Fighting for Fun

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » August 21st, 2012, 1:48 pm

happywaffle wrote:
Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:
Ryan Hill wrote:A lecture class on improv would be very weak.


it's true. i've tried. ;)


Every single party…


hey, if people are going to provide me with alcohol and then ask how i'm doing, they should be prepared for the consequences!
Sweetness Prevails.

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Postby banana man » August 22nd, 2012, 10:02 am

ratliff wrote:The problem (for me, anyway) is that my highly developed sensibility sort of wrecks my improv. I'm so sure that my ideas are better than other people's that it's very hard for me to even pay lip service to yes-anding anybody else.


8)

take improv as seriously as possible, get burnt out in the first 10 seconds of your scene, become ultimate honey badger for the rest of the show, profit$$
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Postby Brad Hawkins » August 22nd, 2012, 10:14 am

ratliff wrote:It may seem pathetic that for some of us having fun is a learned skill, but there it is. When teachers say "Just have fun" as though it's easy to do, I know they didn't start in the same place I did.


Exactly. I think a lot of teachers forget that. People think differently.

When I come upon someone trying in vain to read a complex word out loud, I feel like shaking them and saying "Just read the damn word! It's made up of 26 English letters, all of which you fucking know! Maybe there's a quirk of pronunciation which might render your rendition slightly off, but you're not even getting the basic sounds that that sequence of letters should make! Who the fuck taught you to read?"

But the answer, of course, is that they were taught to read by a person who didn't understand their needs. So it is with improv teachers who assume a baseline of mirth or whimsy in their students. Some of us are doing this to GAIN that.
The silver knives are flashing in the tired old cafe. A ghost climbs on the table in a bridal negligee. She says "My body is the life; my body is the way." I raise my arm against it all and I catch the bride's bouquet.
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Postby Pdyx » August 22nd, 2012, 10:31 am

So for those of you in that situation, what exercises, warm-ups, teaching styles, etc. have helped you learn to have more fun?
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Postby Brad Hawkins » August 22nd, 2012, 10:55 am

Pdyx wrote:So for those of you in that situation, what exercises, warm-ups, teaching styles, etc. have helped you learn to have more fun?


The stupidest warmup games help the most for me. I responded best to "Bunny Bunny" and "Woosh Bang Pow." They get me out of my head, whereas games like Song Spot put me squarely back in it. If I do a game that a grown man should be utterly humiliated to do in public before doing a show, odds are I'll have more fun.
The silver knives are flashing in the tired old cafe. A ghost climbs on the table in a bridal negligee. She says "My body is the life; my body is the way." I raise my arm against it all and I catch the bride's bouquet.
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Postby Ryan Hill » August 22nd, 2012, 11:46 am

Brad Hawkins wrote:
Pdyx wrote:So for those of you in that situation, what exercises, warm-ups, teaching styles, etc. have helped you learn to have more fun?


The stupidest warmup games help the most for me. I responded best to "Bunny Bunny" and "Woosh Bang Pow." They get me out of my head, whereas games like Song Spot put me squarely back in it. If I do a game that a grown man should be utterly humiliated to do in public before doing a show, odds are I'll have more fun.


YES. DEFINITELY.

Except that song spot works that way for me too.
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Postby bradisntclever » August 22nd, 2012, 11:57 am

For those of you with Hot Spot doubts (I was once in your camp), I really like the way UCB teaches it. There's almost less of a focus on the person in the middle committing to the song as there is on the entire circle around that person committing to supporting that song. The circle should be singing along (even if they don't know the words) as well as clapping and/or dancing. Most importantly, as soon as you can detect the person in the middle isn't having fun, jump in!

I never viewed it as an exercise geared towards fearless support before I moved up here. Totally changed my game.
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Postby Ryan Hill » August 22nd, 2012, 12:16 pm

bradisntclever wrote:For those of you with Hot Spot doubts (I was once in your camp), I really like the way UCB teaches it. There's almost less of a focus on the person in the middle committing to the song as there is on the entire circle around that person committing to supporting that song. The circle should be singing along (even if they don't know the words) as well as clapping and/or dancing. Most importantly, as soon as you can detect the person in the middle isn't having fun, jump in!

I never viewed it as an exercise geared towards fearless support before I moved up here. Totally changed my game.


I've been seeing it played like that here lately too, Brad. I know the way Crouch taught it to me was as a support game.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » August 22nd, 2012, 12:32 pm

I know the purpose behind it, just as I know the purpose behind "Bippity Bippity Bop." I just don't like it. I know few songs, and don't have fun when everyone is singing songs I don't know. There was a recent round of Song Spot at a Posies rehearsal, where five or six hip-hop songs were done in a row. I know the lyrics to zero hip-hop songs, they don't move me to dance, I just dislike them. Not fun for me.
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Postby bradisntclever » August 22nd, 2012, 12:41 pm

Brad Hawkins wrote:I know the purpose behind it, just as I know the purpose behind "Bippity Bippity Bop." I just don't like it. I know few songs, and don't have fun when everyone is singing songs I don't know. There was a recent round of Song Spot at a Posies rehearsal, where five or six hip-hop songs were done in a row. I know the lyrics to zero hip-hop songs, they don't move me to dance, I just dislike them. Not fun for me.


I take those unfun moments and view them as the equivalent to when I'm on stage in a show and my scene partner makes offers that aren't initially fun for me. How can I support my partner's idea(s) and make her look like a genius AND have fun while doing that? Figuring all of that out was one of the keys to improv, for me.
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Postby chicocarlucci » August 22nd, 2012, 3:10 pm

Pdyx wrote:So for those of you in that situation, what exercises, warm-ups, teaching styles, etc. have helped you learn to have more fun?


