The Johnsons’ 100% Organic Family Band Solution

300px-drfunke_1996_arrested_developmentI coach The Johnsons, so they’ve been steeped in a rich tea of group games. They know One Person Scenes. They know To The Ether Games.  They know Help Desk Games. And they know Hey Everybody Games.

And that knowledge makes them masters of the Organic Game.

And that unfortunately means sometimes they perform games that are hard for me to pick apart in a post in order to showcase the learnings. But this sucker’s a joyful exception.

Check it out.

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Forging an Organic Format: part TWO

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.

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BBQ Blowout an organic game

The Johnsons hosted a BBQ and everyone came.  But they spaced out their arrival to allow time to heighten the sequence between new entries.  Check it out.

To clarify: That last line out of Jonathan is “I brought the hounds of hell.”

The Johnsons are: Scott Beckett, Shawn Hambright, Townsend Hart, John Hilowitz, Joe Mack, Jonathan Nelson, Jessi Schmale, Lauren Serpa and Alan Vollmer. Continue reading

High Jobs Tag-out example

Here’s an example of a Tag-out from The Johnsons. Notice how they leverage the Help Desk dynamic, repeating/heightening the sequence of dialogue.

I’d’ve preferred they’d’ve never sat down, instead playing out being high on the job. It’s hard to keep a scene active while sitting down.  Chairs are a privilege, not a right.

The Johnsons are Scott Beckett, Shawn Hambright, John Hilowitz and Jonathan Nelson.

Editing Thematically – The Johnsons 1.16.16

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.
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Call & Response Hey Everybody group game

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.

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Ocean/Pool Contrasting Reality group game

Be careful changing a scene’s reality.

In improv we’re building something out of nothing. So if improvisers make a choice on stage they’re moving forward and to negate that choice threatens to stall that forward motion as they scramble to justify the contradiction. Not only do contradictory choices disrupt the scene for the improvisers, it erodes the audience’s willingness to engage in the scene – if the players aren’t seeing eye to eye, what hope does the audience have to understand what’s going on?

Admittedly, a contradictory choice can get a laugh – but if in the aftermath of that choice the scene is compromised you have to ask yourself whether that laugh was worth it?

Now, if you’re on stage and a scene’s reality is changed on you, here’s what you do: Don’t justify or explain away the contradiction; Embrace it. Commit to heightening both sides of the contradiction, allowing them to coexist. If we confidently accept both realities the audience can relax and buy in as well.

Check out this example –


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