If acting out unscripted scenes based on off-the-cuff suggestions from an audience sounds fun, you, – like Rock City’s Matt DeCample – should probably be checking out your nearest improv group.
DeCample has been part of a local group for over ten years now. They grace the Joint in Argenta every Wednesday, so if you haven’t been, you need to rectify that.
Born and raised in the Seattle suburbs, DeCample didn’t have Little Rock or even Arkansas on his radar. Post college, his choice of study – broadcasting – would lead him to the Natural State.
“I knew two people in the whole state,” he remembers, but he made the journey to join the team at Channel 7 News.
While in his third year there, he was approached by the Attorney General’s office. He remembers, “They said, ‘Hey, we want to talk to you about a job, and of course my initial reaction was I’ve got a job, I’m good.’” He did eventually dive in, and would find himself in politics for eleven and a half years – during which time Mike Beebe served one term as AG and two terms as Governor.
As a spokesperson for Beebe’s Office, DeCample found himself doing a myriad of things and working with some vary talented lawyers. He spent a lot of time talking to constituents as issues would arrive and he says of the whole experience, “It was a very good education.”
Probably most memorable, however, involved our fickle Arkansas weather. He says, “I ended up being the point person for making the decision when there was inclement weather on whether or not state offices stay open or closed.”
He tried to keep that information from people, because it was a bit of a stressor. He’d have to get up at dawn, talk to the National Weather Service, the local police, emergency services and so on.
He laughs, “And, of course, when the weather shifts as it does and doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do – well then it’s [my] fault.”
It was actually during this time that DeCample found a home on stage. Back in Washington he had discovered his love for improv, even though his only theater background was years of watching “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
Around 2004, DeCample got together with a few transplants working at the Children’s Theatre at the Arkansas Arts Center. “We started doing shows and we’ve done them ever since. It’s been 10 and a half years now,” he says.
Of course, the group has turned over a bit, as people move away or start families. Through it all, though, DeCample has stayed on, along with Brett Ihler. Brett’s wife Ashley – resident sound and lights queen – also jumped on stage about five years ago. He says, “It’s just evolved over time, but it’s always been the same concept and the same fun.”
For DeCample the stage offers a bit of a release, especially during those more hectic days working for the governor. “Coming from a background both in TV and in government where a lot of what you say is prepared, to just be able to get up there with no net and just completely shut your brain off as far as filters and walls – it was my therapy and still is.”
Perhaps the most magic moment in improv, according to DeCample, is when you say something you weren’t aware you were going to say. When you get a laugh that way, DeCample says, “That’s the sweeter laugh.”
Luckily for him, his boss was fine with his love of performing, although the group worked hard not to be overly political. These days, he doesn’t have to worry as much – as he’s started a communications company – Aarch – and is no longer in the game of politics.
“I partnered with some friends who work in government relations and economic development … we help companies and individuals or whoever needs representation,” he says of Aarch.
Funnily enough, he’s managed to bring improv into his business. He says, “Soft skills is the big term these days – team building. The basics of improv adapt really well to everything and you can have fun with it – you’re not just talking at a group – you’re getting them to get active. … We’ve had a ton of fun.”
Even though DeCample misses Washington – his family is still there – he is proud to call Little Rock home. He’s glad to see the direction the city is going in, for the most part, as he says, “I think culturally it’s going in a very good direction – we have good artistic outlooks and a wider variety of food outlets and entertainment and everything.”
When not working or on stage, DeCample enjoys watching movies – and even works with the Hot Springs Documentary Festival. He laughing says, “I’m a bit of a movie snob, sometimes.”
Plus, you can find him supporting local music. “I check out the live music scene when I can – I live half a mile from White Water so I go there plenty.”
If you haven’t met DeCample yet, catch him at the Joint. He’s guaranteed to make you laugh.