5 Ways to Live Life Like an Improv Game
Scott, the podcast camera guy, and I are both on Laser Squad Bravo, the LMU improv team. While not performing with UCSD’s Foosh, racing go karts and partying to no end this past weekend (thanks guys), we got to thinking: many rules in good classic improv are generally good rules to follow in everyday life. Enjoy.
5. Observe the Scene Before Contributing and Listen
Don’t be that guy who always interrupts a conversation because he doesn’t know exactly what people are talking about. If you don’t know what I’m describing, chances are, you’re that guy.
Once approaching a conversation, stay shutted the fuck upped. Listen for once. After about 30 seconds you should be able to join the conversation with some substance rather than a “Hey guys! Whatcha’ talkin’ about?”
This is a key rule in improv. Short form scenes are short. Long form scenes are also short. Time cannot be wasted answering “What’s up?” Also, it’s annoying and not funny.
4. Yes, and…
One of the most important rules in improv is to rarely negate, or negate someone with good reason. Saying “no” to an offer can stop a scene in its tracks. What do you mean you don’t want to board this alien spaceship with me? What else are we going to do?
Obviously, Yes-and-ing all the time will get you in trouble. You don’t want to be taking out the trash and doing the dishes, do you? It’s the mentality that counts: when you’re doing something, do it well. Do something extra that’s unexpected. Go the extra mile. Invent a new colloquialism.
But in improv you can always Yes-and. There aren’t rules regarding what you can and can’t do.
3. Choose a Strong Character
“Hi, I’m Mr. Self-help telling you to be yourself.” Mr. Self-help is right. Don’t be a poser-poop.
In a scene, strong characters are essential. Strong characters allow the audience to relate (in whatever way) and provide conflict. Strong characters are almost always not impersonations. Dane Cook may be funny to you (I’m sorry), but you impersonating him impresses no one. Don’t just play a doctor, be a doctor that must party.
2. Make Your Teammate Look Good
Guys listen up. That male-dominance thing you do at parties is not getting you anything save the label of “tool.” Many guys might not be aware that they do it. Don’t make every social situation into a dick-measuring contest. While you may be able to impress the ladies, you just alienated any potential admission into the prestigious Tuesday beer-drinking club.
And girls, don’t talk shit if you can’t back it up.
Before each show that Laser Squad Bravo does, it’s customary to hear a few of us walking around to all of our teammates saying, “I’m going to make you look good tonight.” It’s along the lines of Yes-and-ing and listening. Add to a joke, but don’t steal it. Be aware of your teammates and their goals. Don’t railroad the scene (determine exactly where the scene is going early on). Whether on the stage or off the stage, people will be more impressed if a group is “the funniest set of persons alive” rather than that one guy who did that Dane Cook impression.
1. Go With It
Don’t bail out. Go with the flow. More colloquialisms.
In an improv scene, anything can happen. It’s also easy to make an improv scene mundane and unfunny. Novice players often attempt to railroad a scene as soon as they enter; they’ve got an idea and they are going to run with it. It doesn’t quite work like that. Three or four players each doing with they think is best ends up being a Charlie Foxtrot of a scene and more like four attention whores competing for microphone space.
So go improvise your life.