothing we were talking about.  I just happened to remember at the moment that I had intended to ask, and wanted to get the information before I forgot again.

Naturally I didn’t know at the moment that my innocuous question would end up turning my little tour of the Theatre of the Enterprising Spirit into a more complex excursion.  And infinitely more fun!

 

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It’s easy to launch into a topic of conversation without context and a heap of explanation.  It can also be a lot of fun and adventurous because generally you’re sailing without a compass or chart.  The route isn’t overtly linear and you don’t necessarily know where you’re going let alone where you’re going to end up.  Improvisation can be like that.  Sometimes, however, a question is simply a question.

It was supposedly that kind of simple when I launched into questioning Gregg about who his favorite performer is in the realm of Improv, without offering context and appropos of nothing.

“Carol Burnett,” he instantly responded.

Oh for crying out loud!  Of course!  I should have thought of her immediately.  His response made immediate total sense as my memories of the legendary Carol Burnett television show flashed wildly in my mind’s eye.  Like the skit parodying “Gone With the Wind” and those curtain rods on the dress.  Her popular question/answer segment on the long running television show demonstrated her sharp focus and quick wits, certainly a couple essential components of Improv.  Given that magical ensemble of regulars on her show, the stories I’ve heard them tell over the years in interviews about the improvisational dimension to the skits made sense and are always fun to hear.

“Brilliant!” I commended him.  “I loved her show, it seems everybody did.  Did you ever interview her? Or meet her or something?”  I quickly asked my usual barrage of questions – mostly, I always wanted to know if the individual character was congruent with the public personality.

“She’s been on the show a couple times over the years,” he responded.  “She’s terrific — open and charming, and we had a lot of fun.”

I went cerebrally tedious.  That’s particularly easy for me to do when I don’t know what I’m talking about or flying in the tailwind of Intuition.  “You’ll have to give me some other favorites though, because I’m really thinking about the performance stage of Improv.  Not TV favorites.”

“What are you talking about?” Gregg asked, looking at me like I had just entered the Twilight Zone.

This was not an unusual thing for him to say given my tendency to go cerebrally tedious.

He commenced:  “You may think of her as far as a weekly TV show, but I know her from full live stage performance underscored by an improvisational sensibility.  I attended many show tapings over the years.  The entire weekly show was taped twice with live audiences.  What you saw as a weekly TV show were taped live performances heavily edited down to less than an hour.  There was a lot of live show that didn’t make it to the TV show which was less than an hour because of commercials.”

Great points!  But perhaps she’d be more suited to a place on a listing about Vaudeville performers, given her hefty background and ability in sketch comedy.  I proceeded to brilliantly explain my brilliant thinking to him.

Gregg was not impressed with all that brilliance I had going on there.

“You wanted to know my favorite in Improv,” he responded flatly.  “That’s Carol Burnett.  You didn’t ask who my favorite vaudevillian is.  If you had asked me who my favorite vaudevillian is, I would not have said Carol Burnett.  Her great gift is her improvisational ability, and she is my favorite in Improv.”

No, I had not asked who his favorite vaudevillian is.  I hadn’t even explained my concept of the four stages of theatre, one of which is Vaudeville.  All I had asked was for was his favorite in Improv, and now here I was disputing the characterization of his choice.  Really!?

“It is true, ” he added with his usual congeniality, “that she is an accomplished vaudevillian and sketch comic.  She proved that on the Gary Moore show.  I’ve also seen her in several straight plays and musicals through the years, and she’s an excellent actress.  Very capable movie actor, and good singing voice, too.”

We were on a similar wavelength now, particularly as I opened my brain to transmit various data filed in memory.  Carol Burnett emerged from the Gary Moore show considered a great talent and star in no small part because of her improvisational skills with the sketch comedy.  As I see it, she used the sketch script as her inspiration with which she infused the sketch with improvisation.  I believe both prayer and meditation function in a similar cyclical process.

x3e_8f7c300Gregg was 14 years old in 1945 when he landed his first radio job as a DJ and soon talk show host at KTTS in Springfield, Missouri.  Pictured above is Gregg serving as MC and performer at a KTTS public event.  His  mentor at KTTS  became USN vet Bob Barker, seven years older than Gregg and thus having much more life experience.  Bob Barker had left Drury College (now University) in Springfield to join the USN at the outbreak of WWII, and post-war returned to college and media work in Springfield.  Gregg would move to New York City in 1947 seriously bent on becoming a stage actor, and Bob Barker would move to Los Angeles in 1950 to pursue a career in broadcasting.

“I get it,” I stated.  “Who are some other favorites?”

There was a pause as he shifted gears in his brain.  I had initiated this whole thing by simply asking his favorite Improv performer.  Now I wanted more.

“I suppose Lenny Bruce,” Gregg offered up, sounding more than a little reluctant and speculative.

Knowing Gregg well, I could tell the line was blurring in his brain between his personal favorites and his professional critical considerations of the best.  Someone for whom he has professional respect for, if not appreciation, generally carries the same degree of influence and weight with him as personal favorites.  An inevitable position perhaps, given his longevity as an entertainer and critic.  It is significant that Gregg is not competitive with others; only with himself.  He delights in others’ successes and indeed hopes for their success, begrudging no one anything.  These are some of the secret attributes which result in a substantive and worthy entertainer and critic — and a terrific human being.  They are unheralded qualities of the individual learning to live by living to learn.

