Finding The Funny Isn’t A Sprint

Sticks Author: Jesse

Since I have started to learn long form improvisation, one of the first habits I’ve had to try to break is my instinct to go for the early laugh. Up till now, my only real experience with improv was in short form games. In that arena, I learned that a good recipe for success was going for a chuckle line early, and then often. Everyone had a good laugh, and we moved onto the next scene.

Now, with long form, an early gag line often comes at the expense of my peers and the overall success of the scene. With that in mind, I keep trying to remind myself to let the scene breathe. My mind paints a mental image of how a good meal would be composed. It needs to build. Course by course, moment by moment, each section heightening the prior and moment’s in-between to cleanse the pallet. The analogy feels right, and I like the challenge, but at the same time I am finding that it’s easy to overthink this as well.

If going for the early gag is bad, then starting a scene while trying to imagine the entire four course meal and figuring out how it will all fit together isn’t good either. I’ve been struggling to find a middle ground between the two, and grasping for tricks to focus my brain while I work at it. In the end I’m lucky to have a group of extremely supportive friends who help me identify what’s working, and what isn’t.

My goal for the next rehearsal will be to focus on character first. To paraphrase Steve, I want to wrap myself in the clothes of my character from the start and not push for either the early gag or the end game. I believe if I do that, everything will fall into place. Somehow this lack of preparation feels akin to taking a leap and assuming my safety harness is in place, but I think it’s the point of the exercise in some way. It’s the lack of control on all levels that makes the moments special.

If I fall, I know my friends will be there to pick me up. (though they might noogie me first! )

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