Improv and Popular reference (ramblings)

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Postby deroosisonfire » April 27th, 2006, 5:31 pm

i run into problems with pop culture references too. either tv shows and movies from the '80s that i was am too young to have seen, or comics/cartoons that males tend to reference. but i have a trick to deal with this: i use the following line or a variation thereof, "oh yeah! i love that episode where they get into trouble!" the audience laughs because they are thinking of some episode where the characters got into trouble and those wacky hijinks. and i have managed not to stall the scene.
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Postby Wesley » April 27th, 2006, 5:50 pm

Are you sure it wasn't his futuristic great-great grand son George Jetson Carver? (Inventor of the peanut-butter and jelly sandwhich food pill).


Pop culture is a universal language to those that speak it. And it has been a part of story-telling from the earliest records.
There's some in the Bible, I'm sure. And we know it is used in stories like The Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare's plays (his pop culture references have even helped date the time of the plays' composition in some cases. "The Duke of Essex is supressing the Irish? Ha! That happened just last summer!"). Of course now, we don't see it as such, much the same way no one will get the topical references in Jay Leno's nightly monolgue four and half centuries from now. Pop culture's greatest weakness is its inability to hold up across time, though that may be a strength in an artform like improv. But the point is that the technique is very old.

Pop culture is different to everyone and unites those that understand it. Some "pop culture" is widespread, like a Robert DiNiro "You talkin' to me?" impression (I knew what that was from 10 years before I saw the movie). Some is not, such as l337 speak, but it all serves as a uniting thread for each group that understands it.

Of course, therein lies the double-edged sword that you mention. Not everyone gets everyone else's references. But this goes both ways; those that don't get it are not without pop culture, they just share a different popular culture--and that can be an interesting strength. A Korean improvisor could propably wow me with apparent originality by merely telling me a mundane story from their collective cultural mindset, a common bedtime story their grandmother read to them that I've never seen or heard here in America.

Popular culture is basically like using short-hand. A single reference carries a great deal of multiple meanings. Just saying Michael Jackson can invoke all sorts of images.
My feelings are this...pop culture is a tool like any other. If you use it because you are lazy, out of fear, looking for the quick gag, then I find it blase, drab, and boring. Sure, you may get a quick laugh out of me, but I won't remember the show in a week or 6 months. However, like any tool, it can also be wisely used precisely because a reference has the potential to carry so many meanings and implications. A single word or phrase can add layers of depth. The best use for me is usually not a direct rip (like a quote), but an implication that let's people put 2 and 2 together for themselves. Michael Jackson at age 10 mentioning that he saw Cleopatra on TV or something.

The absolute worse for me, though, is the mis-use of pop culture. Doing a scene in the past and invoking something that wasn't around or hadn't happened yet. For me that can be painful because I do "speak the language" and you've just mis-spoken.
"WHAT? It's 1975! Star Wars won't come out for another 2 years! You don't even know what an X-wing is!"
"I do."
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Postby nadine » April 28th, 2006, 1:36 am

Evilpandabear wrote:when phil morphed into jefferson carver and offered someone peanut butter...


This was one of the things that I googled because of improv. I remember after the show everyone was raving about it, and I didn't really get what was so funny. Maybe I'll just suck it up and read up on the civil war.. *wrinkle nose* ewww.. who reads history when they don't have to??

Thanks for the feedback guys. :)

PS: Valerie and I saw the Chicago WNT and we think it's comparable to the Austin version :)
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Postby kbadr » April 28th, 2006, 8:41 am

nadine wrote:This was one of the things that I googled because of improv. I remember after the show everyone was raving about it, and I didn't really get what was so funny. Maybe I'll just suck it up and read up on the civil war.. *wrinkle nose* ewww.. who reads history when they don't have to??


Actually, I take this as a *huge* compliment. If a show I do will make someone go home and read up on something, that's badass. This is why historical/factual references are OK in my book (provided they're not over-used.) Inspiring someone to want to read about George Washington Carver == Awesome.

