Yesterday’s rehearsal was our final with director Bill Johnson. He was the original founder, teacher and director of the Magic Meathands improv comedy ensemble.
After 8 years of guiding us, he is leaving us behind to let us grow to the next level while he pursues his own opportunities.
Bill taught most of us for years and encouraged us to explore the absurd, the silly and the joyful. Because of that influence, the Magic Meathands have developed a dynamic, high energy that is unique among most improv groups. He also brought his focus to community outreach, making the Magic Meathands the only improv group in Los Angeles that regularly brings live comedy to the very people most in need of joy and laughter. Just this past Saturday, we played to an enthusiastic crowd at the Ocean Park Community Center, a facility in Santa Monica that serves the homeless and mentally ill. Next month, we’ll return to our friends at the Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services facility in Altadena, where they house over 40 boys aged 10 to 18. We first performed for them in early 2008 and continue to visit them several times a year. And finally, because of the variety of our audiences and venues, Bill developed a team of performers comfortable with audiences of different age groups and content preferences. Not too many improv groups have their own rating system for their shows, but the Meathands do to make sure audiences know what they’re getting into.
So yes, Bill created a pretty magnificent thing but the time has come for him to go. So now what?
Always passionate about reaching out to the community and helping children, Bill is pursuing a teaching career at a school in the Coachella Valley where he’s teaching math to struggling kids. Yes, math. We don’t get it either.
Meanwhile, the Magic Meathands have been preparing for this day for some time. Over the last year, we became a self-directed performing group. That means we all share the responsibility of running different parts of the show, instead of Bill serving as sole director and emcee every show. In turn, our shows have been evolving into a completely new format that is bringing out the best in our cast. Simply put, if you haven’t seen the Meathands in the last 4 months or more, you haven’t seen the Meathands!
We just completed a thrilling run of shows, as we teamed up with Jump Start and Danger Pants! (formerly known as The Callbacks), but we’re not done yet! We’re revving up for a special show at a homeless shelter in Santa Monica as part of our Comedy Outreach Project. We’re also in talks to help out fundraising for an elementary school and seeing about returning to some of our regular partners.
The Comedy Outreach Project is all about us taking live improvised comedy out to the community. Whether it’s a boys’ home, transitional housing for women, a halfway house, senior centers, or local schools, we bring our funny to them. For some, this is their first experience with live theater and improvised comedy, and the discovery of joy and laughter is powerful to behold. It’s not always easy to get through to them to share that joy and laughter, but after a few hundred shows of doing just that, the Magic Meathands understand how to use high energy and audience-appropriate material that involves them and encourages creativity in diverse settings.
Do you know of a group of people that could use some laughter? Check out our Comedy Outreach Project page and get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.
Every month, we do several private shows for non-traditional audiences as part of our Comedy Outreach Program. This week we’re returning to Alexandria House. We always have a great time performing in their living room.
Based in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood of Los Angeles, Alexandria House has been providing transitional housing for women and children in LA since 1996. When moving from homelessness and emergency shelters, it’s not often easy or even possible to jump right into permanent housing, especially when considering the realities of housing in LA. Alexandria House provides a safe and supportive environment. And part of their program includes having us come in and provide some overdue laughter.
We’ve made some great friends at Alexandria House, and look forward to many more shows. Their support and devotion to the community make them a perfect partner for our Comedy Outreach Program. Not everyone in our communities is able to easily get out and see a show. Many people in need of the medicine of laughter are shut in for reasons of health, finances, lack of transportation, and at times restrictions set by transitional residences. For this reason, the Magic Meathands will bring the funny to them, sometimes quite literally into their living room. If you are part of an organization that serves the homeless, at-risk youth, or members of our community living in a transitional residence or shelter and would like to have the Magic Meathands perform at your center, contact director Bill Johnson. He will work with your organization to plan a positive event that is both enjoyable and appropriate for the community you serve. Whether you are interested in incorporating certain themes, maximizing audience participation, or keeping it “squeaky clean,” we will do what it takes to make sure the show is right for your organization.