So for a start, I am so glad I had the sub on Week 5.
It really made me remind me coming back to this class how lucky I was.
Now a moment: the teacher last week is by no means a terrible teacher. He gave some great notes and was excellent at the top about emphasizing with the plight of UCB 401 students seeing hard work for limited results and he was good at bringing notice to those limited results.
But Neil today did more than that.
He did not just take us to our problems, he made us fix them.
When we all heard we would be getting our midway notes not in email form but said in front of everyone while we faced the class before immediately afterwards performing a Harold, everyone fucking froze.
But Neil was there, quick, supportive and direct, like a surgeon.
He gave us our notes, our positive stuff and what we needed to work on directly in the next Harold. One girl had to initiate 3 scenes, one guy had to justify everything he said, I had to “act more like a pirate”.
And somehow, instead of being in our heads, we all took the notes as a challenge and somehow, post-possible public shaming, we all had undoubtedly our best sets of the whole class.
Even when the one girl who was challenged to be less shy still struggled, Neil side-coached her into it to hilarious effect. He continued to give her the chance to allow herself not to fail.
This was the difference between my sub and Neil.
The sub was merciless in noting our scenes and I left, with good things to work on, but feeling awful and defensive.
Neil was merciless not just in noting us, but in making sure we’d take the note and succeed.
Everyone left that dreaded class where they had just had their weaknesses exposed to everyone feeling better about themselves and their improv than ever before.
After all, a good laugh is a great way to remember a moment.
So here are the notes, as always somewhat inaccurate, or incomplete. But what I have down is worth it.
It’s my pleasure to take this class and to share these with you, for what it’s worth.
Literally, my favorite thing about seeing your teachers perform is that they’ve done it 10, 100 times as much as you have and you still see them get on stage and sigh saying, “How do I get out of this one?”
The difference between the man and the boys is that when the scene surprises the men they take it as a gift as opposed to freezing up and thinking what am I doing.
When you are on stage, it’s very easy to be a distraction, nobody likes to hear about it, but you’ve got to put it in check because it will distract from the scene on stage.
Anything that you laugh at, you can break down in terms of game. When there’s other schools of thought that says lets no more about these people rather than playing what’s fun, that’s to be avoided.
If we’re doing a scene where it’s a mother or daughter are estranged again and again, it may distract from the scene or the funny thing.
I’ve had a scene that didn’t go anywhere that was defended by facts or the information, and that’s fair but it still doesn’t in itself mean the scene is good. Who, what, where we are: Clearing the bar set by the rules, doesn’t make it funny.
Think about for tag-outs, think about making sure you show/enable the funny thing. Lets make sure we don’t miss the funny moment for our clever line.
In any pattern games, you might get 10 things you might get none, go back to the suggestion if you don’t have an idea.
Template for a good group game, one little move or reaction at a time.
Structure is the last thing I worry about in a Harold, we could do a Harold of all group games. Learn it then depart from it.
If you’re tempted to take it too big and too goofy, don’t heighten it beyond recognition. Underline the simple thing that is funny that is there.
Don’t let this be another scene of people of sub-optimal intelligence arguing about something stupid.
Adults playing kids is really obnoxious so if you find yourself doing so, maybe some have some innocence or naïveté but don’t use a stupid voice, know things and react
When you’re on a team with people, everyone should be aware of what everyone else on the team is working on, so when I give you notes, they’ll be in front of everyone and then you’ll do a Harold where you work on it and support each other.
Playing to the top of our intelligence is related to realism in that we are always trying to be as intelligent as we can be in our lives, but always try to justify things in improv when they come up.
If you are naturally funny, your natural state will serve you well and it’s great to play straight, but if you’re going to continue to take classes, play around and do something else so you can grow.
Making sense of what your partner is saying, a logic or philosophy, will take us closer to game, rather than cool, isolated moments.
Remember that it can be fun NOT to have control every time. Take risks, we’re improvising because the sky’s the limit, we want to do scenes we’ve never done before.
Even great ideas, hilarious ideas should be thrown out the window in exchange for what’s going on in the moment.
Neil’s Notes for me:
I’d like to see you play against type, you play characters who are smartest guy in the room, play a big character and let someone else figure it out, take a big swing. Billy Meritt says all improvisers are game robots, stealthy ninjas working from the shadows or pirates who are swinging on to other ships waiting to die. Id like to see a little more pirate and a little less robot.