Musical Improv Week 1: Everything I Teach Is Broken Down Into Little Sayings
2016-11-10, 8:35 p.m.
recently on Chaos Attraction
I have been debating whether or not to take musical improv at this point in time. Reasons against boiled down to “I hate driving in the dark in winter, especially if the weather sucks” and “Wait, this class starts at SIX in Sacramento?” Reasons for boiled down to “I’ve wanted to take this class for like a year and it finally got put back on the schedule again” and the fact that one of my Sketch 101 classmates--one of the two that makes up her own songs about taxes (yes, that exists and it’s glorious and I admire them greatly for doing it)--was going to take it, and I figured if she was in it it was gonna be spectacular. And oh, yes, it is.
Between that and well, being depressed because of the election...I figured I needed to do something fun and get out of the house and not be drinking, so I signed up about three hours before class started.
Note to self: gonna need to bring my car to work and leave directly from there in the future, because the 20 minute late start to go to my house and get my car, followed by insane amounts of people trying to get into Sacramento at that time, is a pain in the ass. My GPS was all, “hey, why don’t you just drive through like half of West Sac, I swear that’s faster than this.” I got there about ten minutes late and was not the latest person in there (two more came after me, one guy a half hour into class).
The instructor, Lincoln, talked about how if you can’t sing, sing louder and have good posture and position yourself well because you can tell when someone’s nervous and not using their entire body and resonating the vocal cords. We made some practice noises like laughing like Santa or making police siren noises. The first night of class was pretty similar to the workshop I did in February. We had to sing a couple of songs we knew on the spot (I got out my iPod to sing along to, which was deemed a bit of “cheating,” but I do not care), so I did “Bad Reputation” (Freedy Johnson version, not Joan Jett ‘cause I don’t think I can do that one justice) and “Sit On My Face” since I’d just seen John Cleese and Eric Idle. One fellow got dubbed “Iceman” for singing some Vanilla Ice, so let’s just be grateful nicknames got held off for my song choices.
Also, I had no idea this song existed, which led to the teacher saying, “You don’t want to know what my auto correct says when I type in ‘I slept with.” As for when my tax-singing coworker Venus busted out her song for the election, followed by the Ba Ha Ha Ha song (apparently this was the name of someone’s boat and they adapted “Margaritaville” to this), Lincoln was all, “how many songs about tax songs do you have?” and she answered, “A shit ton.” They could totally write “Taxes: The Musical” and I would attend this. (Disclaimer: theoretically our sketch group is trying to put on our own show, but between the holidays and one person is now moving to San Diego, beats me if it will actually happen. But if it does, I want musical stuff in it.)
Other quotes from Lincoln:
This is a short form improv class, more about the theater games and less about putting on “You! The Musical.” (Note for those who don’t normally read except in December: this is my favorite improv show here, in which they make up a musical in an hour.) He gives us the pattern and rules off the bat, and we get to be funny for a few minutes.
We did “Gibberish Opera” again (see workshop link), and this time I MADE DARN SURE I LEFT MY PHONE BEHIND before hitting the stage. Lincoln wanted us to do fairy tales and one fellow (Iceman, who’s from India) said, what if I don’t know what the fairy tale is, and Lincoln was all, “That’s the best scenario.” This turned out to be because LINCOLN DOESN’T ACTUALLY KNOW ANY FAIRY TALES EITHER. Someone needs to sit him down with some Disney, apparently. I wasn’t in the first group doing Snow White, so I wrote down some of Lincoln’s quotes:
“Meanwhile, Snow White’s aunt, I think...”
In my group, we did Aladdin (seriously, dude needs to watch some Disney), where I played Jasmine. I was impressed at our Aladdin and Apu in particular, and acting out the carpet ride was hilarious. I sadly was too occupied to write down the silly shit Lincoln was saying, but he ran out of time and wrapped up the plot with, “So Jafar was totally cool with it....”
Then we played musical chairs, and whoever lost had to make up a song on the spot based on someone’s suggestion (“It’s four more weeks of that, hope you’re OK!”), so I ended up making up one about Christmas pickle ornaments. It went something along the lines of “This is supposedly a German tradtion, and we’re German, but I never heard of this in my whole life until marketing happened and now my mom wants to do it...” You know, except musical-ish. (Note: he does not care if you rhyme or not, just get words out to a tune of some kind.) Venus knocked it out of the park singing about electricity.
Homework is to sing in your car.
After that, I hung around long enough to watch this week’s Cage Match competition (about which I did not take notes, so uh...beats me, history), but I did write down what I did in Improv Jam* practice after that: I did a monologue about how having a conversation with David Sedaris is nervewracking, acted out eating a chicken burger baked within a giant fry (there is some kind of turducken joke in that), and acted out a kid being dragged on a vacation to a public restroom.
* for the non-regular readers, Improv Jam is the improviser equivalent to an open mike night: you throw your name in a bucket, random teams are drawn and you get 15-20 minutes to make up random scenes.