Your improv training is all about getting you to a place where your performance is primarily driven by instinct and intuition.I’m going to call it “flow“. That’s the name for the general headspace of creativity. Writing, dancing, music, etc–it all comes from the same mode of being (flow). With improvised art the audience just watches you exist in that space. That’s why instructors sometimes tell improvisors that even if the show isn’t super funny audiences will be impressed just to see you improvise (for most people it’s a challenge to enter into and maintain flow).
I think it’s easier to study and perform improv when you know how to do it. So, here’s some basic context: the goal is a performance primarily driven by instinct and intuition. One way to get there is to act as if whatever’s happening onstage is actually happening and allowing the thoughts and feelings evoked by the present moment to become the content of your scene. The majority of my training has been a variation of the previous two sentences. That’s it!
So I can tell everyone what I needed to hear: improv training is all about getting you to a place where your performance is primarily driven by instinct and intuition. So, act as if whatever’s happening onstage is actually happening so that the thoughts and feelings evoked by the present moment become the content of your scene.
I don’t understand the motivation for getting involved in government if you think the government is a hindrance. Who gets involved in a company just to shut it down? A lot of free-market philosophy says that people will create charities to compensate for the shortcomings of the market, so shouldn’t free market ideologues be starting charities rather than getting involved in government?
I listened to a surprisingly intelligent conversation on the Cracked.com podcast. Their podcast is almost exclusively unfunny conversations from an intellectual perspective. It was about privacy and how the older guy who was the guest felt an instinctual distrust and repulsion toward surveillance because he grew up during the Cold War. He said that when they read 1984 in school, Big Brother is what America would get if Russia won and he found it ironic that it’s what we got anyway thanks to the ideology of capitalism. Because we’re surveilled by companies as much as the government ( the new XBox has a microphone that’s always active so you can turn it on with your voice, but it can also record what’s happening in front of it at all times to potentially cater ads to the subject of your talks). The older guy said that he’s surprised by the attitude of “I got nothing to hide,” that so many young people display because he sees all this surveillance, especially by other people who will publicly shame you on social media if you misstep, as being a danger to free thought. And he paraphrased the Enlightenment philosophy that informed the founders of America because a lot of them operated under the assumption that free speech and public discourse would lead to good ideas getting filtered through (which assumes that “good ideas” have a magnetic pull). He also said creativity requires taking risks and making mistakes so this could potentially stifle creative expression. And the if you get drunk and get angry at someone and say something dumb it could end up as a meme!
It was some time I ago that I realized that ideas come to me while doing improv (and that I should articulate and explore those ideas). Why it only recently dawned on me that I can do the same with emotion is beyond me. I’ve been aware for awhile that if a scene calls for it I can deliver all sorts of feelings, but I don’t think I explicitly thought about articulating or exploring them once they occur to me. It’s a big deal, I think, because withholding those feelings (or not being aware of my awareness of them) deprives the scene of its content.
I think, right now, I’m better off doing comedy for its own sake rather than as a means to an end. Not only might the comedy suffer, but so could I. “Aw, jeeze, I can’t make rent with all these good cop/bad cop sketches! WHEN WILL COMEDY MAKE PEOPLE LOVE ME?!” And how about when you find out that all the love and comedy doesn’t fill that gaping wound in your heart? That’s the worst! Then you start to resent your own jokes. “Oh, you want good cop/bad cop ordering coffee? HOW ABOUT THEY ORDER A GRAVE PLOT CAUSE THEY’RE DEAD?!” Jealous of an abstract idea or broad category of human emotion? Ew boy! “Do you love me or the catharsis?!” ( I’m sure that’s the thesis of at least one Woody Allen movie.)
A COP is walking down a busy New York street. He’s passed by BEN and STEFAN.
What if I grabbed that cop’s gun?
That’s what everyone’s thinking right now. In fact: watch this.
Ben grabs the cop’s gun and holds it in the air.
Hey, my gun!
Keep away; keep away!
Ben tosses the gun to Stefan as a crowd begins to gather.
He grabbed the gun; I always wanted to grab the gun; I wish I thought of that; I wish I had the balls.
I want the gun!
Stefan tosses the gun to MAN 1.
Man 1 tosses the gun to WOMAN 1.
I feel so alive!
I want to feel alive too!
Woman 1 tosses the gun to WOMAN 2, who tosses the gun to Man 1, who tosses it back to Stefan. The cop radios for
help while a bunch of people toss the gun around. When a siren flashes, the crowd begins to run away as one.
The crowd runs down the street toward a hot dog cart.
I’ve always wanted to just grab a hotdog and run.
You should eat it too!
Stefan grabs a hot dog, Ben grabs a hot dog, and soon the whole crowd envelopes the hotdog cart and is running while eating hot dogs.
Int NEWS STUDIO–DAY
This just in: a crowd is running down the streets of New York stealing hot dogs and clothes off manaquins. This is after they took the gun off a cop.Ya know, I’ve always wanted to do that. How bout you, Jim? Jim?
