Find “Game” by Feel

Mmmm…what do these have in common?

When asked for a desired focus for a scheduled coaching session, a Duo sent me the following:

Mainly character stuff, fleshing them out versus building out more plot. Getting better at finding and sticking to the game of the scene.

What follows is some didactic and exercises that filled two hours.

DIDACTIC: How do You think about “Game” in improv?

Acknowledged ad nauseam here on Improv As Improv Does Best, the idea of “Game” gets thrown around a lot in improv.

At its most dumbed down, “Game” is “the funny thing, done more.” Though what the “funny thing” is is subjective.

At once both more sophisticated and more corny, “Game” can focus on the repetition of the cause and effect of actions. Short Form‘s blessing and curse is that its rhythms connect so quickly (helped by being made explicit) – the audience is rigged to react to anticipation but the rigging can be too tight and become stale.

Aiming for an universal answer this site’s materials are predicated on the definition of “Game” as “a sequence of actions related by cause in effect, heightening in a progression through repetition.” Holds true for baseball and Monopoly alike.

Regardless of definition, “Game” needs Emotion.  Continue reading

Body Snatcher & Double Body Snatcher tertiary moves

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.

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Blackout video example

A “Blackout” is a short scene with one big punchline.  In sketch, or in improv with a tuned-in booth operator, the lights would go out on stage after the punchline, designating the end of the scene and earning the name “blackout.”

Blackouts are fun.  They can help vary the pacing of a long-form show.  They can be great when it’s clear there’s not going to be a bigger laugh beyond the first big punchline, but even if there is life beyond the punchline it can be enjoyable to cut the scene “early” so you can bring it back later.  Will Hines and I had a scene where, in crossing stage, he asked if I had “a roll of quarters in my pants.”  I did, I removed it and that was the end of the scene.  Later in the show he asked if I was smuggling a zucchini in my pants; again, I was.  Repeat.

I really love this Blackout from Horse Apples’ District Indie Improv Fest Show.  Joey Tran kills it by being authentic.  Truth is he doesn’t believe he can whistle; that’s honest frustration in his “no” to my question.  And the audience believes him. So when he tries – and he legitimately tries because, again, he doesn’t think he can – and, lo and behold, he succeeds!, the surprise is also genuine.  Honest, in-the-moment, shared with an engaged audience, emotionally reactive… that’s improv as improv does best, folks.

Be Dynamic: Sharpen Your Vectors

There’s more than one way to build intensity over time.

Keep Them Separated

Both scenes work in an improv context. No doubt. But I prefer the second iteration.

The second scene is more dynamic. Yes, both Bobs are altered by scene’s end and both scenes progress, but in the second scene Bob’s change is clearly delineated to establish a rhythm and to set expectations for heightening repetition with the audience.

It’s one of many improv lessons we can learn from The Clown.  Let’s learn more.
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Transformation Edits

In a long-form improvisational performance that is not a “mono-scene” there is a need to be able to communicate that one scene is ending and another is beginning.  An “Edit” is that move communicating a change in scenes.  At its core, a “successful” edit need only clearly communicate that transition, but beyond that there are myriad ways to execute an edit.  Continue reading