“Who do you tag out?” I’ve asked improvisers.
“Keep the Crazy,” some reply. Have more fun with a fun character. It’s a fine thought.
“Change the catalyst,” I say. The audience loves watching improvisers affected by imagined reality. When we heighten the reality we force the affected character into a heightened reaction. So when choosing who to heighten I think tagging out the catalyst is our best default.
But sometimes you change the Catalyst and keep the Crazy.
That’s what happened here:
Yes, when approaching Tag-Outs it can be helpful for the sake of focused heightening to only tag-out one side of the scene – keeping one character consistent and heightening his/her Personal Game. And yes, when choosing between two players to tag-out it is often advantageous if you replace the catalyst and keep the character reacting to that catalyst.
But there are no “rules” in improv, just tools and considerations.
Sometimes what feels “right” in the moment goes against a standard guideline. The game below is one of those times.
Check out this great heightening of a character with a series of Tag-outs.
It’s a simple game played the “right” way. The set-up is clear: Nicole establishes that they’re at the Grand Canyon and Lauren hates it. She hates that there are no video games and that there are “donkey smells.” Continue reading
Here’s an annoying song my baby likes: Herman The Worm
Here’s the thing… It makes for one fun group warm-up with echos of One Person, To The Ether, Help Desk and Hey Everybody game patterns. Give it a try! Continue reading
The first time it’s random.
The second time it’s purposeful.
The third time it’s expected.
This progression informs how we build collaboratively in improv, be it in service of a pattern of emotional behavior, a relationship dynamic, a group game, or forging an organic format.
What is necessary to elevate a random occurence into a shared experience? It requires that second move – the choice to make the first move matter.
Derek Sivers gets it.
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.
. Continue reading
Player One stands rigidly on stage, stroking an imagined object on his right wrist and says, “I love my shield.”
Player Two enters stage, stares agog at the imagined shield and says, “Wow-wie! That is one awesome shield.”
The question for you is: If you were told to enter the scene as the third player to establish a group game, what would you do?
The Johnsons have been working on building a more collective world in their long form performances.
One tool they’ve practiced is using their scene edits to establish and heighten an organic pattern progression.
And on January 16th, 2016 they did it on stage for the first time. Watch. Enjoy.
First time is random. Second time is purposeful. Third time is expected.
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.
“A Massage Convention’s an HR hotbed.” –> “If OSHA says this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”
With Hey Everybody mechanics in our back pocket we can confidently jump into chaos knowing that all we need to do is each stick and heighten our individual perspectives while collectively sticking to the order of individual contributions. With these tools we harness the power of the chaos, enabling it to swell and pop.
We can relax, too, in the knowledge that every player doesn’t need to nail it; they just need to participate. Especially in that first pass, what’s most important is just for each player to say/do something, anything. And if “anything” is too broad and therefore crippling then we remember that we can always align and agree with one another as well.
Watch this example. Note how the first pass gets established – who agrees with whom, who has a different perspective, who doesn’t speak. How many different perspectives would you say are in play among these 7 improvisers?