Mark’s philosophy studies came at the cost of his interests in comedy and acting. Discovering improv comedy podcasts opened up a whole new world of possibility: long-form improv. You don’t just cobble audience suggestions into a quick joke; you get to create a universe. Mark’s pursuit of this form led him to Bill, whose approach to improv has often been deemed “philosophical.”
The approach to both disciplines here is modest and practical. Each of us comes with a lesson in mind and tries to teach it to the other without taking turns, which produces curious juxtapositions. At the end of the discussion, we try to say what we’ve learned, and there’s some judgment as to which lesson produced the most profound effect.
In our “post-game” segment, we reflect on this experiment, share recommendations, and discuss audience feedback. In the show notes, you’ll find links to these recommendations along with relevant Partially Examined Life episodes to help you learn more about the books behind the jokes.
Who is Philosophy vs. Improv?
Two great minds that taste great together.
Mark studied philosophy through undergrad (at U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor) and six years of grad school (at U. of Texas at Austin), left in 2000 to get a real job, taught several semesters of ethics on the side (at the Lakeland College annex in Madison, WI), then in 2009 gathered some of his former fellow students to launch The Partially Examined Life, which has become one of the most popular philosophy podcasts on the planet, with over 40 million downloads to date. He also hosts Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast and Nakedly Examined Music, and has released many albums.
Improvisational Comedy Guru
Bill Arnett started improvising at the University of Florida in 1992 before moving to Chicago in 1998. been a part of several acclaimed ensembles including People of Earth, Maximum Party Zone and 3033. After 12 years of teaching at the iO Theater and 18 months as the Training Center Director Bill left to start the Chicago Improv Studio, a stage-focused training and performance company that takes a non-traditional approach to improv. In 2016 he published The Complete Improvisor.