Posts tagged Comedy
Posts tagged Comedy
Without a good teacher monitoring, most improv exercises favor bold, aggressive students. Whoever either thinks faster or at least acts fastest tends to affect the scenes more and therefore have more chances for feeling validated that they are doing well. While there’s a place for boldness (and certain exercises explicitly focus on being more bold), any good improv team has a mixture of aggressive types with more patient and calm energies.
Believing that, here are five simple rules of conduct which I think help the less aggressive students find their footing in lower level improv classes. These are also just common sense policies for fair play. They’re not meant to leave out aggressive students. And I never state them as being “for the students who are bit more hesitant.” They’re just good etiquette for improv scenes which happen to also help the non-alphas find themselves in the scene.
Merely my opinion: Take ‘em or leave ‘em, fellow teachers!
Initiation Etiquette / ”Be Comfortable With Silence”. Students should not interrupt or finish someone else’s initiation: very commonly done by eager alpha bulldogs in lower levels. Teach that whoever moves first gets focus and a generous amount of time to make their move. The person who responds also gets a lot of time before they have to answer. Discourage the very common practice of talking until you are interrupted. “Be comfortable with silence” I will say a lot.
It’s Okay To Not Know Cultural References. After the first scene in class that happens to mention a movie/book/song/TV show — I point out that they’re not expected to know every movie, book or current event that gets brought up. They SHOULD try to fake it based on context or else admit in character that they don’t know it. And if they are the one who is bringing up a reference and their scene partner doesn’t know it, then it’s their job to help. This affects younger students’ confidence far more than I had appreciated — teach them how this works. (The other side of this coin is that after you’ve taught them how to handle references, no one is allowed to bail on a scene because they don’t know something.)
Protect Decisions To Play Against Type. Gently point out when someone misses their scene partner’s attempt to play against type (gender, age, etc). It’s bad listening and invariably happens to people already feeling left out. Correct whoever misheard as a casual note, not a lecture. “He’s being your mother, not your father.” Or “That’s a teenager talking, not a mom.” Be vigilant for this in the first few sessions especially.
Set Boundaries. This is a class, not a team. Students see very physical and intrusive things on stage at shows. They need you to make clear and enforce that that’s not for class, where people don’t know each other well. Though everyone would assume this to be true, it helps to have the teacher explicitly say it.
You Are Allowed To Say No. You are always allowed to “say no” in a scene to ANYTHING that your character wouldn’t want to do. Like if someone starts a scene by asking if you want a lap dance or maybe wants to steal someone’s baby from a hospital nursery, and your character wouldn’t want to, you can say “no” and you’re not being a bad improviser, (best way is to add a simple truthful reason why, and then stay open to discussing it in character). Even if they immediately realize they are saying “no” to something out of nervousness and they wish they had said yes, it’s okay because it’s important to get practice saying “no” properly in a scene. The take-away here is that you need to play your characters to the top of their intelligence, not trapped by what you think you “should” do because of “yes-and.” They forget this a lot so you remind them.
Very good stuff from Will Hines.
“Tina is a very hard worker. She set a goal and then she reached it.” - Jimmy Fallon
"Herman The German…" -Colin Quinn
"She’s a sprite with a Rommel battle plan.[…] Her true vice is cupcakes.”(Vanity Fair, 2009)
“Tina is not clay. When she got [at SNL she was kind of goofy-looking, but everyone had a crush on her because she was so funny and bitingly mean. How did she go from ugly duckling into swan? It’s the Leni Riefenstahl in her. She has such a German work ethic even though she’s half Greek. It’s superhuman, the German thing of ‘This will happen and I am going to make this happen.’ It’s just sheer force of will.” - Lorne Michaels
"[She is self-depreciating.] She’ll always see herself as that other, the thing she came from.” - Kay Cannon
“Rules are Tina’s Achilles’ heel in some ways. She’s half German, half Greek. That is just like loosey-goosey-crazy, and then you get, ‘Do the trains run on time?’ And she has her principles and she sticks to her principles more than anybody I’ve ever met in my life. Like that whole idea of, if you are in a relationship, there are deal breakers. There’s not a lot of gray area in being flirty with somebody. She’s very black-and-white: ‘We’re married—you can’t.’” - Jeff Richmond
“Deep talent, deep humor. She just floors me. Funny stuff comes out of her mouth so effortlessly in response to some mundane remark someone makes. Nothing changes on her face when she lets loose with these one-liners.[…] And with all that gift, Tina, off camera, is quite shy and I get shy around her.” - Jane Fonda
"She is just totally her own person and self-possessed, and just kind of straight-on. I just liked her because she has an intelligent sensibility, and she doesn’t compromise it. She’s exceptional. " - Lily Tomlin
"Tina Fey smells like Apples and Brilliance." - Bobby Moynihan.
