What do you do when improvising with a terrible improviser?

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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby whbinder » May 3rd, 2013, 5:29 pm

Terrible is a point of view. Maybe they're offering great gifts you're refusing to see because you think they're terrible.

A lot of mentioned have been made of said "bad improvisors" blocking frequently. I get that, but it also comes with an egocentric mindset that I should be driving the scene. If I don't feel the person onstage is going to be supporting my choices, then who is the bigger jerk? Them for blocking, or me for continuing to expect them to follow my awesome choices? Less experienced performers don't have the wisdom sometimes to give and take. They miss cues to support. But at the same time they're offering gifts.

I think it's not only the responsibility, but a special joy for experienced performers to be able to enthusiastically leap on the choices of younger less experienced improvisors. Experienced performers sometimes make safe choices. Inexperienced performers make crazy wonderful dangerous choices. Yes, and to that MF'ers!

Craig Cackowski, Zach Ward and a few others do shows with an inexperienced or non-improvisor. Of those, my favorite is Jose Gonzalez's (not just because he's one of the most awesome people I know). He truly embraces the idea of supporting any choice on stage; not to mock but with a sense of wonder.

He played at ColdTowne during OOB a couple of years ago with some drunks. It was marvelous.
https://vimeo.com/album/1565161/video/56491351

Just last week I saw a similar show in Cagematch when Clifton performed with a nine year old, who was a big fan of saying "No", but Clifton jumped on every choice and the show was wonderful, not in spite of her choices, but because of them. Because Clifton understood them as gifts.
https://vimeo.com/65275061

I know some people say it's easier said than done. I fell bad about that. I wish it wasn't for them. For me, it's not a drag to play shows like that, it's the best.
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby kliphtin » May 4th, 2013, 10:12 am

kbadr wrote:
kliphtin wrote:Thanks people! When I asked the question, I wasn't really thinking about inexperienced players or audience members, but appreciate the inclusion of these folks.


What's the difference when you're on stage dealing with it?
And then, why are you performing with "terrible improvisers"?


Usually, I do look at folks in terms of less experience or more experience, but for the sake of this discussion I was considering the type of player who has experience yet continues to make choices that frustrate the improvisers they are playing with.

For me, the difference is expectations. I expect that experienced players have a general base knowledge of improvisational scenework, and if they aren't fulfilling that expectation then I sometimes categorize the scenes in the "this sucks" folder. Also, I know this judgmental douchery is entirely my problem. When performing with someone with no experience I expect nothing and find it easier to support choices no matter what.

For example, I was once placed on a team with someone who had been performing and taking classes for nearly 3 years, and it took me a while to stop deciding ahead of time what I thought was quality scenework, and to start playing with them. Once I did that, I found that even though others would struggle in scenes with that person, I was having a blast and ultimately producing what I would consider quality scenework. Many others did not do this and instead opted to quit the team. This seems more common in places where teams are created by others by forcing improvisers to play together as a team.

I think it's easy to say "well that person just doesn't get it", instead of finding the joy in the work that they provide. As I have grown as an improviser I have found that my greatest growth has come from working with folks that others have deemed unable to "get it". It is not always easy, and sometimes I find that I have to adjust my style of play and delay the work I may be doing personally, which may or may not feel possible at the time. If I find myself unable or unwilling to do that in the moment, then I may opt out of performing with that person for a while, until I find myself in a more open state.

Again, I know this highlights my own issues as a performer, and I have found (over time) a few ways to manage it. The biggest asset has been to drop the ego, and play. Reflect, and learn. I have not always been capable of that, but I usually come around eventually.

Thanks all!
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby BriHo » May 4th, 2013, 11:37 pm

An emphatic "absolutely!" to everything Jose Gonzales! I still watch the Galapagos invocation video from OOB like six years ago. I remember interning super-hard to get a discount on his workshop, which I took as a level 1 student and changed my life (no romo).

Anyone know if he's published his book yet?
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby EAC » May 7th, 2013, 8:46 am

Has anyone else had the opportunity to take Mark Grenier's workshop "Just Deal With It"? The idea is that many people start out doing improv in a controlled environment, where teachers and coaches often stop scenes and side-coach and make people adhere to "the rules". So we don't always get the chance to properly learn how to deal with questions, denials, scene partners who don't say anything, scene partners who play drunk/stoned/insane, and third improvisers who come into a two-person scene and bulldoze what's been established. Grenier's workshop consists of running scenes where one person is assigned to be that "bad' improviser and the other improviser has to make it work. I loved it because not only did it prove to me that these "bad" moves were fairly simple to deal with - answer questions! justify denials! make your partner's silence an important part of the scene! - but it gave me a feeling of confidence I could take with me onstage. When I started directing, I had a troupe that was basically two veterans and two newbies. I would throw these exercises into practices and I definitely think it helped us bridge the experience gap and be a stronger troupe.
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby EAC » May 7th, 2013, 8:49 am

Also throw Matt Holmes into the list of people who do shows with random audience members with no improv experience.

http://www.youtube.com/user/MattAndImprov?feature=watch
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby Spots » May 7th, 2013, 6:24 pm

EAC - I love it. By lowering the stakes you can often free the player.


