Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby Spots » July 10th, 2013, 8:01 pm

kaci_beeler wrote:Their reactions can be a compass for fine-tuning your work - did something light them up? Genuinely, as a group? Do it more. Did they coldly regard some of your blue humor (and yeah, you should be able to feel it when they do) - perhaps back off, buddy. Their compass is part of why I truly and genuinely love improv.


Audience as a compass is a wonderful analogy. Fantastic. What is the needle pointing to? Notice this analogy also acknowledges you have to push past the superficial aspects of "the mob" and focus on those genuine reactions.


Kaci the fine-tuning you mentioned might parallel my "conduit" visualization. Try to shift from conduit to conduit during the show making that person who is gasping for air--- gasp a little harder. Was that bellowing chuckle something you can tweak? Follow their finely tuned beeps and sputterings using your own inner compass of what you've followed about yourself. The amazing thing about this thread is that you can choose and find the right abstraction that works for you.

How do you visualize the audience?
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby androidqueen » July 11th, 2013, 11:00 am

This is a great question. It's been popping back into my head since you asked, and it's spawned a really interesting thread.

I humbly submit that, broadly speaking, the feedback you get from these different groups is all useful, but differently useful, like Valerie said. So perhaps it doesn't make sense to rank them so much as it does to incorporate them all into their own happy little niches. (Note to self: Happy Little Niches, narrative format that involves a bunch of small, extremely specific, pop out scenes that are seemingly unrelated to each other and the primary storyline but then come together in an amazingly last-scene-of-Harold sort of way.) Each of these groups has a different idea of what constitutes a "good" show.

The Audience (Heart): I love this concept of Audience with a capital A. And Chuy is right. Entertaining the Audience is our job. For the most part, the Audience doesn't care if you're doing "good improv." Of course "good improv" is more likely to create a better experience for the Audience, but they don't know that. They're happy if you're making them laugh/cry/think. If they're having fun/feeling something/engaged, you're doing some things right. I like to think of the Audience as a good judge of your show's "heart" and ability to welcome an outsider into that heart. (I recognize and embrace that that's super cheesy sounding.) A show that has fantastic technique but no heart will not engage an audience, but audiences love to watch people just having fun.

The Peers (Head): (If you are an improvisor, but you happen to be sitting in the audience, you are a peer.) Unlike the Audience, your peers tend to know what you "should" be doing. They'll recognize when you dropped an offer or walked through a table or failed to react to something major. Most importantly, they'll notice patterns that you tend to get stuck in and ways in which you tend to unconsciously limit yourself. Your peers can tell you ways in which you can discover and communicate your heart better.

The Self (Ego): You are the only one who knows if you did your best work. If you pushed yourself. If you took risks. If you tried new things. If you accepted the moment and told your inner critic to fuck off. If you connected to your fellow players.

Just because one of these groups says you had a good show doesn't mean there's no room for improvement. Just because one of them says there was a problem with the show doesn't mean it was a bad show. I've beat the crap out of myself after shows that audiences loved. What's the point of that? Might as well take the good with the bad and recognize that, even though you might be right to criticize yourself, tomorrow you'll do better, and for today, you made the audience laugh, and that's not nothing.
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby Spots » July 11th, 2013, 12:31 pm

androidqueen wrote:
The Audience (Heart)

The Peers (Head)

The Self (Ego)




Yup, YUP, and YUUUUPP. I wholeheartedly agree with this abstraction. Too perfect it makes me giddy.

You are absolutely right that following your intellect, your intuition, and your ego are 3 separate things. And you need all 3 to guide you. You displayed beautifully that beyond the semantics we're all basically agreeing with each other here.



Interesting sidepoint: the 3 aspects you highlighted mimic the popularly believed functions of the R-Complex, Limbic System, and Neocortex of the Triune Brain.

Reptilian complex = ego
paleomammalian brain = heart
neomammalian complex = head
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby jillybee72 » July 15th, 2013, 11:06 pm

BRILLIANT, Sarah Marie!!
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby androidqueen » July 16th, 2013, 10:51 am

Oh, Sarah Marie. I am doomed to live in your shadow for all eternity or until I change my username.
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby Spots » July 16th, 2013, 12:24 pm

Such is one's fate when choosing to be an Automaton.
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby ratliff » July 21st, 2013, 3:56 am

I'm interested in the reactions of people who I know share my sensibilities. Since I have no way of gauging that in an audience, I tend to listen more to my peers who are doing work similar to what I want to do. (In fact, I pay them to listen to them.) There are very talented improvisers who are much more accomplished than I am whose opinion I'm not as interested in because we're not trying to do the same thing. They're not wrong, just wrong for me. Putting their aesthetic judgment, or the aesthetic judgment of a random crowd of strangers, above my own taste and experience doesn't seem like a very efficient way to get to the kind of work I want to do.

