Improvised Shark Tank
One of the sharks on Shark Tank once said, “A brilliant idea doesn’t guarantee a successful invention. Real magic comes from a brilliant idea combined with willpower, tenacity, and a willingness to make mistakes.” So when collaborating comedians Kendall Keener and Kathryn Marie Whisler threw out an idea to their partner, Matt Vida, suggesting they do a Shark Tank improv, he was down! The idea was great—and the magic happened when three of the sharks were in attendance at the first of (hopefully) many Shark Tank Improvs.
A native New Yorker, Matt has been doing stand-up for three years. He comes from a musical background, currently playing guitar and singing in the Shipwrecks. According to Matt, “I played sax and bass in a string of shitty punk and ska bands since I was 13.” His music morphed into alt comedy when he began rapping as an opening act for friends’ shows. He and Kendall and Kathryn have a lot of fun collaborating on sketch videos for his YouTube channel. They have produced Intergalactic Rap Battle, Improv In a Basement, a Valentine’s Day sketch in which Matt kneels and proposes to a dozen different women at a frozen yogurt shop in New York in the space of two hours, and our personal favorite, Excel Rap, a rap about Excel Spreadsheets. Matt loves to break it up and get out of the city and get comedians together up in Killington, VT. for week-long skiprovs—variety and improv shows—at least once a year.
Matt was attracted to improv for the human connection element. “I’d have to agree with Bill Murray, who once said improv is the most important group work since they built the pyramids. Nothing can put you in the present moment like improv.” We love improv too. At its best it’s spontaneous and witty, and it usually does not go the way you think it’s going to go. When you’re unscripted you rely on your wits and instinct to interact with your partners and create something together that’s live, and will be a unique one-of-a-kind experience.
Improv is the only theatrical form (and close to the only art form) where the moment of inspiration, the moment of creation, and the moment of performance are all the same moment. Every performer is a director, author, and actor at the same moment; Charna Halpern calls it “art by committee” in her book of the same title.
Even if an improvised set isn’t as tight as an excellent sketch set or a well-written play, you were there when it was made. That’s why improv is so magical to watch (and also why it’s sometimes so hard to rewatch—it loses that spur of the moment feel).
The Shark Tank Improv is a way-less-serious version of the hit TV show, where half the improv troop acts as the sharks, while the other half pitches inventions (loose fondue! Flaming Flamenco dress!) Matt, who plays Mark Cuban, says he and his troupe researched the bios of the players on the real show—the Sharks. Matt took a chance on social media and tagged Mark in a post, and to Matt’s surprise Mark responded that he would try to make it. Not only did Mark show up with two other Sharks in tow, Barbara and Kevin, Mark laughed himself silly, and filmed the entire show on his phone.
People love the real Shark Tank because it speaks to the American Dream: anybody can come up with a relevant, viable idea, pitch it, get backing, and either make it or go bust, but it’s got every element of drama in the hope, guts and determination it takes to really make a go of a start-up. Shows like these show the struggles and successes, and that average people have a chance to do extraordinary things and create big business.
Also, in the show we love to root for the underdogs—the fringe people who might not be the life of any party, but sitting alone in their room they came up with a cool idea that might just sell millions of units at Walmart. The show at times has a super-serious air to it, as those who come on have their inventions scrutinized. The Sharks ask tough questions, push, and sometimes get pissed when a guest on the show dumps one Shark’s offer and goes with another Shark.
Matt and his troupe were surprised, and jazzed, that the Sharks have no problem making fun of themselves, and are able to enjoy a goofy, much less serious version of the TV show. Fueled by the early buzz and unexpected support from the real-life players, they plan to take their show on the road and spread the shark love.