“Do not get caught up in the game. It’s sort of the John Wood Mentality. He never spoke about winning or losing. NEVER. He always talked about process. You throw up the best shot you can with the most perfect form and if it doesn’t go in you did everything you can. You do what you think is right and you just let it go. You do NOT worry about the outcome.”—
Tracy Wong (Founding Partner WDCW Advertising Agency)
Also applies to improv. Seeing too many slaves to the game in 2012 and it concerns me.
Reblog and describe the best improv scene you ever saw.
Ok. I am too scared to label any ONE scene best, but here is 1 scene that I can never forget.
Scene: I think this must have been ‘Corndog, Alright!’ because it involved Victor Vornado and Owen Burke.
Victor burst on the scene out of breath with something important to tell Owen. Owen pulled out a chair for Victor to let him sit down and catch his breath. The rest of the scene was Victor being too tired to get in the chair and falling all over Owen as Owen tried to get him in the seat. Barely any dialogue other then an occasional “alright” and “hold on” from Owen. When Victor was finally seated, the scene was over.
I think in a world of scenes that so often become about two clever people talking cleverly it took a scene of improvised physical comedy to remind me that comedy isn’t about what you say. The silence of that scene, and how hilarious it was, has stayed with me ever since.
This is the sort of thing I was talking about in my previous post.
(And you know what, I bet Del might’ve been unsatisfied with a scene like this and wondered about the connection or whatever between the two characters or something. But I don’t care. I find moments like this beautiful.
That’s all I’m looking for. One moment, one idea, done perfectly.)
I saw an improv show recently, which I won’t name specifically. It was super funny, full of performers I know to be talented, who put on a hell of a show and did some really sound improv. They’re all clearly intelligent players, and clearly it was important to them that there be a sound sense of logic and continuity in their scenes. And that’s great- they played to the top of their intelligence. But what that led to in some cases was a whole lot of detached logical reasoning- a sort of third party justification, where you can tell it is the improviser, not the character, talking. You know- the “You stepped right through the car door! How did you do that?” move.
Most of the time, this is fine, and most of the time, it gets a laugh. And believe me- I’m a culprit too. However, there is a removed quality in this action that often distracts from what is happening onstage. It’s as if the improviser is taking a John Cusack in High Fidelity moment to explain to the viewer what is happening. But here’s the problem: We’re already invested in what’s happening onstage. We don’t want an interruption- especially not one that reminds us of the artifice of the form. We’ve already suspended our disbelief to believe that these two bumbling nerds are actually a dashing superhero tandem- we aren’t going to question your object work or a minor plot inconsistency. We’re along for the ride.
What WILL take an audience out of it is that detached questioning I mentioned before. Once the disbelief is suspended, there’s leeway. But when you snap out of that illusion and show us the man behind the curtain, all that disbelief is gone, and you have to work hard to earn it back. It’s funny, because most of those moves are meant to strengthen the world, but they end up tearing it down.
Look: This is just my opinion, and I know those moves always get laughs, but it always takes me out a little bit. I think the alternative is to incorporate the justification into the character and really commit to the explanation, without tipping your hand. My best guess would be that if whatever it is you’re saying is important to the person you’re playing, it won’t come off too obviously that you’re making that move as an improviser filling a hole. And I’m not saying don’t work to create a functioning reality- I’m just saying don’t let your improviser brain year that reality down by reinforcing it.
But that’s just me. And I apologize if this came off didactic or critical- I certainly didn’t intend it to be.