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Postby Wesley » April 28th, 2006, 10:28 am

Two things:

1) George Washington Carver = not "pop" culture. Nor is the Civil War. (Wouldn't it be cool if the Civil War did become the next big retro look and subject for pop songs? Let's bring back the blue and they grey, guys!) Those are pure historical knowledge.
I only make the distinction for this reason: even growing up in America, 85+% of our population probably would have missed the reference, so don't sweat it. We just play to a high caibur audience (when it is made up of improvisers). However, 85+% of our population would understand if your character was named Lucy and you whined and called for Ricki, or would clap at the appropriate time if your character came out humming the Addam's Family theme.
So, if you want to connect with more people then forget reading about Stonewall Jackson and the Battle of Antietam Creek and watch a weeklong TVLand marathon of Green Acres and CHiPs.

2) I agree with Kareem. My ideal humor consists of jokes that about 50-60% of the audience get and the rest need it explained to them after the show (or have to go look it up).


Your Googling that reminds me of a Daniel Tosh routine where he makes an 'Anne Gettes is a creepy freak' joke and then, after a shallow laugh, imitates an audience memeber commenting on how she'll have to Google that reference after the show.
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Postby nadine » April 28th, 2006, 10:55 am

I didn't immediately googled it, but after the show kept being referenced (it seems to be the most famous pgraph show so far) I finally googled it. Yeah, and he seems like an awesome historical figure.

Wesley wrote:an 'Anne Gettes is a creepy freak' joke and then, after a shallow laugh, imitates an audience memeber commenting on how she'll have to Google that reference after the show.


I think you meant Anne Geddes ;-)

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Postby Wesley » April 28th, 2006, 11:04 am

Whatever, she's a freak no matter how you spell it. :)
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Postby phlounderphil » April 28th, 2006, 2:08 pm

nadine wrote:I didn't immediately googled it, but after the show kept being referenced (it seems to be the most famous pgraph show so far) I finally googled it. Yeah, and he seems like an awesome historical figure.


Looks like we should be moving this thread over to the "More Reaons Why Phil is Better Than Everyone Else" Thread.

I was a little off on the time, but yes George Washington Carver was an awesome figure, and an even better way to completely flip the audience on their heads about me (a fat white guy) playing a black former-slave.

I agreee with Wes and Kareem (for once, FINALLY! Fucking bastards are almost always wrong...), history is not pop culture, it's a bit more universal than pop culture, but dammit I love to make an audience look something up.

P.S. I "googled" Anne Geddes after that Daniel Tosh routine, I'd heard the name, but had no real idea who she was. Goddamn she's a creepy freak!
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Postby kaci_beeler » April 28th, 2006, 2:45 pm

Now my baby looks like a blooming flower!
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Postby Wesley » April 28th, 2006, 3:07 pm

Oh man, I just had an AWESOME idea for a Parallelogramophonograph troupe photo idea!


Someone please tell me in what fucked up world photographing a little naked black baby sitting in a bowl of custard or a sea of babies in flowerpots is considered not only normal, but desirable art!?
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Postby Evilpandabear » April 28th, 2006, 3:27 pm

I had an ex-girl friend who was obcessed with the hell spawn known as the geddes, needless to say that relationship did NOT work out. The pee pod children still freak me out to this day...
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Postby beardedlamb » April 28th, 2006, 4:19 pm

Image
.............
O O B
.............
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Postby kaci_beeler » April 28th, 2006, 6:18 pm

hahah that's awesome jeremy
I look so abused...
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Postby phlounderphil » April 28th, 2006, 7:28 pm

And of course Roy REALLY enjoys abusing you...

And I'm just a badass. Back the fuck off bitch.

Seriously, that sort of fan art goes on the front of our website NOW!
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Postby nadine » April 29th, 2006, 1:44 am

phlounderphil wrote:I agreee with Wes and Kareem (for once, FINALLY! Fucking bastards are almost always wrong...), history is not pop culture, it's a bit more universal than pop culture, but dammit I love to make an audience look something up.


Hmm.. I guess I wasn't just talking about pop culture, more references that people may or may not get depending on their background.

History is not more universal than pop culture... not in terms of what people actually get. I'm highly aware of Anne Geddes but wasn't about Washington Carver.

Jeremy's picture was AWESOME.

PS: Jeremy doesn't want to piss anybody off. That's what he said.

PSS: This is actually Jeremy posting.

PSSS: Ok. It's me. Really.
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