When a musician plays to an audience that doesn't respond, we at least consider the possibility that the music was good but it wasn't the right audience. Why do we think that comedy has failed artistically if it doesn't appeal to the 25 people who happened to show up that night? What would you think of a musician who threw out her setlist and started playing Katy Perry covers every time she didn't get enough applause for her originals? Her originals might not be that good, but if she bails on them whenever someone doesn't like them, they're never going to get any better.

(I'm not saying it's not valuable to know what crowds like. I'm just saying it's not my only or primary criterion.)
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby kbadr » July 21st, 2013, 8:49 am

Ratliff, that is exactly why I said we must make a distinction between "an audience" (the 25 folks who happen to see the show tonight) and "The Audience" (the massive collective we play to night after night)

If you found yourself playing what you considered amazing music and continually left your nightly audiences confused and uninterested, clearly something would have to change. Most likely it would mean finding your audience amongst the masses.

That's the other reason I value gauging the audience reaction. If you're being honest with yourself, you can say "well, they didn't like it...but I think we did exactly what we wanted on stage", which can be a valuable thing. It's good to have to think about the work and have your convictions solidified.

But that's just the opinion of exactly the type of person you didn't want to hear from :)

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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby ratliff » July 21st, 2013, 9:59 am

kbadr wrote:Ratliff, that is exactly why I said we must make a distinction between "an audience" (the 25 folks who happen to see the show tonight) and "The Audience" (the massive collective we play to night after night)
...

But that's just the opinion of exactly the type of person you didn't want to hear from :)


I hear you. I just think it's an important distinction to keep making, because it's so easy to confuse one with the other.

And I have repeatedly paid you money to teach me improv and will do so again, you insufferable pantywad.

Also, aren't you supposed to be writing? We can do this any time. GET TO WORK, SLACKER.
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby mpbrockman » July 21st, 2013, 12:58 pm

ratliff wrote:When a musician plays to an audience that doesn't respond, we at least consider the possibility that the music was good but it wasn't the right audience.


Yeah we do. Let's face it - audiences can be godawful. Chuy's, "Dance, monkey", simply doesn't always apply. To use an over-the-top example; Yo Yo Ma and James Galway could play their hearts out in most of the clubs I've worked in and lose the crowd in 10 minutes.
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby Spots » July 21st, 2013, 5:19 pm

Last edited by Spots on July 21st, 2013, 11:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby Spots » July 21st, 2013, 11:23 pm

Let's say "dance monkey" is all anyone remembers from this conversation. That's one frightening thought.


"dance monkey" sounds like a straight out refusal to experiment with advanced pattern work. Its basically a way to rationalize throwing people under the bus. Keep in mind that every improv piece is effected by the lowest common denominator. I'll tell you what I mean by that.

There are 10 performers on this stage. There is a red button in the middle of the stage and the ideal show happens ONLY when perfect precision timing is used to press that button.

Now all 10 performers want this to be a funny show and they all want their moment to shine.

It's the performer who constantly presses that button and steals up all the tension who kept that show from its greatest potential. The performers who never touched the button at least TRIED to allow for tension to build. Who knows how many times they would have pressed it if the gorilla had backed off.

"Dance monkey" as a philosophy is stupid dangerous for this reason. We're gauging shows solely based on the audience reaction-- to events which happened. Not those which could have happened.

Therefore we are not encouraging humble builders of tension. The silent majority who tried. We're encouraging steam-rollers. People who high jack tension and push the button prematurely. That does more than step on the toes of fellow performers. It stunts the overall show.


Comedy is either:


A.) equal parts restraint and payoff.
B.) a race to the finish line!
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby mpbrockman » July 24th, 2013, 12:24 am

mpbrockman wrote:
ratliff wrote:When a musician plays to an audience that doesn't respond, we at least consider the possibility that the music was good but it wasn't the right audience.


Yeah we do. Let's face it - audiences can be godawful. Chuy's, "Dance, monkey", simply doesn't always apply. To use an over-the-top example; Yo Yo Ma and James Galway could play their hearts out in most of the clubs I've worked in and lose the crowd in 10 minutes.


I must add - I imagine I could clear Carnegie Hall in 5.

Geez - that Philly story gives me chills. Yikes!
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby Katie T. » July 24th, 2013, 11:24 am

That Philly story was great and the accompanying photo is hilarious. I don't know the true origin of the picture but I like to imagine it is really a comedy audience. In that vein, there is a picture of me and Courtney and James and Lance, among others, on facebook. We are at Ego's for a comedy show. I don't know what is happening at that moment the photo was taken, but we look sooooo bored. Every face in the photo. I remember having a good time that night, but it just kills me this picture. I love it.
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Re: Peer Approval and/or Audience Approval? Who to believe?

Postby Spots » July 27th, 2013, 5:45 pm

The picture accompanying that article is killer. I love Vice so much.
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