The Harold

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Postby jillybee72 » September 27th, 2010, 9:52 pm

All harolds are supposed to be loose harolds. The training wheel version is just that, training. Truth in Comedy was written before Del was done, it's an example rather than the one true format.
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Postby dirty baby » September 28th, 2010, 12:08 am

scook wrote:One of the main ideals (not always achieved, probably less often than not) of the Harold is that it's a group piece that is organically built and has a voice of its own and a point of view. The rub is that you can't (shouldn't) actually think about any of that while you're doing it...
Yes and Stephanie eloquently reminds me that the harold is a) out-of-the-hands of the control-freak, self-centered, individual-improviser's ego; b) constructed --like Milton Friedman's famous free-market pencil-- by the fleeting, disparate, artfully-accidental parts of the group (mind); and c) ultimately the property --in fact the product-- of an attentive audience.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » September 28th, 2010, 2:27 am

dirty baby wrote: Yes and Stephanie eloquently reminds me that the harold is a) out-of-the-hands of the control-freak, self-centered, individual-improviser's ego


ah! THAT must be why it doesn't work for me. ;)
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Postby PyroDan » September 28th, 2010, 2:31 am

dirty baby wrote:
scook wrote:One of the main ideals (not always achieved, probably less often than not) of the Harold is that it's a group piece that is organically built and has a voice of its own and a point of view. The rub is that you can't (shouldn't) actually think about any of that while you're doing it...
Yes and Stephanie eloquently reminds me that the harold is a) out-of-the-hands of the control-freak, self-centered, individual-improviser's ego; b) constructed --like Milton Friedman's famous free-market pencil-- by the fleeting, disparate, artfully-accidental parts of the group (mind); and c) ultimately the property --in fact the product-- of an attentive audience.


Here here!
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Postby beardedlamb » September 28th, 2010, 10:20 am

a lot of what we're saying just appplies to all good improv in general and not just one format. a format is merely the way the improv is packaged. i don't think any one format is deserving of almighty praise as it seems so vague as to not be specific enough at this point. what is a format but a chart of letters and numbers? once you step away from that, it has become something else and to call some things modified harolds feels kind of like calling a poem a modified short story.

i think its also important to remember that it really doesnt matter that much what something is called. the only reason it may be useful is for discussions like this where half the time is spent trying to figure out what it is. and if the thing has loose, nebulous bounds then its something else.

i'm a fan of any improv that's good. what annoys me is when people load a lot of faith into any one concept and then lock themselves in that room, shunting experimentation and exploration of the craft. and that goes for any format or school of thought. harold just seems to be the most worshipped and therefore is the most demonized and adored.
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Postby ratliff » September 28th, 2010, 3:36 pm

beardedlamb wrote: what is a format but a chart of letters and numbers?


I think this is the predominant view in Austin and I think it's one of the reasons people don't understand why the Harold is different. If it's true a format is nothing but the structure, then you're absolutely right: on paper, no format warrants all that extra attention. (One of my pet peeves is when groups having problems onstage think they can solve them by changing their format. Spoiler alert: they can't.)

But my point, and that of other people on this thread, is that the Harold is much more a sensibility than a format. It's a little disingenuous to say that you don't see what the fuss is about and then dismiss all the succeeding explanations by announcing that those things don't fall within your definition of a format.

It's like someone asking what the big deal is about love and then disallowing any evidence that can't be proved in a laboratory. You have every right to take that approach, but a lot of people would say you're kind of missing the point.
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Postby mcnichol » September 28th, 2010, 3:45 pm

I agree with everybody in this thread. I also agree with whoever said that different people relate to and understand improv in different ways, whether it's through the Harold, Johnstone/story based improv, music/movement-based improv, or through rounds of 185 and conducted story. Or whatever, since we are all working towards a common goal. The best stuff takes from all of it.

