Chaos Attraction

Improv 101, Week Eight: Choreographed Chaos

2015-05-12, 10:56 p.m.

Continued from here.

Regarding our performance: we are to arrive at 6:45 for a warmup and to be divided into two teams. Each team is to pick a name and gets about 25-30 minutes to perform 3 monologues and 3-5 scenes, depending on how much time we have left. After that they blackout the lights, we wave goodbye, and head towards the bar! You can watch the other scenes from the back when you're not about to go on.

We were kind of low on people again, as three didn't show up after being there last week. Where are you people?! After class tonight I was all "Everybody show up!" I'm thinking of e-mailing one of them (I've been sending him my notes by his request) to see what's up there. One other guy in my class said he'll sign up in July too, so there will at least be one person I know, yay. I will miss these people, I hope I see them around again in the future, they're all cool beans.

The one improv game this week: saying "bunny bunny" while doing bunny ear gestures and making eye contact with someone to pass it on to them--while the people on each side of them having to say "tookie tookie" (I have no explanation for this) and flapping their arms. THIS WAS INSANE.

Other than that, more Harold practice. I only got up once this time--did a monologue on today's work drama (police had to be called because a guy threw his cell phone at one of us and shattered it--everything ended up okay, for the record). Ended up in a scene with a guy who was at a theme park, complaining that he hated it when his depression meds worked because he felt weird when not depressed, so he was trying to get depressed again--which is why we're drinking in a bar at a theme park. That one needed a bit of work, though I did think of some ideas during it. ("What else can you pull out of your pocket that's depressing?" Brian asked, and I was all "old condom.")

The other two monologues involved theme parks and/or rickety roller coasters--the first scene was a guy doing crazy shit every time during the drop. I had thought of the idea of having an abusive relationship with a wooden roller coaster (which is to say, those things bruise you the hell up and I hate 'em, but let's say someone liked that sort of thing), but darn it! The other one involved a "corn dog bandit."

The other two groups did... hm, monologues on drinking--one guy got drunk right before his internship and had to call in sick, so another guy did a scene that was pretty much that exact thing until they got to the calling in sick part, where he had the other guy pretend to be his dad. Very badly. (See note below.) There was a camping scene in which a girl kept bringing more furniture along "for her comfort," based on a monologue about a guy insisting on bringing his pillow to Yosemite.

Another awesome monologue involved camping next to people who were invading their personal space, so her husband started setting traps for the... There was a freaking brilliant scene about a guy who is setting traps in his yard to get the super obnoxious neighborhood kids (great walk in potential there) from peeing in his yard. Like electric shocks and claymore mines. Another scene involved teenagers attempting to get wasted on whatever they found in the house, like apple juice, Listerine (hey, let's combine them all together), penicillin... which he pronounced "penikillin." Let's snort it! And finally, I hear you can get really high off dog farts.

The last scene started out with two chicks walking out with no ideas whatsoever, which led Brian into telling us what to do in that situation (see "mutual scene") below. He got that morphed into a scene in which one sister busts out of the mental institution once a week to meet the other at a BBQ joint, while wearing her straightjacket and needing to be fed like a kid ("airplane!"). See, that worked out great!

Notes from this week:
* Stop being in your head and just go out and do it. The rest of your body will kick in.
* The grounded character probably doesn't have to think so much, should be neutral and listening.
* You need to be able to either initiate or be grounded, do either role and start mixing it up if you have a preference.
* Don't be afraid to fail. Brian mentioned one performer who hardly ever initiated or went on until like the end of a show. He'd kill it, but "well, fuck, you better be funny if it takes you an hour" to think of something.
* Brian says he is good at clarifying patterns when they are murky on stage.
* Should we ever do Improv Jam (a few of us did it with Brian last week), you get 20 minutes per group of 8, mixed in with experts.
* In a recent Improv Jam, someone told a monologue about dousing others with popcorn butter. So Brian had the idea that someone would "hulk out" if someone said the words "popcorn butter." "Just play popcorn butter all the time!"
* The concept of "nooookay," or "yes, I'm going along with what you're saying even though I'm very reluctant to do so and this seems crazy." It's how to go along with someone's set crazy pattern/reality on stage without quite saying no either.
* Say the pattern before we play it.
* As a walk on, either clarify or hit the pattern but don't add to the plot.
* See the pattern (i.e act it out), don't hear the pattern. Don't talk about something happening yesterday or tomorrow, just do them. Saying "cut to" is a powerful sword, only use it when you have to.
* "It's called layering or some crapass shit." Uh...I didn't write down where this was going but am saving this quote anyway for obvious reasons.
* Don't ask for food suggestions because you'll probably get "apple."
* Try not to bring out the chairs if you don't need them.
* Feel free to supply background noises from the back line, such as roller coaster noises.
* Every rule in this class was established to break them occasionally.
* But don't use that as an excuse to break them all the time.
* Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes on stage so you can move and you will probably get stepped on.
* Start scenes from the back wall, start talking as you walk out.
* Edit on someone being blown up.
* "Even though it's improv, it's like choreographed chaos all the time." No wonder I like it.
* In fiction, we usually want to find out the twist later. "In improv, we tell them the twist in the first line."
* In real life, we don't give piggy back rides to people, but I see them more here than anywhere else. Don't do it (see last week's injury references). Or pratfalls. "There's not different physics on this stage." A guy got knocked out on stage doing a pratfall once, and there's nothing to bring down the house in a bad way like that.
* Here's what you do when both of you have to go out there and neither of you have anything: it's called a mutual scene. Say one line apiece until you find something unusual. Put us in a place. Give us a relationship. Give her information. In 3 lines we've established an unusual thing/scene. Where, who, pattern, why. Another idea in this situation: look at your scene partner and how they are standing and assign them a character from that. Just do something. If you're the second one out and the first person has nothing, you can switch and be the crazy person.
* Put more detail in the monologues.
* Clap after we say the suggestion word.
* Be a little louder than you think you have to be on stage.
* Don't recreate the monologue, take out the good parts and use them.
* "Stay away from banana phones."
* "Always edit on dog farts."
* "My entire life is a pattern...My kids know it because I screw with them...." (Note: one of his kids was there tonight watching/doing the warmup.)
* It's okay to think on stage.
* He told us the story of when he was at UCB in LA, watching Matt Besser (one of the co-founders, he's also in episode 10 of Community right now) perform with this one guy--I think his name was Rashid or something similar--that Brian haaaaaaaaaaaates. The guy was apparently really rude, cut people off, insulted them, etc. The two of them were in a scene together and Rashid did something so awful that Matt literally walked away, opened a fake window, stuck his head out, then closed the fake window, and came back and thought of a way to fix the scene. Moral of the story: It's okay to buy some time to think of something else better.
* Don't be afraid to make mistakes on stage. In a bad show you give up after that, in a good show you use the mistake. Brian has a story about how he started a scene yelling that it was a robbery and to get down on the floor, but one guy couldn't figure out what to do and was kind of doing a halfassed up-down dance, so Brian asked him what he was doing. He said he was excited because he was a guard and it was his first robbery-- so they go with the interesting thing and the guy helps him rob the bank and even becomes his getaway driver.
* "I want you to fail this shit up on Saturday."
* He says he does 52 Anti-Cooperation League shows a year and has about three of them that are shitty. It happens. You think you will suck, but you won't.

Man, I don't want it to be over until July! I'll go to other things in the meantime, mind you, but still! This has been fun.

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