Unconsciously Coupled is an improv duo from Sarasota starring Joe and Kathy Rinaldi. The duo is making its second consecutive Countdown Improv Festival appearance and will perform on the HCC Studio Theatre stage on Friday night of this year’s festival. In this spotlight interview, the Rinaldis discuss how their show has evolved over the years, what it’s like being married to your improv partner, and the differences between improv in Europe and in America.
We’re very excited to have Unconsciously Coupled back at the festival this year! Can you tell us a little bit about your show? What can viewers expect?
Unconsciously Coupled: We really like to mine the ways in which people who have been working or living together a long time are very unconsciously coupled. We’ve changed our format a bit for this year, but it’s still a show that focuses on the humor of relationships.
If we’re remembering correctly, Unconsciously Coupled performed its very first show at our online Very Normal Festival in December 2020. How has the show evolved since then? Do you think about it differently now than you did when you first began?
UC: I’m not sure we think about it differently so much as we’ve grown as improvisers, so there’s a lot more trust in silence, a lot more comfort with finding the humor in the situation, and, maybe, we’re letting our own personal humor come out more. Impromptu, our other troupe, is so much more dramatically oriented, so with UC, we get a chance to let our own personalities show.
The two of you are “consciously coupled,” insofar as you’re married to each other. What are the advantages (and disadvantages!) of being married to your improv partner?
UC: The only thing conscious about marriage is the license! All the rest is made up as you go, kind of like improv! Hmm… Advantages are that we know each other. Disadvantages are that we know each other. Seriously, though, we can trust that our partner will know where we’re going, we get each other’s references, we can see the quirky as soon as it shows its face. It’s been such a wonderful gift to find this way of connecting at this stage of our lives, and we truly love working together. Like all marriages, though, it’s more difficult to give your spouse notes than someone you’re simply partnering with in a duo/trio. ‘Nuff said about that.
With Teresa Linderman Bueno, the two of you also perform as the trio Impromptu, which festival audiences will be seeing on Saturday night at the festival. Does your work with Unconsciously Coupled at all affect and inform your work with Impromptu, and vice versa?
UC: Absolutely. We have found that it’s easier to bring organic humor into Impromptu, now that we’ve played with UC (Teresa was always fabulous with humor!). We’ve also found that we can bring the silences and pivots to something heartfelt while playing as UC. Improv is improv. If it’s good, it has all the great elements of theater, we think.
Impromptu is performing a bunch in Europe this year, which is amazing! To the extent that you’ve noticed any salient differences, how does the European improv scene differ from the American improv scene? What’s one good thing about the European improv scene that you wish you could transplant over here?
UC: Europeans are so accepting of dramatic improv and narrative forms of improv. We saw much less of the wild, crazy improv that is often the format in U.S. shows. Even in the deliberately funny shows, there seemed to be a narrative through-line. Also, the European improv troupes are ridiculously inventive. We saw some shows that blew our minds, including a couple using AI technology with live players. Crazy! We were only in England and Sweden, of course, so we can’t extrapolate to all the other festivals.
That said, when we started Impromptu, we were one of the very few doing dramatic improv in the Tampa Bay area. Now, we’re finding that some of the mainstream improv companies are doing more and more of what we like to call “unscripted theatre/genre shows” than they did before. We think it’s what audiences like, too, especially those who attend a lot of theatre. We would never have imagined, less than four years ago, that we’d get a reputation for creating improvised theatre from a simple word. It’s crazy! SPOILER ALERT! Impromptu is presenting a new genre that we learned to create during the pandemic, and will be presenting our first live show at Countdown!
Finally, any guesses about who will be inducted into the Countdown Improv Festival Hall of Fame this year?
UC: Shoot. The list is ridiculously long, and so many are absolute improv artists. How about doing three this year?!