With every company or school it’s important that the students get the full experience they’ve paid for.
It’s very common to see students do all the courses in the curriculum only to finish and find themselves saying, “What’s next?”
To me, this is a waste of potential.
I see a lot of improv teams/shows perform one class show, or one weekend show, and that’s it. They had coaches and they had a rehearsal space, but then after a show, no more.
Of course the team isn’t going to last!
Get. Yourself. A. Coach.
It’s the number one reason why improv teams don’t last.
Get a coach, get a regular rehearsal going, and try and get gigs.
For a new team, it’s tough. It feels like they have all the support leading up to their first show and then it all stops, I don’t blame them. The responsibility should be on coaches and schools to help guide these teams forward.
Improv is all about improvement; no one ever really becomes “the best” at improv. It’s constant practice, constant improvement.
The best improvisers are consistent, the best teams are consistently making audiences laugh.
BLC takes great pride in being able to give students that extra step after a course.
You’re not finished after the 401 course, you are encouraged to start a team and we do our best to give you everything you need, from coaches, rehearsal space, gigs, advice.
Your improv journey isn’t done after a course or a show, the training wheels might be off but the bike is still wobbling and it takes a little more time to be fully comfortable riding.
I think schools should at least be aware that improv teams need support when starting out. Give them a place to rehearse, give them a coach, give them another show, encourage them to continue performing. Improv is built from the community, from starting teams with new people and the desire to practice new formats.
I kept coming back to improv because I was learning new things, I was performing with my best friends, and more importantly there was a desire to improve; every step forward there was a new challenge.
Your improv journey doesn’t end at 401, it begins.
Alrighty, folks. Let’s talk about the straight man. No, I don’t mean a cis-gendered heterosexual man – I mean the “voice of reason” in a scene. In a basic longform improv scene, you will often see 2 characters – the unusual person and the straight man. These 2 characters work together to find, frame, and explore the unusual thing, or the game, of the scene.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Self, I don’t want to be the straight man! They’re boring and argumentative. I want to play the fun, unusual character!” Well, let me give you some good news – the straight man doesn’t need to be boring and no fun! In the following points, I’ll give you some advice on how to be a fun and helpful voice of reason in a scene.
1. Call out the unusual thing. The first and, arguably, most important thing a straight man can do is to call attention to the unusual thing that their scene partner says or does in a scene. If you’re in a scene at an aquarium and your scene partner tries to catch a fish, the worst thing you can do is just ignore it and keep going. Call that out as weird! And then start exploring.
2. Be curious. Once you’ve noticed the unusual thing, start exploring that. Often when one character does something CRAZY, it’s our instinct to say “YOU’RE CRAZY” and leave it at that. But that doesn’t make for a very fun scene. So the secret is, be curious and ask questions – often a bewildered response is more productive than an angry one. In the previous example, say “Wait a second, why are you trying to catch a fish?” and go from there. This will help you get a justification from your scene partner, which will then allow you to explore and expand the game.
3. Be almost convinced. One piece of advice I’ve received as a straight man is to be 10% away from being convinced by the unusual person. If they explain to you that they want to catch a fish because they believe that if they paid admission, they should get a souvenir, be compelled by that. Keep asking questions, and try to strike a balance between getting close to believing them and backing off a bit.
4. Point out obvious consequences. One of the best and funniest things a straight man can do is to bring the scene back to reality by pointing out some of the most obvious and basic consequences of the unusual behaviour. So, in our example, if they want to catch a fish, bring up some immediate and practical consequences – where are you going to put it? Do you have water to keep it alive? If you put it in your pocket it’s going to leave a weird wet spot and look like you soiled yourself. The list goes on. Draw from your real thoughts and experiences as a human being who understands cause and effect to think about these practical downstream effects.
5. Have fun with it. Once you find the justification, start throwing other things at your scene partner to see how they react. Think of new situations where they may be expecting an odd return on investment, and throw them in those scenes – i.e. taking a cinema chair from a theatre after buying a movie ticket, captaining a train car after buying a train ticket, taking the cellist home after going to see an orchestra play. Think of what’s funny to you based on the established pattern, and make it happen. It’s improv! The world is your oyster! (Though we kindly ask you not to take the oysters from the aquarium, as they belong in their exhibit.)
While these are some helpful guidelines for being the voice of reason in a scene, they aren’t hard and fast rules. Keep them in mind when you do a scene, but feel free to experiment with breaking them as well (i.e. joining in on the unusual behaviour in a pea-in-a-pod scene, having a big, angry reaction, etc.). Overall, remember to follow what’s fun for your character, and this will set you up to be a helpful and fabulous voice of reason.