Help Desk Cartoons

Building a game out of heightening the pattern of an interaction isn’t just for improv.

It’s a creation tool. At least if you’re looking to create something coherent.

Both of these cartoons appeared in The Washington Post’s Sunday Cartoon section on September 30th. Read Jef Mallett’s Frazz and Tim Rickard’s Brewster Rockit below – but also just read them in general; they’re great.

Brewster Rocket Help Desk

Frazz Help Desk

How could they not remind me of our friend The Help Desk rubric group game?

In a Help Desk Game, the progression of the scenic games establishes the pattern, and that pattern’s evolving repetition serves to heighten a personal game or theme.

What’s just beautiful thinking about these comic strips as improv scenes using the Help Desk Dynamic, is how they get to call lights before they have to get to the punchline. By setting our expectations in the first interaction, WE – the reader or audience – laugh at following the second interaction in our own heads based on the first. Our Lizard Brain laughs at the recognition of the pattern – and that’s enough for your edit!

Patterns allow us to play confidently. Thanks for the illustrations, Jef and Tim!

 

 

Genres – a warm-up for playing with expectations

Repetition of an interaction establishes expectations for the audience.  These expectations can be played to and against for fun effect.

As a precursor to Help Desk Games, the short-form improv game Genres can help us practice pacing in repetition of an interaction, and help us flex our memory muscles.

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

New Choice – a pattern pacing warm-up

The rhythm with which a game’s mechanic is played helps pace the scene and build it toward an edit.

The relationship between “When this happens” “this happens” is useful not only to focus improvisers’ choices but it also connects with the audience. In Short Form, where the mechanics of the “game” are told to the audience before the scene starts, the audience starts reacting to the “cause” and the expectation of the effect instead of just to the effect itself.

Short form improv games help us practice our patterns and pacing for long-form improv’s more organic games. Looking for a warm-up to practice pattern pacing?  Try New Choice!

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

Susie and Rebecca – organic and meta

This was my favorite Organic game from my Spring 2018 Patterns & Games Class. There’s just so much to love.  This one could never be rewritten as a sketch, and that’s an asset to me here.  

It was born collaboratively in-the-moment with an ending no one set out to see but felt too entirely perfect in retrospect.  We’re talking Improv As Improv Does Best here, folks.  Continue reading

Awkward Allergies – a split screen Help Desk

A quick, fun Help Desk game utilizing the Split Screen.

The escalating pattern is fun but the commitment to emotion helps the pattern hit.

Listen for the laugh Adrienne gets just by reacting without words.

Note the key to the end is that Ben actually feels bad for his allergy to murder. The connection he makes between his allergic reaction and the dead bodies’ bloat is icing on the cake.

Players are (in order of appearance): Adrienne Thompson, Paul Costen, Becky CoppaJonathan Mostowy, Brittany Andersen, and Ben Hay

Mirror, Action, Object’s Scenic add-on

Personal Games are the focus of the base Mirror, Action, Object warm-up exerciseMAO1 Engaged in either how they feel about themselves, how they feel about what they’re doing, or how they feel about a mimed object, players build progressions of emotional reaction triggered by active endowments. As examples: A player loves his outfit, and as he scans himself toe to head he grows more and more impressed with himself (Mirror). A player grows more insane with every monotonous saw stroke. A player becomes more and more vain with every bite of the apple.

This add-on expands the warm-up to practice Scenic Games as well.  Continue reading

Silent Games

Aaron Grant once took the stage across from me, making eye contact but planting his feet firmly just beyond the stage right wing. I mirrored him on stage left. He mimed the mimeclassic flirtatious fishing move. I played his fish but broke his line bashfully, the stage’s distance remaining between us. I danced as someone with a club; he played my seal. He loaded his heart into a gun and shot it at me. I loaded my heart into a mortar and launched it at him. He shot me with a bazooka of love. I put love in a centrifuge and then in a bomb that erupted in a mushroom cloud of hearts. He built and climbed into a B-52 bomber than rained love upon me. We both stood up from the rubble and traced out hearts to one another. Never a word was spoken.

How does one teach Silent Games? Read on! Continue reading

Showcasing Students

I’m wishy washy about improv class showcases.

On the one hand, if the point of going through classes is to learn to do performance-ready-level improv, then it seems sadistic to make 101 students “put it up on its feet.”

But on the other, nothing informs an improviser like improvising and all it entails – collaborating to build something out of nothing in-the-moment before a live audience. And so practice in front of a live audience should be part of each course.

So the in-between place becomes preparing each class for a performance that showcases – in grand improv style – all that they learned in class, on top of everything they’ve learned before, within bounds that keep them from stumbling into unknown territory. 

Here are examples of how to do it…from 101 to 401… Continue reading

Organic Warm-ups

It’s all about the Set move.organic
Remember: Anything’s an Offer.

A group of improvisers gather pre-show. They take off excess clothes. They empty their pockets. They ask about each other’s day.
One guy tells a story about an out-of-the-blue run-in with an old friend that happened that day.
Another improviser tells her own story about an even more random out-of-the-blue run-in with an even older friend.
And an organic warm-up is off running.

An improviser notices two of his compatriots are bent down tying their shoes so he mirrors them. A fourth follows. A fifth.
And an organic warm-up is off running.

An awkward group of improvisers gravitates into a pre-show circle, wanting to find something organic, not wanting to force anything. One guy starts mirroring another’s nervous hand wringing. A girl coughs so someone else does. Someone laughs. They all laugh.
And an organic warm-up is off running. Continue reading