Laughing During Scenes
This is such a great problem to have (especially for a newer improviser) that to me it’s basically a non-problem.
Sometimes people are made to feel bad about laughing during their scenes, and I really don’t get it. Like I said before, laughter is a contagious expression of happiness. And audiences (non-asshole audiences, at least) tend to be much more forgiving of breaking in scenes than teachers or coaches.
BUT… it’s a good habit to break, if only because it makes your scenes better.
Like, given the choice between two performers on stage having a great time and laughing along with the audience vs. two performers staying totally straight-faced as the audience dies laughing, we’d probably choose the latter.
How to do it, though? I dunno! I’m still bad about this, nine years later. I broke pretty hard during Friday’s Made-Up Musical, for example. But here are some tips…
- Yes, commit harder! Chances are your character doesn’t find the situation funny, so buckle down and get angrier/hungrier/wigglier. The laughter fuels you. Feed your wiggliness. I’M SERIOUS, AND SO IS YOUR CHARACTER.
- If you’re laughing, treat it like your character is laughing. Why don’t characters laugh more often in improv?! They do just about everything else. When you follow this, you haven’t “broken” in the scene, you’re using your natural reaction, which we stifle too much in improv anyways.
- Or… turn that laughter into something else - crying, sneezing, coughing, yelling, etc. Then use it in the scene.
- Bite the inside of your cheeks or discreetly pinch yourself. I used to do this.
- Cover your mouth. I often go into what I call “Jack Benny pose” and touch my face if I’m close to breaking. It helps.
- Laughter can be a homing beacon to get you to focus. (You’ll have to create a better metaphor that works for you.) For me, it’s a chance to tune in to what people find enjoyable. It gets me in flow, and with experience/muscle memory you’ll not be distracted by it, but the opposite.
- This might be my own personal note than anything else: don’t look at your teacher or coach. 1) It weirds me out when that happens, but 2) the sight of them laughing can be contagious. So when your teacher laughs, you have to ignore them as a character, while acknowledging it as a performer. You don’t tune them out, you tune in. (It can be tough, I know.)
Whew, wordy, but I hope it was worth it. Hopefully some people will reblog with their own advice. Thanks for asking such a great question, Aimee!