Plain clothes comedians

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Plain clothes comedians

Postby sara farr » May 31st, 2010, 12:09 am

Hey imps,

The first Micetro I really remember was in the upstairs theater at the Hideout. I remember it bc I was sketching at the time and made a cool sketch of Rachel sitting on Dave's lap in a scene about a ventriloquist and his "dummy". One of the things that hit me was that the cast was varied with both very good and not so good improvisers playing together. Yet, because they were all in plain clothes, it seemed as if NONE of them were professional. I also remember thinking that not knowing their experience level made it more impressive... like these ppl were NOT experienced and had just come together and were doing improv.

I have since then learned that it takes quite a bit of practice to be a really good improviser. And that the very best improvisers are practiced at improv, acting, physical comedy & mime, etc.

So, is there something about wearing plain (casual) clothes in an improv show that HELPS the show? Does it help level the playing field between the performers? Does it help audience members see themselves up there on stage? Does THAT in turn help sell classes?

And would wearing performance (dressy) clothes in an improv show promise a level of professionalism that may or may not deliver the laughs?

What about dressing up to play out status? And what would happen if the show cast scenes where the guy in t-shirt and jeans played clown opposite the high status straight-man in a suit? Is it more funny to see a guy in a suit playing a clown, or a guy in street-clothes playing a CEO?

And what about uniforms? Comedy Sportz uses them but does that change the show? There was some thought to keep the uniforms casual and reminiscent of the everyman sport "bowling". Does that effect the way the audience sees the quality of the show?

What about the costumes used in Theatresports, or costumes used in other Long-form shows?

What do you think?
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 31st, 2010, 3:15 am

i always try to dress like i would for any other improv show...casual, but nice. suit and tie makes me feel too formal and unwilling to take risks. t-shirt and torn jeans or pj pants or whatever make me feel like i just rolled out of bed and aren't taking this very seriously. uniforms...well, i've never responded well to dress codes or looking like everyone else onstage.

personally, i tend to aim for second date wear...dressed to impress, but not nervous about what the other person's going to think.
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Postby Aden » May 31st, 2010, 3:04 pm

I've noticed that when I dress nice I play more aggressively, and when I dress in clothes that make me feel comfy I either end up on the sidelines more or I try to accommodate the other players more, which is both good and bad. I also seem to win Maestro more when I'm dressed more on the fashion-forward side of the spectrum but with a casual twist... Perhaps that's what I wear when I play more aggressively supportive....
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Postby dukeharbison » May 31st, 2010, 7:17 pm

It depends on the show and what you're group is trying to do.

This is what I belive:

When it comes to improv if you're doing a show for people who have paid for a ticket you should not waste their time or money. Your entire troupe should look professional. Improv is a tricky beast full of everchanging variables. You can never gaurentee that the audience will get everything it wants from your show. You can however always look professional. It shows respect to those supporting what you're doing, making them more likely to be respectful of your performance. Looking professional makes an audience member more likely to come to your show more than once reguardless of wether or not they thought your show was funny or good the 1st time. It's improv. We're like weather men. We get a ton of chances and everybody knows we're not going to get it right 100% of the time. If you're weather man is wrong and consistantly wears a pocket tee, cutoff shorts, tube socks and flipflops. He now is not good at the weather and looks like he doesn't care. Why watch him?

If you're doing a show for free, you should want it to be of the highest quality. see reasons for dressing professional above.

I don't adovocate uniforms but I do advocate a uniformed ensemble. No one person sticking out any more than another. I think an improv ensemble should look professional and if not it better be for a very specific reason.
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Postby Jeff » May 31st, 2010, 11:10 pm

dukeharbison wrote:Your weather man is wrong and consistently wears a pocket tee, cutoff shorts, tube socks and flipflops. He now is not good at the weather and looks like he doesn't care. Why watch him?

I'm sorry, I get your analogy, but that would be awesome. I'd watch that weatherman. I'd hope that he calls himself a meteorologist.
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Postby Spaztique » May 31st, 2010, 11:40 pm

My philosophy is, "Dress like somebody who belongs on-stage." Dress in something that makes you feel confident and playful, and for me, formal clothes put me at my most confident/playful. If somebody looks like they belong on stage in just a t-shirt and pajama pants, that also works, just as long as they have a presence that says, "My performance style matches my outfit."

I also agree everything Jordan said about what to wear: dress to impress, but not nervous about what the other person is going to think. Mixing ideas, dressing too formally gives the presence of, "I don't think I belong on a stage, so I'm going to use my outfit to make up for my confidence."
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Postby sara farr » June 1st, 2010, 12:48 am

Any thoughts on the audiences' perception of whether someone is funny or not being influenced by the different "class" of clothing they are wearing?

The king of thieves dresses low status economically (can't afford the same caliber of clothing as the king that rules the kingdom), but within that circle of "thief" or pauper, he wears garb that is high status relative to the rest of his group/class. My 3D artists play with this to SHOW social status in a character. You can be the KING of the geeks if you dress "cooler" than the other geeks, but are still a geek and dress like one.

Is there a sliding scale for improvisers? Do the professional imps wear dressier clothes than YOU? Does the audience see that and CARE? Is that significant in the way the show is received?
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Postby dukeharbison » June 1st, 2010, 3:58 pm

Funny is funny no matter what you wear, but your appearance is signifigant to how your show is recieved. That doesn't mean you can't consistantly do amazing improv shows in your pj's. It means the audience notices and your trope should take that into consideration.

