Drawing of the Month

It has come to the blog team’s attention that the drawing of the month has mainly become a collaborative art project between Edo and Niki as the rest of the department seems to be focusing on more important things like ICA deadlines and classwork. Luckily Niki and Edo put collaborative whiteboard murals on the top of their lists of priorities and we have a few unique additions to the mural this week including a critique of Niki’s Battlestar Galactica ship and ebola man. There is only one more week left in the mural project so make sure to get in your contributions before this year’s epic Halloween party!

drawing 4

Telecom Improv Team Hosts Sanctioned Silliness

By: Niki Fritz

Before I begin this article, I have to admit some bias. I used to hate improv; like really hate improv. I’m from Chicago, land of Second City, Tina Fey, and approximately one billion people trying to make it in the improv or comedy world. Throughout my five years in Chicago, I sat through countless improv shows of friends trying out the craft. And I can’t lie; they were painful. Eventually one day I made a rule for myself: no more improv shows.

Ironically about a year before I left Chicago, I found myself accidently taking an improv workshop where I learned the most important, foundational rule of improv was a fairly simple one: “yes, and,” which was basically the opposite of how I had been operating in Chicago. “Yes” meant saying yes to the silliness of a scene even if it is not what you expected. “And” meant, after saying yes, you had to add your own silliness to the mix. “Yes, and” as a rule means not looking for or expecting perfection but existing in the moment and then moving forward. It was deep and stuff.

Little did I know, that the “yes, and” philosophy would haunt – I mean reappear in– my life in Indiana in the form of IU Telecom’s very first, very original improv team, “The Faces of NPR.”

Rule #1 of improv is “Yes, and”

I asked  Edo Steinberg, founder of the Telecom improv team, fearless leader of the troupe and all-around funny man, why he decided to start an improv group with a bunch of stick-in-the-mud social scientists.

Edo admitted that he actually “stole” the idea from the grad students at the University of Pennsylvania. The year before coming to IU, Edo was in Philly, helping his sister adjust to city life and getting kind of bored. He was browsing the profiles of the Comm grad students at UPenn and saw many were taking improv classes. Edo followed their lead and for the next two months, he learned the tenants of improv at the Philly Improv Theater. Edo also humbly noted that the teachers at the Philly school, were actually trained at the iO Theater in Chicago.

“In a way, I was trained at iO,” Edo explained using some shaky-at-best logic.

At this point, Josh Sites, improv team member and first lieutenant of the great beards of improv, felt the need to interject: “Tina Fey was trained at iO so basically Edo and Tina Fey are friends. So really Edo is on a first name basis with Alec Baldwin. Edo is a pretty impressive guy. I try not to boast about it though.” Clearly there is some raw talent on the team when it comes to name dropping and flexible logic.

Edo enjoyed the lessons he learned in Philly so much that he decided to bring the improv philosophy to IU. Also he just missed having an excuse to be silly.

Within two minutes of starting the improv practice, I could see what Edo meant. I had been peer pressured into joining the team in practice to get the full experience; I found myself clucking like a chicken as I walked around in a circle during the warm up activity. It felt silly but it also felt weird to be silly especially with my colleagues.

Josh explained that this feeling is why he joined improv. “I wanted some creative dissonance,” Josh said. When I gave him a look of “Really dude? Did you just say use scholarly jargon?” he restated. “I just wanted the opposite of what I do all day and all week … I get stress relief out of improv. I may just be simply because I’m out of that rut, out of those tracks. Or because it’s silly and goofy and carefree.”

The practice was definitely silly, but as we got further into practice, it also became somewhat challenging. I stepped up to participate and my mind went blank. Without a PowerPoint or lecture outline to follow, my mind was empty, unsure of how to proceed without guidelines.

After this happened a few times, all-wise, fearless leader Edo, told me about another important tenant of improv. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Just try it,” Edo encouraged me. After that, words fell out of my mouth and although they mostly were not funny, I, at least, was participating.

Improv is not about perfection

Nicky Lewis, another veteran member of the troupe, also gave me some much needed perspective on improv, telling me, “It’s the crazy ones that are the fun ones.” The more outlandish a scene, the more fun the team seemed to have. Practice seemed to be a safe place to joke about everything from fat babies and dead bodies to Edo’s secret life as an underground fighter and farts.

It was clear to me that this improv team is not about perfection, it is not about making it onto SNL and it is not about any seriously scholarly pursuits; it is about being silly and recognizing there is more to life than academics.

By the end of practice, I found myself succumbing to the “yes, and” philosophy I had fought so hard years ago. I realized that although I was not only feeling funnier, I also was less worried about being funny. I was more in the moment; I was feeling looser, like the muscles in my body had all just relaxed a bit.

It was then I realized what all my improv friends must have realized years ago in Chicago. Most people don’t do improv for the audience, they don’t do improv to be funny. People do improv to connect to something back inside themselves, that uninhibited part of self that is still silly and free. It is a part of ourselves that sometimes we lose when we are busy being important academics.