That reminds me of an exercise where two players are having a scene and someone does a walk on to try to "fuck it up". Most of those "fuck up" choices end up being more inspiring than when someone "tries to do it right."


Fuck trying to do it right. Have you seen Heather and Miles? All they do is to try to fuck with eachother. I absolutely love it.
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby jillybee72 » May 8th, 2013, 10:06 pm

Thank you to Sarah Marie and Maitland for the shouts out, I am blushing.

I have a friend who is in a duo with an improvisor who:
- never says anything
- just walks around the stage pointlessly
- sometimes lays down for no reason
- sniffs in audience ladies' purses
- insists on a ceaseless flow of cheese cubes

But the show is brilliant? Why is that? Because my friend is brilliant. His name rhymes with Rarthur Rimone.
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby Ryan Hill » May 9th, 2013, 12:02 am

I love this thread, because it's just about good improv. I needed this.

I love the "mantra up" thing, Sarah Marie!
"The raft is used to cross the river. It isn't to be carried around on your shoulders. The finger which points at the moon isn't the moon itself."
— Thich Nhat Hanh
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 9th, 2013, 8:56 am

jillybee72 wrote:Thank you to Sarah Marie and Maitland for the shouts out, I am blushing.

I have a friend who is in a duo with an improvisor who:
- never says anything
- just walks around the stage pointlessly
- sometimes lays down for no reason
- sniffs in audience ladies' purses
- insists on a ceaseless flow of cheese cubes

But the show is brilliant? Why is that? Because my friend is brilliant. His name rhymes with Rarthur Rimone.


don't go talking no jive about Shmobin Shmoodshmellow! I will FIGHT you! :evil:
Sweetness Prevails.

-the Reverend
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby valetoile » May 9th, 2013, 7:46 pm

jillybee72 wrote:Thank you to Sarah Marie and Maitland for the shouts out, I am blushing.

I have a friend who is in a duo with an improvisor who:
- never says anything
- just walks around the stage pointlessly
- sometimes lays down for no reason
- sniffs in audience ladies' purses
- insists on a ceaseless flow of cheese cubes

But the show is brilliant? Why is that? Because my friend is brilliant. His name rhymes with Rarthur Rimone.


Just to make Jill blush more, I will say that one of the best shows I've ever seen was her with this same good-for-nothing laze about cheese eater.
Parallelogramophonographpargonohpomargolellarap: It's a palindrome!
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby jose » May 11th, 2013, 12:17 pm

Thanks to Bill and Brian for the kind words! I just came into this thread to say "Have fun" and also to probably joke about Clif posting a thinly veiled post about me but then there were nice things said (along with some great advice).

But yeah, have fun.

It's amazing how we kind of take for granted how lucky we are. We get to play and perform with interesting folks in front of (mostly) supportive people that want us to win on stage. I love doing ABC with people who've never done improv before, not because of the novelty of the experienced person/novice dynamic but, because I'm genuinely inspired by the courage folks show in getting up on stage, the genius that flows when people are free to follow their impulses, and the level of fun & exploration that can be achieved in collaboration among perfect strangers. We really are each other's best gifts.

That said, to really get to that fun, interesting, and artful stuff, the people on stage have to regard each other as peers and the precursor to that is to drop your judgement.

For what it's worth, I totally get how our minds and demeanors get clogged with judgeyness. We all have up days and down days and, while it's great when we can shake those bad days off, we also have those days that we can't or at least don't (to the degree that we'd prefer). Additionally, we laud how our minds are like amazing pattern recognition machines but we kind of ignore how it sometimes starts doing the math we'd prefer it not to do when we have a scene (or show or class) with someone we've not had great scenes with (or have seen not have great scenes or have heard about not having great scenes or ...).

All in all, I just wish Clif had messaged me to talk about me being terrible in private. :[
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby jillybee72 » May 16th, 2013, 2:13 pm

Awwwww!!!! to Valerie and awwwwww to Jose's amazing thoughts.
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby Pdyx » May 22nd, 2013, 2:41 pm

Alex B wrote:Plow them. Annihilate them. Make them sorry they ever existed.


I'm unsure if I should mention it in a public space, but I think Alex and I actually did a show with a "terrible" improvisor--perhaps more in line with what was being asked about initially.

Not just someone who isn't "good" at improv, but someone who is violating boundaries and making choices that are making everyone uncomfortable and potentially unsafe. We got through it and it was one of the more memorable stage experiences I've ever had, because it felt like we might have to stop the show.
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Re: What do you do when improvising with a terrible improvis

Postby jillybee72 » May 27th, 2013, 1:56 am

Razowksy would tell you it's all casting.
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