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Trophy Wife : Improv Comedy from Los Angeles

Trophy Wife

Improv Comedy from Los Angeles

Trophy Wife is a long-form improv comedy group that performs "The Harold," the signature improvised piece of the iOWest. Based on a single audience suggestion, Trophy Wife weaves a series of completely improvised scenes, stories, and games into a single hilarious piece. Each show is broadcast worldwide via the group's popular podcast.
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New Year's Eve in the Bunker

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It’s New Year’s Eve and, in an overabundance of caution, I’ve sequestered myself in Trophy Wife’s bunker. I don’t think there will be any civil unrest tonight, but you never know. They are, after all, adding a leap second to ‘08. And Microsoft Zunes are going all haywire because of the leap year.

Our bunker is an interesting story in itself. We wanted it to be underground, near the iO West theater, and have good parking. After an exhaustive search, we gave up on the parking requirement and signed a lease on a former sex dungeon. A few of the bunker’s features:

  • A stockpile of 100 suggestions that could be used to start an improv show. We began secretly assembling these suggestions in 2007. This stockpile will enable us to put on shows even in some post-apocalyptic world where the audience is not allowed to speak.

  • 30 copies of the book Truth In Comedy, translated into many different languages, including Esperanto and some comic book, story-board edition. Kevin assures us that version will be intelligible even in some post-apocalyptic world where no one knows how to read.

  • A red phone that connects us directly to an improv group in Bejing. I just picked it up to test the line and, yes, the Hey, Fred Schneider warm-up has made it to China.

  • A popcorn machine and a keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon. In some post-apocalyptic world where the iO West Theater has been closed down (or, in some pre-apocalyptic world where an SUV has crashed into the theater), the good times can continue in our bunker.

That’s all I can say without compromising the bunker’s security. Please, have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve. And come see us perform next Wednesday (1/7/2009) when we return from a two-week hiatus.

Freaky Robot Girl

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Robotics experts the at the University of Osaka have built this uber-creepy robot based on a little girl – a super-creepy, dead-eyed little girl. In the coming Robot Apocalypse, I look forward to smashing these robot’s descendants with a baseball bat.

Cat vs. Printer

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The printer clearly started it.

Oh, man. . . bot. . .

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Machines ‘to match man by 2029’
By Helen Briggs
Science reporter, BBC News, Boston


Machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence by 2029, a leading US inventor has predicted.

Humanity is on the brink of advances that will see tiny robots implanted in people’s brains to make them more intelligent, said Ray Kurzweil.

The engineer believes machines and humans will eventually merge through devices implanted in the body to boost intelligence and health.

“It’s really part of our civilisation,” Mr Kurzweil explained.

“But that’s not going to be an alien invasion of intelligent machines to displace us.”

Machines were already doing hundreds of things humans used to do, at human levels of intelligence or better, in many different areas, he said.

Man versus machine

“I’ve made the case that we will have both the hardware and the software to achieve human level artificial intelligence with the broad suppleness of human intelligence including our emotional intelligence by 2029,” he said.

We’ll have intelligent nanobots go into our brains… to make us smarter, said Ray Kurzweil.

“We’re already a human machine civilisation; we use our technology to expand our physical and mental horizons and this will be a further extension of that.”

Humans and machines would eventually merge, by means of devices embedded in people’s bodies to keep them healthy and improve their intelligence, predicted Mr Kurzweil.

“We’ll have intelligent nanobots go into our brains through the capillaries and interact directly with our biological neurons,” he told BBC News.

Make solar energy affordable
Provide energy from fusion
Develop carbon sequestration
Manage the nitrogen cycle
Provide access to clean water
Reverse engineer the brain
Prevent nuclear terror
Secure cyberspace
Enhance virtual reality
Improve urban infrastructure
Advance health informatics
Engineer better medicines
Advance personalised learning
Explore natural frontiers

The nanobots, he said, would “make us smarter, remember things better and automatically go into full emergent virtual reality environments through the nervous system”.

Mr Kurzweil is one of 18 influential thinkers chosen to identify the great technological challenges facing humanity in the 21st century by the US National Academy of Engineering.

The experts include Google founder Larry Page and genome pioneer Dr Craig Venter.

The 14 challenges were announced at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, which concludes on Monday.

MKV: The Hovering Death Robot

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So apparently Lockheed Martin has developed this. . . thing that’s supposed “to allow a single interceptor to destroy a ballistic missile equipped with multiple warheads or countermeasures.”

I don’t know about you, but all I see is a hovering death robot. Happy New Year.

