This week at Improv we had a guest teacher called Tom who was set up to come in by Ian and Bev. He was there to teach us more about becoming a character and really building on the concept and allowing the character to completely take you over so that the identity of the person come out both in the performance and the body language.

To do this we played a lot of very active games that got us moving and shaking, so to speak, around the room. The first game we played was where someone would say two random words and then everyone in the circle would act out their best impersonation of this and their would be a winner. Random descriptions we had to act out was ‘sad candyfloss’ ‘happy tears’ ‘sexy snake’ etc. It was a great way to warm up and to get into the idea of character.

The next game was one that i absolutely hated, one of the pair was blindfolded and was then lead around the room by the other. I found this quite a nerve racking experience, i think its because i can sometimes sleep walk and the feeling of not being in control of my actions really freaked me out. However, one pair (name drop, Jackie and Karam) were  very comfortable with each others leading etc that by the end of it Karam who was blindfolded was prancing and jumping around the room completely putting all his faith and trust into Jackie.

The next game we played which lead us to the ‘main event’ so to speak was walking around the room and then copying someone else in the rooms walk and making it as extreme as you can. This lead onto the game that we then used for scene work.

We all wrote down and covered up a variation of body parts and emotions on pieces of paper then we would have to choose one of each and then lead them to make a character. So the body part that you would choose would lead the way that you walked. So for example,. if you got sad nose you would have to allow your nose to lead the walk whilst being sad. This would mean you would more then likely drop over so that your back was bent over and your head would stick out at the front. This would create a character that looked sad but also maybe a bit snooty.

This was a great way for character building as it really made you think about the way the character moves and speaks as well as just standing on stage and doing the same thing and its definitely something i want to bring to the stage more often (and will probably practice it at home as well just walking round the house in weird ways. ) Fellow improviser Jill, sums up the learning experience perfectly.

“I found it really useful to learn how simply focusing on and exaggerating a body part or movement can help you find a way into being a very different character to yourself. And how even very pronounced and exaggerated gestures and movements are acceptable and effective in performance work.” – Jill 

This lead me to think about actors and comedians who do this and one name sprang to mind.

Jim Carrey

Jim is one of my childhood heroes and also one of my favourite actors. He is a   fantastic example of someone who is great at molding into different characters that are all different and have features and quirks that really stand out. Before I discuss this anymore, this sketch from SNL perfectly defines this.

The Carrey Reunion

Whilst a lot of his characters have an underlining factor of Jim about them, they all have exceptionally different types of personas and quirks which make him a great person to watch and learn from. Even when he is in a film or on television, Jim is known for being an improviser on set and some of the best parts of some films have been completely made up on the spot because that is what he does. He forms such strong characters that he ends up getting wrapped up in them and bringing them completely to life. A great example from the Carrey back catalogue of the actor allowing his body lead the way of the character is one of his most famous SNL sketches. Whilst it was probably planned in advance, the leading of the actors chin really makes the character the way that he is, if he was leading from his pelvis or arm it would of been entirely different.

What Is Love? 

Here are some clips and more examples of characters that Jim has become.

Jacuzzi Lifeguard

The Dysfunctional Home Show 

Ace Ventura

Karate Instructor

The Mask 

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