Gibberish, aka The Bane of My Improv Existence

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Gibberish, aka The Bane of My Improv Existence

Postby booksherpa » January 1st, 2013, 5:48 pm

[Because Spots asked. :)]

So, for most improv games, I do not feel that I'm "in my head" - I'm thinking just enough, not too hard, not questioning everything mentally, responding quickly. Alphabet, number of words, whatever you want to throw at me, no problem.

Except anything with gibberish.

Then, my mind is going "okay, I can't just say 'blah blah blah', that sounds stupid, I need to be making sounds, why does my gibberish sound so awful, it doesn't sound like a language at all, it sounds like crap, oh thank God, we're done" and there's not much of a scene, because I'm completely in my head hating everything I'm doing.

Help!
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Postby Spots » January 1st, 2013, 5:56 pm

Oh! I totally forgot that was an improv exercise!

I'm sure alot of improv groups do that but I suspect gibberish came from the Spolin players, right? Does anybody know? Outside of using it as an improv exercise, I used to have ZERO respect for improv gibberish. "Why would someone put that in front of a paying audience?"


Until I saw this video.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xdina5xyeik


Then I came to realize how much awesome potential it had. Watch more of Gary's videos from those days. Using gibberish highlights the player's emotion & intent. It's about tone. Next time you use gibberish pick ONE THING and visualize it in your head. See that cat or that piece of cheese and imagine being back at home interacting with it. Make it extremely visceral for you.

NOW perform your monologue about the experience. Really go to your visual memory and connect emotionally. Every time you stumble or lose yourself GO BACK to the visual. Bear hug the memory. It's OK to pause to reflect & connect again. Imagine the object or your intent.

Heck, this is something you can try in front of the mirror right now.


With any exercise, you have to cut to its purpose & strengths. "Why are we doing this exercise?" You might even come across a teacher one day who loses touch with the root of an exercise or game.

Right? So gibberish, I believe, can be very powerful for strengthening & focusing mental imaging. That's a skillset we don't talk about enough.
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Postby booksherpa » January 1st, 2013, 9:29 pm

Thanks for the video! I've played that game, and it's hard. The pair in the video did it impressively well. The one time I felt at all comfortable playing Gibberish/English Switch (as I know it), I decided on having a strong emotional base going in. I picked mad (of the classic mad/sad/glad/afrad quartet :) ) and it did help to have something to focus on besides gibberish. Your advice makes sense - I guess I just need to focus on the emotion/intent of the scene, and let the gibberish flow as it will.

Practicing in front of the mirror... it amazes me how NOT self-conscious I am performing on stage/in front of classmates, and how completely self-conscious I am performing by myself.
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Postby Spots » January 1st, 2013, 9:35 pm

Last year I filmed these promo videos by myself. It was similar to performing alone in front of the mirror. Just a lonely dude and his green screen. I admit it got pretty weird.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyaVp0ko9S4



And then I went one step further & actually shared the weird thing with people.
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Postby wiggies » January 1st, 2013, 10:41 pm

I love gibberish. It is one of the few skills I would claim to excel at in improv. So, given the opportunity, I chose to do an all- gibberish scene with Topping in last week's maestro. I thought it played really well in front of an audience.

What I like about it is it strips away a lot of the things we get hung up on in a scene--words--and leaves you to convey meaning with all of these great other tools like emotion, movement, and sound. I find it much easier to connect to a scene and a partner when I don't have to worry about what they are saying but can just listen to how they are saying it.

What I have found works well in a gibberish scene is to express a wide range of emotions (people like to see us be affected by the events of a scene), to vary the length of my utterances, to repeat sounds and phrases (especially something my scene partner has said), and to interact with the environment to help give meaning.
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Postby valetoile » January 2nd, 2013, 1:26 am

Hello! I have been improvising for over 11 years, and teaching here in Austin, and all over the country, and internationally for many of those years. I mention that so you will feel like I have some authority when I say to you:

You have permission to say "blah blah blah."

Go ahead, do it. Once you let yourself say, "blah blah blah" without judging yourself, you'll find yourself saying other things without realizing it. But even if you don't, so what? "blah blah blah" is just fine.

If you get bored of "blah blah blah" pick another word.

