This week i didn’t go to any improv lessons and I also did go to any troupe practises – this was due to unforeseen situations that happened away from improv the made me not feel in the mood for doing comedy.
Not doing comedy!? Thats insane you love it! Well, yes I do like doing improv, however from previous experience if you do improv and you are not in the mood to do it you will fail a lot (and not by accident) and you feel those fails badly and you will think of them as a real bad thing when actually they are not. So i felt this week to get rid of all that, i wouldn’t go which felt like the best option however I still wanted to do a blog post as there is still a great much to talk about with improv. So this week lets talk about a topic that is a taboo in comedy. Failing.
Fail is a word that people use as a negative when actually the word should be used as a positive influence and looked at in a positive way in improv. Just sit there for a second and think of the word fail – what does it mean to you? Most people think of it as a negative word and a negative influence but in improv it isn’t, in fact its the complete opposite – failure sometimes is the best medicine.
I have seen it over and over again with people in practise, in shows and even in random situations where there has been a scene or a set that hasn’t gone right and you feel “oh my god i am a failure”. I felt it in Newcastle on stage once and someone recently told me that they felt it when they walked off stage. The wonderful thing about Improv is even when you think you failed, nine times out of ten you haven’t, instead you have only developed as a human being and as an improviser.
When you are performing on stage in any sort of art form, all you see is yourself and the performance that you are giving, however with improv there are more ways then one that you can support the people opposite you in your team. Sometimes it is really hard to knock out that random brain wiggle you can sometimes get ‘that wasn’t funny’ ‘why are you doing that’ ‘that is so weirrrrddddd’ but think of it this way – if you never tried it how would you know it wouldn’t work?!
The wonders of improv is that you cannot control what comes to mind when you do a scene and sometimes you even surprise yourself with the blurbs that come out of your mouth. For example, the other week I came up with the terminology ‘Revenge Rug’ a scene about a woman stealing her best friends rug out of her room because she cheated with her boyfriend. A revenge rug? A REVENGE RUG? I would never think of taking a rug as revenge but in the form of improvisation it just randomly came to my head but thats the best thing about improv – it makes you think of the most random things.
Thats why i don’t like the word Failure any more. Once i started doing improv i realised there is no such thing as a failure, there is a new road to take, a new path to walk down a new door to open – it is not a failure it is an option. Since that show in Newcastle where i had the worst sense of ‘fail’ in my mind i have promised that i will not feel like that again. However, if i do feel like that again I just think of it as a random Brain Wiggle at the time and ‘Shake it Off’ (in the words of Taylor Swift).
Hey, if you do a show and you don’t get any laughs, its ok!!!! Just think of it as an ‘art concept’ you just performed instead of comedy and everything will be ok!
Case Study – Rhod Gilbert
If you look at some of the best comedians, their whole routine is based on failure or humiliating things that have happened in their personal life but at an exaggerated level. If there is one comedian that has a unique way of failing and accepting it both on stage and in his television shows – Rhod Gilbert
Now Rhod doesn’t do stand up anymore, but if you look at the comedy he used to do it was all about such things as his anger management issues, failing with buying potatoes and the mince pie. If you look at his show Work Experience, whilst he is trying out new careers he still goes on in some episodes about being bad at the jobs etc.
Whilst not all of his stand up is negative to himself, he is a great way to look at the style of failure. There are many comedians that use failure as a tool but Rhod is one that used it to such a great capacity to bring humour and laughter to many. So the next time you think you have failed on stage, just remember Rhod Gilbert.