Mark Beltzman is an actor who has appeared on Seinfeld (he tried to buy the suit that George wanted), Curb Your Enthusiasm and According to Jim. Mark was in Second City and teaches acting at The Art of Allowing Improv Workshops, here is a link to his IMDB page:
Q: How did you get started as an improvisational performer?
A: I was born and raised in Detroit, MI where I started my career as a commercial Actor and was cast in a Highland Appliance TV commercial by my friend Ameen Howarani, a Brilliant photographer of his time. My best friend from High School, Robert Teachman, worked as his assistant and I would hang out at the Studio on 15 E Baltimore quite a bit back in those days. Around that same time in 1982 I started taking Acting lessons and read an article in the Detroit News about a guy named Del Close who was coming to town to teach some workshops on Improvisation! Del was the acting coach for the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, which was the original cast of Saturday Night Live. I went to see the man in the article, Jonathon Round, who was responsible for bringing Del to town. I cleaned out my bank account and paid for the workshop and the rest is history. From there I got cast in a new sketch/improv group the Jonathon was putting together called The Detroit Times Theater Co. Which is where I met my wife of 31 years,Beverly lubin, among others I still keep in touch with. I would later move to Chicago to study with Del in 1985. That year I was a founding member of Improv Olympic, now known as I.O. and cast in a group Barron’s Barracudas and in August I auditioned and was cast in The Second City!
Q: To what method of acting do you ascribe and how do you go about teaching it?
A: Improvisation is my background and although I have taken many classes in scene study I find that improvisation is the most freeing. Acting is reacting and you really must replace thinking with listening and immerse yourself in the story and then the lines come more naturally. I have taught Improvisation all over the world and what I teach is Ensemble work! The art of making your partner look good and in turn you look twice as good. Acting is a children’s game and must be played by children’s rules, rather than playing a children’s game by adult rules which is not fun! Children just jump in and play and conceptualize later, adults on the other hand want to conceptualize everything before they play which limits their ability to be creative.
Q: You were in one of the most memorable episodes of Seinfeld; what do you think made that series a classic?
A: I believe what made Seinfeld so successful was the writing. The writers had the unique ability to follow the stories subplot without always focusing on Jerry as the lead character. It has been said that the show was about nothing and that was the gift. There was always something else going on in each episode that allowed the audience to focus on several stories and characters all at once.
Q: What was your most difficult role and how did you prepare for it?
A: I have never really encountered a difficult role. I love what I do SO much I have never perceived any acting job as difficult! I am really lucky I get to do what I love!
Q: You have been on screen with some major stars; do you get recognized on the street?
A: Occasionally I get recognized as looking familiar. Most often if anything it would probably be my role in the movie Billy Madison.
Q: You had a reoccurring role on According to Jim. What are some of the advantage and disadvantage of such a role for an actor?
A: The advantages are being a working actor. There are no disadvantages that I am aware of.
Q: What has been your most memorable celebrity encounter?
A: By far it would have to be meeting and getting to work with John Candy. I did two movies with him Uncle Buck, which I was cut out of, and “Home Alone” where I played Stosh, The Tuba player in the polka band The Kenosha Kickers. John was one of the most special, Generous, and FUNNY celebrities I ever had the privilege of working with!
Q: What should an improv student do if they have stage fright?
A: Replace all your Wants, Needs, and Desires with your partner’s Needs, Wants, and Desires. It is the same Ideas that I teach. The Idea of Improvisation is Ensemble work. which means to make your partner look good, and you will look twice as good. In other words you need to LISTEN ! That is the key to good acting, replace THINKING w LISTENING! if you have stage fright you must get out of your head. It means you are thinking which leads to being self conscious, to relieve that pressure you must completely immerse yourself in listening to your partner and simply react as real and as honest as you can. Acting is Re-Acting and you Can Not react if you are Not Listening !!!
Q: You were in Second City in Chicago, what sets Second City apart from other troupes?
A: The Second City is one of the Greatest jobs any actor can have. It is a privilege to be an Alumnus of such a Great institution. I believe it is what I just said in your question about stage fright and again, it is also what I teach. Ensemble work is what you learn there. You learn to Act, Write, Direct, and Improvise All on your feet in front of an audience. If you make your partner look good you look twice as good. it is on the job training.
Q: Curb Your Enthusiasm is a big hit why do you think there haven’t been more improvised series?
A: Improv is an art form where there is no structure in the dialogue. if you look back Curb was an hour HBO special before it was a series. People in the industry want more structure so they can control the creative process. What they don’t understand is that nobody knows what works and what doesn’t. It is ALL essentially improvised! They just don’t let the actors make up their own dialogue. It is about taking risks, the bigger the risk the bigger the reward.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)