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In early improv classes we’re told that we’re all “artists, geniuses and poets” and that “improv is an art form”. It’s only been quite recently that I think I’ve actually started to understand this a bit more.
More and more, whenever I’m teaching, or in a scene, I’m looking for the truth. For me, it’s the truth of the character. It’s the truth of the scene. It’s the truth of the moment. It’s the “humanity” of the character, the sticky insides, the thing that makes them real, vulnerable. And I don’t mean vulnerable as in “weak”. Showing your underbelly isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength, of trust.
We’re told that as improvisers, as artists, we get to say the things that regular people can’t say in real life. We get to be honest. We get to tell the truth. And when we do, it’s the truth that resonates with an audience. It’s the truth, that makes an audience go “ah man, I’ve been in that position, I wish I could’ve said that”. It’s that moment in Scream when Sidney punches Gale Weathers. We want her to. Then she does. Then we cheer. Would we have done that in real life? Probably not. That’s why we love it so much. Sidney does the thing we wish we could do in real life. Resonating with an audience like that, immersing them so deeply they believe you, is the best.Continue Reading
For those of you know me, hello and I probably love you. To those who do not, let me introduce myself. I am a somewhat tall, loud, enthusiastic, goofy, optimistic female. To both parties (strangers and pals alike), here are some things you probably don’t know about me: I am quite an anxious person, and I struggle from ongoing chronic health problems such as arthritis, currently in the business of trying to diagnose whether I have an autoimmune disease or not, the world’s dodgiest knees/back, and as previously mentioned, some not fun anxiety times.
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be a part of my first ever Improv Conspiracy Harold Team, Crown Boy. Alongside my fellow Crownies, I believe I have thrived in the TIC community, having learned so much about improv and about myself. But the main thing I have learned is about the importance of support. Yes, you’ve read articles about support and how “it is key in group work” and how “teamwork makes the dream work” and so on. This is all very true! But there seems to be an element I believe in much stronger, much deeper than just “team work”; friendship.Continue Reading
TRUST, and what we can learn from the 1990s Chicago Bulls
From a lover of improv and a Chicago Bulls fan serving his confirmation bias
As I was listening to the Jon Favreau episode of Improv Nerd today, he brought up something that engaged me for obvious reasons. Today of all days, on the day my beloved Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs, he brought up Michael Jordan.
During the late '80s in Chicago the best basketball player of all time entered the league and suddenly the whole western world started paying attention to the sport. Jordan was electric, entertaining and just so damn talented. As Favreau notes - in the '80s, Jordan’s numbers were huge. He nearly averaged a triple double in his first five years around 30 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds. For basketball nerds, this is pretty great. But the Bulls still weren't winning. It wasn't until the early '90s when they did some recruitment and brought on a coach who changed the culture and put the focus on the team rather than the individual.
With this shift, Jordan's personal numbers went down, but the team’s went up. As you may or may not know, they went on to dominate the '90s winning SIX championships.
There are many individuals from that era whose names we may know: Charles "Round Mound of Rebound" Barkley, Karl "The Mailman" Malone, Gary "The Glove" Payton, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, etc. These are still considered some of the greatest players of all time but none of them won championships because they were up against a team they couldn't beat.Continue Reading
Craig steps out of the backline and announces to the audience, 'Cheddah'! Jon follows along with 'Tasty!' Sarah is next, 'Swiss!' Jadwiga is fourth in line and says 'Edam!'. We hear from Gouda and Feta and Parmesan. And then Carl steps out. But Carl doesn't name a cheese like the rest. Carl is a rat. He sneaks around, before taking a nibble out of Sarah, then stealing her offstage.
The rest of the cheeses freak out, running around the stage and changing places in line. Cheddah is suddenly not so proud, announcing itself in a lower volume. Bobby follows with a slightly scared 'Swiss', and the rest follow along until Sarah returns as a rat, chewing on Feta and stealing her away too. The cheeses freak out again, with Craig yelping out a horrified 'Cheddah!". The speed picks up, as cheese after cheese is listed. And I'm there sitting in the audience laughing my ass off, because I know what's coming next.
Group games are the best part of the Harold. Yeah yeah, there's nothing like a well acted funny two person scene but when a group game is performed well, it sticks with you because you're watching magic play out on stage. Think about it: how on earth do eight or so people play a game when they can't establish the rules ahead of time? Oh, and also make it funny because an audience has paid to see this show and want to laugh.Continue Reading
There’s only so much you can do by yourself in order to develop your improv skills, especially on your lonesome. Try shaking it out in front of a mirror and you’ll see what I mean. Lately, my improv development has been watching episodes of the old sketch show Full Frontal.
Yeah, I’ve been watching sketch comedy to improve my improv. I must sound crazy - like telling you that I'm learning how to ride a bike by driving a bus. Sure, they are both forms of transportation but they are executed very differently! The same goes for sketch comedy and improv, but there are lessons we can learn from the former to apply to the latter.
It’s said that a great improvised scene could be written out beat for beat as a scripted sketch. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s approach to scenework is that a scene should have an identifiable pattern that the performers find during the scene, which is then played back and forth. The pattern starts off as something familiar and even relatable, but gets more and more absurd as time goes on. This is known as the game of the scene. The idea is that once we have found this game, we can strip out the specific details from the scene and apply the same game to a different scenario - meaning that we are getting to the funny thing even quicker because we have established rules.Continue Reading
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