Hey Everybody game mechanics allow a group to build a focused direction out of disparate parts. They are so named because, though they have wider applications, they are useful to a player in navigating a scene initiated with a rush of players to the stage.
When Townsend Hart starts The Johnsons‘ group game with “Emergency meeting,” we get a rush of players to the stage. Now, instead of quickly establishing a sequence in which every player gets to contribute in the scene’s early goings, this particular Hey Everybody game starts off in the call and response category of initiator as facilitator that I caution against – Townsend speaks, then Scott speaks, then Townsend again. The danger here is that with the initiator interjecting between each other player’s comments, it can take a long time to get through players, which can seem stilted. And an audience’s eyes start to drift to s/he who hasn’t contributed yet, which can both be distracting.
How do The Johnsons surmount this potential obstacle? Watch.
This group game finds success by heightening what’s happened. Remember always, there are no mistakes in improv; there is only what is. Whatever happens, heighten that, and you’ll make a good scene.
The game is “about” someone wearing clothes infiltrating a nudist colony. The game is about the in-the-moment emotional reactions to the idea of that person.
The game finds a progression in its exploration of what clothes this infiltration could have been wearing. We start with pants, move to a vest, and then from the body’s core onto the extremities: hands, heat, feet.
But most important to this game’s success is the sense of collaboration they foster as the game progresses. Yes, Townsend acts as facilitator more than just the initiator, but each subsequent pass between Townsend and the rest of the cast includes more and more of the rest of the cast. With Joe’s ask about the “vest” The Johnsons heighten their aghast emotional reactions. Those emotional outbursts crescendo and take on additional prominence with each subsequent pass. Those emotions explode even more physically when Townsend attempts to break the bad news to Jessi that there was a hat involved. Watch the synchronicity when, upon Jonathan turn to ask a question, Joe, Lauren and Scott all take their head to their knee.
In the end, Townsend heightens her “Now, I know you…” “so you’ll have trouble hearing…” game. The cast heightens its established distraught emotional and physical reactions. And, because the group earned it through investing in heightening toward an apex, Townsend was able to flip the progression to something way less consequential – “community yoga” getting rescheduled – and it was clear to the group that they too got to flip, from anguish to acceptance. (And Scott edits from within with a song, heightening a move that’s connected every scene so far in the long form.)
There are no mistakes in improv. Finding yourself in a Call & Response Hey Everybody does not mean you’re doomed to failure. It should just raise the red flag to focus on other ways of insuring success in group games. Accept whatever happened. Set and heighten pattern progressions from whatever happened. Prioritize emotional reactions to whatever happens. Commitment will earn you your edit.