7 ways that I “knew” that the Katydids were different

Katie Lambert Copyright 2011, John Abbott Contact The Katydids for permission to reprint

Katie Lambert
Copyright 2011, John Abbott
Contact The Katydids for permission to reprint

A year ago, I wrote about how glad I was to shoot the improv and sketch group The Katydids. They had approached me about photographing them. In that last blog about the Katydids, I wrote that:

I leapt at the chance for three reasons.

  1. They are extraordinarily talented women.
  2. They always seemed to come up with cool ideas for their photos
  3. They work hard at the business end of show business

Since then, The Katydids have done very, very well for themselves.  Their web series was picked up by Above Average.  Then things got real.

Recently, the TV Land Network decided to sign them up for a pilot.  They’re using the same showrunners as the comedy sketch hit Key & Peele.

Which is beyond badass.

Katie Colloton Copyright 2011, John Abbott Contact The Katydids for permission to reprint

Katie Colloton
Copyright 2011, John Abbott
Contact The Katydids for permission to reprint

I also wrote, previously, that I wanted to photograph them “Because I knew that they would go on to do great things.”
I feel very cocky about the fact that I “knew” that The Katydids were going to do something to break out. But I probably shouldn’t. The reason that I knew is because I’ve seen a hundred sketch groups form and break up. Some groups stand out.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share in more detail what I saw in The Katydids – looking in from the outside – and why I think that they’ve earned it.

1- Similar direction, not similar people

The best improv and sketch groups are made up of people who aren’t the same, but have a similar goal or direction.  I think that there’s a weird belief that the people who make up the group have to be the same kind of people. They don’t. In fact, I think that the small differences work to their advantage. The best improv groups are the ones where everyone gets on board, even if one person might have reservations about a particular idea.

I’m reminded of the video that I saw on the making of Bohemian Rhapsody.  When they first heard the tune, it was just a little tiny piece of music. The other members of Queen weren’t completely sold on the concept of the song.  But they knew that Freddie was talented enough, that he had the rest of the song in his head.

In the same way, the best improv and sketch groups are made up of people who trust in each others talent and sensibilities. -And here’s where its important to make a distinction: Its not that the founder of the group chooses the most talented people to be a part of their group. That’s not how great groups are formed. Its when the founder finds people who will love each others creativity enough, to respect it.
The best groups happen when you respect each other’s creativity enough to give their ideas a try. You love them enough as a person that you want to support their ideas.
Because everyone’s going to come up with shitty ideas every now and then. The difference is how you nurture and take care of the idea, and the person who pitched it.

Katie O'Brien Copyright 2011, John Abbott Contact The Katydids for permission to reprint

Katie O’Brien
Copyright 2011, John Abbott
Contact The Katydids for permission to reprint

You’ll note that I’ve included a few of the individual shots from that shoot in this batch.

The Katydids had an idea to do an over-the-top fashion model look. From what I gathered, one person had the idea, and everyone jumped on board. Its the basic tenet of improv: get on board with the idea and add your own.

2 – Each person’s strengths are used

Each woman bought their own talents to the table. One was the organizer. One was the default hair and makeup stylist. Another bought props. Each played to their strengths, and all took part in encouraging the others to swing for the fences, creatively.
I can’t emphasize that enough: use each other’s strengths.  Don’t get caught in a tug-of-war over something that one person is really good at.

3 – They didn’t wait for inspiration to come

They came with ideas. This one sounds incredibly simple, but you’d be amazed at how many sketch and improv troupes think that something will just come to them at the right moment, instead of putting the slightest amount of planning into something.
They brought ideas and asked me for mine.
They also understood that this was a photo shoot. In a photo shoot, you edit after you take the photos. So why not try a couple of ideas, and see what works?

4 – They rolled with the punches

They were all flexible.  Someone was running late, so they changed their schedule around and accommodated that person.  Sounds simple… right? You’d be amazed at how many people get stuck on one particular concept and how they can’t shift gears because ‘someone is missing’.


The Katydids

5 – They all pitched in financially.

This wasn’t one of those deals where one person had to pay for most of the shoot. The expenses were shared.

6 – One person wasn’t making all of the decisions

I remember sending an image along to the person who was the lead on the project to get their approval on a photoshop. They told me that they had to check in with everyone else first. I remember being initially annoyed, but then realizing that it was a good thing.

7 – They were making each other laugh the entire time

Sure, they cared for each other.  During the shoot, a couple of them left to bring back snacks for the rest of the group.
But to hear them make each other laugh, continuously, was such a joy.
If you watch any documentary on any group that has created great work, you’ll hear them talk about how much they made each other laugh. That is who the Katydids are.  Not because they’re trying… but just because they make each other laugh.And that’s what makes them different. That intangible thing where they don’t have to try to make each other laugh.
They just do.

On Edit I forgot to add #8, but The Katydids accidentally reminded me of it.
Shortly after posting this, I started hearing from the Katydids.  Individually. Thanking me for posting about them.
What I forgot to add is that The Katydids had sent me a Thank You note shortly after shooting them.
I’ve shot a few dozen groups and a few hundred headshots.  I’ve received a total of 3 Thank You notes.
Don’t get me wrong. I neither expect Thank You notes, nor have I ever thought that its customary. In fact, I was ashamed that I hadn’t spent enough time thanking the people that I’ve worked for, and with. Which is why I had their Thank You Note hanging on my door for a full year.

From the Katydids

From the Katydids