Improv As Improv Does Best leverages in-the-moment collaborative discovery. And it’s extra special when the audience knows they’re “getting it” at the same time as the improvisers.
Take this example from The Johnsons.
John, inspired by earlier scenes, initiates a labored crawl across the stage. He commits to it without context or overt premise. And The Johnsons allow the moment a moment to breath.
Then Joe enters. He has an idea. But he enters toward John’s back, so the audience can see he’s hopping on one foot before he does.
Joe chooses to keep hopping past John, to turn and flip him the bird.
And in that moment, content clicks. It might be different to different audience members. Maybe you think it’s a handicap race with a hint toward the “in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king” rubric. I know I did.
The key is that the audience’s minds were required to “make the joke” – they were engaged. Yes, the group could continue the game, with additional walk on/off moves (and actually check out what happens next), but Scott is “right” to edit when he does. Any additional beat would start at the deficit of not being able to recreate that moment of shared discovery.
When a high note is hit because suddenly the audience and improvisers are collectively snapped into context, that’s a good flag to signal an improviser on the wings to edit and make the scene a Blackout – a short scene with one big punchline.
Again, while the moment could be topped, the moment is so unique and of the moment that the action repeated would fail to capture the surprise of discovery.
Check out this Blackout from Horse Apples for an example of when the surprise of discovery was borne out of an authentic moment for an improviser.
Check out this Blackout from my Patterns & Games Class Showcase for an example of when the surprise of discovery was borne out an ensemble’s enthusiastic commitment to making each other look good through mirroring.
Do YOU have a blackout to share? Let me have it.
The Johnsons are Scott Beckett, John Hilowitz and Joe Mack