"yadda yadda yadda"

"meow meow meow"

"hurdy gurdy hurdy gurdy"

"pickle pickle pickle"

or just do a scene where you don't use any words, english or gibberish, but only "speak" using emotional noises. it will work to the same end, and might be easier to access.

or find some text in another language that you can pretend to pronounce, and use that as your dialogue while your partner speaks english. Hey, that sounds interesting. I wonder if it would work? I just thought of it.

Give yourself permission to be terrible at gibberish, just the way you've given yourself permission to fail in other ways. Hooray! It's fun to fuck it all up! whee! again!
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » January 2nd, 2013, 11:29 am

yeah, it really should have the opposite effect...you don't need to worry about what you're saying because the words don't matter. it should free you up to focus on HOW you're saying it. blah blah blah is fine. if your gibberish sounds "awful" or "not like a language," chances are it sounds like gibberish, and you're golden. the worse it sounds, the funnier it is. but if you're getting tongue tied trying to think of words that don't exist, just go the aphasia route and string together random words that do exist. whatever pops into your head. give yourself permission to just say ANYTHING, because whatever it is doesn't actually matter to the scene. only how you're delivering it, and how you're connected to the other people onstage.

and now that Valerie has said it, i really want to see a scene where someone says nothing but "pickle." ;)
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Postby Aden » January 2nd, 2013, 2:15 pm

The secret to gibberish in my experience is listen and repeat. It's much easier then coming up with something new/unique/clever (by the way nonone will ever remember the amazing gibberish language you never really created). By listening and repeating your offers and your scene partners gibberish offers you will achieve the effect of sounding like you are speaking a 'real' made up language.

As far as what Val said, she is 100% right. Particularly if you are applying some sweet repetition. You'll discover that "blah blah blah," never sounded so amazing as when you just committed really hard to repeating it :) Try it! You might like it!
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Postby booksherpa » January 2nd, 2013, 9:03 pm

Thank you to EVERYONE for all these suggestions! It makes me feel much better about my gibberish.
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Re:

Postby ratliff » January 5th, 2013, 2:53 am

valetoile wrote:Hello! I have been improvising for over 11 years, and teaching here in Austin, and all over the country, and internationally for many of those years. I mention that so you will feel like I have some authority when I say to you:

You have permission to say "blah blah blah."


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Re: Gibberish, aka The Bane of My Improv Existence

Postby jillybee72 » January 6th, 2013, 2:53 pm

Here are some more self-practice exercises

Practice by reading from a book backwards, and reading in a foreign language that you do not know.

Here's some flashcards of the starts of words, finish these flashcards with nonsense words. http://printables.atozteacherstuff.com/ ... hcards.pdf

Sing along to the radio in gibberish using the real words as inspiration for length.
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Re: Gibberish, aka The Bane of My Improv Existence

Postby jillybee72 » January 6th, 2013, 3:32 pm

The things in improv that you are terrible about should make you laugh. This is a moment to celebrate your own humanity and take joy in it. I am so bad at certain accents and it just makes me laugh every time I'm there.
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Re: Gibberish, aka The Bane of My Improv Existence

Postby Spots » January 7th, 2013, 9:30 am

Jill, I can't seem to open that PDF. Do I need to "save as"? Perhaps my connection is too slow here.
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Re: Gibberish, aka The Bane of My Improv Existence

Postby jillybee72 » January 9th, 2013, 1:56 am

Oh! It's broken for me too! Here's a similar one. http://firstschoolyears.com/literacy/wo ... 0Cards.pdf
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Re: Gibberish, aka The Bane of My Improv Existence

Postby booksherpa » January 9th, 2013, 11:20 pm

Practice by reading from a book backwards, and reading in a foreign language that you do not know.


Thank you for this! This one seems to resonate with me the most. I get weirdly nervous about solo practice, though I'm perfectly willing to make a fool of myself in front of people (go figure) but reading aloud is something I do pretty regularly, so this should work. I've tried listening to Korean pop, but it hasn't worked, although it is entertaining.

Thank you as well for mad/glad/sad/afrad - the one time I didn't feel like an idiot at gibberish is when I decided to embrace a strong emotional choice going in, and mad carried me through.

I try to remember to laugh at myself, but I tend to be pretty hard on myself. Improv is one of the few areas in my life that I actually feel good at, and so I tend to be annoyed with myself when I feel like I've "gotten it wrong", though I know there's not really wrong, just unsupported choices. I swear I don't normally spend this much time in my head in a scene... :)
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