Meet Tom Straight

This month we are featuring the people of Sketchpad Comedy. Fresh off his participation in the Kevin McDonald workshop last weekend at the Improv Shop, Tom Straight was nice enough to answer some questions about his experience with Sketchpad so far.

Tom has been a great addition to our shows and he’s always a joy to work with. He came to us through a free workshop we hosted awhile back. His sketch “Puzzle Room” absolutely killed at the Kevin McDonald showcase. Here’s the interview:


Q: How did you hear about sketchpad?

A: I think I found out on comedyinthelou.com when looking for local comedy. Went to the sketchpad website, heard the pitch and was intrigued enough to sign up on the email list.

Q: What made you decide to check out sketchpad?

12321434_10100982424215822_9172483050842456640_nA: I was honestly impressed with the Sketchpad emails, as far as staying on top of constant contact- maybe an email or 2 a week- and having really encouraging messages or stories. I had wanted to try comedy and writing but had no idea how other than open mics. So when I start getting regular messages that are like: “Yeah, you can do comedy! Come do comedy with us!” (Paraphrasing)- that really made me want to take that leap.

Q: Where are you from?

A: Grew up mostly in O’Fallon, IL. Went to college in Springfield, IL then spent 6 or so years in Champaign before moving back to St. Louis.

Q: You went to a workshop that sketchpad offered, what was that experience like?

A: It was a small group of 3 new writers with Jason running the workshop. Pretty casual but informative- got some good brainstorming techniques and an example script from SNL to show industry format. I had brought a script I wrote, so we read through it and talked about it. The encouraging environment almost immediately made me feel comfortable both offering and receiving feedback, ideas and jokes. It was a really positive experience.

Q: After that workshop you told me that you did standup for the first time ever – what about your experience helped you accomplish that?

A: Yeah, I tried a couple small open mics. The workshop definitely gave me confidence that I could make strangers laugh, or at least the curiosity to see if I could get more strangers to laugh.

Q: How many sketchpads have you participated in now?

A: I wrote a sketch (same I went to workshop with) for the show in December, and I acted in two sketches in March’s show.

(you can watch Tom’s first ever Sketchpad Sketch here)

Q: What is your favorite part of it all?

A: It’s hard to say- I really enjoy the whole process. The initial pitch and read-through meetings are fun for bouncing ideas off each other and making each other laugh. The lead-up to the performance was terrifying both times, but when showtime came it wasn’t at all what I dreaded. It was pretty amazing to get laughs- both watching the sketch I wrote from the audience, and on stage acting someone else’s script. The laughs were a big reward for me. But also meeting and working with very funny and talented people!

Everybody was very welcoming and encouraging. The actors that performed my first sketch couldn’t have been awesomer.

Q: Have you written sketch or comedy before sketchpad?

A: A couple friends and I attempted a comedy troupe called “No Soap Radio”, my junior or senior year of college. We didn’t really know what we were doing- we thought matching jumpsuits and a troupe name were all we needed. I think we taped a few things, one I had written about an astronaut sexually abusing a robot on a space station, another was a political campaign for the Assistant to the Sangamon County clerk. We weren’t disciplined enough to keep it alive.

 

Also, for a TV Studio Production class I enjoyed, the final project was basically a little scripted sketch- I wrote and directed a Thumbwrestling Championship.

Q: What do you do for a living?

A: Currently I test software. I’ve been doing that almost 6 years. The first 4 were as a game tester at Volition in Champaign, IL, where I also got to help out occasionally with some fun in-house video productions. Loved it, but it wasn’t much of a career. So now I test boring healthcare claims software.

 

Q: What’s your regular life like?

A: Increasingly hectic, but I’m surprising myself. Working on a MS in Computer Science one class at a time. I’ve gotten into bouldering at Upper Limits downtown, that’s my exercise of choice. My girlfriend and I find time to enjoy board/card games, certain addicting TV shows and weird movies. We foster cats from Stray Rescue. I’m also a big gamer (testing games definitely doesn’t ruin all games for you), so I sink more time than I should into that. And I like food.

Q: What’s your favorite sketch comedy growing up?

A: I was really into SNL and Kids in the Hall reruns on Comedy Central.

Q: Do you plan on doing sketchpads, stand up or anything comedy related in the future?

A: Yeah, I’m feeling the Sketchpad lately and would like to continue. Hoping to write and perform a sketch in the next show. Stand up, yes, but it still scares the hell out of me.

Q: Do you want to be a professional comedy writer?

A: Yes. It still feels like far-fetched fantasy, but why not work toward it? Baby steps.

 

Q: Do you think sketchpad has helped you outside of comedy? In your everyday life or work life?12356761_761784796971_3145890242052256048_o

A: Yeah, I think it has been helpful. I guess it’s just helpful in general to try out comedy for strangers and get a positive response, because it does boost your confidence. So a joke I would have kept to myself in a group setting, I’m a little more comfortable with blurting it out now- accepting it won’t always work, but it’s fun when it does.

Q: What do your friends and family think about you doing sketchpad? Have they seen your shows?

A: I’ve been pretty slow coming out to my friends and family about comedy. My girlfriend has been cool about it and comes to my shows. I don’t know if I’ll ever tell my mom- she’d be way too supportive.

Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us about your life, experience with us or anything at all?

A: I just went to another Sketchpad pitch meeting last night, and it reminded me what a fun easy environment it is. Jason does an awesome job organizing, motivating and encouraging people that otherwise might not know what to do with their ideas (I wouldn’t, anyway). I’ve seen first hand how easy it is to try it out, either writing or acting, so if you have any interest in creating comedy, or just working with fun people, Sketchpad is a really worthwhile experience.

Thanks Tom!

If you’re close to St. Louis and you’d like to write or perform with STL Sketchpad all it takes to get started is a simple email. Check out “Write With Us” to get started. 

For more interviews from Sketchpad peeps check out Meet Milly, Erica Lee or Nathan Maul.

 

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