Improv comedy course journal: week 5

This is an account of the fifth week of a six week improv comedy course run by The National Comedy Theater in San Diego. Read about week 1week 2week 3, and week 4.

We spent the first few minutes warming up with Zip, Zap, Zop and Zoom, Schwartz, Pofigliano. We’re seriously awesome at this game now! We were introduced to a new warm up game called The Frog Game. This is an evil game! It’s one of the easiest set of rules, but requires a lot of concentration and the pressure to say the right thing really builds as the game progresses. Everyone stands in a circle and take turns to say the next statement in a sequence before passing the turn on to the person on their left. The sequence goes: One frog.. two eyes.. four legs.. kerplunk.. in the water. Two frogs.. four eyes.. eight legs.. kerplunk.. kerplunk.. in the water.. etc. See the pattern? Notice the second “kerplunk” for the second frog? Easy right? Just you try it!

The rest of this class focused on creating characters. During the class we got to play a lot of different characters and learn techniques for creating them out of thin air.

Hitchhiker
For the first game we set up a “car” (four chairs) on stage and put four passengers inside. They were told to play neutral characters. Another person was told to embody a strong character and to hitch a lift from the passengers. One passenger got out, the hitchhiker got in and then the scene continued with everyone taking on the characteristics of the hitchhiker. The game continued like this introducing loads more hitchers with strong characters. This was a fun game. The hitchers chose some interesting characters, and we got experience identifying character traits and attempting to embody them ourselves. We also got to interact with each other. I noticed that when four people are playing the same character the traits tend to get exaggerated as everyone introduces new ideas.

Good advice, bad advice, the worst advice
Three people make up a panel that will answer audience questions. They each make a strong character choice (e.g. maniacal billionaire, spiritual yoga instructor, anything really..). They are allocated the task of delivering good advice (genuinely so from that character’s perspective),  or bad advice, or the worst advice (taken to the comic extreme).

Identity Crisis
Three people play a scene, each making a strong character choice. Periodically the director shouts “switch” and the improvise switch positions and carry on the scene playing one of the other characters.

Drawing Inspiration from objects
It can be difficult to think of an original character. A tactic to overcome this could be to look around for physical objects in the room and ask yourself the question “if this object was a person, what kind of person would they be?”. And then use those attributes as a basis for your character.

We tried this out with a few objects. We decided a microphone might be overly loud and want to be the centre of attention. We thought a stuffed toy might be friendly and cuddly.

People really seemed to embrace the challenges of this class. The characters that were created led to some really funny scenes. Only one more week to go :(

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