Hyperbole: Why Awkward Is Your Improv Fuel

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Hyperbole: Why Awkward Is Your Improv Fuel

Postby Spots » April 13th, 2013, 2:58 pm


A director pauses the scene onstage & yells from the sidelines:

"Conroy. You have something you need to confess to Timothy."

The scene hasn't been going so well. It has officially become awkward. Rather than having faith and let the scene breathe the director has made the executive decision to spare the audience from the awkward energy. The director's solution is to inject new energy into the scene.

The problem with this is that the audience detects the insincere energy. They detect new tension created by the director. This is no longer an immersive experience to buy into. It's something else.

As an audience we've lost confidence in the scene. "Were the characters bad ones? Was the interaction wrong? Why the divine intervention?"

These are thoughts floating around the audience due to the external tension. The original scene's been polluted. So why did the scene exist in the first place? What would have happened if we simply let the original awkwardness continue? If we let the scene breathe?

We should be open to the fact that awkwardness builds tension. Good tension. To build tension is to create a reservoir of potential to drive the scene forward. Whereas standup comedians write their jokes with a setup and a punchline, improv comedians depend on the building and breaking of tension through social interactions. Therefore there are millions of awkward moments that lead to emotionally fulfilling scenes.

Here's an example from life. You attend a party. You see many people you want to talk to. You might even recognize a face. So you take a chance and begin talking.

At first it's not immediately the smoothest interaction you ever experienced. It's a little awkward. But you hang in there and you find common interests. You find a rapport. You create momentum. From here on this person could become a friend or a mentor. They could become a lover. And it's all thanks to awkward energy.

Nobody should be diving in and saving you from that potential. In fact there's a name for that. It's called a cockblock.

Most social interactions begin awkwardly and then the participants find their confidence. The awkwardness was a gift that later was overcome. Faith in the relationship.

To deny awkwardness is to deny tension. Sexual tension. Hierarchical tension. Value tension. The tension that comes from the presence of any desire. Awkwardness describes millions of types of tension.

The only time that awkwardness could ruin a scene is it dips into being bad tension. Bad tension is the undeniable tension of taking an audience member out of the scene. Exclusion. This is easily achieved by someone interrupting the scene. Similar to a heckler "trying to help" a standup show.

My opinion is that even bad or exclusionary tension can be overcome. There's no need to break up the sacredness of scene. The scene belongs only to those in the scene. Much like a relationship belongs only to those in the relationship.

Embrace awkwardness. Embrace tension as the fuel of comedy. Learning to navigate awkward scenes and having faith in others builds confidence all around.

There are improv universes just beyond that one awkward moment onstage. Wait for it. That alternate universe could become a fulfilling moment where a budding comedian pats himself on the back for doing the seemingly impossible.

Heck! If you've ever been awkward and made a new friend ... what's keeping you from winning back an audience member?

Yes And Tension! Inspire confidence in the Awkward.
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