Friday 25 June 2010

Your Improv Star Signs

Vaguarius the Vague Man Something will happen to you at some point in the future. It will involve
a loved-one, or someone you don’t know and involve an unspecified common
house-hold object.
Nobuttie the Denier Something wonderful will happen to your love life. No it won’t.
Cashproblemus the Shop Arguer You will go into a shop but not have the correct change. You will get
into an argument. The incident will end by you leaving having stolen the
object you were trying to buy.
Dothis the Teacher Someone you do not know will start doing everything you tell them. You
keep telling, they keep doing. They can never get it right.
Lugless the Man With No Ears Next week… Where are my horses?... Someone will… There
they are.
The Nameless Man You will meet someone you do not know. You will never know his or her
name. And he or she will never know yours.
Pimpdaddius the Pimp You will meet a man. he will make you sing and dance and recite poetry
and try to stand on one leg and pretend to strip.
Didthat the Student Someone you do not know will start telling you to do things. You will
do them. They keep telling, you keep doing. You can never get it right.
Noway the Gagger You will come into some money. No that’s not money, that’s cheese.

Monday 21 June 2010

Impro Thought of the Day: Pimping

The difference between endowing someone with a strong character trait and pimping is often respect.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Pop Quiz: Acceptance

What is the better acceptance of the offer: "Samantha, you're angry."
1. (matter-of-factly) "Yes I am. I am an angry person and right now my blood is boiling."
2. (shouting) "No, I'm not!"

Peter Shouting at Nicole by Annelies van DamFor me, it's (2), actually. In a way (1) is paying lip-service to acceptance rather than a full acceptance. The offer does not appear to have been accepted emotionally, mrely responded to intellectually. (Of course, this could be a character choice where a character does not display emotions but voices them, but then we would expect to really see that explored.) Even though, on the surface, (2) is a denial, the anger in the voice shows that it has been fully accepted by the actor and demonstrated through the character. Also in terms of realism, (2) is definitely your man.

Obviously the hands-down winner would be (shouting) "Yes I am!" but the above two illustrate that, as in life, the message you get across is very often not in the words.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

What is the Scene About?

In a scene university lecturer Lucille explains all about calculus to nervous student Harry, whilst she slides around seductively and drops in some great mathematical innuendo. She eventually kisses him and he doesn't resist.

What is this scene about?
1. Calculus?
2. Harry learning calculus?
3. Lucille seducing Harry?

Monday 7 June 2010


Recently Canadian improv duo Crumbs were in town as part of their annual European tour. Their show is a two-man, two-story longform which morphs between the stories in often ingenious ways.

The first half of the show was them playing together with some local improvisers. It's a great experience for these players but is more a perk for the organisers than what the audience really is there to see. However, if I was an organiser, I'd almost certainly be doing exactly the same. And although it feels a little like a diluted version of what's to come, this is very much the support band concept: warming the audience up with a less accomplished but similar group.

Crumbs themselves play clear, slightly exaggerated characters. They take their time to build the tension, play the emotional truth of situations and be affected by what is going on. They keep things simple in terms of exploring what they have rather than inventing more and more, but are ready to move the story on to the next beat, location and strand when it needs it. They also seem naturally or deliberately (or both) to use genres to underpin their stories. In the show I saw, a story about a dentist was done in a noirish cop thriller style and the story of a man whose day spiralled out of control just because he needed to make a phone call was a kind of black comedy that ended with some nice poignancy. I suspect a lot of their stories end with poignancy, as they do seem to play characters with depth and inner needs and don't feel the need to have 100% happy, everything's fixed, "Hollywood" endings.

The stories alternate from one to the other and there were some great morphs, in particular from spinning, blurry man making incoherent sounds as seen by a man undergoing concussion to man in dentist chair making incoherent sounds.

Because they keep it simple, and take their time to explore all the ideas that come up, they effortlessly tie up stories at the end and allow us to really see inside their characters. That's not to say the stories are simplistic or obvious; it's that because they take their time we always know where they are in terms of the story and even when there is a big jump in time, location, etc, it is clear or made clear why we went there.

They also know what the important things that have been set up are; and what are those character traits or character habits that can show a real inner change or fully reflect the external changes that have occurred. Such as when the very professional dentist's assistant finally gets to drop calling the very professional dentist "Doctor" and call him "Josh."

Ironically, counter to conventional improv wisdom, the show ended on a piece of new information. The name Josh had never been mentioned (I'm almost certain); the dentist had always been "doc" or "doctor." But it was the perfect out for the show. And it wasn't really new information. We knew the Doctor must have a name (common knowledge) and that the assistant wanted to have non-professional relationship with him, so all that was new was the specific detail of what that name actually was. And what capped it all was that it was just a regular name (for North Americans, at least). No stupid joke name to try for that extra laugh that would actually have undermined the emotion and feeling of resolution of the moment. This, as much as anything else they did that night, showed real class.

Crumbs continue their European tour in Germany. See: