Posts tagged David Razowsky
David Razowsky has a wonderful tool that he uses to teach about energy and duration of emotions in scenes. He calls it “The Jerry Chart,” and now there’s a YouTube tutorial courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times so everyone can learn about it. Click below to view.
Oh, and happy birthday David!
Wherever you are on your improv journey, these tips can help you get more joy.
1. Support the shit out of each other.
When someone makes a move, be the first to support it. Don’t wait to figure out what they’re doing, just respond.
Match their energy, heighten the move, scene paint, narrate…anything to add to it. It should look like you knew the move was coming, and love the idea. Move as a team.
Sometimes support means knowing when to edit. Your gut always knows when it’s time, so don’t hesitate if it’s telling you to sweep.
And support doesn’t stop with your team.
Attending other people’s shows adds your energy to the room, not to mention the show. Even better, bring friends and family from outside the community to share the experience.
And why not buy your favourite improviser a beer after the show? You can’t afford it? Oh. Then just tell them you liked the set and offer a sip of yours.
2. Be on time.
Yeah, we know. Improv sets are notorious for starting 10, 20, even 30 minutes late or more.
Some players are habitually late, so their team can’t start without them. If that’s you, make a new year’s resolution right now to be professional. You think TJ waits anxiously before every show, wondering where Dave is?
Being punctual shows you respect the audience, and your team. Also, be on time for rehearsals. Yes, even rehearsals.
For producers, don’t hold off the show waiting for more audience to arrive. Train your audiences to be on time by starting shows on time.
3. Don’t talk shit about your set.
Cameron’s first coach, Rob Norman, shared this pearl of wisdom: If you just got off stage and think you had a bad show, shut up.
Everyone experiences things differently. So while you may think you had a crap show, your teammates may have left the stage on a high. Don’t be a Betty Buzzkill. Or Danny Didn’tliketheshow. Or Maset McSucked.
Same goes for your audience. If someone compliments you after the show, don’t shake your head and start mumbling about how terrible you were. Just smile and say “Thank you.” (Try for that free beer!)
4. Stop “should-ing” on yourself.
You should have come in as the mad scientist. You should have brought back the pirate character. You should have swept before that scene died a slow, painful death.
Shelve your shoulds.
“There’s no ‘should have;’ there’s always a ‘could have.’ You should’ve been someone’s father, or you should’ve been someone’s boyfriend… But no. I could have, and it might’ve gone a different way, but you can’t judge yourself like that or your’re gonna not be entering.” – Scott Adsit
While you’re at it, stop comparing yourself to others in the comedy community. There is no one else on the planet like you, so comparing yourself is an exercise in futility.
When you find yourself thinking “How did he get on a Harold team and I didn’t?”, “Why did my web series not get a jillion hits?” or “I’m 25. How come I’m not already famous?!” – stop.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, make a list of what you do. We’re serious. Get a pen and write it down: your friends, your family, your cat, your health, your encyclopaedic knowledge of Batman. Then read Mike O’Brien’s advice for aspiring comedians. And as David Razowsky says, “Replace ambition with gratefulness.”
5. Broaden your horizons.
When Standards & Practices were invited to perform at Improvaganza, neither Cameron nor I had ever been to Edmonton. It turned out to be inspiring and life-changing for both of us.
We laughed our asses off, made new friends, and walked away with a new perspective on our craft.
Improvaganza, CIF, DCM, and Out of Bounds are amazing opportunities to connect with others who share your passion. If you’ve only ever studied or performed in one place, you owe it to yourself to see how others play, and festivals are a great way to do that.
6. Take notes. (Part One)
If you want to remember stuff from workshops or classes or rehearsals, write it down. When you’re trying to remember how to do a Deconstruction months from now, you’ll be glad you did.
I use Moleskines, or you can just press “play” on your smartphone’s voice memo app. Of course, you’ll still have to transcribe it, but it’s a great tool that lets you stay focused during class.
Take notes. (Part Deux)
Whether it’s an instructor, a coach, or an out-of-town improviser teaching a master class, when someone gives you a note, take it.
Chances are they’ve identified a tendency or behaviour that’s limiting you in some way. The least you can do is listen. When you argue, you miss an opportunity to learn. And take time away from others who want to.
7. Learn something new.
Improv is awesome, but to be really good at it, you need other things in your life.
So sign up for singing lessons, learn to juggle, join a softball team, enrol in cooking classes, make short films using Vine. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re stretching your synapses by trying something different.
Here’s one that’s simple and costs nothing: Try using your non-dominant hand for everything for a week. Cameron did this on a regular basis and now he’s pretty much ambidextrous. (Editor’s note: By ambidextrous, Sally means I can masturbate with either hand.)