"I’m still the kind of person, if I see someone cutting in line, it’s like, excuse me, what are you doing? I’ll get in a fight in, like, the Easy Spirit on the Upper West Side, on someone’s behalf. "
“I want to keep creating comedy that is, as my old improv teacher would say, at the top of our intelligence or higher. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just cranking out things that are good enough to sell.”
i love the 30 rock jokes that are specifically for losers who’ve taken improv classes
This is, HANDS DOWN, my favorite 30 Rock moment.
This is one of the single most important statements made about how to direct a comedy. I am not exaggerating. Shittier comedy directors focus on closeups, so you can see actors make silly faces. Great directors use more wide shots, so you can feel how everyone reacts.(via curtisretherford)
Harold Ramis (via The Comic’s Comic)
Last night I went to the UCB Lady Jam for the first time in probably a year. I somehow found myself awake and with energy enough to stay up past midnight for the show, so I went with a couple of friends.
For the last several months, probably since I started my La Ronde class at The Magnet, improv has felt easy. Or maybe I should say it hasn’t felt hard. I was enjoying the form and my classmates. I didn’t feel preoccupied with any thoughts other than the desire to have fun and to push myself and expand my range of characters and play. For the most part, I think I succeeded and I got some great feedback from Rick Andrews, who hasn’t seen me play since I took his level 1 class over a year ago.
But last night, I found myself thinking things that took me away from the focus of having fun. I was worried about not fucking up in front of the audience and wanting to make smart moves to stand out and look good. I felt rail-roaded at certain times, while I was busy trying to find a more patient way to heighten or make moves. I felt a little lost. I hated my moves. It was maybe a 10-minute set, but it felt like it went by so quickly, before I could get my bearings and feel settled. And I get that a jam is a different animal - it’s often faster play. People are more aggressive and the emphasis is more on game moves. I’ve done jams where I felt like an asshole for being aggressive. This time I felt like a lamb, just trying to get through the set without fading away.
I made a move at one point that immediately felt like a negation or like I was undermining or calling another improviser out. I did not like my play. I can chalk it up to it being a long day (I ended up being awake for 20 hours, which is unusual for me). I could blame it on a rough week emotionally for me. I traced back the start of these feelings to the practice I had days earlier where working on game stuff put me back in my head and took me away from the fun.
Maybe I’m just in one of those waves that we all go through where improv just isn’t working or making sense to me right now. Maybe I’ve sat too long in a bull market and I’m heading into a bear market?
Then I read the post I reblogged from Sarah Rainone (see below this one), which was a lovely post about why we do improv. It’s about supporting your partner and making them look good. It’s about genuinely making human connection and quickly without thought or pretext. And it’s the reminder I needed for why I continue to do improv. Prior to the Lady Jam last night, I saw a great Monoscene class show with a bunch of people I know. I was impressed at how much fun they seemed to have, how big their choices were, how much they committed to what they were doing and how they supported each other. At the practice where I felt a little mentally strained, I was playing with some improvisers I only recently met, but with whom I’m having a blast improvising. And outside of improv - and this isn’t a profound anecdotal point, but it feels important to me nonetheless - I’m using my improv training to feel comfortable talking and flirting with someone I would never ordinarily have the courage to chat up.
Improv has given me so much and made my life better in innumerable ways. Who cares if I have a bad show? Why harp on not getting into that class I wanted or failing to impress the audience or beating myself up for not showing off? Why am I even worried about trying to show off? Why can’t I just refocus myself on being good and continuing to improve?
I just applied to be a Magnet Big Sibling because working with younger improvisers and helping to create a supportive space for them to play and experiment and grow is what I think I need right now. Getting to coach some great people has revitalized my improv perspective. Maybe being a Big Sib will help re-adjust my attitude again and clarify why I continue to do this.