ZOOM OUT TO REVEAL
Jim is gone (foot steps are heard in the background followed by a car screetching). The ANCHORWOMAN runs off.
Crowd runs toward camera eating slices of pizza and pretzels, wearing designer clothes, and holding little dogs. The crowd passes a camping store.
I’ve always wanted to hide in one of these and run around after everone’s gone.
INT. CAMPING STORE-DAY
The light pouring into the store slowly darkens until the sun has set. The sound of a lock being turned is heard; Ben pokes his head out from behind the flap of a tent, Stefan pokes out above Ben, and a cop pokes his head out above Stefan.
I’ve also always wanted to do this.
A campfire is set out in the middle of the store and a mix of cops and the crowd sit around roasting marshmellows. Cop 1 has a flashlight up to his face.
But they never found the body–but she found them!
The cop holds up a garden claw and everyone jumps.
Everyone is in sleeping bags.
Sun slowly rises, alarm goes off, people slowly stretch out of bed. Ben stretches, locks eyes with a cop.
The crowd runs out as the cops give chase.
Hesitation Marks, the new album from Nine Inch Nails, came out today–and I love it! “Euch, that music is so angsty; I just can’t take it!” Whoa, save it for the stage, Gary Sinese, ’cause there’s nothing more melodramatic than making someone else’s pain about you! Trent Reznor crafts meticulous sonic landscapes and has gotten more hooks into more people than a masochist dictator, but you won’t let yourself enjoy it ’cause the words are too sad’? Excuse me, but is this your Edward Scissorhands meets The Cure fanfiction? ‘Cause saying you can’t handle the angst sounds so Gothy, I just figured that you wrote this script where Robert Smith dances in Johnny Depp’s snowflakes. “You just don’t understand me!” Runs upstairs, slams door, turns on The Smiths (doesn’t see irony).
TED, JOE, and MATT, three college students, hang out on the side of the stage (in a kitchen).
MRS GINA NISSAN, a svelt woman in her early 40′s, walks onstage carrying groceries.
Wow, that is 100% grade A MILF meat.
She’s actually a G-G-MILF.
Did you just see a ghost?
No, she’s a great grandmother.
Yeah, It’s tragic! She had a kid at 14, her daughter had a kid at 14, and her granddaughter just had a kid at 14!
What?! In 2013?! In Barak Obama’s America?!
Well, we know they like to fuck; so watch the master work.
Joe walks over to Mrs. Nissan, who strugles to find her keys while holding bags. She has her back to him as he approaches.
Hey, there, you need some help?
Mrs. Nissan turns around and locks eys with Joe.
Sure, that’s very–
As she speaks, Mrs. Nissan’s voice is slowly drowned out by the chorus of Paula Cole’s I Don’t Want To Wait ( theme from Dawson’s Creek).
He’s getting sucked into her drama.
Mrs Nissan’s daughter, BARBERA, exits the house.
Mom, I have to take a late shift at the hotel. Can you watch Julie Ann?
But you just got off of work.
We need the money!
She’s a grandmother!
Barbera walks up to Mrs. Nissan and gets in her face, pushing Joe out of the way.
Barbera makes eye contact with Joe as Here With Me by Dido(theme from the WB’s Roswell) starts to play. Joe stands transfixed. REBBECA–a teen–comes to the door.
The baby’s up.
I’ll get her; bring in the groceries.
Rebbeca walks toward Joe; She makes eye contact with Joe and 7th Heaven (theme drom 7th Heaven) starts to play.
Get me out of here.
Mrs. Nissan comes out.
Becca, don’t you sleep with him too!
I wasn’t gonna!
Barbers comes out and slaps Mrs. Nissan.
Don’t call my daughter a slut!
I love him and he’s gonna take me away from here!
Rebecca locks eyes with Joe and 7th Heaven plays again. Barbera comes over, gras her by the wrist, and locks eyes with Joe–the theme from Roswell interupts 7th Heaven. Mrs. Nissan comes over and grabs Barbera by the hair and locks eyes with Joe–the theme from Dawson’s Creek cuts in. The baby crawls toward the door and makes eye contact with Joe; the chorus from California (theme from The OC) starts to play.Everyone turns their heads to look at the baby.
The Nissan family all makes eye contact with Joe and all four themes play at once. Joe falls to his knees. A car drives by; the driver looks at the scene. The family looks at him and the car swerves into a tree.
Matt grabs Ted’s hand and a frying pan.
Don’t make eye contact.
Rebecca, Barbera, Mrs. Nissan, and the baby start to fight. Joe starts to crawl away. A MAILMAN approaches.
All four look at the mailman and their themes start to play. The mailman pulls a gun out of his mailbag and kills himself. All four turn their attention on Joe.
You did this!
Their themes play and Joe starts to suffucate. Matt crawls up, sticks the frying pan in the way of the familys’ gaze long enough for Joe to run away.
What about the mailman?!
None of them can die!
Matt and Ted run away. Red light bathes the stage as all four Nissans stare at the crowd, open their mouths, and their themes blair.