Anonymous asked: Hey Will, thanks for creating this tumblr. It's a great resource and much appreciated. I have 2 topics. 1. How is it that in my past classes I've done well, and felt confident, and yet in my current class I stink? It seems as if I've gotten worse. I keep thinking "well I'm sure glad I got all that bad out last week, now I can really do some work," and then I seemingly go deeper down my rabbit hole of suck. 2. Tips on how to deal with embarrassment/shame of a particularly bad scene/awful move?
It’s tough. Everyone goes through it. What is your instinct on how to handle it? Don’t quit over something like this. I wrote a million words about it — in the margin of this blog is “how do i get out of my head” which touches on this far far far too much.
Anonymous asked: I'm an improv student with zero acting experience prior to taking 101. I've noticed most of my classmates have a lot of experience with acting, or act for a living. For some reason I never drew a connection between acting and improv, but I'm now wondering if my underdeveloped acting skills are inhibiting my improv. What is your opinion - are strong acting skills needed to be a strong improviser?
I think acting skills are necessary to be a strong improviser but lots and lots of people start studying improv without any acting experience and without strong acting skills. You’ll grow them; don’t fret. To a certain degree, it just happens. Do enough improv and you just gain more comfort on stage, and that translates to acting skills. Get in touch with your opinions and feelings about things and you will make fast decisive reactions on stage and THAT translates to acting skills. As for the people around you who have done more acting: 1) they’re aren’t as many as you might fear/think and 2) their skills will rub off on you without you even knowing it.
I do not believe that improv can make someone’s inherent sense of humor much better. But it can definitely make someone a better actor. I’d say that’s the number one most reliable skill improvement one gets from doing a lot of improv. Number two is writing chops. Number three is awareness of dumb specifics from current geek cultures.
I live in the most northern area of Brooklyn where there are a bunch of warehouses (all slowly being converted into dumbly expensive lofts and headquarters for things like Kickstarter and weird ventures like community garden social networks and probably a permanent studio for the show Girls) and every now and then there is a for-real old-school RAVE in these warehouses.
And tonight is one of them. It’s called “Into the Wormhole” which is hilariously rave-y and you can’t buy tickets, you must be personally invited and I don’t care because I am in my apartment hiding inside my Tumblr.
Anyway, my normally desolate street is jammed with cars and taxis filled with —- there is no more fair term to say than this —- young people — all filing into this warehouse on the East River. Here are some of the outfits I just saw on people as they walked in: Girl in an orchid-colored sparkly cocktail dress and heels, two guys in neon tank tops and shorts (matching), an impossibly thin dude carrying a skateboard, girl in welder mask and metal bikini, someone as a Mad Men-era stewardess (one can say stewardess when referring to that era) and a (i think) man dressed as Captain America holding a GLOW STICK.
And so I wanted to come to this improv blog and say that all the people going to his rave are very on-game.
That’s it. Haven’t typed anything here in a bit so here I am.
- Repeat funny thing
weirdlessbeardo asked: I have a show tonight. Can you give me some advice?
Yes, try these initiations.
- “Why the bed?”
- “You are wearing all of my pants.”
- “I think I’m making a new face.”
- “Why SHOULD I put on clothes?”
- “I killed Freddie Mercury.”
- (miming typing) “This tumblr post is hilarious.”
And these responses (not for the above initiations, but to be used arbitrarily)”
- “Yes, that was me.”
- “I know! It’s terrible.”
- “Too late.”
- “God damn it!”
- “Cool if I leave now?”
Names for other characters:
Anonymous asked: Sometimes at the start of the scene, there will be some virtually impossible-to-resolve agreement problem between the 2 or more people who stepped out. Now, if I'm on the backline, and I can think of a clever line that helps create agreement, then I'll walk on and do that. But, my question is: if I'm on the backline, and I see no way to help create agreement, are there any other kind of support moves that can help the scene get back on track? Or are scenes like that just busted?
Sounds like you’re walking on too early to me. Let the first two out deal with it. If you’re thinking “but they’re not dealing with it,” be patient. Some scenes, especially first scenes, are like a car engine starting — sputtering a bit before it catches.
justcraig asked: How much tongue should be used if you want to get a huge laugh by having two male improvisers make out in the last few seconds of a Cage Match show? Thanks in advance.
dustindrury asked: Why do you like putting limits on scenes and seeing how people play them? Is it because art without limitation is more difficult to achieve greatness? Is part of it because giving us a rule puts us in on an inside joke/rule/game and gives an immediate meta subgame to play?I love watching and doing these scenes, just curious what your intent is.
You’re talking about when I went into your class and made Alan Starzinski and Erik Tanouye come in and do a bunch of scenes with restrictions? I like seeing good people do hard things. And I was trying to pick things that I think improvisers find themselves wanting to do. “Start with a premise off a suggestion” — it’s hard to do, and not essential, but it IS something that good improvisers can generally do. It’s the equivalent of taking an NBA player and saying “make a three point shot with only 5 seconds left on the shot clock” — it’s not the most important thing but it’s fun to see a good athlete try. I’d like to make a battery of restrictions for people to try. Maybe like an improv obstacle course. “Think of 5 non-silly names for a family members. Now name 5 non-silly names that still sound Victorian.” I just made that up. Hello Dustin!
Anonymous asked: Thanks for answering my question about game vs. premise. I have to ask, would you have blown off that question in class because it's an inappropriate question to ask, or because you don't want beginners getting bogged down in semantics? Semantics seem to really matter at UCB. Inventing vs. discovering, game vs. premise, on game, off game, yes and vs if this then what. I get so many notes related to these terms I'd feel strange if I asked about it in class and the teacher dismissed the question.
Yes, that’s fair to say. I guess I think that NO semantics are perfect — they’re all approximations and it’s in the students best interest to try and get the intention of the semantics rather than try to find the cases where the semantics fail. So I get upset when a student tries to think of hypothetical cases where the semantic seems to be indicating bad behavior, because it’s a waste of time. And similiarly any prolonged discussion of semantics quickly becomes just academic and not practical for the stage, in my opinion.
It’s similar to a memory I have of Sunday School —- like third grade —- when a friend of mine would try to find cases where the ten commandments wouldn’t make sense. “Honor your mother and father” — “what if you’re adopted and your adopted father is abusive” —- my friend (who was hilarious) wasn’t trying to learn the lesson but just to see if there was a way to poke holes in the rule? And regardless of what your thoughts are of religion or sunday school — the phrase “honor your mother and father” — I mean, you get the point of it, right?
Game and premise are similar. They’re both trying to articulate that improv scenes will often revolve around a single comedic idea or behavior or THING that comes up, and it’s helpful to learn how to try and have that happen as early as possible sometimes. We make two different terms since one — premise — is something that a single person can bring up and the other —- game —- is something that is agreed upon by everyone in the scene, ideally.
But when someone says “initiate with a premise/game” I think what they’re saying is “let’s try the tricky thing of starting with an idea, which brings with a series of challenges as opposed to starting from just a suggestion which has a separate set of challenges.” And whether they mean premise or game is almost immaterial in that context. What I hear when someone says “start with a premise/game” is roughly “start with something funny” where ‘something funny’ vaguely means something interesting/unusual/funny/intriguing right at the top.
And so I guess it would FEEL to me like the person who asked the question was trying to make the semantics these airtight formulas when they are best seen as principles?
It would depend on tone, level and context for me to determine if it were a topic that needed discussion in the moment.