Posts tagged improv scene work
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Part of the fun of doing improv is being able to do anything. Like Neo in The Matrix, you can fly, stop bullets, or even hook up with The Woman in the Red Dress; things mere mortals can only dream of.
Sometimes we add crazy elements to a scene, thinking we’re making it funnier. But what often happens when characters go to Mars is so does believability.
The audience needs a reason to believe.
I once saw Jason DeRosse, Rob Norman, and Adam Cawley ask for a location that would fit on the stage. Someone yelled out “Shoe!”
The guys paused and looked at each other, then played 25 minutes as three roommates trapped in a stiletto.
The setting was absurd, but their reactions and their relationship to each other were grounded in truthfulness. And nothing is funnier than truth in comedy.
In this Fast Company video, Ricky Gervais explains how he used to make up crazy shit until he discovered the power of keeping it real. Click here or below to watch.
1. Be good actors.
2. Slow down and listen.
“If you say that you don’t want to learn how to act, it’s like saying you don’t want to learn how to do object work or learn how to do yes… and.
How many more father and son scenes can we see where the improvisers aren’t really emotionally invested in the relationship? Naming someone ‘Dad’ in a scene does not mean you have created a relationship that the audience cares about.
We’re doing theater, here, people. If we’re not acting, we’re just doing a parlor game, and a hacky one at that.” – Jimmy Carrane
Read the full post on Jimmy’s blog by clicking here.
“The thing about Invention Town is, no one lives there. So you might as well live in HereNow Town, where we’re all at.” – David Razowsky
When you treat your objects like they’re real, the scene becomes more real – for you, and the audience.
In this scene, Cameron tries to move an industrial stove. Instead of just sliding it across the stage in two seconds, you can almost see the hernia developing. (Now that’s comedy.)
Having a strong point of view makes doing a scene easy and fun. This exercise gives your character something concrete to play off of, right out of the gate.
Think of something you personally have a strong opinion about.
It doesn’t have to be political or religious; it can be as simple as “I hate clowns.”
Now, just flip the statement, whatever it is, and hold the opposite opinion as you play out your scene.
• “I enjoy exploring new cities” could become “I’m afraid of foreign places and people.”
• “Fox News is stupid” could become “Fox News is the best source of intelligent, factual information.”
• “Smartphones are destroying human interaction” could be “Smartphones make face-to-face communication better and more honest.”
You don’t have to force the topic into conversation, but you’ll find as your scene unfolds that you’ll share your newfound belief naturally.
To do the exercise, everyone thinks of a strongly-held opinion while they’re on the back line, then reverses it. Two people are chosen, and the Coach/Director gives a location to start their scene.
Try it at your next rehearsal.
“People doing rote assembly-line movements, or someone tossing dough over and over in a pizza parlour is boring. It’s boring to watch and boring to perform. But if you’re a bad pizza thrower who drops the dough or watches it stick to the ceiling, then we know something more about your character.” – Mark Sutton
I learned an early lesson in showing up at a Cage Match final years ago.
Adam Cawley, Reid Janisse and Marty Adams were one of two teams performing, but according to the rules they couldn’t win, because one of their team members was missing.
That didn’t stop them from putting on one of the funniest shows I’d ever seen.
At one point they swept a scene so quickly, the stage was left bare for a second. Without hesitation, Adam pointed his finger and yelled “Empty stage!”
The three of them strode back on and walked in a circle, pointing and yelling “Empty stage! Empty stage!” in unison.
It was ridiculous, and hilarious, and people were crying with laughter.
I was blown away by their commitment to creating something out of literally nothing. And even though they couldn’t win, they showed up and gave it their all. No wonder they made it to the finals.
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen
It’s a simple thing, but it’s so important.
For a show you said “yes” to – even if it was months ago and you forgot.
Showing up shows you care.
About your team, your scene partner, and yourself.