“He was incredibly vulgar, but he was funny,” Gregg noted.

Vulgarity includes profanity and certain topics such as body parts and body functions.  And it certainly never became part of Gregg’s professional or personal styles.  Nope  — not part of Gregg’s reality — wouldn’t occur to him.  Vulgarity simply is NOT done and is unacceptable — at least from Gregg’s perspective and by extension his audiences on radio, TV, and stage and club gigs.

“Did you think he was funny,” I pushed.

“Oh, yes, I guess so.  His audiences thought so.  But he was so vulgar.  George Carlin was vulgar, too, and I thought he was really funny — and in a different way.  He was very intellectual, that was his style, that’s what made him so different.  I would see him perform at the Playboy Club.  He was such a nice guy, I liked him a lot.  George was a true pioneer. ”

The Playboy Club was a popular nationwide chain of nightclubs and resorts in the 1960s through the 1980s owned and operated by Playboy Enterprises, the same outfit that started Playboy magazine in the 1950s.  The clubs had offered name entertainers and comedians in the “club rooms”, and local musicians and magicians in the “living rooms”.

I was curious about what was happening with the Playboy Clubs.  Gregg said they really weren’t around anymore in any influential way, and I texted my older brother back in Minnesota.  Bruce is the pentultimate Playboy Anything fan.  He has been a loyal subscriber to Playboy magazine since he was in high school back in the 1960s.  As a perpetual keyholder, he visited the Chicago Playboy Club as often as possible through the years.

Michael:  Hey — Gregg and I are yacking, what’s happening with the Playboy Clubs?

Bruce:  Say hello to Gregg for  me.  No major league Playboy Club action in the States.  A couple in other parts of world, just kid stuff.  I hear they aren’t like they used to be, but what the hell we aren’t either.

Michael:  Speak for yourself, Ye Olde Farte.

Bruce:  As you wish, Grasshopper.

x3e_8f7c316Amidst all his varied professional activities going on all the time, Gregg  fit in a radio show format that was wildly successful and highly regarded called “Meet Me at the Derby” which ran from the mid-1970s into the mid-1980s.  Commemorating a broadcast recording session at the legendary Hollywood Brown Derby setting for the show are (from left to right) movie and TV actor Cornel Wilde who also wrote, produced, directed films; narrator, actor, television/radio announcer Gary Owens, perhaps best remembered for his role as the hand-on-the-ear announcer on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” TV show; Gregg;  and the ever-suave and congenial Bob Barker, most famous for his role as game show host of “Truth or Consequences” (1956-1974) and “The Price is Right” (1972-2007).  Gregg and Bob Barker have continued their warm friendship all through the years since Gregg moved to Los Angeles.

Meantime, Gregg had changed mental gears:  “You do know there are different styles of Improvisation — don’t you?”

Did I know?  Please.  I commenced a bit.

“Of course, oh Master of All Entertainment thou art.  There are four different forms of Improv, four different types of Improv, and four different styles of Improv.  They all correspond respectively to the four types of psychological realms comprising the temperament or constitution of Intuition.  Of course I know —  what do you think I just recently fell off the wheelbarrow?”

“Sometimes your wheelbarrow wobbles a bit,” Gregg noted drily.

He deftly sidestepped my brilliant commencing on the variances in Improv.  I deftly ignored his egregiously inaccurate comment.  All was well.

“Okay, I need one more favorite,” I moved on briskly, pen poised over pad.

Gregg pondered, then smiled hugely.  Seeing that huge full-faced smile, I smiled too because I knew unequivocally what name I would hear.

For a whole lot of decades, Gregg would bop up to San Francisco from Los Angeles a bunch of times during the year to keep a finger on the pulse of the entertainment scene and review theatre, restaurants, and the latest club acts.  On one such trip in 1955, he headed into a club called “The Purple Onion” to catch up on what was happening there.  The Purple Onion had opened in 1952 and quickly became a popular venue for local music and comedy acts.

On walked a woman, the likes of which Gregg had never seen or heard.  Not only did she look unlike anybody else, her voice sounded bizarre as she commenced with her comedy act.  And she was howlingly funny!

The amazing concoction was Phyllis Diller, during her debut gig as a stand-up comic.

“She was a complete creation standing right there,” Gregg recalls.  “The Phyllis Diller performance.  Her sound and tone, the material and delivery, her timing was perfection.  Her wardrobe and hair became more bizarre over time, but that suited her style and creation.”

Phyllis Diller walked on holding what appeared to be a woman’s “clutch” purse made of shiny material, and she held onto it as she performed her act.  Gregg didn’t pay any particular attention to this peculiarity, since everything about the madcap character and her act was unique and funny.

“You’re probably curious about what I’ve got in my purse!”  Phyllis Diller bellowed in her signature fog-horn voice.

She held it up in her open palm for the captivated audience to see.  It occurred to Gregg that the fabric actually looked like aluminum foil.

