For those just joining us, these are my hastily written notes from my UCB 401 class with Neil Casey. As always, there are typos, much may not be pertinent, or downright incomprehensible to a lot of people.
But for those of you who’ve been tuning in, here it is:
If you are in a scene and you’re trying to get an edit, it’s never going to be pretty/it’s hard to teach damage control.
A lot of times the funniest thing in the scene is when you are able to make sense of disparate things, which is always why being disappointed by a choice is dumb, because the scene you find 99-percent of the time is going to be better than that scene off a premise.
You end up going for a shock laugh or a dirty thing and then you get in a trap where the only thing we have going for us is try to be more shocking. That’s why it’s a bad idea, because audiences are not very shockable.
It’s always annoying when someone tries to make you laugh and fail, but even worse when it’s with something that’s an insult to your intelligence.
If you label me grandma, no matter what I’m going to do I am not gong to be a great grandma, but there’s going to be a big difference between playing my best experience of that or a cartoony grandma. If my whole way of playing it calls attention to it, then that’s what the scene is about, which we don’t want necessarily.
When someone is doing a panic or a panic character, just calm then down.
All things bring equal, your default should always be to play reality, your everyday life as close as you know. Because by your training being grounded, you bring that to even the silliest of characters which makes them believable and palletable. It’s only because you know how to play “you” believably that you earn the right to play in different realities.
Believe me when I tell you if you start your scenes as yourself having a conversation, you will succeed. Just keep the attitude that you’ll tell the truth and you’ll be interested. If its true you can do park bench, you can do a kitchen, start anywhere.
Playing me? Pretending I’m older, younger, slightly different character trait. The people who are the best are the people who can just be themselves at the tops of scenes and it’s easy, because then you can devote yourself to listening to the funny thing or what the audience responds to.
What doing good improv generally is for me is a progression from “Oh, ok.” to “Oh we’re talking about this” to “Oh, this is funny.” and then do more of that. Muddling through, figuring it out, but you can’t force it.
I would rather smack the bullshit out of you guys than have you guys make me laugh every day.
Always play drugs, sex real. Don’t be the corny version. Michael Caine- “Always remember that the drunk is trying not to be drunk.” The drunk/high is rarely spazzing its more distorted normal behavior.
What’s the nature of the relationship between these two people? Pick a situation that make sense and it will inform the scene.
Don’t start scenes where you are nitpicking or that you’re correcting them on something. They’re just going to say “I’m sorry”. Scene over.
You’re never going to help someone’s support moves by judging it being like “I guess” or bailing. It’s not that the fact that it doesn’t make sense, it’s that we let it sit there or all point at it and judge.
It is a perfectly valid approach in improv to open your mouth, say what comes out and deal with it.
The scene that starts with “Yeah, you did something stupid and bad” and someone replying “So what?” We’ve seen that scene a million times, it usually doesn’t end well, do let’s avoid it or find a way out.
There’s no defensive improv, even if I think that isn’t the best move, it doesn’t mean the improvisers on stage weren’t right to support it.
Can we just be conversant in our first beats, play real and then take sharply what was fun about the first beat into a second one when doing Harolds?