8. Live boldly.
Every time we’ve done something that was a stretch for us, in work, in improv, or in life, we’ve grown exponentially. From signing up for Level A at Second City, to quitting a full-time job to pursue our true passions, it’s scary sometimes. But so worth it.
“We are not on this planet to make little, tiny moves.” – David Razowsky
You may also like Eight More Ways To Be Good With The Improv. Thanks for stopping by.
We love this infographic by Bob Kodzis. If you’ve ever taken a class with David Razowksy, you’ll get it. And if you haven’t, we hope it intrigues you to do so.
What if you could start over whenever you wanted? What if you could begin again? What if you could begin again again? What would you do differently if you could do it differently? When do you have the chance to do THAT?
Well, you can each time you step on a stage, sit before a blank page, pick up your axe, sit at the bench, stand by the easel. You just have to decide that you are starting fresh. All it takes is your being aware that always your point of view can be at the “Point of New.”
What’s stopping you from starting anew?
You. Your story, your decision to think that you’re helplessly, hopelessly connected to your past actions. You know the dialogue:
“That’s what always happens.”
“That’s just the way we are.”
“I’m the kinda person who…”
“My family’s history is…”
“I’ll never get it.”
Or the classic:
“I don’t know.”
You do know, don’t you, that it’s your decision to state those statements, to engage in that text, to play that part? All of those sentences you decide to utter. Your choice to engage the thoughts then carry on with what you think is your destiny. We do it mindlessly.
Be mindful that your words matter. Be aware that your thoughts are being thought. That your mental texts have weight. You give them weight. You give them meaning. You choose to dwell on them. Think about it. You might not say the “C” word or the “N” word. These are two of the heavy weight heavyweights. For some these words are “cringe-worthy” because we’ve given them power.
Your engaging in the sentences above are just as cringeable. Those two pieces of architecture have the same energy as the words you might use on yourself: the story that you “suck,” that “others are better at improv than you,” that others have “more experience,” are “blessed with wit,” or good looks or a better family who cares more for them than you perceived your family cared for you. These are bullshit memes that lets your ego control your artistry.
Your ego does not control you. You choose to let your ego control you. You do it by listening to it, then engaging in it. In all of the museums, in all of the theaters, in all of the galleries, in any hall or field or closet or on any wall there is no artwork that was created through the union of inspiration and ego. None. It can’t be made because that voice that you’re letting to speak drowns out the voice that you use to produce your output of you-ness.
Each time I stand at the entrance to the stage I’m aware that I’m standing in the middle of absolute nothingness, emptiness, a blank canvas. It’s the opportunity for me to be aware of non-engagement. I am not attached to my past performances, I am not aware of what I’ve done “wrong,” or what I’ve done “right.” I am just there. When I’m just standing in that void I’m present to my openness, my chance to listen to all that is happening. Not what has happened, nor what I hope will happen. It’s a sacred space, that place right where I’ll be entering the stage. My awareness to the stillness that’s there helps me to be affected by whatever stimulus I enter into on the stage, the stillness that’s there not because I put it there, but because it’s been there the whole time.
It’s the opportunity for a birth. Not a re-birth. A birth. Clean, fresh, aware, awake, alive, alert. It’s not an opportunity to run the mental newsreel, to make sure that the plan is going to go as planned when you planned it during the time that you planned it. It’s your opportunity to leave the baggage in the car, to store the stuff in the locker, to time to start anew. To keep what went on yesterday securely stored in the “history bin” you keep out of reach. Now is the best time. Now. Now. Now.
The time is always there. Always. Just like the moment is. Weird, huh?
©2013 David Razowsky
If you’d like to learn more about David’s workshops, shows, podcast, and other cool stuff, visit davidrazowsky.
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.
Silence is scary.
Silence between you and your partner.
Silence from the audience, punctuated by the dreaded cough.
This is when we usually resort to babbling. But if you can just breathe through it, nothing will give you more confidence than being comfortable with silence on stage.
Here are some exercises to bring out your inner Harpo.
Emotional Object Work
This exercise uses two performers.
One person does an activity they can repeat, e.g. folding laundry, or hammering wood.
The other person’s job is to say things to make that person react. But they can’t say anything; only show how they feel through how they do their activity.
(Player 1 mimes chopping vegetables)
Player 2: I saw your ex, Linda, today.
(Player 1 starts chopping faster)
Player 2: She was across the street so I couldn’t talk to her.
(Player 1‘s chopping slows to normal)
Player 2: But then guess what? I ran into her again on the bus.
(Player 1 begins chopping furiously)
So now we know Player 1 has something going on with his ex.