NICE question! Thanks for being the one who asked for pragmatic solutions.

As a warmup/teaching tool/etc:

I don't know the name of the game, but I've been calling it "The Easiest Game in the World". It's where you all get in a circle and you follow these two simple simple rules:
1) If your name is called, you should touch someone on either your left or right.
2) If you are touched, then you should call someone's name.

Here's why I love this game. Sorry for the lengthy explanation:

From working with Mojokickball, I've seen at least 2 dominant approaches people gravitate to for having fun. People have fun through mastery (like beating someone else at Chess or Kickball). And the other way people have fun is through agency (like both of us putting a puzzle together, or building something together). These two ideas of fun can easily co-exist, but most of the time people's approach trend toward the first one (dominance/mastery).

So I try to get people to travel the same path I traveled, right or wrong it's the only way I know. In case they were the same boat I was: too worried about doing the games right, concentrating too hard on how to get "better", irrespective of my scene partner etc etc..

We do this by creating an environment that seems too easy to be bad at, but is surprisingly difficult. The key to this is not about being good at the game. It's about 2 things:

1) Figuring out how to take joy in your losing.
2) When you're doing it too well, pushing yourself to go faster than you can do it correctly.

if you can be happy with losing, and focus more on the agency of all of you working together to build something that didn't have a point other than to share each other's experience, then losing doesn't become a big deal at all. Eventually, losing big is just as fun or more fun than winning. The result is that you'll become more anxious to explore losing (not just accept it!) as a natural part of the process. And once you've rejected the common "obligation" of Mastery and settle into the much more pleasant realm of Agency, your tack towards Mastery happens naturally, and in a much more fun manner.

These were/are my stages. Your results may vary.

1) Seeing Mastery as the means to fun.
2) Remembering that losing is simply a tool to get to Mastery.
3) Seeing/believing that losing (in Improv) is great! As a result, no longer trying for Mastery. Re-focus on Agency, and assuming Mastery will or will not come, but is not necessary for fun.

Last bit of the warmup I couldn't mention until I got through the explanation: When you screw up, everyone steps into the circle and we all go, in our biggest stupidest stereotypical Italian accents, say "Why are you-a so-a stupid?!?!"

This is tricky tricky tricky. The idea of this part of the exercise is two-fold. (1) You are putting yourself into a situation where you are letting other people call you stupid, which should be counter-intuitive to the creation of Agency and (2) You are trying to get people into the role of understanding how to show love and Agency, even when we are "reprimanding" them.

The "reprimand" means nothing. It is only part of the game. To disengage the limbic part of our system that says that "anyone calling us stupid, in any context, should make us feel bad!" is the key. And this can only be done if the leader of this exercise can get everyone in the mindset of saying this stupid "hurtful" thing in the dopiest, most adorable way possible. The "reprimand" then becomes just as fun as if everyone cheered you for losing. And PLAYING the game is fun. Not WINNING it.

If the group doesn't seem playful enough to get there, I don't do that last part.

Sorry about repeating that last line, I just think it's important:

PLAYING the game is fun is of itself, so we don't have to worry about WINNING it.

thanks! sorry for the length..
e
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Postby chicocarlucci » August 22nd, 2012, 3:25 pm

Brad Hawkins wrote:I know the lyrics to zero hip-hop songs, they don't move me to dance, I just dislike them. Not fun for me.


I totally understand just not liking something.

BUT, just in case the source of your fun is coming from your lack of Mastery in a subject, I just wanted to call out a quick anecdote:

I took this workshop in another city once whereby the instructor was trying to tell us how to use his special ninjitsu-like skills when playing with bad improvisers. He had categorized the bad improvisers and even put together a long list of things that they commonly do. And with this list, he also put together the proper counter. It was kind of sad that this poor fella had gotten to the point that he was looking at his fellow improviser as an opponent (accidental or otherwise.).

In one particular instance he was talking about those people who keep making pop-culture references and talking about how he was at a disadvantage, not knowing a lot of pop-culture. His solution (like many of his solutions) was to talk calmly and gently to the other player afterwards.

Of course a solution like this doesn't actually help you on stage. I told him what I've told other people and I framed it in the context of it being just another "counter". (Although he was a really nice guy who's real strength was his ability to look inward, so maybe that wasn't necessary).

"When someone endows me as someone that I don't know, I realize that I might not know who they ARE, but I most certainly know who they are NOT."

So I used my go-to example of Ric Ocasek. Some people know who this is. Others don't. But regardless, if you come out playing Ric Ocasek as a rip-roaring redneck, or a flamboyantly German uber-artist, then you're good too. Because the only real underlying premise here is that you are right. And your partner is right, and everything on that stage is correct. It makes things a lot easier on yourself and everyone else (audience included) to think of it that way.

So I gave him this "counter", but I always hoped that it would lead to a fuller, more expansive conclusion to what he was doing/teaching , rather than teaching other people a spreadsheet of moves/counter-moves.

I love the idea of singing hot-spot with my own lyrics. But I can totally understand how that can just get stale and boring too. And that's another matter altogether. :) I only wanted to address the "Mastery" part.

e
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Postby thedward » August 22nd, 2012, 3:51 pm

chicocarlucci wrote:if you can be happy with losing, and focus more on the agency of all of you working together to build something that didn't have a point other than to share each other's experience, then losing doesn't become a big deal at all. Eventually, losing big is just as fun or more fun than winning. The result is that you'll become more anxious to explore losing (not just accept it!) as a natural part of the process. And once you've rejected the common "obligation" of Mastery and settle into the much more pleasant realm of Agency, your tack towards Mastery happens naturally, and in a much more fun manner.


You're my hero.
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