Do a Thing in a Way
Do a thing in a way.
There, I just solved improv for you. See? I told you it wasn’t hard!
Okay, fine, it can be hard. But here’s how we can make it easier for ourselves - by focusing on the HOW. Obviously the who, what, and where are important in a scene, but the how is more important than any of them.
What scene sounds more fun? Two alien brothers building a spaceship on Mars that they don’t care about? Or two human sisters eating lunch in their kitchen, but they are both so excited that they’re vegetarians now?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s the second one. Even if we didn’t know they were sisters - even if we just knew they were two women who knew each other well and cared about each other - it’s still the second one. Even if we didn’t know where they were - even if we just knew they were in a place with chairs and a table where they felt comfortable - it’s still the second one. Even if we didn’t know it was lunch - even if we just knew they were eating something - it’s still the second one. Specificity always leads to more fun, but without the how, none of that matters.
Film critic Roger Ebert said “It’s not what a movie is about. It’s how it is about it.” ROGER EBERT AGREES WITH ME, GUYS.
Here’s what the how can lead to:
1. The game. How you feel about something can help you discover or create a game almost immediately.
2. Not having to invent. When you feel strongly about something, words will come out of your mouth with more ease. You don’t have to make a bunch of stuff up. If your character truly cares, you’ll discover the words. I swear.
3. Inspiring your partner. Maybe they come out with nothing but the WAY you say something makes them feel a way too. It’s easier to react emotionally to an emotion. What a goddamn gift. Now they have something to react to! How cool.
4. Fun. Forget everything else - caring about things (hating them or being disgusted by them is still caring!) makes scenes more fun. Easier to do, more fun to do, more fun to watch.
Know what else? Doing a thing in a way takes the pressure off of you. You don’t have to say something hilarious as the first line of a scene. (Ever.) You just need to say a thing or do a thing in a way. Come out on stage and either say something you pulled from the opening (or thin air) or do something with your body - but do it in a WAY. Great that you pulled the idea of two alien brothers building a spaceship on Mars from the opening. Cool. Saying “Man, Mars Ikea sure has confusing directions for their spaceship kits” isn’t enough. SAY IT IN A WAY. Be stoked or sad or embarrassed or ANYTHING. Maybe you only pulled the idea of eating lunch with your sibling from the opening. Guess how you make that totally fine and okay and a great idea? DO IT IN A WAY. Be scared or thrilled or turned on or ANYTHING.
We don’t really care what you do. We don’t really care what you say. We care how you do and say it. No matter how clever you are, you aren’t clever enough to sustain an improv show playing characters who are smart and quippy and not invested. I swear. So save yourself from the pain of trying to do that. Invest in the how.