Monday, August 08, 2016

Improv

The movie DON'T THINK TWICE is about an improv troupe. I have never seen much charm in improv, (give me a script) but I am sure it's a way for up and coming comedians to hone their skills. However, because they used the same prompt every night to get going ("anyone out there have a bad day?") I could see they were fooling themselves to some extent to think their material would be original each night. I mean the types of answers they'd get would probably be fairly similar. (Lost my job, lost my girlfriend, car broke down).

I have never been to an improv club though so maybe I am wrong. Anyone know much about improv? Anyone enjoy it more than standup comedy. Or scripted skits like on SNL.

14 comments:

George said...

I'm with you on Improv. I find it silly. There are improv programs on cable TV and they always fail to hold my attention. The comedians try hard to make every skit "funny." But many times the chemistry just isn't there. I prefer performances from a good script that SEEM like they've been improvised.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

At one point we were watching Whose Line is It Anyway regularly. This was the British version more than the American adaptation with Drew Carrey, though a lot of the same people were on both. We went to see versions of it twice in London and it really wasn't for me, to be honest.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

At one point we were watching Whose Line is It Anyway regularly. This was the British version more than the American adaptation with Drew Carrey, though a lot of the same people were on both. We went to see versions of it twice in London and it really wasn't for me, to be honest.

Gerard said...

I've only seen improv on TV. Sometimes it can really make me laugh. I think a good part of the laughter is surprise and shock at how quick witted the performers can be.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That's a good point, Gerard.

Dana King said...

I've seen some improv live at Second City when I lived in Chicago. (A friend was in the class.) Improv from scratch is a gift. Poeple like Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters excelled, but for the vast majority it's his or miss, usually miss.

It's value is in teaching young comic actors to think on their feet and go with things when they break wrong. This can be particularly valuable in sketch comedy when something presents itself and a trained improv performer knows instantly whether to divert from the script, and how far to go. I've never been in a writers' room, but I'll bet a LOT of the stuff that makes into scripts comes from improv in the room.

That said, my idea of the greatest improv/ad lib comes from the world of opera. I forget who the soprano was, but the Met was doing a Wagner opera that involved a large prop swan coming down to take her to Valhalla. Something happened and the swan rose into the ceiling without her. The soprano turned to the audience and said, "Does anyone know when the next swan leaves?" She hadn't taken improv, but I'm sure that's the kind of stuff one learns, which can be invaluable in any comedy.

J F Norris said...

Improv actors differ from improv comics. When I was an actor here in Chicago I worked with some amazingly talented improv actors who also happened to be funny. But they really weren't comics at all. Mick Napier, Marguerite Hammersley and Tim Meadows (all of whom performed in a team competition for improv actors called Improv Olympics) were among those who I was in awe of. They created characters in scenes that had intention and drive. The most amazing part of their performance was that they tied in themes from scene to scene. You actually watched a play being written as it was performed. They listened to each other and they reacted. They never deny or counter what the other person is doing. They always build on upon each bit of dialogue and each action.

To me the kind of nonsense you see in comedy clubs and all the bombastic games they play on Whose Line Is It Anyway? is not real improv. It's just people trying to be clever and outsmart one another. Sometimes belittling and ridiculing their scene partner in the process which is the antithesis of improv. I can't watch it all anymore. I can always tell when there's an immense ego on stage who doesn't give a damn about any of his scene partners and for me it ruins the whole thing.

Richard Robinson said...

I've been to The Improv clubs in L.A. and other locations in Southern California, but despite the name they are really just stand up comedy clubs, not improv in the sense you are using it here.

Charles Gramlich said...

improv is pretty hit or miss for me. Really depends on who the folks are doing it.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops are very quick on their feet.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops are very quick on their feet.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think I have only seen TV versions of it. Even in the film, which I liked, they never really spent much time on letting it unravel. So if they don't have any faith in it, it's hard to see how it could be very good in most clubs.

Casual Debris said...

I performed improv for many years in various forms, & I like both performing & watching it. The Drew Carey version was not real improv since they do take after take until it is watchable & much of it was prompted or set up beforehand. Often improv is a good tool for actors to warm up before a performance, & it's great a great bonding tool before beginning work on rehearsals. A good friend I performed with went on to use improv as a tool for professionals to help them at work, & this was a really good success. As a comedy show it's not for everyone & is hit-or-miss (as much as a script is, I guess), but as a tool it can be invaluable.

pattinase (abbott) said...

So interesting! thanks for sharing!