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Posts tagged David Razowksy improv

Fuck the thought that improv must be funny for it to be interesting. Fuck the idea that improv must be interesting to be funny. Fuck the idea that funny is only done one way. Fuck the idea that funny is the only thing improv has to offer. Fuck the idea of “Yes, and.” Fuck the idea that there are rules you must follow or you aren’t “correctly” improvising. Fuck the idea that what you’ve been taught is the way that things have to be. Fuck the idea that I, Dave Razowsky, know the “right way to improvise.” Fuck your idea that ANY school is the ONLY school. Fuck the idea that my challenging you is one bridge too far. Fuck your idea that there’s a line that can’t be crossed. Fuck your idea that you can’t say “no.” Fuck your idea that you can’t talk about someone who’s not here. Fuck your idea that you have to get the who, what and where out at the top of the scene or you’re gonna fuck your scene up. Fuck the “Game of the Scene.” Open your mind up to the concept that improv is fluid, that improv is what works for you, that improv reflects your desire to be you. Open your mind up to the concept that improv is a reflection of how you live your life. Open your mind up to the idea that repetition is not redundancy. Open your mind up to the concept that improv is a reflection of how you live your life. Open your mind up to the idea that our experiences allow us to see improv in a way that we use to express ourselves, and that our experiences and those with whom we’ve worked is of utmost value, and though you may think that my “dropping names” is meant to impress you, what I’m actually expressing is a celebration of those fucking awesome artists who’ve taught me so much that they’re responsible for me travelling across the globe to share their awesomeness with you. Fuck your judgement and impatience and narrow-mindedness. (Should you take offense to that last sentence, please know that I’m offering you an opportunity to see your limitations. I’ve experienced that. I’ve rebelled against accepting that. I’ve tried to support that. Ultimately through frustration and the banging of my head against a wall, I learned to surrender to the truth. I learned to celebrate that change is the only constant.) Fuck your complacency. Get up. Stand up. Stand up for your rights. Share your light. Share your ideas/thoughts/fears/joys/fantasies/ beauty/warmth/love/mistakes. God damn it, stop sharing your fear with the world. Just fucking stop. You have a choice. Know that.

The Larry Sanders Show was the first time I ever heard “fuck” on television. It was also the funniest, most honest goddamn show I’d ever seen.

Every character was emotionally broken in some way:

Larry keeps people at arm’s length, hoping to get through life without getting hurt. In reality, he’s a walking, open wound.

Hank is six feet of insecurity in tap shoes. (“Hey now!”)

Artie drowns his pain in salty dogs.

Even Phil, the show’s wisecracking writer, eventually falls in love after seasons of playing the hardened cynic.

Larry, Hank, Artie, Phil, and Paula weren’t just glib caricatures. They were fully-realised human beings, complete with faults and foibles.

The show’s guests were flawed as well. Real celebrities appeared in episodes dealing with real-life crises: Burt Reynolds’ divorce from Loni Anderson, Chevy Chase’s epic talk show failure, Ellen Degeneres’ coming out.

While every script was tightly written, the cast often improvised on set. Shandling also made copious notes on scripts. Beside a line of Larry’s dialogue, one of his notes reads:

“Feel it. Then say it.”

In improv, we have a tendency to talk, not feel. And being deadpan can get you laughs, no question.

But how many times have you been in a scene where someone dies, or wants a divorce, or gets fired, and no one reacts?

Expressing emotion can be scary in real life. But what better place to explore it than onstage? Instead of being unfazed by everything, try overreacting for a change.

Scream with terror when someone mentions asparagus.

Tear your boss a new A for saying “Good morning.”

Cry when your scene partner sings the Care Bears theme.

Feel your response, then speak it.

One way to get out of your head and into your emotions is to move. David Razowsky teaches an exercise that’s incredible to watch, and a revelation to perform:

Two people go up, and exchange five lines of dialogue with no emotion or inflection; they just say the words in a monotone.

Person #1: Hi.

Person #2: Hello.

Person #1: How are you?

Person #2: Fine thanks.

Person #1: Glad to hear it.

Before a line is spoken, the actor has to move. They can move wherever they like in the space. Once they come to a natural stop, they say their line.

Their scene partner then has to move before they respond. Again, they can move wherever they like, but they can’t say their line until they’ve come to a stop somewhere in the space.

It’s always surprising to see where people feel compelled to move. It could be a few steps closer, very close, or far away from their scene partner. They could end up facing towards or away from the other person.

It sounds incredibly simple, but having done it myself, it’s easy to hear your partner’s line and start to speak before moving. The important thing is to let your body decide where you’re going to move. Then say your line.

Even though the words are delivered monotone, the scenes are inevitably infused with all kinds of emotions.

As Razowsky says, “Dialogue is informed by movement.”

If you find yourself “stuck” on stage, try moving, then speak. It doesn’t have to be big or frenetic. Just let your body take control. It’ll stop your brain from overthinking and let your feelings respond instead.

(For more great moments from The Larry Sanders Show, click here.)