Ask your troupe what they want to work on. A comment by Alan Volmer during a Johnsons rehearsal led to this move being added to the group’s bag of tricks.
THE BODY SNATCHER: A third player takes over either Player One’s or Player Two’s character. If Player Three chooses to take on Player Two’s character, for example, Player Two then exits.
It can be a new scene with the same characters. It can be a time dash with the same characters. But, even though through Body Snatching it’s now a scene between Players 1 and 3, it is still a scene about the characters that Players 1 and 2 initiated.
Player Three heightens what she saw as Player Two’s personal and scenic games. If Player One and Player Two were initially engaged in a scene wherein Player One was a sulking teenager complaining about his ogre of a mom (Player Two), when Player Three takes over the mom character she can further heighten the character’s ogre-ish qualities. If initially Players One and Two were on a date and Player Two was “old fashioned” and focused on propriety, then Player Three could heighten the sense that Player Two’s character was from an earlier century, becoming even more modest, maybe even adopting Puritan speech affectations.
Body Snatching’s fun lies in not only the heightening of emotional behaviors that underlines improv as improv does best, but in one player’s heightening of another player’s character. As highlighted through the Action Pass warm-up game, committing to mirroring what’s seen aids heightening as Player 3 often mimics what the Replaced Player does unconsciously.
Remember the Tertiary Player Good Faith Mantra – I will only enter a scene in progress to serve what has already been established. If you’re entering a scene in progress, that scene is not about you. With the Body Snatcher you are not creating a new character; you are embodying an existing character. Don’t snatch a body just to make your own joke. Enter to heighten the joke in play.
The Johnsons like to do the Double Body Snatcher. Because the group has the tool in their utility belt, they know to look for it and know how to play with it. And they have evolved the single into the Double. When Player Three takes over Player Two’s character, Player Two then takes over Player One’s character and Player One exits stage. They’re adept at leveraging Help Desk mechanics through this teritary tool, heightening not just context and characters but also the sequence of the interaction.
Fun thing is: The Double Body Snatcher makes it even easier to follow the catalyst and reactor method of heightening a relationship. It helps progress the established stakes even if you’ve zippered between improvisers. While when employing the Tag-Out or Pivot, I encourage players to continue heightening one player – ideally the player who reacts – when using this Tertiary Move, it doesn’t matter which character an improviser chooses to replace as both will be replaced. Ultimately the game remains heightening the dynamic between two characters even as multiple players assume the roles of those two characters.
Check out this video of The Johnsons snatching bodies. Then put the Body Snatcher and the Double Body Snatcher in your team’s bag o’ tricks.
These Johnsons, in order of appearance, from left to right: Jessi Schmali, Shawn Hambright, Lauren Serpa and John Hilowitz