Improv comedy course journal: week 2

This is an account of the second week of a six week improv comedy course run by The National Comedy Theater in San Diego. Read about week 1.

Another great improv class. I’m really impressed with the teacher’s ability to generate a fun positive atmosphere.

As last week, we started the class with Zip Zap Zop.

We followed up with a similar game called Zoom, Schwartz, profigliano. In a circle the first person points at someone else and shouts “zoom”, now it’s that person’s turn. Two Zooms in a row is not allowed. Instead they can shout “Profigliano” or “Schwartz”. “Profigliano” can only be directed to one of the people next to you. “Schwartz” sends the turn back to the previous person. The point of the game is to communicate properly, pay attention and learn to tolerate inevitable failure.

As last week we played another round of What are you doing?. I think people were a little bit more unstifled this week which made for more entertaining watching.

The rest of the session consisted of the the following games:

Three headed expert. Three people stand in a line, shoulder to shoulder. They speak as one person, each contributing a word at a time. When the “three headed expert” has finished speaking all three people bow simultaneously. The game is structured so that the “expert” introduces themselves, then a moderator gets a question from the audience and poses it to the expert. The moderator may simplify the question so that it can be answered more easily.
During this game there is a temptation to create sentances that run on far too long, perhaps exacibated by certain heads being afraid to end the sentance and just saying “and..”. Furthermore there is a temptation to try and be funny by saying a word that is out of the ordinary, but this only serves to make the sentance difficult for the subsiquent heads to continue.

Word at a time story. We all sat in a circle. A title for the story was decided and we told the story by contributing a word at a time around the circle.

Sentence at a time story. As before, but with an entire sentance. I found this to be a very interesting exercise. We produced a complex story. The teacher commented on the importance of reincorporating things that had been said before to help them make sense. He also commented on how some ideas had been blocked or delt with too quickly.
Personally I was interested in how the story had it’s own momentum, and when someone borke the momentum by moving the story on far too fast, it was extremely jarring.

Story teller die. Multiple people stand in a line and try to improvise a story. One person begins with the focus and the director changes the focus frequently, often mid sentence. If anyone hesitates or makes a mistake they are disqualified. This is a classic game that I’ve always found incredibly boring to watch and unenjoyable to play. I think the only way to make this game fun is if you make sure that everyone is disqualified VERY quickly. People should be willing to disqualify themselves for small things. Unfortunately the temptation is to stay in and try to tell the story. But the story is not the entertaining part of this game. The entertaining part is watching people fail.

Roll on week three.

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