Show how you feel through object work: try chopping a cucumber angrily, then happily, then jealously. And that’s just one activity. Imagine the possibilities with assembling an Ikea Malm dresser…
Every time Player 1 says something, Player 2 must find a new object in their environment and show how they feel through that object.
If they’re angry, perhaps they find a ball and squeeze it. If they’re happy, maybe they find a bubble wand and blow bubbles.
This exercise is for, you guessed it, three players.
Two people ask for a relationship (married couple, best friends, co-workers, etc.), and begin a scene.
After they’ve established a conversation, the third person enters. He or she says nothing; the other two immediately stop talking. Everyone stays silent until the third person leaves again.
It might be parents talking about how they don’t have sex anymore, and a kid comes in to grab something from the fridge. Or maybe it’s co-workers planning to quit, and the boss comes in to pour a cup of coffee.
The third person should enter and exit at random, for anywhere from a minute to five seconds.
The Coach/Director chooses two people, and asks for a catchphrase for each one. It can be anything from random sounds (“Sloopadeeoop!”) to a sentence that defines them (“Dudes gotta be dudes, dude”).
Each player can only say their catchphrase throughout the scene. Tone and body language will tell the story.
This is a clown exercise we stole from Todd Stashwick. For this exercise, one person will be the clown, and one person will just be him or herself.
Both players begin by simply walking around the space. The person in front is just being themselves, walking their normal walk.
The clown walks behind them, mocking their partner’s walk, heightening and exaggerating it.
After a minute or so, the person in front suddenly turns and catches the clown in mid-mockery. They both stop in their tracks and make eye contact.
The clown reacts by being genuinely and sincerely sorry for what he or she has done.
Staying where they are, both players slowly turn and silently look at the audience. Don’t mug or play to the audience; just be as real as possible.
Repeat these actions twice more, with the clown’s mockery of his partner’s walk getting more and more absurdly heightened, followed by regret.
Then switch roles.
This exercise works on physicality, mime skills, and giving and taking focus. Oh, and audiences love it.
To begin, two people start a scene down stage. For simplicity, have the players stay seated throughout.
Once the scene has been established, two more people do a silent scene behind them, up stage.
The second scene should somehow relate to the first scene, but take place in a different environment.
For example, if the players upstage are roommates and they mention the neighbours downstairs, the other two can show us what those neighbours are like.
The players down stage should carry on with their scene, while the players up stage show us their world.
Unlike a split scene that takes place on opposite sides of the stage, both of these scenes should play out without pausing. There will still be give and take of focus however, since one pair is talking and the other is silent.
Lastly, we asked improv guru David Razowsky for his thoughts on silent scenes. Here’s what he said:
All scenes have dialogue, even – and especially – scenes without “spoken” dialogue.
When you consider that scenes aren’t about what we say, rather they’re about how we say it, then the world opens up for you.
The first line of dialogue isn’t spoken – it’s noticed. I enter a scene and see you sitting, standing, moving, gesturing, and my first line is based on that; that’s how I cast you.
If we are truly in relationship to each other, then the words that come out of our mouths don’t matter. Any Viewpoints* exercise will highlight that.
I enter a scene and stop. You move somewhere on the stage in relationship to where I stopped. I move somewhere on stage in relationship to that.
We’re in the middle of a scene as long as we’re aware of each other’s “Spatial Relationship.” Our “dialogue” is not spoken text, rather it’s our movement toward and away from each other.
A major part of this exercise is to realize that your ego is going to want you to speak, that you can’t possibly be “interesting” because you’re not using dialogue.
That’s creating from lack and in communion with your ego, never a union that creates, always a union that keeps us in stasis.
This exercise requires you to not do anything to make anything happen: no unnecessary grunts or gestures or movements that aren’t based on responding to your partner.
You have everything you need – trust it.
A scene with no dialogue is the greatest expression of trust two or more actors can engage in.
* Viewpoints is an acting method that utilizes nine tenets:
• Architecture (Everything in your environment: light, shadow, sound, objects, the stage.)
• Spatial Relationship (The relationship you have with a person or your Architecture. You are in a spatial relationship with everything.)
• Shape (When you change your shape on stage, you change the scene and your emotion.)
• Gesture (Can be Expressive, such as a “Talk to the hand” gesture, or Behavioural, such as yawning or a nervous tic.)
• Tempo (The pace at which we do things; the speed or slowness with which we breathe, move, talk, stand.)
• Duration (The length of time we hold a shape, a tempo, a gesture, repetition.)
• Topography (Where you move on stage.)
• Repetitition (Of speech or movement.)
• Kinesthetic Response (A reaction, e.g. I drop something, you look. A door opens, you turn. I come towards you, you back off.)
To learn more about it, check out Viewpoints.
Check out this great Guest Post by David Razowsky for Jill Eickmann’s Femprovisor™ blog.