Overheard at tonight’s improv jam:

You’re going to have to have some kind of pirate divorce

Platform Tilt

In tonight’s Improv class we had to play “not funny” scenes. Not funny meaning to stay in the moment longer, and not just start rattling off jokes. It forced us to focus longer, and look for the next best thing, not the big thing (joke). Sometimes you tell a joke in the scene and it doesnt “make your partner look good” (The second rule of Improv). In other words it doesn’t give them anything to react to, or build upon. It can take the life out of the scene.

We also focused on a Platform Tilt. Which is when you play a normal scene and then something happens (sometimes drastic, sometimes funny) to tilt the platform you and your partner(s) have built.

In the scene I was in, I played a father of a teenage girl, who was dragging her around to work with him. We were arguing in the scene about her wanting to go hang out with her friends, and the tilt was that her mother and I were divorced. I only had a little time with her each week. It was difficult staying in character and letting the scene emerge. I enjoyed the challenge of all that and also building the tilt, which changed the tone of the scene. We got some good feedback afterwards as well.

Last week was a big week for Improv for me. My usual Monday night 201 level course, followed by Thursday’s Open Jam (First Thursday of the month, join us!) and then an audition on Saturday. That last item deserves a longer post, it was so much fun.

Someone broke into the golf proshop I own

In Monday’s Improv 201 class, I had what is likely my best improv performance to date.

The scene setup was a “silent scene”. Jen, our teacher gave us instructions and provided the location. Which was a golf pro-shop. With a silent scene, each performer focuses on “space work” (pantomiming and interacting with physical objects within a space).

Each performer would enter, one at a time, interact with an object they create, and leave the space. Each successive performer would interact with an established object, and “build” one of their own. Repeat until all performers have a go.

It turns out that I entered last, and had to build off a robbery executed by Sarah, a Stranger than Fiction cast member who’s sitting in on our class. She’s absolutely fearless. Then Matt, my former partner from the 101 course, came in and did the detective work. He nailed taking the fingerprints and putting up the police tape over one of the doorways.

I was last in the rotation, just by chance. I chose the role of Shop Owner. I figured that the audience hadn’t seen the results of the previous actors actions. Since most of the objects weren’t the space anymore (Sara stole them). I couldn’t really interact with them. But I knew where everything was, as the shop owner.

So I entered frantically through one of the doors that Matt didn’t put police tape on (again, that was a very nice touch by him) and ran around checking to see if anything was left.

I remembered the cash register and found it empty, as well. I shrank in dejection, walked out and slammed the door.

This was my best performance in improv yet. I think I like this acting thing.

I’m still seeing the parallels to animation and improv. In both mediums one has to exaggerate so that the audience can read the action clearly. Evan, one of my 201 classmates gave some really great examples of this in our class discussions, and it shows in his performances. He always seems to be clearly in character and so effortless.

It’s one of those funny things, on stage you need to push too far, but in the audience it seems totally natural.

Improv 201, Class 01

The focus of 101 was an overall introduction and the laying of the groundwork of the three rules of Improv via game play.

  1. Yes and” - no matter what your partner(s) say, you have to take it as truth (yes) and also build upon it (and).
  2. Make your partner look good” - this really is about giving them something to work with. Don’t put them in a theoretical corner.
  3. Don’t ask questions” - asking your partner a question puts a limit on what they can say, in the moment. It isn’t giving them much to work with and can devolve into yes and no. I suppose this is a subset of #2. But I need to give this its own line item to help clarify it in my head. I ask too many questions in scene.

The games of short form Improv have a structure, focus on being in the moment of the scene, and have humor.

The focus of 201 is on the performance. We learned a handy device, the CROWE:

  • Character (naming people, accents, other idiosyncrasies help define the characters)
  • Relationship (Who/what are these Characters to each other)
  • Objective (What does each Character want?)
  • Where (What’s the setting (Time, and/or place))
  • Emotion (How are the Characters feeling?)

Remembering to do all this in the moment of the scene is difficult and challenging. It’s fun, but hard work.

It’s just day one, but I can relate the Relationship and Objective, and Emotion aspects of the CROWE to my previous work as an animator. Using the character’s poses, motion, position on screen, and other techniques can inform the audience of each characters status in relation to each other. Same is true for Improv, as far as I can tell.

Transferring status in scene is where the narrative really takes shape, both in Animation and Improv. I’m looking forward to getting better at that.

A suspicion I have about going deeper into the performance of scenes is something I’ve heard Improv actors call “finding the game” in a scene. This is, as far as I can tell, a callback to something that happened earlier in the scene. A hand gesture, a spoken line, an action, etc. Usually funniest if able to be done seamlessly and three times. I think the short games of 101 and Short form in general will add to this.

I’m just learning the 201 performance aspects, but can make the connection to the callbacks in standup and sketch comedy I’ve seen so often. Maybe all that is what 301 is all about. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Off to the first class of Improv 201 tonight!

Hold The Jam a new episode of my microcast on Improv comedy is up.

  • I missed last nights jam :(
  • some books on improv on my to-read list
  • Going on a break until after the holiday

Hold The Jam

I missed the jam last night, hope everyone had fun.

Books I’m interested in Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

A Guide to Keith Johnstone’s Gorilla Theatre

Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual

Not much on the radar until after the holiday, so I’m going to go on a brief hiatus.

Holiday times are busy! Have a great holiday and I’ll pick this up again in January.

Seeing Improv Everywhere is episode 8 of my short podcast on improv comedy.

  • Rereading my favorite novel and paying attention to when the characters need to improvise.

  • plans are worthless but planning is essential

Seeing Improv Everywhere

Show notes: - In the holiday lull. Looking for more opportunities to practice.

  • Seeing improv everywhere - Rereading my favorite novel and paying attention to when the characters need to improvise

  • All that reminds me of the old project management adage “plans are worthless but planning is essential

  • December’s open jam is 12/6, looking forward to it! Join us if you’re near Portsmouth NH then