If being silly sounds like something you want to try, the Faces of NPR improv team will be having practices on Fridays. Feel free to contact Edo if you want more details.

Improv team members pose for their first official team photo. From left to right: Josh Sites, Nicky Lewis, Edo Steinberg

Improv team members pose for their first official team photo. From left to right: Josh Sites, Nicky Lewis, Edo Steinberg

Question of the Week

You may notice a theme of sorts in this week’s blog. It is rather “Edo-centric.” From an article about the Edo-lead improv team to the sine qua nonsense post and even this week’s question, it is all Edo, all the time. The blog question of the week was actually inspired by the writing that mysteriously filled the whiteboard in the lab over the summer (See below).


Unfortunately, it seems the Department didn’t want to commit to writing an Edo quote on the grad lab board when prompted, although they did enjoy discussing Edo-isms on Facebook and in real life. Of the quotes not posted, here are some of the best:

From Josh (whose reliability when it comes to authenticity of quotes is somewhat sketchy): “What? No, I won’t give you a quote.”

From Niki (who heard this in an interview she stupidly did not record): “I’m an edo-maniac.”

And the very meta-quote that Teresa posted directly after Edo reflected on this week’s poor question of the week participation: “So far,  this is the question of the week with the least responses. This is negatively affecting my self-esteem.”

Buck up Edo! We all know that no one is as punny as you!

question of the week edo

Random Picture of the Week

yanqin edo shuo

“Boy band album cover, or presentation speakers awaiting audience feedback?” – posted by Michelle Funk on Facebook after the October 25 Brown Bag.

Seventh Brown Bag of the Semester – October 25, 2013

Betsi Grabe and Ozen Bas, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

The Testosterone Factor: News Values as Gendered Frames in Covering U.S. Presidential Candidates

ABSTRACT:  The testosterone verve of Democrats has been ridiculed by Republicans, journalists, and comedians since the 1970s.  By 1992 Sidney Blumenthal (Gentleman’s Quarterly article) argued the Democratic Party was gender-stereotyped as unmanly nice and tolerant compared to the testosterone-secreting Republican mode of winner-takes-it-all. This gender-assignment still stands, evident in sharp criticism of President Obama for enduring instead of fighting Gov. Romney in the first 2012 debate.  A content analysis of the past six presidential elections examined verbal and visual news coverage of candidates to understand the deployment of gender frames in mediated politics. News values identified by Gans (1979) were reliably fitted to Bem’s (1974) Sex Role Inventory which gages dimensions of femininity/masculinity. This new instrument produced findings of a consistent pattern over time. Republican candidates were significantly more often wrapped in masculine frames like rugged individualism and patriotism; Democrats in feminine frames like altruistic democracy and responsible capitalism.

Shuo Tang, School of Journalism, Indiana University

Edo Steinberg, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

Yanqin Lu, School of Journalism, Indiana University

Race to Look Good: The Visual Representation of Presidential Candidates in Online Media

ABSTRACT: Through a framing analysis of 786 candidate images published online by major newspapers, newsroom blogs, and partisan blogs during the 2012 presidential campaign, the present study analyzes and compares how mainstream media and partisan blogs visually framed the presidential candidates. The results suggest that while the mainstream media kept a balanced view in framing the candidates, the liberal blogs did not specifically favor Obama over Romney. The conservative blogs, however, demonstrated their favorability by positively framing Romney and negatively framing Obama through the images they selected to publish.

Becoming One of the Team

by Ken Rosenberg

One of us, Edo. One of us...

A note from Edo on joining the team:

I feel ashamed. This department has been nothing but welcoming since the semester began, yet I have spent all this time trying to expose non-existent evils within the sacred halls of the Radio and TV Building. I don’t even know where all this distrust came from or why it suddenly went away, but like any good graduate student, I’m so over asking hard questions. Next semester, when I replace Ken on the blog team (or rather succeed him, since he is irreplaceable), I will strive to undo the damage I have done.

I pledge allegiance to the blog and to the department for which it stands, one unit under IU, indivisible, with funding and classes for all.

Sine Qua Nonsense

by Teresa Lynch

Not long ago, I was being introduced as the newest addition to the blog team.  It now falls upon me to pay that favor forward and welcome Edo Steinberg to the blog.  Don’t worry, Ken and I aren’t going anywhere.  Instead, we’re folding Edo into our mix in a capacity that best suits him: as a comedian.  Edo arrived here this year as a Ph.D. student to study political satire, but his love of humor doesn’t solely rest in scientific inquiry. Far from it, in fact.  I won’t try to steal his thunder, but I will flag that the newest voice from the blog will come from Edo in the way of his “Sine Qua Nonsense” memos.  What will the topics be?  Plentiful, I’d imagine.  But, we’ll just have to see what our resident comedian comes up with for us.  Look for his post to be out the last Wednesdays of each month and welcome to the team, Edo.