Can I get a relationship? Yes. Can I get a room in the house? Yes. (Other than bathroom?) Sure. Can I get a number between 1 and 10? (As long as you don’t mind someone yelling out 11, yes, you can.) Can I get an occupation? Other than proctologist? Pause. Okay, I’ll take gynecologist, but they won’t be at work in my scene, that’s fine.
Can I get an era in history? Can I get a new invention, a director, a colour in Canada, a color in the United States, a strange dress code, a rule of thumb, a day of the week, your favorite film director, an expression, your favorite spelling of favourite, flavor, flavour, neighbour or neighbor, a word you don’t know the meaning of, the name of a real or imagined arch nemesis, a time you got stitches, an object you made for somebody, a reason to be happy, to be sad, to be angry, to lose your job, to vow vengeance on a bird or a reason to give up on Tinder?
Ask me for any of those things, but please, improvisers, I’m begging you… stop asking me and our audiences for a “non-geographical location.”
The terms “non-geographic” and “location” cancel each other out. It doesn’t make sense.
Plus, I have yet to have seen any instance of this ask being employed where any audience member (who is not an improviser and thus immune to nonsense by now) doesn’t pause and have to think hard about what you just asked. Which kills the energy in the house. Which kills the momentum of the show. Which leads to you, the improviser, having to then follow up with “Yeah, you know, like a room in the house, or… a… country… ” Psst, hey, you: all those things are geographical if they happen on a planet, an alternate dimension or the head of a pin.
You can’t blame the audience. The “ask” requires them to go “Huh? What?” and then they give you an actual geographic location no matter what they give you. Even “deep space” or “inside a thought” can’t really be proven to be non-geographical, because the scene has to happen somewhere, even if the “where” they give you is “nowhere.” It has a location, a point where either one entity/nonentity or being has a moment and/or experience for the audience to witness.
The only right answer to “Can I get a non-geographic location?” that I can come up with is “A non-geographic location!” Or maybe “Nowhere!” or “Nothing!” which are actually still states of being or places, in which case the only right thing to do then is to bring the lights down for three minutes and nobody goes up and you just let the audience think about that till the lights snap back up, blinding everybody.
Like a sound that needs a medium to travel in, the scene you do for the audience must take place somewhere for it to be a scene. In that case, your “nowhere” has to be “somewhere” for there to be anybody in it. Unless there’s nobody in it. Which really leads me to my real point, I guess.
Please be in your scenes.
To sum up, once upon a time there was an improviser named Marcel who was getting really annoyed at hearing lazy, incoherent asks from his fellow improvisers that they had been taught by lazy, incoherent coaches who weren’t really thinking Marcel would ever make it “a thing.”
Photo © Tim Leyes
Marcel St. Pierre is an improvisor, actor, producer, and author of the Amazon #1 best-seller, Vengeful Hank & Other Shortweird Stories.