Turkey Talk II

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Last year, the Abbotts cooked a salted turkey for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful. We were all set to do the same this year. Until… the Fearless Flyer arrived. Or at least we thought it was the Fearless Flyer (that’s the title of the Trader Joe’s circular). But the title of this particular publication was Food Pilgrimager . (Is it a special issue of the Fearless Flyer or some sort of ‘occasional publication’ from Trader Joe’s? Maybe an ISBN or the Audit Bureau of Circulation itself could shed some light on this question.)

No matter. What the Pilgrimager told us was that Trader Joe’s is selling already-brined fresh turkeys. Quicker than you can say ‘Pirate’s Booty,’ I was at the Trader Joe’s at Movietown Plaza.

How will our store-brined bird turn out? Check back in a few days. If I know Trader Joe, though, I’m guessing it will be gobble-gobble-good!

The turkey was fantastic! Get a Trader Joe’s Brined Turkey and you’ve got a party.

In Which Opus and Kevin Visit The Future

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Opus and Kevin play an imaginary game
Opus and Kevin play an imaginary game from the future.
photo: Linda Abbott

This past Sunday, Opus and I got our collective geek on at the annual Wired NEXTFest downtown at the LA Convention Center. Opus went as part of his All New Year project. I went to do recon for the upcoming Robot Apocalypse. And our companion – photographer Linda Abbott – was there to document it all. It was an afternoon full of exploration, shenanigans, and SCIENCE (said while twirling one’s finger upward)!

Kevin pwns Opus in Brainball
Kevin pwns Opus in BrainBall
photo: Linda Abbott

One of the highlights included BrainBall – a game in which opponents sit at opposite sides of a table from each other, a magnetic ball between them, and a headband that measures brainwaves strapped to their heads. The idea is that the more relaxed your mind is, the further you push the ball toward your opponent. It was like the Russian Roulette scene from Deer Hunter. Only with our minds.

I totally pwnd Opus in all three of the three games we played, using a deadly combination of my awesome brain-fu plus shouting word problems at him (“A train leaves Chicago at 4:30 PM at 70 miles per hour…”).

Opus and Kevin sign autographs
Opus signs autographs for his non-existant fanbase
photo: Linda Abbott

Other shenanigans included sitting at the empty NASA booth and signing the photos left over from the astronaut autograph session (no need to thank us), and trying to crawl into the spacepod they had set up.

But our main occupation that afternoon was fucking with the robotics people. In keeping with my recon mission, I asked each robot vendor what the easiest way to disable their robots would be once they start going crazy and killing people. Most of the scientists we encountered didn’t have much of a sense of humor about my line of questioning. Or much else for that matter. No one got the Cylon joke Opus cracked at the artificial robot flesh booth.

It’s slightly comforting to know that the first round of killer robots will all look like old Chinese scientists. It’s when they start looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger that we need to worry.
photo: me

One woman who did have a sense of humor was the daughter of a Chinese robotics developer/professor who had made a robot replica of himself. Camcorder in hand, she filmed the audience’s reactions to her father’s attempted leap of Uncanny Valley. Turning her camera to Opus and I, she asked what we thought of the entire thing. That was a mistake.

After recording a few minutes of our anti-robot japes, she put down the camera and asked, “Are you two actors?” We, of course, denied the accusation, which prompted her to follow up with “. . . Or sitcom comedians?“ As if being a sitcom comedian is somehow different from being an actor and (judging by the tone of her voice) a far inferior occupation.

But perhaps the best moment of the day (and one of my crowning achievements in life, really) occurred while Opus and I were investigating the “Future of Entertainment” section of the hall. After playing a game of 3D Pong (which you would think would just be regular ping pong, but it wasn’t), we came across a simple white cube, about waist-high, with a light shining down on it. Clearly meant for an exhbit that either hadn’t been or was already set up and taken down, the cube was now bare. So I came up with a new use for it.

I told Opus to stand opposite me and, with the cube between us, we crouched down. With determined looks on our faces, we started moving our hands in a way that suggested some type of back-and-forth game was being played – complete with celebration after points “scored.”

Two kids try to play Kevin and Opus' imaginary game
Kids are gullible
photo: Linda Abbott

Sure enough, after a few moments, we started to draw a small crowd around us. People curious as to what we were playing and why they couldn’t see it.

But the crowning moment occurred when two boys asked us if they could step in and play our game. After Opus and I positioned them exactly where we were standing (since it was the only place they could “see” the game), we tried to hold in our chuckles as they actually tried to “play” our imaginary game. It was amazing.

Sure, we’re jerks for duping childen. And being smartasses to the world’s top scientists. But whatever. Next year, we’re bringing a videocamera. The NextFest is too fertile ground for comedy to remain unplowed.

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