This week i was back to the world of improv and went to a lesson with Carleen of C3Something at The Nursery. It was nice to be taught by Carleen as it’s been a long time since I have and the one thing that I like about being trained by her is that she is strict but at the same time really makes you think about the choices you make in an improv scene.
This week was we focussed on the different ways to open a scene and how to respond when your team is given a word and you need to make a number of different scenes out of it. We started the evening with a few warm up games that I havent played before and actually ended up being ones that really made you think and made your mind hurt a little bit and there was so much to think about when you were playing the games.
The first one was based on the style and works of the singer of The B-52’s called Fred Schneider. Now he has a reaelly unique way of talking / rapping in his songs, so much so that it was one of the main reasons they were such a success and also lead to an improv warm up game being named after him. You had a beat going with a chant that was somrthing like ‘ What you doing Fred Schnieder?” and the beart went bam bam bam bam ….bam baaaaam bam? After saying the chant the person who was starting off the game would then say a random thing and it was usually the first thing you could think of.
This game was a good one to use as a warm up as it really made you think and actually it is not as easy as it sounds. I am not sure whether it was the tiredness of the room of whether it genuinely was hard but when it came to your turn it was sometimes really hard to think up what to say but the most hardest part was to not forget to pass on the turn to someone else. Once you had finished your rap your so wrapped up with the relief that you have just passed you turn and been successful that you forget to pass it on….oops!
The next part of the warm up session was a game called Good Rap, this yet again was a game with a chant and beat base to it. The idea of the game was that someone would say two lines of a Stanza of a poem in between the beat of “Good Rap Good Rap Good Rap” (whilst tapping you legs to the time of the beat with your hands). The first line the person who started it would make sure was complete however the last line would have a word missing that the person next to them would have to fill in the missing word with a word that rhymed and fitted. so for example:
Person 1 – We went to a farm and not a zoo,
All – Good Rap Good Rap Good Rap
Person 1 – we saw a cow and it went…
Person2 – Moo
All – Good Rap Good Rap Good Rap
We then played a version of the game called “Bad Rap” – this was similar to the game mentioned above, however, with this game the word the person filled into the last line was not allowed to rhyme with the first line. This I found was more difficult then the first round as trying to not to ryhme is pretty hard when your mind is constantly coming up with rhyming terminology.
The lesson this week was all about taking a word suggestion from a crowd member and making scenes out of them without making them all the same topic and making them all different to one another. So for eample in the lesson we ewre given the word Moustache and we had to think of one word that we associated wth the term Moustache. From that one word we said (so for example mine was Barbers) we then had to come up with a title for that scene that was relevant to the word that we had chosen (mine was something like Hair Dye Disaster). This type of improv when you take a word then move it two ideas back so its not completely relevant anymore is called A-C’ing.
Once we all had a random title for the scene we then had to come up with the first line of dialogue for it. I cant really remember what mine was but it was something along the lines of “your hair is meant to be green right?”. Once we all had a line we then went round the circle playing out the scene with someone else to see how it panned out. The scene that I was brought into was about a father being lost in a plane crash and not being able to find the body and it turning into a scene where both the mother and the daughter not wanting them to find the body as they wanted a new daddy that would have lots of money. I found it a hard scene to play because the other person in the scene had made me eight years old.
I hate playing a child in the scene – i hate it with a passion and the main reason is because of the way you have to play a child in comedy. Mainly in improv you have to play it true meaning that you just act like the person you are and thats it – you dont add a childlike voice or any personaliaty to it as that comes across as ignorant to the audience. I love playing characters that have certain quirks as you can play with that a lot more but being a child in a scene i find a block and i hate it so much!
The scene I did about the color green turned into a scene about a bride who didnt want her bridesmaid hair to be bright green for the big day however she cannot change it back and then it becomes a scene of me being really mean to the bridesmaid whilst Caroline (the bridesmaid) plays the straight person in the scene.
It was another interesting class by Carleen and it was nice to be taught by her again, however she can be harsh with her comments which some improviser may not like but i truly adore as it helps me develop in scenes and as a person in the scenes.
Case Study – Little Britain
This week like i stated above I had to play the role that i hate in any scene in Improv – the child. You can gurantee that anytime that i am put into an improv scene where i have to be the child that i will instnatly think inside “oh god nooooooooooooooo”. I avoid school scenes like the plague and always try to be the adult if i have to be in these scenes.
The reasons for this like i have stated above is I cant stand being the child as you hae to play it neutral and cant really have much fun with it. (thats my personal opinion, i am sure that is not most improvisers) and to look at what i mean about playing it neutral – lets look at a show that really emphaiisises these roles and highights my point exactly correct – Little Britain.
You just need to look at certain characters to see why you need to play children and teenagers more in a straight fashion compared to adults. Just look at Vicky Pollard played by Matt Lucas – he plays the character as a neutral character – whilst he may add an accent to the character the humour comes from the normal and neutral way that he says the classic line we all wait for ‘yea but no but yea..” If he played this character in a way that was really child like and acting exactly how the adult eye sees a teenager or a child of that age we would not find it funny but annoying and would not get the reaction in which they wanted.
Another example of the way to play characters is by looking at David Walliams character show wants Bitty. The reason why this is funny to the audience is because he has taken the characteristics of a child in which what the adult audience think of when they think of a child and applied them to an adult character. The scenes work because the neutral / straight characters in the scene are the parents who accept it and the either girlfriend / guest who is shocked by what is happening but at the same time pretends nothing is happening. The audience respond to this because Walliams has the ‘quirk’ in which what we would expect an adult doing that sort of abnormal routine would have. If you placed David Wallaims character with something more straight like a Colin Firth based character then the audience would not respond to the humour as it would be too absurd.
That is what you need to think of when you have to play child like characters – whilst I hate playing them, if they were played to the eye of the adult stereotype they would not be funny instead they would be predictable and boring – however playing the character normal and truthful creates more humour as the adult is constantly reminded throughout the scene that it is a child and the humour is created by the normality the child thinks it is to say certain things whilst in the back of the mind of the audience they still have that reminder they are a child.