Great improv is making a circle in as close to zero seconds as possible. Removing the fear-based delay we build in to avoid making a choice that may or may not be foolish or “incorrect.” Great improv is when you create with alacrity and focus and joy. It’s not about nailing the perfect idea (or making a perfect circle). And yet, it is amazing the lengths improvisers will go to avoid the present moment, be it living 3 seconds, or ten seconds, or a minute, or 15 minutes ahead of what’s going on right now. This stems from a need to control and protect themselves from failure. Ironically, this fear-based way of playing only decreases your ability to be funny, and the audience can see your avoidance a mile away.
mily believes that you can do an improvised scene about anything, and find ways to make it empowering, provided that you employ protection.
Protection means tackling a taboo or difficult subject by A) ensuring that the right character has the power in a scene, and B) displaying to the audience that the players are in control and comfortable. This makes the scene palatable for the audience and safe for the players. It can be the difference between a scene we think is OK and a scene we find inappropriate.
Lazy comedy is pointing at a stereotype or taboo topic and saying “HERE IT IS.” Laughter because you made the audience uncomfortable is easy.
- The main difference between a 201 grad show and a seasoned improv show is that when people step out their eyes are locked on each other. People are so worried about putting out their initiations that they don’t see the choices they’ve already made.
- I think of scenes like pyramids, on the bottom we are listening to each other and agreeing, above that we are playing realistically and intelligently, above that making them important and reacting emotionally and above that game.
- Saying a suggestion in a Harold is usually really lame. It’s like if Darth Vader were to say “I declare Star Wars”.
Will Hines substitutes a UCB 401 class and brings a lot of wisdom. That last quote made me laugh out loud.
The other side of the coin that I’d say to all the students, is, no need to wait in line! No need to wait in line. If one thing ain’t happening for you, there’s other things out there, and there’s all over this city. There all over this city. And you can meet the people here who are going to be your tribe for life! If you get those people, then you got it. If you’re biding your time and waiting at UCB, that’s great. If you want to put in the time to get on the stage, get on Harold Night, whatever it is, great, do it. But don’t be idle. And don’t feel like that’s the only line you can wait in.
Chris Gethard talks about waiting in lines on the latest UCB Long-Form Conversations podcast.
From a practical point of view, you’re much more likely to get funny from real than you are real from funny. You know? If you’re aiming for funny, it’s very hard to turn that back into real. But if you’re aiming for real, there’s usually something funny in there somewhere.
John Ratliff on Got Your Back E28.