It’s not a mistake on an improv stage as long as you recognize what happened and in some way react to it, right? Your pure reaction to someone walking through an improv table that you just took a minute to set up, is justification enough that they walk through the table. You don’t need to call somebody out and say “You just walked through my table!” You know that’s going to alienate them and alienate the audience likely, and then you’re going to spend the rest of the scene trying to dig yourself out of that callout. As opposed to just go over, pick up the table, set it up again, patiently, diligently, and then when somebody else walks over, don’t even mention a word, just go pick it up again and do the same thing. That’s going to create laughter from the audience because you’re respecting the environment and showing that there are no mistakes. That wasn’t a mistake they walked through the table, that’s a gift that’s an opportunity.
Bill Kullhan on accepting mistakes from Improv Nerd E225.
People often do improv trying to be funny and I say listen, funny comes from surprise and I think the best funny comes from when you surprise yourself. And to have those ideas that you’ve never thought you would ever say or anything like that suddenly come out, I think that’s when the true voice happens and then when we all get to laugh together in that moment including the person who just said that, blurted that, made that choice whatever it is.
Asaf Rosen on finding the true voice on Improv Nerd E172.
Here are some notes and interpretations I took while listening to Chicago improv podcast Improv Nerd. This is from Episode 163: TJ & Dave. Click the links on the times to be taken to an audio version of the note.
10:34: How the TJ & Dave format came about: “We decided to improvise in the way we were going to improvise.” No planning of what the show was going to look like in advance, including format. After a bad first show, the duo made some choices to “find out what this show tends to do”. The cast was kept to two, as they only wanted to add people as they were needed. Rather than doing “a bunch of different stuff, let’s just do one thing.” Someone else pointed out that the shows would always take place in the same time – almost real time, within the hour TJ & Dave are on stage. No time dashes, but jumps to different locations (in the same time) occur. TJ & Dave playing multiple characters over the course of a show came out of necessity.
14:40: “The show itself, it’s an exercise in seeing what happens when you really only go from moment to moment to moment with no plans, no bits, and really just behave this way. [..] Like an actual human being, which is like the easiest way to get a show to a sustainable way, like put real people in it. Real people tend to live for a while, you know what I mean? They do things that they live by, and make choices that their accountable for, and that kind of stuff and so, if it was just going to be us and the show would be about an hour then, let’s make these people as actual as we can, and they’ll do things that people actually would do. Because no-one’s coming, we’re not getting edited, so we gotta live in these people for a while. It’s going to be easier if we make them real.”
16:53: Responding honestly means the response falls in the believable realm for that character’s point of view. In short, the logic checks out. An absurd character can be believable by being honest on stage, which may in turn gain laughs more so than an absurd character stating absurd things (because they are absurd or funny).
17:35: What a character first does can deem what they become. An over-solicitous waiter stands in a certain way, walks in a certain way, the pace in which they move or talk.
19:45: [..] There is going to be comedy in it [a TJ & Dave show], but it’s not the intention. That isn’t what we’re focusing on, we’re really just trying to go from moment to moment to moment, and one’s own nature will probably reveal itself in certain situations, you know the tendencies. We have a skewed outlook that often people view that as funny. Like in therapy, that’s sad. It’s medicated. But on stage, oh that’s hilarious! If you said comedy is the goal, if you said funny is the goal, you’re likely never going to hit interesting or frightening or any of that, you’re just going to hit, you’re going to miss, you’re going to hit unfunny.
21:44: “Honesty doesn’t prohibit comedy.”
30:23: Improvisation isn’t getting on stage and talking. It’s choosing your words, your movements, how you conduct yourself carefully in response to your scene partner.
33:56: Scenework that involves making discoveries on stage involves removing internal fears. “Empty yourself of all your own garbage”, and to “operate as an antenna” to receive, not push the scene in the direction we want it to go in. You don’t have to say something soon – talk when you feel the need to talk. If a place or person isn’t defined, we don’t have to define them in order for the scene to be considered good. “When in doubt, seduce.”
35:17: “Pay attention to the other person. That’s all that matters, that’s all that matters. What is going on here, what’s the relationship. That’s the extent of how important I am, what am I to them? And it takes a lot of the onus off trying to work all this shit out.”
56:45: “The job of the improviser is to not do the same thing, to always have a new. If what we’ve decided to explore becomes less than new, we have to find something else to explore.”
1:09:16: “Never love it [improv] so much that you’re not having outside experiences.”
1:09:55: “A bad scene should not force you to think less of yourself. A bad scene should and can make you look forward to improvising again.”
[..]The show itself, it’s an exercise in seeing what happens when you really only go from moment to moment to moment with no plans, no bits, and really just behave this way. [..] Like an actual human being, which is like the easiest way to get a show to a sustainable way, like put real people in it. Real people tend to live for a while, you know what I mean? They do things that they live by, and make choices that their accountable for, and that kind of stuff and so, if it was just going to be us and the show would be about an hour then, let’s make these people as actual as we can, and they’ll do things that people actually would do. Because no-one’s coming, we’re not getting edited, so we gotta live in these people for a while. It’s going to be easier if we make them real.
T.J. Jagodowski talking about realistic improv as the goal in a TJ & Dave show. Expect more quotes on here from a really interesting ep of Improv Nerd.
Hoo boy, this is a good episode of Improv Nerd. Around 16 minutes in, host Jimmy Carrane asks guest Will Hines to define the UCB’s philosophy and go into the game of the scene. Then at 18 minutes, the two perform a game based scene followed by a discussion where Hines separates the base reality from the games going on inside the scene. They then re-do the scene, playing the game differently each time. Neat! Download the episode over at Feral Audio.
[..] part of being an improviser that the audience wants to see is a display of skill that the audience does not have. It’s like watching dancers on Broadway – they want to see someone who can do something that they can’t.
Kevin Scott of Centralia on the unspoken agreement between the audience and an improviser, as heard on Improv Nerd E134.
It’s not precious. It’s just play, and get out and do it.
Kevin Scott of Centralia drills it down on Improv Nerd E134.