Momentum Building in Comedy

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Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby Spots » April 18th, 2013, 6:43 pm

How do you feel about your own improv momentum?

Does anyone claim to have constant momentum? Or is yours like mine in that it peaks, it waivers, and dips?


Late 2011 I feel I had the best momentum. If I could tell you why - it was the excitement of the material and the need to prove myself. I was taking classes and performing in jams every week. So I was performing a minimum of two times every week. It's hard for apprehension to creep in when you perform multiple times a week.

I also had the benefit of rewatching shows and pinpointing laughter & moves I appreciated. Learning from them. I'd get onstage and have instant momentum & confidence.

Obviously I lost steam when I moved out west. I was not performing so I lost every bit of momentum I had. I was no longer "plugged in" which means I wasn't watching shows. I wasn't filming shows. I certainly wasn't listening to all the various laughs that I had been while watching all the shows in Austin.

September when I relocated to New Orleans I was rusty. Now I had a theater again. But I wasn't plugged in at all. It was harder to "listen" and even harder to react naturally or make strong game choices. I had obviously lost a considerable amount of steam. My earlier improv self could gain all kinds of nuance from the audience and feed off of it. But now the audience was feeding me white noise.

Chris invited me to sit in on a class an hour within arriving at the airport. My performance was decent. I wasn't floundering or anything. I simply wasn't as connected. I felt like I was in a haze.


I decided to combat this feeling by dropping in on as many classes as I could. Performing in jams again. And CERTAINLY watching as many shows back to back as possible. Just shows shows shows all the time.

I listen to all the laughs, I might even turn my head around the room and observe the different types of laughs. I don't really film anymore but maybe I will start again.

Am I back up to the same momentum I was when I was first taking classes? Not really. My old improv self was anxiety driven. Which was bad for some reasons. Good for others.

I'm working on reacting naturally again and really trusting the audience. Like... letting go and not trying to figure out what I was doing before. I think maybe I lost some momentum because I have a contrived idea in my head of who I am as a performer. But the truth is that NOW I'm in a different place.

So the momentum is climbing again. Momentum is building steam. But nowhere near that level I experienced before. Part of it could be familiarity with games and not being as craven because I've played similar games. But I feel the momentum coming back.

I'm especially interested in creating new characters with strong choices that blow my old characters out of the water. Just completely new stuff, game-driven or not. Rehearsing with my new troupe is exciting, new territory because of the shift in momentum and the new interests I share with them.


What have you noticed about your own performance momentum? Honesty appreciated!
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby valetoile » April 18th, 2013, 9:48 pm

Oh definitely have changes in momentum all the time. Lately I've been feeling less momentum with my main group- our shows are still good, but I feel less present, less in my body. But at the same time in the few shows I've done with people I know less well (Stool Pigeon, side projects) I've had these moments of effortless achievement- where I just feel like I'm making all the right moves. Maybe the situations where I feel comfortable highlight what I'm missing, and the situations where I'm in the unknown highlight what I've got.
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby GregScot » April 18th, 2013, 10:55 pm

About a month ago, I definitely had a major slip in momentum--and even desire to do improv at all. I found myself getting stuck in my head after taking classes at three different theaters, multiple workshops, and intensives. To get out of it, I had to remind myself to have fun, to work on one thing at a time, and even to dial back on all the classes/workshops I was taking.

When I got to Austin, I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity I could, but learned that too much of a good thing, can still be too much.
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby happywaffle » April 19th, 2013, 8:30 am

Everybody ebbs and flows. Back around 2011 I was in one Gnap! show after another and felt like I was on cruise control. Then I *wasn't* cast in a bunch of shows, and I let it get to me, and started being self-critical of my performances. Now I'm somewhere on my way back up the slope—I feel competent, but like I'm not reaching my potential.

As always I remind myself that it's neither as bad nor as good as it seems. Self-hatred is one of the most common topics of discussion among improvisers, it seems.
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » April 19th, 2013, 8:55 am

can you define clearly what you mean by "improv momentum" or "performance momentum"? I want to make sure i'm understanding just what we're talking about here...
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby Spots » April 19th, 2013, 9:10 am

Spots wrote:But I wasn't plugged in at all. It was harder to "listen" and even harder to react naturally or make strong game choices. I had obviously lost a considerable amount of steam. My earlier improv self could gain all kinds of nuance from the audience and feed off of it. But now the audience was feeding me white noise.



Jordan, does performing improv continuously -- with few breaks -- have any accumulative effect on your performance?


It's open so that you can discuss the term momentum however it inspires you. For me it means that the more I do improv continuously, the more I get tuned in & connected with the energy in the room.
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » April 19th, 2013, 9:43 am

ah! I grok you. for me, I always need to scratch that performance itch, but I like performing in a number of different ways. the Austin improv scene is great and varied for that, but I do still need to step away or slow down for a while from time to time and do something scripted, something musical, something filmed, etc. if i'm just improvising all the time, it starts to become a routine and a rut and I just feel stale and unsatisfied. but if i'm not performing at all in ANY capacity (even just the occasional karaoke with friends or, God forbid, hosting gig), then I just get frustrated and drained. so yeah, I suppose I do like to keep a certain momentum to performing in general...but I like to vary up my rate and jump between tracks to stay fresh and thrilled and terrified with new projects or shows or formats.
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby Spots » April 24th, 2013, 7:26 pm

valetoile wrote:Maybe the situations where I feel comfortable highlight what I'm missing, and the situations where I'm in the unknown highlight what I've got.




Val

Can you elaborate? I basically get where you're coming from. But I find it interesting that being in unfamiliar territory gives you more momentum.


For newer improvisers this might be the opposite? I don't know. I've felt that sensation where I lacked trust in others... at jams and such. But what eventually happened over time is that I became confident enough in myself that I get excited to be there to boost up others. To make them look good? To make the scene look good? I know my confidence will transfer to them somehow through scene.

This is a weird thought I just had, and it might not be complete. But a fleeting thought you inspired.


Playing in the unknown went from fear to confidence over time. But does that mean playing in the familiar creates fear? Or just staleness?
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby valetoile » April 24th, 2013, 10:36 pm

Hm, I think it's that when I'm in an unfamiliar situation, I've got enough confidence and skill that I can contrast that, what I'm bringing to the stage, against the fear and uncertainty and nervousness. When the situation is one of noise and chaos, my clarity and precision stands out more. But when i'm in a comfortable situation, when everything is clear and precise, the fear and uncertainty, or awareness of what I lack, become more defined in relief to how smoothly its all going.

Kind of like, I'm great in a crisis but I'm mediocre at my day job kind of situation.
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » April 25th, 2013, 10:23 am

yeah, I feel a lot more driven in a show if i'm a bit nervous/terrified/scared. well managed terror can be great for momentum within a performance. if i'm comfortable, I get complacent and lose that momentum. so I always try to find something in a show that scares the shit out of me. ;)
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Re: Momentum Building in Comedy

Postby valetoile » April 26th, 2013, 10:35 am

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:yeah, I feel a lot more driven in a show if i'm a bit nervous/terrified/scared. well managed terror can be great for momentum within a performance. if i'm comfortable, I get complacent and lose that momentum. so I always try to find something in a show that scares the shit out of me. ;)


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