If a troupe's attire has obvious differnces in "class", it turns the improvisers clothes into costumes. You lose neutral. It limits the improvisers and makes the show look like scripted work.
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Postby kaci_beeler » June 1st, 2010, 6:26 pm

I'd agree that appearance does matter. The audience is looking at you the entire time, and how you blend into or stick out from your improv will be apparent to them on some level. If an experienced improviser is dressed sloppily I take notice. They could really command that stage if they just wore clothes that fit them well.
Just like in the real world, I think people respond more favorably to those who know how to present themselves.
If a guy is dressed extremely fashionably one night and just contemporary the next night, I don't think he will be more or less funny, just maybe more interesting to look at.

The key word for me in dressing for an improv show is "purpose".
First, I would hope improvisers would dress to suit their body type and ability to move.
From there I hope they think about the type of show they're doing, the time of day and location, and the audience when choosing what to wear. Just like anything else, you don't usually wear the same clothes to a job interview that you do to an outdoor cook-out (unless you have one look all the time and no range...which sounds like a rare situation and a person that doesn't belong on a stage for very long because they don't want to try new things).

I like neutral but I don't think neutral is perfect for every situation.
Casual fast and loose improv? It doesn't have to be dressy, it can be fun and vibrant and everyday, it just has to work for the group.
A genre show? A character piece? Costumes enhance the shit out of that! You know what world you're presenting, why not go whole hog for yourself and the audience? It really adds so much to a show. And then "sloppy" might be the perfect choice to add extra character and humor to your look.
A festival show? A lot of people and work went into you being on that stage, I hope you look decent!
Trying something new? Heels onstage? A tutu? A full three piece suit? Hey, I'm all for it as long as it wasn't an afterthought and works with the show you're in.
Give the audience a good combination and they can fully relax and "see" the improvisers within the created world. They shouldn't have to work to hard to be brought into your world.

"Oh, I forgot to bring my _____, so I'll just improvise in what I have on, I guess." That's unprofessional.
We all make mistakes, sure, but if you're putting your entire youth into doing improv all the damn time I hope you can put a little thought into it.

I think going against dress/type is half the fun of improv. A man in a suit playing a poor little girl can be additionally hilarious because of their class of clothing and gender switching.
A girl in contemporary clothes playing a man from the 1840s gives such a wonderful juxtaposition. I think seeing that kind of stuff really tickles an audience and gives improv an edge over other kinds of theater and comedy.

*sigh* There are just so many choices one can make for any given show and I hope that some purpose is put into those choices. Even before I was as anal about it as I am now I noticed, and in the meantime heard countless audience comments about clothing, good and bad. They can definitely see us.
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Postby Matt » June 1st, 2010, 11:21 pm

I see it as appearance giving the audience the first cues as to how to view what you're doing. A truly gifted ensemble can make the audience forget that initial impression or weave a compelling enough illusion that they see something else there. I prefer to dress somewhat neutral, so that the clothing I wear leaves as little impression as possible so I can fill that void with what I need in a scene, instead of what the audience is thinking about my legs.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » June 2nd, 2010, 3:12 am

quick L.A. improv story (non-Maestro related, obviously)...at one point, my old now defunct troupe Veritas decided upon a dress code of white dress shirts and blue jeans. through various failures of communication, i was not informed of this. i was also doing a play at the time, and rushed across town to make it to a show...the play had me practically in a suit, so i got there in time for warm ups in a blue dress shirt and navy dress slacks. basically, i was the nicest dressed person there...yet when we asked for a suggestion, some supposedly clever observer decided to ask why i was dressed so differently.

i spent the rest of the evening after the show convincing everyone else they looked like a Mormon youth group that toured high schools around the country. i neglected to mention that one of my favorite ensembles in the world is a white dress shirt and blue jeans. this was all in the service of repelling the notion of a uniform dress code. i came off like a dick, but our shows were much stronger afterwards. ;)
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Postby Jon Bolden » June 2nd, 2010, 6:46 am

Kaci beat me to the punch with the "purpose" tagline. But I will add that even to the performer, I think there's a mental difference with dressing for the occasion. Even if that means putting on casual clothing that's no different that what you normally wear. Basically even if it means just putting on the same color shirt and jeans you just had on makes a difference. It's like switching gears in your mind "it's time for a show".

To me, personally, performing anything in front of an audience is sacred. Therefore rolling into the theater in "default you" is not giving attention or weight to what you are doing. It's basically saying "let me go do this thing real quick". I firmly believe that it affects how you perform. Maybe if you are genius, this will not affect you(but most of us are not geniuses). When I was playing music, I couldn't get this through anyone's head. They all seemed to think it was "cooler" or "more impressive" if you just rolled out of bed, on to stage, and did this amazing thing. But I firmly believe that the amazing thing is easier to convey to with more thought and purpose put into all aspects.
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Postby jillybee72 » June 2nd, 2010, 11:35 am

#1 - Hi Duke! I love you.

#2 - I saw a troupe once where everyone was in matching t-shirts except the host was wearing a t-shirt.

#3 - This thread honestly needs to be the basis for a sociology experiment, because I've never considered how an audience feels if the team is dressed mismatched the same as they are. I've always hated it because it looks to me, a theater professional, like you don't care. Sara Farr's questions are amazing and blowing my mind.
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Postby shando » June 2nd, 2010, 11:44 am

jillybee72 wrote:#2 - I saw a troupe once where everyone was in matching t-shirts except the host was wearing a t-shirt.


This sentence is blowing my mind. So much is hinging on the word 'except.'
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Postby mdalonzo » June 2nd, 2010, 3:27 pm

I read a book a long time ago about the formation of Second City, and their point was that, if someone is paying to see you play, you should have enough respect for the audience to look like you're a professional.

Personally, I try and avoid jeans and tshirts, but I think if you look good in what you wear, it really doesn't matter, as long as it looks like you didn't just roll out of bed and show up on stage, you know?
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