We have so many shows and only so much audience. Some nights, you’re looking out at a sea of empty chairs. I’m more empathetic when newer performers show frustration at light houses. It’s a reflection of their enthusiasm. But when I see a vet lumber onto the stage, half-giving a shit, I’m disappointed. It’s one thing to be ironically detached (which also sucks), and another to be metering out your work-rate out of entitlement or laziness.
Not true improv advice, but if you’re anything like me you’ve suffered from self-doubt when doin’ the improv.
All great improv is done in the moment. Like anyone else starting a scene, I either make the first offer, or respond to the first offer, and go from there. I don’t go in expecting anything, and find if I go in trying to do anything I either won’t succeed at it or I won’t succeed in having a good scene.
If I go into a scene with, say, TJ, thinking any variation of “OMG OMG OMG”… I’m in my head from moment one and I’m fucked. Likewise, if I’m with a rookie thinking, oh, this person isn’t good, I’ve got to dumb it down… I’m probably limiting both of us.
There’s a saying in college basketball, “Don’t play the name on the jersey.” If a small school is preparing for an NCAA Tournament game with, say, vaunted Duke University, it’s too easy to psyche themselves out on the name DUKE and their history plus high caliber of talent, and completely get the small school out of their game. Conversely, if a big school looks down at a lesser opponent and doesn’t do much to prepare for them, they increase the chances of suffering the upset loss. If you focus on the actual players and team, and matching up with them in the moment, you will have a better chance of exploiting opportunities, playing to your strengths, and beating them.
An effective warmup ultimately comes down to whether people engage those warmups with commitment. Often the reason players aren’t ready to go after a warmup isn’t necessarily because the warmup sucked, but people’s commitment to the warmup sucked, or their commitment in general sucks. That’s not necessarily going to change if you do a better warmup. Often, the warmup doesn’t need to get better. The attitude and approach needs to get better.
For me, it’s playing a crazy warmup that gets me warm for a show – something fun, something fast, something that’s easy to generate energy. I’m Coming Over For Pancakes, Vroom/Click/Clap, Rotating Pattern Game with four or more patterns are all great. Running half-assed intentionally bad scenes makes me to do bad scenes in shows.