When he's not acting or improvising at Dad's Garage Theatre, Randy Havens, 31, usually earns a living tending bar at Carpe Diem in Decatur. Havens adapted a white-collar mind-set as the co-writer of the corporate satire FWD:. The show's world premiere continues at the Dad's Garage Top Shelf space through Aug. 2. Havens talked to CL about FWD:'s origins, his youthful demeanor and why Tyler Perry is like God.
How did the idea for FWD: come about? How did you and co-writer Christian Danley develop the script?
The idea for the play came out of the season-planning process at Dad's Garage, where we all get together in a room and jam on ideas for the next season. After a week, we vote on the ones we like best, and this one made the cut. Our writing process is like doing an improv scene. Christian and I would get in a room and ask, "What is the archetype of this scene? Who are the characters?" and questions like that, and we'd riff back and forth. Whatever we remembered when we were done, we'd write down. In improv, if you can remember something after the fact, that means it's good.
What's the show about?
It's about life in an office and technology, and the ways we cope with that life. It's about ways we communicate with each other, and it's about the things that make us go crazy, and how seductive they can be.
Do many people in the show's cast and crew have 9-to-5 corporate jobs?
Most of the cast and crew have office jobs. I think Christian, who works for Adult Swim, is the only one who has a dream job. The rest of us have jobs that are like "[Sighs...] Gotta go to my job again... ." Our director, Mike Katinsky, is enmeshed in the corporate world, so sometimes he'll say things to us like, "Just a note to you guys: This would never happen in an office." So we'll ask him, "OK, so what would happen?" He's able to set us straight and keep the show in that realm.
Do you get typecast as kids and teens because of your youthful appearance?
Completely. I have a baby face. But I like looking young and playing young. It's good because you get to be sillier than a "straight man" character.
In the most recent, Revolutionary War-themed season of the improvised soap opera Scandal! you played a high schooler from the future. Did you have any favorite moments playing that kid?
"Seth from the future" had a hoverboard that he kept in his backpack. We didn't bring it out until episode 3, I think, and figuring out how to "fly" was interesting. I grabbed two other improvisers and had them hold me up.
You've been doing improv at Dad's since 2000. How has improv changed in Atlanta?
Improv is kind of a living thing, so it's always changing. As people get older, the dynamic at Dad's has changed, and I think the dynamic in the city is changing, too. More people are aware of it from seeing it in movies and TV, so I think it's going to have a renaissance in this city. The shows we have running now are pretty successful. We have a fake Japanese game show, and we literally have to close and lock the doors to keep audiences from walking in, even when we're sold out. We've had discussions several times that improv is recession-proof. People will always want to go some place to laugh. As long as we're doing a good job, they'll keep coming.
You recently appeared on Tyler Perry's sitcom "House of Payne." What was your role?
I was a character called "The Rat Whisperer" brought in to the wacky fire station to get rid of a rat infestation. Tyler Perry will allow improv on the set, and the guy that plays the uncle, LaVan Davis, improvises about half of his lines. He's the funniest guy on earth, so half of what I did was trying not to laugh.
What was Tyler Perry like?
He's God-like. He had a couch with a monitor board, from which he'd watch everything on the studio. I'd be doing a scene and he'd get on the "God-mic" and say, "Do this." If you hear a voice from above, you have to do what it says. It's like having your conscience talk to you.