“I always carry my lunch,” she announced.  “In case you’re wondering what’s in there, it’s a baked potato!”

Gregg booked her on his show as soon as possible, and she was a welcome guest for the rest of her career.

Phyllis Diller was a welcome guest on Gregg’s radio shows many times throughout her illustrious career.  Above in 1964 they ham it up for a camera during one of her in-studio interviews.  “She was a true original, and a very special lady,” Gregg recalls with great respect and affection.

“On the show, of course, she was always in character,”  Gregg noted.  “You know Phyllis wasn’t like that in real life.”

I suppose like so many people, my exposure to Phyllis Diller over the years had been seeing her on various television shows like The Tonight Show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and The Hollywood Squares.  Certainly on Gregg’s show, it was invariably two pros enjoying being “on” and at play, obviously having fun.  They were like a George Burns and Gracie Allen routine – on steroids.  In performance, whether on television or on stage or on radio, Phyllis Diller was HUGE, a larger-than-life character.

So the difference between Phyllis Diller the performer and Phyllis Diller the person was ostensibly night and day.  Not in performance mode, Phyllis Diller was personally warm and gracious.  Clearly highly intelligent and erudite, she was lower-key and witty.  Her home life was elegant and filled with art, music, and light.

I didn’t know it back then, but Phyllis Diller would be a valuable part of my personal experience in understanding Improvisation when I finally reached the point of putting it all together.  She informed me greatly back then, but there was no reason on earth for her to recognize that let alone for me to realize it.

“After all our yacking, it is now figured out,” I announced to Gregg one day.  “In Improv, your selections are Carol Burnett, George Carlin, Phyllis Diller, and Lenny Bruce.  They correspond to Improvisation’s Intuition, Intellect, Emotion, and Instinct respectively.  Meantime, after considerable angst and contemplations and agonizing recapitulations, I have finalized my selections of Wanda Sykes, Chris Rock, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, and they likewise correspond to the four Improv types respectively.  Isn’t that brilliant!”

“By all means alert the media,” Gregg deadpanned to his audience which at that moment consisted exactly of me and his dog which I refer to as The Evil Hound.  So The Evil Hound didn’t understand what Gregg was talking about, and Gregg didn’t understand what I was talking about.  All was well.

Never one to simply leave well enough alone, Gregg ventured forth.  In other words, I had anticipated his curiosity eventually kicking into gear.  His sense of curiosity is like life at large:  Everything in its time.

“I will probably regret asking you a question — I generally do,” Gregg said.  “We’ve been talking about favorites in Improvisation — because…?”

“It doesn’t become you to be so insulting, and to ask such a leading open question to boot is downright unnerving,” I retorted with an arched calibrated intonation of self-righteous indignation.

While I focused on doing a brilliantly compelling reading of my improvised scripting, I also whipped out a folded piece of paper I had been proactively keeping handy to take advantage of the moment when his curiosity kicked into gear.

“That was not your best rendering of martyrdom,” Gregg opined.

“Let’s not digress into judgment,” I put forth blithely.  “Our talking about Improvisation resulted in an expanded scope of what I originally intended.  Originally I was simply going to reference like one archetype per each of my four stages of theatre.”  Knowing he wouldn’t be following what I was now launching into midstream as it were,  I had penciled out a chart on the folded piece of paper which I was now engaged in unfolding.  “So actually you inspired me to delve into a larger concept,” I added as I shoved the unfolded paper into his hands.

“What you’re saying is, I get the blame for all this,” he said as he started looking at the chart.

“Let’s not digress into blame,” I noted.  “But since you brought it up, I suppose that could be fairly said.”

Gregg continued viewing the chart, which might as well have been in Greek.  You may not be surprised to learn Gregg does not speak, write, or read Greek.

“You inspired me to think about providing a performer example for each of the 16 types or positions of a typology chart.  Not the performers’ actual real life personal types, but type placement based on the theatrical person’s performance persona and type of stage orientation.”  I was starting to commence.  “Some years ago, you see, I developed what I call an Orientation Matrix.  What you’re looking at is simply one rendering of the Orientation Matrix.  It suits our scenario without being overly complex or, conversely, reductionist.”

“Good God,” he said.

“Don’t worry,” I assured him confidently, “I can explain it, and what we don’t know we’ll figure out as we go along.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Gregg said.

“That’s Improvisation,” I said.

All was well.

INSPIRATION               CONCEPTION        FORMULATION                ACTUATION

DOROTHY                      SCARECROW         TIN MAN                              LION

IMPROVISATION        LEGITIMATE           VAUDEVILLE                     BURLESQUE

INTUITION                   INTELLECT              EMOTION                           INSTINCT
REALM                           REALM                      REALM                                 REALM

Intuition of Improv   Intuition of Legit    Intuition of Vaudeville    Intuition of Burlesque           
Intellect of Improv    Intellect of Legit     Intellect of Vaudeville     Intellect of Burlesque
Emotion of Improv   Emotion of Legit    Emotion of Vaudeville     Emotion of Burlesque
Instinct of  Improv    Intellect of Legit      Instinct of Vaudeville      Instinct of Burlesque

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