Reverend Matt’s Monster Science Theater – MSP Workshop Notes

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Matt Kensen, the creator of Reverend Matt’s Monster Science, shared his experiences building the series from its origins in 2012 to its current state.  The performance series Reverend Matt’s Monster Science meshes science and historical fact with humor to educate and entertain.

Workshop notes:

  • The series contains informational and humor
    • Weaves in science and history
    • Adding comedy hooks people to listen to the non-fictional information
      • The sword’s edge of using comedy nicks when people think everything being said is a joke
    • He enjoys both the fact and the humor, and wouldn’t willing pick to drop either aspect of the series
      • But the exploring the facts is a large part of what draws him to the content
  • Development history
    • Matt had been in theater for a number of years
    • In 2012 contacted by someone involved with The Encyclopedia Show held at Kieran’s Irish Pub
      • The show is a monthly verbal presentation of an encyclopedia entry
      • The theme for August 2012 theme was mythological creatures
      • Matt created The Mystery of the Griffin’s Ears, 8 minute talk
    • For a number of years he presented monster facts and humor related to the show’s monthly topic
    • Approached by Fearless Comedy Production’s 50 hour comedy marathon, Die Laughing
      • Created his first long form 30 minute set
    • Phoenix Theater used to have a late night monthly series
      • Matt became a regular
    • In the beginning of 2017,  the Science Museum of Minnesota had a special exhibit about mythological creatures
      • An acquaintance approached Matt about doing a 40 minute presentation
    • Won the performer lottery and presented “What To Do In Case Of Dinosaur Attack” at the 2018 Minnesota Fringe Festival
      • Only had a slight uptick in followers afterward
      • The Fringe audience doesn’t follow artists outside of Fringe
    • Now has a late night series at the Phoenix Theater devoted to Reverend Matt’s Monster Science
  • Monstrous information
    • The definition of monster he uses in regard to the series: a creature that does not currently exist.
    • Four categories for the presentations
      • Paleontology
      • Cryptozoology – things people believe currently, big foot, loch ness
      • Mythology
      • Outright fictional
    • Why do monsters cause fear?
      • A portion of the fear derives from the survival instinct
        • Claws and teeth can kill
      • Some of the best terror is the terror of the unknown
      • Monsters are quintessential outsiders
        • Monster are about the outside
        • Creatures made of other creatures is unnatural
    • Read Joseph Nigg’s The Book of Fabulous Beasts  for its compilation of western mythology.
      • He wished the book covered eastern mythology too.
    • Most of what he knows about physical structure is from studying paleontology
      • There are two general levels of paleontology books
        • This is a triceratops.
        • This is the length of the tooth of <abc dinosaur> found at the <xyz dig>.
      • The trick is to find books that balance between those two
    • I asked questions about the issues with griffin flight he mentioned because dragons would have similar issue
      • Two big problems are the attachment of muscles, and weight
        • For muscle attachment he has a theory of a double rib cage to support the structure of the muscles for six limbs
        • For the weight issue he talked about the pterasaur  quetzalcoatlus
          • 30 foot wing span, 400 lbs
          • Hollow bones, optimized for flight
          • A paleontologist did a study to determine if you could strap yourself the bottom of a quetzalcoatlus and it could still fly
            • The study results determined it would still be capable of flight.
  • Creating a presentation
    • Pick a topic
      • Generating initial ideas isn’t a problem
        • The effort comes in creating something informational, entertaining, and approachable
    • Research to get supporting facts
      • His research for the shows delved into eclectic areas of history, science, and politics based on the driving idea of a specific presentation
    • Deadlines are necessary because it’s easy to procrastinate without a deadline
    • He re-reads old scripts that have been successful in the past as a good luck talisman
  • Evolving as an artist
    • Find your audience
      • Who enjoys your work?
    • Find out what your place is in the world and do that thing
      • Said humorously, what’s the difficulty in that?
      • What you love may not be too weird for the world
      • People are drawn to people doing what they obviously love
    •  Have an ambition more specific than being a writer
      • His example is that he would like to have a show where he goes to locations and talks about the monsters from that location
        • Loch Ness, etc.
    • Be self analytical
      • He thinks about how comedy works
    • Keep doing your thing
      • Experience leads to improvements
        • Even if you don’t feel like you are getting better, you can without perceiving it yourself
      • Confidence increases as you do a thing more
      • Building a reputation for your work helps
        • In his case people laugh more because his reputation helps them
    • Get feedback
  • General tips
    • Don’t devalue yourself
      • Ask for money
      • They aren’t going to be angry
    • Originality is arranging and combining ideas in ways they haven’t been seen before
      • Complete originality prohibits communication
        • Art is self expression
        • But expression doesn’t work unless there is communication
      • Don’t emulate a single other artist
      • Emulating a conglomeration of your influences is okay because that’s who you are
        • Goes back to the point of originality combining things in a way that hasn’t been seen before
    • Impostor syndrome is a natural state for most of us
    • Collaborate when you can
    • If providing time for questions at the end, let people know at the beginning of the presentation
    • Interviewing people is a skill set
      • If you are going to interview someone, intentionally seek to learn the skill
    • Reading your work to an audience isn’t necessary
      • Reading is completely different animal from writing


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