Here's a video I just converted from vhs of Del talking about this stuff in 1986. I guess it's changed a bit since then.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQzzLmR93o8[/youtube]
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » September 28th, 2010, 4:38 pm

damn...i was really getting into that Video Cuisine segment at the end there...
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Postby jose » September 28th, 2010, 5:41 pm

mcnichol wrote:I agree with everybody in this thread. I also agree with whoever said that different people relate to and understand improv in different ways, whether it's through the Harold, Johnstone/story based improv, music/movement-based improv, or through rounds of 185 and conducted story. Or whatever, since we are all working towards a common goal. The best stuff takes from all of it.

Here's a video I just converted from vhs of Del talking about this stuff in 1986. I guess it's changed a bit since then.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQzzLmR93o8[/youtube]


Awesome! Thanks, Bob.

If I'm not mistaken, the voiceover is Brian Stack (Jazz Freddy, Late Night with Conan) and was a video he made as part of a summer job with a cable company or something.
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Postby jose » September 28th, 2010, 5:49 pm

Also, that vid has great cameos by Mick, Dave Pasquesi & Dave Razowsky.

Thanks again, Bob.
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Postby arthursimone » September 28th, 2010, 7:19 pm

Bob, that's fucking terrific!
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Postby scook » September 28th, 2010, 10:12 pm

PyroDan wrote:I understand what your saying here, but I think it really starts with support and then can become ethereal. I have seen groups that work well with each other, and I have seen groups that are brilliant, and there is something more than just support within.


I believe that, but the problem becomes when people think it's just ethereal and they'll "find it" if they are good enough friends or something. They don't understand the base of the group mind pyramid is all supporting every move made. They just want the "ghost of Del" to show up in the room just because they're on stage.

That's essentially what I mean. I think a lot of people don't know the first part exists in the order of group mind.

I also think it's fair to say that Harold can be both a format and a state of mind, and saying that doesn't make it any less of a format. I've also seen (and been a part) of a lot of experimentation with the Harold. It's like anything in improv, you blow it up from the inside by experimenting within it. Taking things you learn from everything else and applying it to whatever format in order to evolve it. Ain't nothin wrong with a format that's meant to evolve. Format's just a bullshit word anyway, one we use to make sense of things so we can teach them to other people. A shorthand.
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Postby valetoile » September 29th, 2010, 1:02 am

Thinking about the Harold seems a lot like thinking about story. There is certainly a structure to story, and we're taught it in school, and we practice it in improv too (once upon a time, and every day, until one day.... etc.). But The ultimate goal is to get to the point where the structure is so internalized and easy that you can do it and play with it without thinking about it- you can just "feel" it. And the only difference is that Harold focuses on thematic elements and a surrender of self to group mind, while story focuses on narrative elements and exploring the circle of expectations.
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Postby jillybee72 » September 29th, 2010, 1:45 am

That video is wonderful! Thank you so much. I am sharing it with everyone.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » September 29th, 2010, 2:53 am

scook wrote:I believe that, but the problem becomes when people think it's just ethereal and they'll "find it" if they are good enough friends or something. They don't understand the base of the group mind pyramid is all supporting every move made. They just want the "ghost of Del" to show up in the room just because they're on stage.

That's essentially what I mean. I think a lot of people don't know the first part exists in the order of group mind.

I also think it's fair to say that Harold can be both a format and a state of mind, and saying that doesn't make it any less of a format. I've also seen (and been a part) of a lot of experimentation with the Harold. It's like anything in improv, you blow it up from the inside by experimenting within it. Taking things you learn from everything else and applying it to whatever format in order to evolve it. Ain't nothin wrong with a format that's meant to evolve. Format's just a bullshit word anyway, one we use to make sense of things so we can teach them to other people. A shorthand.


this sums a lot up pretty neatly, and i think is essentially what Jeremy was saying before. we can "believe" in the group mind/ensemble/bagel/flowy blue orb as much as we want, but it's really the practical concerns that matter, that make us better performers individually and together, regardless of what training or philosophy or school of thought...or format...from which we derive it.

to draw a religious parallel (which i do often), we can have faith in a God or Oversoul or defining principle of the universe or whatever, but it's how that belief informs our behavior in our own lives and how we treat each other that's really important.

fundamentalism in any school of thought only breeds dangerous behavior. :p
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