Don’t solve problems in improv. If there’s a fire on stage we want to throw gas on it, not water.
A lot of group games start with problem statements. “We need to…” “Let’s figure out…” “Brainstorm time!” The problem with problems is that when we’re focused on working up a solution we too often deprioritize emotional in-the-moment reactions which in improv are always more powerful that clever dialogue.
Hey Everybody mechanics keep us focused on heightening patterns of emotional behavior, helping us to exacerbate problems instead of alleviating them.
Want proof? Watch this.
Isn’t it more fun to see the facilitator not getting his problem solved?
The sequence of contributions varies with each pass but this game is held together by character, commitment and collaboration.
As facilitator, Elliot’s character is central. He remains focused on his issue while accepting players’ contributions that do nothing to solve his issue. And he allows the conflict to be implicit; he never once gets overtly frustrated and/or chastise players’ suggestions. To the contrary, the audience loves his acceptance of his fellow players because they know he’s not being helped. “Girl Scouts have small hands” “Great ideas, guys,” gets one of the biggest laughs because the audience empathizes with him.
This example showcases the power of sticking individual silos. Having first contributed “Social media,” Sarah wins a laugh with “MySpace page” to start the game’s second pass; the audience “gets” that she’s “Social media” girl and enjoy the laughter of recognition. Patrick sticks his “Made mine with brie” bit by following up with “…pepper jack” and he grows in intensity, earning the audience’s favor. Shannon’s first “Partner with the Girl Scouts; they have a good image” bit is funny because it’s random, but her “Girl Scouts have small hands” suggestion for portion control is hilarious because it’s an in-the-moment emotional response through a consistent filter.
Consitency, character and collaboration meet with Max’s contribution to earn the game’s edit. From moment one the group has united behind a chorus of enthusiastic support for each player’s contribution. These group choruses are great for pulling disparate parts together and ramping up pacing. In this case, the group’s enthusiasm is doubly funny juxtaposed against the suggestions’ failure to serve Elliot’s needs. Max has affected a fun voice that strengthens his contributions; “More macaroni” and “Big bowl of macaroni” get laughs from his character’s commitment. And then, at his place at the end of a pass, Max explains that his cousin has a submarine and they could all eat macaroni in that submarine. It’s bizarre but it feels consistent with his character. Do his team mates treat it as a bizarre contribution? No, they follow their pattern; they support one another. “Submaroni!” someone says and soon they’re all saying it. And that’s all that needs to be said.
“Submaroni!” It doesn’t need to make sense. In improv, committed character and collaboration are all the “sense” you need.
More Hey Everybody examples: