VAM 025 | Interview with Melanie Chartoff about Improv, Part 3

VAM 025 | Interview with Melanie Chartoff about Improv, Part 3

Welcome to episode 25 of the Voice Acting Mastery podcast with yours truly, Crispin Freeman!

As always, you can listen to the podcast using the player above, or download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of this blog post. The podcast is also available via the iTunes Store online. Just follow this link to view the podcast in iTunes:

This is the third and final part of an interview with my friend and improv teacher, Melanie Chartoff.

As we wrapped up our time together, Melanie and I discussed many interesting topics including:

  • The deep interrelationship between improv and scripted acting.
  • How improv helps keep a scripted performance feeling fresh, as if you’re creating that performance anew every time.
  • The importance of getting past the words of a script and instead basing your performance on the inspiration of a thought or a feeling.
  • The need to have a childlike state of mind when you’re acting and to leave all judgement behind in order to fully play pretend.

At the very end, Melanie was kind enough to share with me a personal technique of hers for alleviating fear when she finds herself in an acting situation that makes her feel nervous. I think you’ll find it incredibly useful!

To sign up for classes with Melanie, visit Chartoff I highly recommend it!

Download Voice Acting Mastery Episode #25 Here (MP3)


24 Responses to “VAM 025 | Interview with Melanie Chartoff about Improv, Part 3”

  1. Kalyn McCabe says:

    Just wanted to point out that you forgot the “t” in “”.

    It was a pleasure listening to Melanie. I’ll use her advice in the future!

    I can definitely relate in the “getting caught up in the word” part. When you rehearse a play for so long, it becomes really stale and almost robotic, but theatre has a way of spicing things up during a performance even if you don’t want it.

    A prop gets lost or a person eats something super spicy as a prank on stage, it’s hilarious.

    I was in a play two years back, and we foolishly spoke “the scottish play” before a performance, and everything went down the drain. Hilarious all the way through, I couldn’t stop laughing. Everyone else was cracking up. A whole scene got turned around in terms of blocking, a prop couldn’t be found… that was the best performance we ever did.

    So, creating the illusion of the first performance every night is a challenge. But certainly not out of reach.

    Can’t wait for the next podcast!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Thanks for catching my typo! Luckily the link still worked!

      Glad you enjoyed Melanie’s insights so much.

      I too have been in plays where things go haywire. It certainly keeps you on your toes!

  2. Caitlin says:

    Wonderful podcast once again! Melanie has great advice.
    I remember the podcast where you talked about being confident and I realized that in my everyday life that I wasn’t as confident as I could be. Now that I remind myself everyday about your advice it has helped significantly with my outlook about myself. So I owe you a big thanks!

    I was wondering if the online workshops would cost any money, because I would love to be able to participate in the workshop. I also think it’s so amazing of you to offer classes online. Since I live on the other side of the country, I don’t get many oppertunities for classes.

    And the last thing I wanted to ask is if you could center a podcast around being in the booth. I already know a lot after reading Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt’s book but maybe you could give some insider tips and explinations.


    • Crispin Freeman says:

      You’re very welcome! I’m glad I could help you improve your confidence levels!

      Yes, the online workshops, like all of my workshops, cost money. They will be priced the same as my Los Angeles workshops.

      As far as an episode on being in the booth, that might be difficult to accomplish with an audio-only podcast. I’m not sure how to demonstrate booth etiquette without visuals. Also, learning how to “be” in the booth is not nearly as important as acting well. You can learn booth etiquette in a couple of minutes. Learning how to act believably is the larger challenge.

      What sort of booth insights were you thinking of? What is it that you’d like to know?

      • Caitlin says:

        I know that being inside the booth compared to being on stage is completely different. I generally would like to know if there are any tips about staying in character while trying to match lip flaps or when you’re doing pre-lay.
        I also know that being able to act is the main point when it comes to staying in character, but if you had any insights on that it would be helpful. Sorry if my question confused you, I brought up the booth because like many, it is something that I never had a chance to be in and going in to voice a character for the first time can be overwhelming.
        Thanks for replying.

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          Thank you for that clarification. I understand better now. I can certainly incorporate your interests and concerns in a future podcast. I’ll keep those in mind. Thanks for the explanation!

  3. Benjamin Thomas Garza says:

    Once again, Mr. Freeman, you’ve finished off another great, yet completely separate from rest, interview. After part 3 of this interview I decided to go to and plan for the future and research basic information on her classes. To my amazement, Ms. Chartoff’s classes, as valuable as they are, are surprisingly inexpensive. That’s certainly on my calendar first chance I get.

    On top of that good news, the announcement of online classes is a complete godsend, and oddly enough, it’s exactly the announcement that I’ve been hoping from you. Knowing that LA isn’t a commute that I wouldn’t necessarily need to make now is a load-off.

    So, I have your Online Voice Acting Workshop, Juan Carlos Bagnell’s Commercial VO classes, and with Ms. Chartoff’s Improv classes at the tail end.

