Improv 101 Week One: Sex Chair
2015-03-24, 10:48 p.m.
So here's the story: last week I was moping on the phone to my shrink about the usual whaaaambulance, why won't I ever DO anything or take any kind of action, maybe I just don't want to do anything, etc. I have been reading an AWESOME book called Vital Signs and it has chapters dedicated to getting out into nature as a way of getting you to change your life, and on the nature of fame and seeking attention. This led to my shrink bringing up "Hey, why don't you look into going to some kind of summer camp thing" (I tried this a few years ago, but timing + money never worked out) and "What kind of thing would you do?" "Acting school," I said.
So my shrink is on Groupon and Living Social and all that jazz and periodically tries to talk me into signing up for them (as does Mom, for that matter). Except I have been all "eh, I'm just gonna get a lot of e-mails and ignore 99% of it because I can't afford a discount trip to Africa or whatever, kinda don't see the point" and have ignored this. Well, we were on the phone and she was on her laptop and she started Googling about and found a half off voucher for Improv 101. Upon going back into work again and loading it up, I could get EVEN MORE of a discount if I did it within the uh...next eight minutes. Panic panic panic, next thing you know I'm going "How do I use a voucher, anyway?!!"
I've done improv before, but it's just plain hard to do in my college town--it's rare that any classes are offered, I tried to take some through the EC and then almost everyone else would flake on class at the first midterm, and the last time I signed up for classes at the Art(s) Center, the teacher flaked even before the class started due to his "busy theater schedule." (I have bugged him about this periodically since once in awhile I run into him at his day job, but flakety flakety flakety continues there and I ain't holding my breath.) And we have an awesome improv troupe in town, but now I'm too freaking old and graduated to be able to join such a thing. Darn it, why does the cool shit come along long after graduation? So anyway, clearly at some point I was ah, going to need to leave town to do such a thing. I like living in the burbs, but...some things can only really exist in cities because you don't have the population otherwise. Also, this was one of the things I was supposed to be doing as an "action step" after the first time I took EFT clss and then ah, didn't because it was November and I didn't do shit then.
So tonight was the first night of class and it was loads of fun. It was far more structured than my previous improv experiences and I liked it. The eventual goal is to do Harold-style improv (P.S. Dear Brian: should you be one of those guys who checks the hits on your website all the time and find this, uh...I got that link to work after all when I got home. Go figure, internet.), which sounds like the kind of thing that Birdstrike does, and I love that style. Too cool. We did brief introductions, played some improv games, and had some really interesting lectures on how to work a 2-person improv sketch, the likes of which I had not heard before.
You're supposed to have one person be "the weird one" who sets the tone and the pattern right off, and the other one plays the more "normal" one who reacts to things, may grudgingly go along but doesn't buy in. He talked about the stuff you think you'd hear--try not to say no to things--and other stuff I hadn't heard before about establishing a pattern in a skit and working with it. Like say, one person wants to go camping but is afraid to do it outdoors, so they're doing their best to set up a realistic camping experience indoors. Like say, going to the bathroom in the nearby planters, that kind of thing.
We did a couple of games based on finding patterns. One of them involved one person saying something like they're a tree, and then two others step in and say they're something related to a tree, like a bird and a nest. Then the game continues with one of those three objects continuing to the next round. The other one involved three friends on a panel discussing their friendship and how they met, and how this sort of story is supposed to get weirder and weirder and build upon what each other said as you go on. Pretty fun stuff, my panel involved us all going through a time portal and landing in the middle of a Middle Ages joust in Italy...and then we all hang out at Ren Faires now. Hah.
Oh, and I'm gonna explain the ah, fun title of this entry: as an example, he was talking about doing the Anti-Cooperation League Show the other week and they were interviewing the owner of a furniture store. Someone in the audience yelled out, "I bought a chair from that store! And then we broke it having sex in it!" To which Brian was all, why would you share that detail? (And then I was all, did the store owner offer to sell them another chair? Oh god, I wish I'd seen that, it had to have been brilliant.) And that leads to a totally amusing discussion of how you'd do a sketch about one person as the "weird one" walks into Target wanting a refund for the chair they broke having sex in. I sort of picture this going down in sort of a dead parrot style, but he said the punchline would be the next guy walking up wanting a refund for a broken toothbrush...
Incidentally, there is a guy in my class who totally looks like Rob Lowe. I just thought I'd share that because it is impressive and at times distracting, or at least it was until I figured out who he reminded me of. I am also told that one guy in class's daughter (who's in other shows) looks dead on like Tina Fey to the point where people were trying to figure out why Tina Fey would be in Sacramento. Upon checking her picture, I would not argue that resemblance either!
In other news, while you're a student you can go to any free show starting at 8 p.m, so hopefully I can try to squeeze in a few shows before things get nutterpants around here. Happily, the parking on the street is free in the area after six, so that's cool as well.
Anyway, it's all very exciting!