This article is part of a series on learning long-form improvisation.
IT’S WEEK THREE of learning long-form improvisation and our scenes had a different focus this time around.
We explored creating problems. The bigger and more dramatic the better? Not so much.
Person A set up the scene by miming an action (such as pulling a pint, making a cake or kneeling in a church to pray), and person B came in and mimed an action that complemented or mirrored what person A was doing.
The pair exchanged a sentence or two to establish their relationship – something along the lines of ‘Hi honey, how was school?’. ‘Ah granny, it was terrible. My teacher is horrible.’
Then person C entered, bringing the problem.
Comedian Danny Kehoe, who took the reigns at this week’s class, noted that there can be a desire to go too big with said problem.
‘THERE IS AN ALIEN INVASION HAPPENING OUTSIDE.’
‘THERE IS A LANDMINE BESIDE YOUR SANDWICH.’
‘THERE IS AN ASSASSIN BEHIND YOU.’
Or any sentence that could be immediately followed by:
These type of suggestions might briefly be funny, but they also aren’t realistic and can kill the scene.
Everything in improv is made up – the characters, their relationship, their moods, where they are, what they’re doing – all of it.
The performers and audience use their imagination to bring it to life. However, that doesn’t mean the scene has to be, in the true sense of the word, unbelievable.
Danny notes that people sometimes go big in an attempt to get a laugh. But, he assures us, once we keep adding to a scene in a more believable way, “The funny will come.”
It’s not that you can’t say anything off-the-wall, but you need to be able to sell it. People can better relate to, and laugh at, problems and scenes they could encounter in their daily life.
‘What if I say something stupid?’
As we’re into week three, I’m getting more used to thinking, talking and miming on the spot. It’s still daunting though, even in the cocoon of our four walls.
What if I say something stupid? Or worse, what if I can’t think of anything to say at all?
That fear is still there but your mouth usually jumps in before your brain fully catches up and, there you are, improvising.
The class is, for me at least, very liberating. It’s like being a kid – we play games and talk about everything and anything, and – perhaps most importantly – rely entirely on our imaginations.
My inner giraffe is still there, questioning why I chose to be a teacher, or buy that Lotto ticket, or start to cry. But here I am, improvising.
More information on long-form improv classes at the Gaiety School of Acting is available here.
For those of you looking for a video of my exploits, that’ll come at the end of the series.