Think of your favourite improv scene ever. (If that’s too hard, the best one you’ve seen recently.)
Whether it featured a couple of co-workers, conjoined twins, or the Ikea monkey and his Mom, I’ll bet dollars to donuts it wasn’t about a “special day.”
Many of us were taught every scene should be “Today is the day that…” Unfortunately, that can lead to forced or clichéd scenes.
“Today’s the day we’re finally going to get married!”
“Today’s the day I quit my job to become an astronaut!”
“Today’s the day I win the Nobel Peace Prize!”
Any of these scenarios could turn out to be great. And there’s nothing wrong with making a huge offer at the top of the scene. But there’s also nothing wrong with starting small and finding the “what” along the way.
And if the what turns out to be nothing more than discovering a woman has married an exact carbon copy of her shouty father (as happened in one of my favourite scenes), that’s just fine.
“Be so believable it hurts. Don’t just play the idea of the scene. Dive deep into the scene. The relationships are what’s important. Simple scenes are all you need; it doesn’t have to be ‘about’ something.” – Greg Hess
If you can get your hands on a copy, watch TJ and Dave’s show entitled Before The Party. The entire 50-minute set revolves around two guys getting ready for some kind of shindig.
We never actually find out what happens at the party. Who cares? It’s all about these two characters, from their music choices to their fear of failure with women.
The more you focus on what’s happening right now, the more we’ll lean in to learn more.
Jason Mantzoukas’s one-man Hermit show (described here) is another great example. While it did turn out to be an unusual day, he didn’t start by declaring that right off the top.
Instead, the scene built to a climax slowly and methodically. And how much more powerful was it because the audience discovered the “what” with him?
When you’re fully present and immersed in what’s happening on stage, you’ll create something people remember – because they experienced it too.