    Ultimately, it’s thanks to you, Mr. Freeman. I can’t thank you for the VO path you’ve given me that I didn’t have before.

    Thanks again,


    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Excellent! I’m sure you’ll enjoy working with Melanie. I also look forward to seeing you in one of my online classes in the future!

  4. Nickolas Samaniego says:

    Imrpov has help me alot in my acting choices, before i was not confident. This is very helpful information from you and Melanie, Thank you Crispin

  5. Wes Davis says:

    Nice ending to an excellent interview.

    It was really cool to get this chance hear so many of Melanie’s insights, thanks for making it possible!

    Lots of gems in this episode. Especially liked how Melanie described acting with improv, grabbing a word to express a feeling. Such a great way to describe truly being in the moment. The words being secondary to the emotions propelling them.

    Also, what a relief to hear that someone with her years of experience still deals with getting nervous, and what a fun way to do it! Glad to know I’m not the only one silently judging everyone else behind a smile, ha ha ha.

    Looking forward to whatever you’ve got in store for the next episode.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Yeah, isn’t her “technique” for dealing with nerves fantastic? I’m definitely using that one next time I’m feeling in over my head!

      So glad you enjoyed the interview!

  6. Martin Giroux says:

    Very cool interview!!! And I have to say that I agree with just about everything that is said here. If there is one thing that I excel at is improv, I’ve been a “stage ninja” at multiple conventions and it thought me a lot! Basically the job of a stage ninja is to help the participants if they need extras in their sketches and entertain the crowd if there ever is any technical problem witch requires improv skills. Been doing this for 5 years now and I love it!

    And this just in, I booked my first roles on an Fan dubed anime project I applied on voice acting alliance! I got 3 roles and I’m really exited to display what I can do! I intend to start with fan made stuff and work my way up to the professional level… is that a good plan to follow?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Wow! Being a stage ninja sounds like being a rodeo clown, gotta keep all those rampaging fans… I mean, bulls occupied! I’m sure that’s a great experience for you!

      Congrats on getting the parts on the VAA fan dub! I know one of my students, Kimlinh Tran, started doing fan projects and is now working on independent video games. She plays Ms. Fortune in the new fighting game Skullgirls. I think any experience you can get working on long form storytelling in voice acting is great!

  7. Coy Dugger says:

    It is fascinating to learn that so much of a character is already a part of us. I’m thankful to have Melanie share her views on how to act naturally and believably. Great series as usual Mr. Freeman.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      That’s a really great way to put it! A character is not something separate from you, it’s inside you. When you “create” a character, you’re not creating something different from you, you’re revealing that part of you that resonates with that character.

      Glad you’re enjoying the podcast!

  8. Angelican Marcos says:

    Usually i use improv on my projects like i add more of what i say then i actually read from my paper like since i write a little and a little sloppy but improvise more of what i read and what i say when i wrote it on paper so it can be better but these 3 podcast helped me understand a few things on improv i thank you

  9. Jack Graham says:

    I have recently found out about you thanks to Hellsing Ultimate and I think you’re a fantastic voice actor. I would like to thank you for these enlightening and incredibly informative podcasts as they have helped to inspire me into seriously considering voice acting as a viable career and not just a wishful dream. Massive thanks and respect from across the pond.

  10. Andy Hopkins says:

    Hey Crispin,
    Andy here again just wanted say thank you for making your podcast 5 essential steps for voice acting beginners it really spoke to me and I’m sure many others. Just wanted to tell you some exciting things that are happening with me. So after one year of doing my video production program at another highschool the principal tells us they made some budget cuts and the program isn’t continuing next year. But I’m now gonna be going to a college for post secondary in digital media technology. I’m also still working with a highschool for a dvd and they still want me to do voice over work. Also I’m gonna try and go into a workshop for The Edge Studios and they say they will assess if I’m marketable for business and if so they go on from there. Just wanted to say hey and give an update on things are going, hope your work is going spectacular, and as always keep on teaching VO.
    Andy Hopkins

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      You’re very welcome. I’m glad you liked the 5 essentials! Thanks also for the updates on your voice acting progress. Whenever a door closes, another one opens. Best of luck in all you do!

  11. Andy Hopkins says:

    Greetings once again Crispin to comment about what I told you bought when my video production class being cut and all saying one door closed another door opens, that is exactly what both my family and I both think definetly. God guided my work somewhere hopefully it’s toward what I wanna do. I also wanted to tell you that today I finally did what I at least consider my first official voice over job for a highschool DVD!!! One thing I learned at least is when a VO job is local the director may sometimes be a bit vague with process of recording as leaving me in a room with a mic attached to a camera with the only person giving me feedback being my Mother. I also was given some wisdom because my sister showed me a video of when recently Nancy Cartwright came to her university to talk to the graduating class, it opened my mind to some new things. Just wanted to give you an update with myself and my progress, which will be expanded with a assessment workshop with The Edge Studios in a few weeks. But as always hope you work and life is going fantastic.
    Andy Hopkins
    P.S. Wonderful job on Durarara and Young Justice.

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