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Photo © People and Chairs

Photo © People and Chairs

We can improvise anything we want on stage. Anything at all.

So why, as TJ points out, do we so often reach for the same old clichés?

“Experience what’s happening now, and make your surroundings real. You don’t have to invent an environment: it already exists.” – TJ Jagodowski

When you stop playing safe and really focus on what you and your scene partner have established, you’ll open up infinite new possibilities.

Cheers to that.

“It’s not a toomah!”

“La-dee-da, la-dee-da.”

“Coffee’s for closers.”

“Is it safe?”

“May the Force be with you.”

“Big gulps, huh?”

When you read those words, I know you heard the actor’s voice in your mind. Not just the timbre, but the emotion.

A few simple words can sum up a scene, a character, a play, or sometimes, a whole TV series. And as Schwarzenegger proved, you don’t even have to speak a language fluently to make a lasting impact.

Photo © Klapi

Photo © Klapi

While we don’t recommend you rely on catchphrases as a crutch, they can often be useful in defining your character.

The next time you blurt out something on stage, take note of what you said and how you said it.

A word, a phrase, or even a sound (like Annie Hall’s “La-dee-da”) are so much more powerful when accompanied by emotion.

You can explore and heighten whatever you said, or simply repeat it.

For two extreme examples of character and catchphrases, check out Tommy Wiseau’s disaster epic, The Room, and Community‘s Magnitude character.

Improv Side Note: Jack Nicholson’s “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” from The Shining and Robert de Niro’s “You talkin’ to me?” from Taxi Driver were improvised. Now try to imagine their characters without them. Impossible!

Think world-class object-work skills just happen?

Nosireebob.

But have no fear, because Kyle Dooley (yeah, that Kyle Dooley) is teaching all that and more at Bad Dog Theatre this summer.

Who knows? Maybe someday Mark Little will gaze at your invisible beer with the same boyish admiration.

Click here for more info and to sign up for classes.

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Photo © Alison Haines

A while back, Cameron showed me a poorly-made YouTube video of a homely woman singing, (if you could call her meandering attempt at melody “singing”).

“Yeah, so what?” I demanded.

Cameron just smiled and showed me another video: an auto-tuned version that made the woman’s warbling sound, if not Top Ten-worthy, then at least as good as any One Direction B-side.

The original song could have rotted in obscurity. Instead, a bunch of people built on that small kernel of creativity and made something unexpectedly wonderful.

When you walk on stage, it’s like that first Sunny D and Rum.

Sometimes it’s scary to put yourself out there. It’s tempting just to talk and talk and lay out the whole story before your scene partner even opens her mouth.

But how cool is it to do something – anything at all – and trust that your scene partners will notice, “yes and,” and create something amazing together?

As Del Close said:

“Don’t bring a cathedral into a scene. Bring a brick; let’s build together.” 

To watch the original Sunny D followed by the auto tune version, click below.

There are now countless different versions, including Sunny D and Rum: The Musical, a dubstep version, and our favourite, a beat box version:

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 10.05.42 PM

 

We’ve been waiting months for this, and what a joy to hear these two giants of improv talk!

David Razowsky and Mick Napier talk about their early days in the Chicago improv scene, mentors, movies, and scenes they never wanna see again.

“Everyone digs in a graveyard [scene]. I always thought it was very funny that the universal association with being in a graveyard is that you’re gonna dig up a body.” – Mick Napier

For more bon mots from the always-passionate Razowsky and the almost preternaturally mellow Napier, check out the latest A.D.D. Podcast.

I started to write about Pattern Game* and asked Cameron for his opinion. Of course, his answer was much more interesting than an explanation of how to do it.

And so, POV was born: Point Of View. People On Video. Party On…Valium?

Stay tuned for more POVs with your favourite improvisers. Click here or below to watch.

*For a detailed description of pattern games, see page 29 of Truth In Comedy.

CameronOnPatternGame

My boss saw two brothers, aged 4 and 8, being interviewed on Breakfast Television. The host asked what they wanted to be when they grow up.

The older brother answered “A dentist.”

The younger one blurted:

“I wanna be a dragon!”

As we get older, logic starts to rein in our imagination. Improv is a chance to let it run free again.

The next time something crazy, unexpected, or illogical happens on stage and your left brain wants to justify or “correct” it, ask yourself: Would you rather be a dentist, or a dragon?