There came a point where I noticed that I was taking improv classes with people who weren’t particularly relaxed–stiff even. It was evident even in warm ups, where passing the face–a warm up in which we get in a circle and pass a face around– devolved into half-hearted, frightened growling (perhaps a reflection of the group’s collective spirit). This annoyed me, so I started selling my faces hard. I’d stand next to the stiffest of people and began to humiliate myself. I was jumping, dancing, screaming, “I drink shit!” just so I could get these stiffies to approximate some semblance of committing hard.
Basically, I was being a dick.
Then I started to notice that certain people in my classes kept doing the same things in their scenes. This too started to get on my nerves. In one instance I took the stage with a partner who always fell in love. I made my opening move, establishing my who and our where. Then, as expected, my partner professed their love for me, at which point I said I was gay and that I was tired of my mother trying to set me up with women. Every time they tried to love me I just got gayer. Elsewhere, I found myself playing a different scene with someone who was often emotionally distant, so I said I took a class in kinesthetic therapy and to move and massage their body, saying it was the key to reinvigorating our same-sex relationship.
I was playing like a dick.
I realized I was onto something after a while. Playing like a dick allowed me to find game or character POV pretty quick while also giving me a quick path to funny specifics. One way to play like a dick is to “yes, and” hard. A lot of times, players frame their offers as questions because fear or discomfort prevents them from making assertions, but by, “yes, anding” hard you force them to stick to their choices (you also direct the scene toward absurdity since you’ll be consistently heightening the offer).
Playing like a dick is also useful for players who aren’t comfortable enough to play supportively. That’s because while you’re being a dick you’re also bringing out the magnificence of the scene partner. By “yesing” hard, you support the idea; by thwarting their wants, you advance the scene and make active choices (as opposed to fulfilling wants, fixing problems); and by forcing them out of their comfort zone, you prompt them to grow. The dick is also a good disguise for someone who’s too insecure for plain, old gift-giving and support (because maybe they feel they’re not good enough to support or that it’s “not nice” to give gifts).
Of course, I don’t believe in panaceas and none of this is meant to be a substitution for talent or training, but sometimes it’s just fun to be a dick.
But not IRL. Don’t troll me, bro.