In what is now a Thanksgiving tradition, I present for your enjoyment the funniest ad-libbed conversation in the history of television: Johnny Carson and Doc Severinson discussing their plans for the holiday. As Johnny says at the end, “It’s not going to get much funnier than that in five minutes.”
"We’re through the looking glass here, people."
Michael Caine gives some acting tips that any improviser struggling with playing things real on stage should hear. Don’t show us an “improv comedy” drunk. Show us a real world drunk. (If I screwed up the embed code that part starts at 2:44, but the whole thing is fascinating).
A useful skill: to be able undermine your own character without having your character change his/her mind. To have your character lose without ever having admitted he/she is losing.
To say things like “Oh, really? *I’m* the unreasonable employee? Just because I practice my trumpet at my desk…
Great post. This is sort of like playing your own straight man?
When they’re really nailing it, I think South Park pulls off the idea of one usual thing and everything else being real better than anyone else. The best South Park episodes remind me of what great premise-based improv feels like. In this case the premise of “Dog whisperer for spoiled kids.” There’s one weird thing, everything else is exactly what you’d see in the real world with a few slight adjustments.
The launch codes for Russia’s strategic nuclear missile forces are protected inside a locked safe, requiring its own separate codes, to prevent accidental launch. However if codes to open the safe don’t work, the plan is literally to just smash the fucking thing open with a sledgehammer.
I hear Will Hines singing songs to my baby on internet radio most mornings and I finally recorded one of ‘em for all of us to enjoy.
Will sang this song to my daughter again this morning.
I’m not complaining.
Imagining this is Will Hines singing is one of the funniest things I’ve ever asked my brain to do. Thank you Birch.
I genuinely cannot stop laughing.
this is the strangest thing i have seen on tumblr
I don’t physically laugh at much when staring at my computer screen alone. I laughed at this. Hard. Can we please have an entire album of the actual Will Hines singing children’s songs?
I’m going to be a haughty asshole and talk about “game” like I understand it. Sorry.
The game in the scene is equivalent to the chorus in a song.
The chorus of a song is what the crowd gets excited about when you come back to it. You’re glad to hear it twice. You’re probably thrilled to hear it a third time.
When I use this analogy in class, I always use “Sympathy For The Devil” by the Rolling Stones as an example. The core of that song is the confrontation with the devil. Everyone gets excited when Mick Jagger belts out, “Pleased to meet you! I hope you guessed my name!”
But as great as that classic piece of rock poetry is, it’d be pretty dull if they just repeated that chorus over and over again for 5 minutes, right? “But whats puzzling you is just the nature of my game….Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name…” I’m already bored. You have to take a break, but still keep the audience’s engagement in the scene.
This is where you let the game rest and fill in the scene with all kinds of other great elements. Committed acting, visually badass object work, sub-games and other fun bits of business. This is where you talk about Anastasia screaming in pain, every cop being a criminal and how all sinners are saints. Or just a solo from Keith. The “woo-woos” are a sub-game.
A student once asked me for a comprehensive list of games possible in an improv scene. Fair question. How many types of choruses are there in a song? I guess you have various basic genres/archetypes, but it’s infinite. The saxophone solos in “Baker Street” are completely different than the chorus in “Sympathy” but it serves the same purposes - it’s the game of the song. It’s what I as a listener, consciously or not, want more of.
Game isn’t about filling in the blank. It’s not looking for a single correct response and being “wrong” if you don’t fill the blank in correctly. What’s the part of your scene/song YOU find rewarding to revisit?
I will probably (and fraudulently!) not be able to do any of this the next time I perform, but it sounds decent on paper and I think it’s helped some students in class, so here it is.
And here’s a killer version of “Sympathy For The Devil” to enjoy as a bonus to my self-aggrandizing advice.
Old Texas lawyers almost coming to blows during a deposition.
This is one of my favorite videos on the Internet.