The Gossips is one of American artist Norman Rockwell’s most famous paintings.
Rockwell said he had the idea for 20 years, but couldn’t figure out how to complete it. He finally solved it by having the person the gossip was about hear it, then come full circle to the person who started it.
(That’s Rockwell’s wife in the third row, second from the left, and Rockwell himself pointing the finger at the blabbermouth.)
When you’re feeling stuck in a scene or a Harold, think back to what happened at the start. Calling back a character, a word, or even a gesture is often all you need to revive the energy, close the loop, or provide a great blow line.
As Mike Myers says, “The end is in the beginning.”
(Thanks to Rob Norman for the source, and the inspiration.)
1. Nobody forgot their medication. They’re always like this.
2. You don’t need to look for it. It’s right in front of you.
3. You have a surprisingly strong opinion about what your partner is doing.
4. If you really don’t want to do something, do it.
5. Yes, you should have edited there.
6. If you do it twice, you have to do it three times.
7. No house painter has ever had an amazing new house painting technique.
8. You’re never just doing stuff. Figure out why you’re doing it the way you’re doing it.
9. We don’t care about what you don’t care about.
10. Why you do what you do is what you’ll do next.
Doug Sheppard is a Web developer by trade, and a writer and improviser by vocation. He lives in Toronto and considers it one of the finest places in all of Canada. You may also be amused by his twitter, or you can see him perform live improvisational comedy without a net with the Tomes Adventure Hour.
“I think of it like dance, or like a basketball team. A good basketball team has practised so much and knows each other so well that they know where they’re gonna be at any given time, or they understand the rhythm of each player. And they’ve worked so long putting it together slowly that it’s effortless, or it seems effortless.”
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.
“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.
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.